Written by Scott Clifford
In 1996, Capcom created Resident Evil and started the survival horror genre by wowing its fans with terrifying gameplay, intriguing puzzles, and memorable characters. It did so well that it spawned five main sequels, and a bunch of spin-off games. Some of these games changed things to keep things fresh such as Resident Evil 4 while others such as Resident Evil 6 aren’t as critically acclaimed. Now that Capcom is on its seventh main Resident Evil game, there’s only one question to ask. Does it make the cut? Yes…oh God yes…
Resident Evil 7 introduces us to Ethan Winters, who has been searching for his wife named Mia for many years. At the start of the game, Ethan finds himself receiving a video from Mia pleading to save her in the not so friendly swamps of Louisiana. As you can imagine, things don’t work out so well for our naïve protagonist as he finds his wife being controlled by some sort of virus that makes her want to chop off his hand and finish him off with a chainsaw. It’s a typical romance story in video game form. Boy meets girl, girl goes missing, boy finds girl with a cannibalistic family that likes to kidnap people.
All jokes aside, the story is wonderfully contained for the most part unlike previous entries of the series. It allows you to understand the grotesque but sympathetic Baker family that owns the plantation that Ethan is now stuck on for the entire game. They’ll chase you, they’ll stab you, they’ll send swarming insects after you, they’ll set traps for you and they’ll even have a crazy old lady just stare at you for most of the game. The pacing is generally spot on, and the clues that are scattered throughout their estate will keep you interested in the meat of the story just like the original series does.
The first-person perspective works out better than expected as well. While it’s clear that Resident Evil 7 was influenced by games such as Outcast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, it refuses to outright imitate them and thankfully does its own thing instead. There are still save rooms, puzzles, and ornate keys to find while you’re playing hide-and-seek with the Baker family and inventory management is still very important. You can defend yourself with various weapons as well but you better plant your feet and go for a headshot because you won’t have enough bullets to do anything else.
In fact, you probably won’t have enough ammo no matter what you do. You will find yourself running away from fights so you can save those three shotgun shells that are burning a hole in your pocket. While the new enemy type called the Molded aren’t zombies, they’re very similar to the regenerators of Resident Evil 4 and look as if they’ve been in the Resident Evil series from the start. Also, there are wonderful flashback sequences stored in VHS tapes that give the story more scope and background information in case you ever get tired of Ethan’s precarious predicament.
I’ll be honest with you, you may get tired of Ethan as a character and that’s mainly because Ethan is an empty shell that the player is supposed to fill his or her personality into. I get the concept of course, it’s about as old as the original Doom from 1995 but it feels kind of dated. A first person perspective shouldn’t be an excuse to not try and develop a charismatic character. Sure, Ethan is given some great lines but he’s no Jill Valentine or Barry Burton. When Ethan is given a choice to help either Mia or Zoe, the daughter of the Baker family, I chose Mia because I understood her motivations not because of what Ethan would or wouldn’t go through emotionally later on. There’s a part later on in the game where Ethan gets kidnapped and you have to play as someone else to save him and I just didn’t care about Ethan at all.
This is kind of a problem.
Then again this is 2017, not 2002. I’m now 28 and the sweet innocence of all day gaming sessions after school are behind me. Jill Valentine isn’t exactly a Shakespearean character either. Maybe my apathy towards Ethan is just my fault and not the game’s fault in any way whatsoever.
Speaking of choices, that Mia vs. Zoe decision seems arbitrary at best. It was as if a marketing executive told the developers to throw it in there at the last second so they could check it off their list on the next annual corporate shareholder meeting. Now before everyone rolls their eyes at me, I love choices in video games but they need to be real choices where one could logically see both (or many) sides of the issue. When Jill Valentine is wondering whether to give Barry his gun back to help her fight an invincible monster in the original Resident Evil even though he betrayed her, that’s a really interesting time for a decision. Not when you can choose to save Zoe because she talked to you on the phone more often.
All in all, Resident Evil 7 really is an incredible game. The graphics are solid; and the gameplay is pretty damn scary. Yes, the final boss fight isn’t great but it didn’t bother me at all. Resident Evil is back and it’s wonderful.
Okay, time to score this thing and head home. How about something that the fans will appreciate?
Rating: 9 punching boulders out of 10. Book it. Done.
Resident Evil 7 is available at all major video game retailers.