I know this doesn’t count as retro as that it barely counts as old even in gaming terms but this is my website and I don’t give a fuck as it is dirt cheap in 2nd hand stores, plus perhaps more significantly, I was bored.
Now, Resident Evil 7 is a game i went into with some hesitation because I don’t especially know anyone who has good words to say about it, but fuck it. Here goes.
Gone are the fixed camera angles and tank controls from the original trilogy of 5 games, and now gone is the 3rd person over-the-shoulder camera from the second trilogy (5 if we include Revelations games). Here RE7 embarks on what will no doubt be another trilogy with the new style of first person survival horror specifically designed for VR and jump scares. Seemingly made as a response to the Silent Hill P.T debacle Resident Evil 7 very much feels like it was pitched by an idiot in suit played a PowerPoint presentation of Outlast footage and loudly read Tweets about the P.T demo and simply said “I want that?”.
Notice the question mark?It wasn’t subtle, but it feels like somebody shrugged their shoulders and wanted a Dev team to copy several game ideas and barely attempt to string the concepts together into a fully coherent game.
And this is the main problem with RE7, it feels like several fairly good ideas crammed into one game because nobody knew exactly what they were making.
To start with, the Pacing feels all over the place. It took me roughly 30 minutes to get to the attic early on I know this was somewhat slow but I was exploring. And suddenly, you lose your hand… I pulled my best Ron Burgandy expression saying “Boy, that escalated quickly” and promptly reloaded the game not knowing it was a set piece. Then… 30 seconds later it is fucking sewn back on with zero consequence. But more on that later.
The cat and mouse sections inside the Baker House just aren’t as gripping as I would have liked. I physically couldn’t beat Outlast as I was shitting my pants quicker than I could wipe. Silent Hill drowned me in oppressive atmosphere, Fatal Frame made me fear corners and noises. In RE7 you have to stealth around in certain sections evading Jack and Marguerite but the AI is shite. If you sit in a shadow and shoot a flame thrower in the air the AI won’t see you, it is only if you attack them, or they see you that they’ll trigger harder than a Millennial watching a 90s sitcom. You can crouch behind a box and they won’t see you. It is Metal Gear Solid era stealth AI with very obvious cones of vision. It means these sections aren’t as tense as they should be.
Things I liked
There are elements of gameplay that tie RE7 into the rest of the series that I enjoyed, the shotgun on a latch, gunpowder, green herbs and the puzzles such as find the 3 dog heads. It was the drip of nods to the franchise that started to warm me to RE7 it was this that made me start to think this IS a Resident Evil game. Yes I think the story feels too unconnected, but thank fuck they trimmed all the bloated bullshit that crept in as early as Nemesis (nuking Raccoon City for starters) or the fucking McGuffin powers of Wesker in Code Veronica, hell Boulder Punching…
While I have described the first hour of the game as boring on Social Media, I do have to throw some credit to these sections as there is an attempt to build atmosphere. You hear noises and you aren’t sure if they are your footsteps or a monsters, there are groans, there are shadowy figures and you do start to fear what isn’t there but then it is ruined by a shit leech monster jumping out. There is some contradictions here as the slow build up is a little Outlast-ey but the constant pace shifting in early parts actually made a lot of it boring.
Other than that I liked when RE7 was not trying to be Outlast. Some of the hallucinations are fantastic, they manage to convey the story and emphasise the fear and shear “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON” factor. As well as some of the boss fights such as the one with Jack with the jaws of life. Basically all the parts of the game that are built up as supernatural abilities I found to be more engaging.
The videotape sections, find tapes is all well and good and provides background but I really dislike playing these sections. The fact they are recording and can be failed was just all round meh for me, I know a game has to “game” at times, I just didn’t enjoy the disconnect and felt like these should have been skippable cutscenes. However, they are optional for the most part.
Can we talk about the hand getting chopped off again? I actually thought it was an amazing touch. I was thinking “hot dang, this is how you explain that you’ll be shite in combat and aim like Storm Trooper”. But no, literally 2 minutes later your hand is sewn back on. I felt the game should have developed this concept more on this and as the story progresses Ethan Winters could gave gotten more and more fucked up, losing a finger and ear. I don’t know but it would have added to the desperation of the situation you are in. Instead it is all but forgotten apart from the stitches you occasionally see.
There is also a choice mid-game that affects your ending, and to be honest the choice doesn’t make sense. You’re given a choice of cure one person or another, and there is literally no reason to cure one of them. One is Mia, your wife who you have been searching for. The other is a random person you had a telephone conversation with (Zoe Baker). This choice affects the ending you receive, but not the gameplay after (one extra fight scene). So you pick one and leave the other to die, but Crapcom happens and you end up in the same place with the same people regardless of the decision you make.
The set-up is pretty perfect for me and emphasises why I feel this shouldn’t have been a Resident Evil game, and could have just been called Cabin in the FUCKING Woods. Mia Winters, who has apparently been missing for three years sends Ethan a message saying don’t come and find me.But Ethan being the burke he is comes to find her. I don’t know how he knows she is on a Plantation in Louisiana but he does. Ed: It is written on the email note Ethan starts the game with…
You get to the house and very quickly find Mia who also very quickly turns batshit crazy and chops off your hand. At this point you’re transported to the Baker House where you find out you didn’t really kill Mia for chopping off your hand and everything is fucked up. Including the Bakers. The story is then find a cure (under guidence of Zoe Baker) and rescue Mia and find out what the little girl (Evie) is.
It isn’t Shakespeare but it is coherent and makes for a nicely executed self-contained story again, for a game that we’ll call Cabin in the FUCKING Woods.
However, this is a Resident Evil/Crapcom affair, so the story needed to be dragged out with over explaining things which is sadly what I have come to expect of the series in the Crapcom era. And for me, the story goes too far and falls apart after leaving the Baker’s house. For starters you end up on ANOTHER boat, and they didn’t even try to the this in to the 3 other boats featured in the series so far. Tying this in to the boat in Dead Aim could have worked, So too the ones from Revelations 1. This is where bio-weapons are first mentioned, there is a pointless twist involving Mia and all in all this is where the story comes apart at the seams.
I’ve already said it twice, but to me RE7 would have made a fantastic game called Cabin in the FUCKING Woods. The concept was strong enough for this to be a self-contained story. There would be scope for a sequel by not expanding on what created Evie, and her being a witch, a ghost, a supernatural being. It would have been shonkey, but it isn’t as shonkey as how they shoehorn in the series. By having Umbrella and presumably S.T.A.R.S show up at the end. These additionas mean I am not entirely sure where this sits in the canon of Resident Evil and whether it is a hard/soft reboot but based on files and newspaper clippings these events don’t align with the original series.
When did I enjoy the game?
I know this is starting to sound very negative, and I am not meaning to be. The problem is the good bits probably 60% of the game are sandwiched between a dull first 2 hours and a stupid last 2 hours (of my 8 hour playthrough). After escaping the Baker House and the poormans Outlast is discarded what you get is a very enjoyable action/survival horror. It is thoroughly enjoyable exploring the gardens, the barn sequence is felt fresh and well put together, the greenhouse boss fight is nail biting, and while I’m bored of bosses with glowing eyes I thought that boss chould have been the final boss. After this point the story descends into generic conspiracy/bio-weapon experimentation while on the boat with magical Salt Mine as the makers desperately try to tie in the larger franchise.
After the Mines and we are back somehow back in the house. However this short sequence is almost as good as the Silent Hill 2 “corridor scene”. The hallucinations, the not knowing if you’re supposed to shoot Mia, these are great concepts that an entire game should have been built around and while it is a great finale it is a strange tonal shift again from the balls to the wall Salt Mine section. It actually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you consider that Evie is getting more and more desperate (hence the Salt Mine waves of monsters) she now switches to hallucinations just as you has run out of bullets…
It is these tonal shifts that make RE7 miss the mark. If it stuck with one or two of the concepts and ran with it then it would be fantastic. I feel like the problems arose when the makers tried desperately to make Cabin in the FUCKING Woods into a Resident Evil game. If the twist was Evie was a supernatural being then the story would have been better but instead it is classic Crapcom in that they just couldn’t follow their threads through and ended up throwing shit to the wall to see what sticks.
And then the end credits roll and they shoehorn in as many references as possible. Chris Redfield (in non-steroidal form) and Umbrella both make unnecessary cameos.
Again, I didn’t hate the game I actually liked a good 60% of it. The 40% that was less good are all a direct result of a good game idea being forced into a series that didn’t need it. Well actually, Resident Evil as a series desperately needs it, but I still feel this game should have been something else. A different new IP, I know Cabin in the FUCKING Woods isn’t an original name, I know there is a film called Cabin in the Woods (no I don’t know what happens in it). But I feel that creating a new IP here would have elevated the game.
Apparently the DLC takes the Resident Evil stuff even further, but to be honest I won’t ever be playing that as easily the worst things here are the Resident Evil bits. The sections I see as not Resident Evil, such as elements of gameplay, the concept, the survival horror when not trying to be Outlast are all great. The pants-on-head-retarded conspiracies, the loose threads of plot the shoehorning of Umbrella and Chris Redfield all detract from what could have been a brillient new IP.
Pros: The Greenhouse, The Barn Section, the ending of the game after the Salt Mines,
Cons: Shit jump scares entirely design for VR that miss the mark totally wen playing on a TV, effectively the leech monsters from Zero are the only enemy in the game
Back in the Day:
Scoring well, and in the mid to late 80s Resident Evil featured prominently in the “best games of 2017” lists.
Also available on: XBone, Nintendo Switch and PC
Hang on! Why the fuck are there videotapes all over the show? This game is set in 2017!!!! Do you know how fucking hard it is to track down working VCRs, blank tapes and CRT TVs in this day and age?!?!