2004’s Resident Evil 4 was, and is still considered by many to be one of the best games ever made. It changed how action games played for a decade, effectively ended ‘Survival Horror’ and stapled Resident Evil as one of gaming’s most prized properties. Unfortunately the two games that followed RE4 failed to build upon the successes for Four, and the series was left to rot in a corner. That is until Resident Evil 7 delivered a short, sharp, smack to the back of gamers heads worldwide.
I wouldn’t call myself a Resident Evil fan. I finished Zero, loved Remake and spent hours telling my friends how incredible Four was, but for all of that I avoided Six and found Five to be so far removed from what the franchise was that it barely counts.
Thankfully Resident Evil 7 does away with all that… baggage. Gone are S-T-A-R-S, viruses, Zombies and Wesker. In their place we find a man trying to rescue his wife, a murderous family a secret and a dark, creepy house that’ll leave you thankful to find a safe room.
You spend most of your time in that dark, creepy house shuffling from dark corridor to dark corridor, solving puzzles, avoiding death and trying desperately to preserve what little ammunition the game gives you. This is where the game is at its absolute best. Every corner is a cliff hanger and every door opening animation could be your last. You never feel safe, and the games all the better for it.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and Resident Evil 7 is no different. For all its tension and atmosphere, the games first-person perspective is a nightmare for combat. Moving your character around whilst being chased by an agile enemy is never fun, and often I found myself dying through an inability to navigate the environment, fire my gun accurately, or even just avoid an attack.
The game’s boss fights are also a bit of a tough pill to swallow. They feel tacked on, only included to add an unfair difficulty spike to an already difficult game. I died 53 times during my run(end game stat screen), and I’m fairly sure that 30 of those deaths came in two boss fights alone. It’s not so much that the fights themselves where tough, but more that the game’s control schemes limit you in ways that they don’t limit the enemies you encounter. I know what I need to do to kill you, but the game doesn’t let me. It feels cheap, it’s unsatisfying and it leads to incredible amounts of frustration. And don’t even get me started on un-skippable cut-scenes before each fight.
I’m going to dance away from the negativity now, because I really did enjoy Resident Evil 7 and I’m a little nervous that my writing up until this point says otherwise. So let’s talk about what the game excels at.
Atmosphere. As I’ve said before, the opening hours of the game are likely some of the most tense and unnerving hours I’ve spent playing video games. It’s a cliché, but the house is almost a character unto itself. The floorboards creep, the windows rattle in the wind, doors slam shut behind you and shadows form against the moonlight. It all combines to create an incredible sense of unease, a sense that you’re never safe, that you’re constantly vulnerable.
RE7 isn’t 3rd person. It doesn’t feature Leon or Jill or Wesker, but it does take the series back to what it was before Resident Evil 5 (some might say 4). It’s survival horror at its best. Dark, tense, scary and atmospheric. Ammo is light, health even more so. A couple of hits from a bad guy and you’re done. And whilst that’s not for everyone, it’s exactly what this series needs to make it relevant again.
RE7 wasn’t supposed to be this good, heck it wasn’t supposed to be good at all. The demo had left many cold and uninterested in what the game would turn out to be; a dark, grimy tale that plays with your senses and leaves you’re nails bitten short and your nerves frayed. You Should Play, Resident Evil 7.
What did you think to Resident Evil 7? Did they bring the series back with a bang, or is it another whimper in a long line of whimper’s?