22nd Apr2021

Rewind: ‘Resident Evil VII’ Review

by Xenia Grounds

With Resident Evil Village about to release, it’s more important than ever to revisit Resident Evil 7 because Ethan’s story is set to continue to Village and potentially come to a final conclusion if the foreboding line from the first trailer, “His story comes to a close”, doesn’t end up being something to throw us off track…

Let’s go back to early 2017. At the time, Resident Evil was losing a lot of love from its fans and critics. It may have been doing just fine when it came to sales but many of us were longing for a return to horror after the action heavy Resident Evil 5 and the melodramatic and also action orientated Resident Evil 6. And this is where Resident Evil 7 enters which was a most welcome return to form that is not only a great Resident Evil game but a brilliant survival horror game all on its own.

The story of Resident Evil 7 is that you play as Ethan Winters. Three years prior to the start of the game, Ethan’s wife Mia vanished without trace and is presumed dead after something went horribly wrong with her “babysitting” job and the last message we see from her before she disappeared told him to stay away. Then Ethan suddenly gets an email apparently from Mia telling him to come and get her at the Baker plantation in Dulvey, Louisiana. It becomes very clear that something isn’t quite right at this residence (if the abandoned television van, rotten food in the kitchen and the videotape showing people being murdered in the same house that you’re currently in didn’t make it obvious) but you do find Mia who is very rambly, a little out of sorts and not making much sense for reasons we don’t know but get a very strong hunch about five minutes later when she attacks Ethan in a dangerously possessed rage. Clearly unprepared for this, Mia gives Ethan a hard time but he does survive that attack only to be knocked out by Jack Baker and meet the family in a scene that will remind any horror fan of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. After that, you fight for your life against this seemingly indestructible and terrifying family while uncovering the mysteries of what turned the Bakers into monsters.

Even though this is the seventh entry in the main series, you really don’t have to know anything about Resident Evil prior to this game. While knowing the series does help in the respect that you’ll figure things out quicker, the answers will all become clear if you take the time to look around and read the documents scattered around areas. Resident Evil 7 does eventually connect to the main lore but it’s not until the very end that we get the hint as to how and this is more likely to be fully explored in Village.

If there’s a critique that can be pointed towards the characters, it would be the writing of Ethan. The whole appeal of Ethan is that unlike all the other protagonists in Resident Evil, he is just a regular guy. He’s not a soldier, officer or has any form of training which shows how underprepared he is in comparison to the likes of Chris and Leon for this situation. While it definitely makes you feel like you are in his shoes because of the first person perspective, Ethan is not very emotive in this game. In fact, he acts like how the player would react to things rather than how he should react to things. For example, when he sees Marguerite’s transformation prior to her boss battle, the line he literally responds with is: “That’s special.” It’s funny because we’ve been through a fair amount of enemies encounters to have that kind of reaction but realistically, there should be a bit more panic on Ethan’s part. However, this is something that they’ve clearly fixed for the sequel because Ethan definitely displays more emotion in the trailers and demos for Village than he did in the entirety of his debut.

While Ethan may be a blank slate for player immersion’s sake, this game more than makes up for it with the scares. In regards to the horror, it is old school Resident Evil. You have to conserve ammo, there’s a lot of freakishly real ambient noises to make you feel like there’s something around every corner, you spend a lot of time running and hiding from hard to kill enemies and there are puzzles (albeit easy ones in this game) to solve. With the Bakers, Resident Evil 7 covers three forms of horror: Slasher, Monster and Psychological. And because of this, one member is bound to send chills down your spine.

Jack represents slasher horror. He spends the first few hours of the game in active pursuit of you and it is terrifying because you see how deranged and violent he can be in his introduction and you can’t slow him down but he isn’t too hard to escape from. He basically serves as the prototype for Mr X in the Resident Evil 2 remake. Now you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see how much he scared me thanks to Twitch but for me, once you deal with Jack in the first proper boss fight, the game never gets that scary ever again but that’s not to say the other two are lackluster.

Marguerite is monster horror. She uses a lot of insects, bugs and generally exists to gross you out. You do have to change the way you fight when it comes to this because conventional weaponry like handguns and shotguns don’t have the same effect on her as they do with Jack. The knife proves to be pretty important to getting through her area and dealing with bugs.

Lastly is Lucas and his death traps that are like something ripped out of a Saw movie. Lucas gets a lot of enjoyment out of winding you up by lacing boxes with explosives so you never know which boxes are safe to break with a knife, setting up tripwires or his stressful ‘Happy Birthday’ puzzle. He gets under your skin with his disgusting apathy towards murder and you really do long to wipe that smirk off his punchable face.

As far as gameplay is concerned, it remains the same as prior games in the series. Maintain distance from enemies, wait for the weak spot to reveal itself before you attack and use the environment to your advantage. There’s no point in wasting ammo if you can avoid it and the game will always give a heads up before you walk into a boss fight (mostly through being generous with supplies) so you know when to prepare yourself. If you’re not in a boss fight, you should be saving those shotgun shells and flamethrower canisters for when you get closer to the endgame. Now the Bakers aren’t the only threat wandering the halls, there is also the Molded to contend with. The Molded aren’t exactly tough to kill but they tend to come in packs and overwhelm you and can hit really hard so I recommend running from them to save precious ammo. Resident Evil 7 isn’t a difficult game if you are experienced enough with it but to get that experience, you’ll have to do a lot of trial and error because during a first run, you’ll never be sure what the one hit kills or traps are.

You have to make your own healing items and ammunition in Resident Evil 7 which you can do with the gunpowders, chem fluids and herbs you find while walking around. Unfortunately, you can only carry so much in your inventory and some guns take up more than one slot so choose what you craft wisely when you’re not near an item box. I recommend that after the Marguerite boss fight, you start prioritising crafting stronger healing items and ammo for weapons like the shotgun and grenade launcher because gauntlets with the Molded start becoming more frequent.

Outside of combat, a massive factor is exploration which normally consists of coming across locked doors and needing to get a key item (that usually comes in three parts) which are normally obtained through puzzles or boss fights. It’s not just keys you need to find, there are also videotapes scattered around the estate and it is highly recommended you watch every one you find because they basically foreshadow something that you will eventually come across. If you’re stuck on something regarding an area or a puzzle, chances are a VCR tape will point in the right direction. If you’re not sure that you’ve found everything in a room then there are these little pills called psychostimulants that allow you to see every collectable item in a certain radius for a short amount of time.

Resident Evil 7 was the game that its fans had deserved after years of mediocre entries. Capcom has realised that this is what Resident Evil should always be which is the series that defines survival horror. Resident Evil 7 is one of the strongest games in the franchise and it’s safe to say that expectations are running high for its sequel in May.

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