Horror will receive a much-needed rejuvenation in 2017 and it all begins with Resident Evil 7.
As a genre across movie, tv, and games, it’s proved harder to truly scare an audience. The whole culture has degraded into jump-scares and terrifying looking abominations that seem other-earthly. While Res 7 is absolutely full of both of those things, there’s an atmosphere and ambiance in Capcom’s reinvigoration of the franchise that has not only been absent in more recent instalments, but from other intellectual properties for the last decade.
And make no mistake about it, Virtual Reality is the secret ingredient.
The game takes place four years after Resident Evil 6, and you play as brand new character, Ethan Winters, who is on a mission to find his missing wife, Mia. Suspected dead, Mia disappeared three years ago and Ethan has only received videotapes which include some foreboding warnings. The main message, however, is clear, do not go searching for her.
Naturally, Ethan doesn’t listen and makes a trip to a twisted and terrifying mansion in the far-reaching, backwater swamps where she was last spotted. There, Ethan learns some uncomfortable truths about his current location and the woman he thought to be out of his life forever.
While this is the seventh numbered instalment, this will actually be the twenty-seventh entry into this epic franchise, including spin-off games like Umbrella Corps and Operation Raccoon City. And while Res has dabbled with first-person before, this is the first time that it’s worked this efficiently and effectively. No more of the awkward 360 turning, or tank controls, it’s free-roam exploration through this decaying, haggard mess. And while you’re not looking over the shoulder of your character, there’s a level of tension in Res 7 that has been absent since Leon Kennedy went on a mission to find the President’s daughter.
It feels authentic compared to the original classic titles, exploring a huge mansion, running away from terrifying enemies, peeling back the layers of a wider conspiracy, getting to the heart and root of corruption. Only this time you’re face-to-face with your enemies and they will get up close and viciously have their way with you. The Bakers are fuelled by rage. Their vocabulary is conflicted and sinister and their look will manifest in your nightmares. They’ve quickly become the first family of fear and it all lends itself to the idea that Res 7 will change the face of horror forever.
Mechanically, it handles deftly. You have an inventory system all over again and have to solve various puzzle types, such as fitting a silhouette shape into an existing alcove, and figure out how to remove a Shotgun from a counterweight so you can leave a room. You can also combine items as before, creating healing liquid by using herbs with chemicals, and also converting gunpowder into shells. You only have limited slots as always, and will still need to make use of storage containers scattered through the mansion to store items.
The aiming of weaponry is responsive and fluid, and while it does feel weighted compared to a Call of Duty or Battlefield, you can achieve effective accuracy for head and body shots but in a distinct Resident Evil way. It can be frustrating for regular FPS players, however with comparitively sluggish motions. The accuracy can be especially useful in the boss battle situations you’ll regularly find yourself in, though. Especially when you need to make use of the environment as well as the items in your backpack.
The great thing about is Res 7 is that it can make you feel powerless and powerful very seamlessly and believably. One minute, you’ll find yourself running away from an enemy, desperate to find a place to hide because they have the high ground or more superior weaponry, the next you’ll be find yourself in a situation where you can fight back fairly competently.
The First Person aspect also lends itself wonderfully to exploring a mansion. You still use maps to get around, but you’ll have plenty of rooms to look around and explore, each offering something very different. Whether you’re traipsing underneath creaky, rotted floorboards or looking at the finer angles of a pool table in the games room. There’s plenty to pick up, collect, and interact with, like picture frames and old boots.
This isn’t just a P.T ribbing or the opportunity to jump on a bandwagon, this looks, feels, sounds, and acts like a Resident Evil game, just told from a new angle.
And this all lends itself to the fact that this is the killer app Playstation VR has been waiting for. The way the scenes have been shot and camera angles designed is to create a truly horrifying experience for VR users. You’ll feel like a knife might really be about to go into your eye, and feel your nose itch when you’ve got a horrid creature bearing down on you.
Sure, Resident Evil 7 is launching on other platforms, but the Virtual Reality experience is for real and opens the door to other franchises to really make use of the technology to great effect.
Resident Evil 7 is bold and ambitious, but it takes all the right risks with an intellectual property that has desperately needed a shot in the arm. It’s unnerving and unsettling, but is the satisfying return to form Capcom worked so hard for.
+ Gritty, visceral setting, backed up by brutal violence
+ Atmosphere and ambiance return to form for Res
+ Smooth transition to first person
+ Fun puzzle solving
+ Killer app for PSVR
– Sluggish movements sometimes make it frustrating in clutch situations
Resident Evil 7
9 out of 10
Platform review on: – PS4/VR