Resident Evil 7 - Review and Series Retrospective
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Resident Evil 7 is a great game and one of the best in the franchise. I'm so happy to see this game return to its survival horror roots and I don't remember the last time a game was able to genuinely scare me like this game succeeded to do. Starting with the score first I would give this game a 9.5 out of 10. For this review, I wanted to revisit the mainline franchise and explain why Resident Evil 7 takes the best parts of past games and still delivers a fresh, exciting and terrifying new adventure.
The first Resident Evil game literally gave me nightmares as a kid. When the original released in 1996, it scared me so much that I had to watch my older brother play as I tried to help on the sidelines. Three things that stood out in the original game were the controls, the camera, and puzzles of the game. Notorious for how the game controlled player movement, using the left and right control pad to rotate your character, this added to my fear and anxiety as I had to avoid zombies or make enough space to safely kill them. The fixed cameras were also used extremely effectively to create a sense of dread not knowing what was a further down a corridor or around the next corner. I'll never forget the first zombie you encounter in RE, which has to be one of the most memorable scenes in gaming history.
While both these aspects of RE are improved by the newest installment, a fundamental aspect of RE that is still present in RE7 are the puzzles. There is an amazing sequence where you are trapped in a room that is definitely a highlight of the new game. While most involve finding keys, or objects, needed to access new areas, it is very reminiscent of prior games in the franchise. The 1st person view was something that I didn't expect I would enjoy as much as I did. I originally thought that the game was a gimmick to sell the Playstation VR, but the new perspective worked perfectly for the game. When turning my back to run away from enemies, the thought of them being right behind me, or accidentally backing up against a wall was adrenaline invoking.
Resident Evil, AKA Biohazard, was a huge success in Japan and America so a sequel followed in 1998. RE2 took the same formula that made RE1 successful and did it again on a larger scale. The setting changed from the mansion to the streets of Racoon City and changed the protagonist from Jill/Chris to a rookie police officer Leon Kennedy. The mainline series has focused on these three characters, where the cast of secondary characters has grown dramatically. Resident Evil 7, as a way to reinvigorate the franchise, choose to add a completely new character of Ethan that the story is told from. At the same time, it does not throw away all the lore the previous games developed. It's not until the third act of the story that connections are made to the RE universe. This is great for newcomers to the series while still paying homage to fans.
With RE2 being another huge success another sequel RE3: Nemesis was released the following year in 1999. While the game tried to improve upon the last game, by adding new mechanics (such as dodging and quick turning) and bringing back fan favorite Jill Valentine, RE3 started to feel that the series may have started losing steam. The Nemesis was a huge Tyrant like figure, which was the boss of the previous game, but showed up at the beginning of the story and the only thing you could do was run. By this point in the series, you can tell the developers were trying to make the game more action focused, incorporating new weapons and enemies. RE7 captures this same sense of dread and caution as you explore the Baker's home. Papa and Mama Baker will spring out of nowhere and since they cannot be killed until part of the story, your only option is losing them or hope they don't see you as you move around them.
While there were several other RE titles released after RE3, the next mainline game Resident Evil 4 released several years later in early 2005, on the GameCube. It retired the dated controls, camera and pre-rendered environments and RE4 set the tone for the new generation of RE games to come, with its pros and cons. The game brought back Leon Kennedy, who is sent on a mission to rescue the president's daughter who has been kidnapped by a cult in a small Spanish town. The game was action-packed, fast paced and I agree that it is one of the best RE games to date. If you have yet to play the game a remaster of the game is out now on the PS4 for $20. The story also diverges from the past games and instead of the zombies the series has been known for, it introduces a new parasite called Las Plagas that change their hosts into killing machines. RE7 also does not have the traditional zombie, but a new virus that turns its hosts into black, tendril - oozing monsters that have a variety of powers/abilities.
Up next Resident Evil 5, puts you back in the shoes of Chris Redfield, who is now part of some kind of special bioterrorism taskforce in charge of investigating an African town after people there start going crazy. This is definitely my least liked game of all the RE games I've played. It was similar to RE4, but worse characters, story, and dialogue. Each cutscene was the same, Chris rushing into buildings with guns drawn surprised to see another zombie monster. It took the action of RE4 and tried to make it even more action focused by throwing more enemies at you. It didn't have any survival horror elements and felt the developers were trying to make everything feel "badass". I honestly lost hope in the franchise at this point, and wouldn't waste time playing it.
The news gets even worse. The reason I didn't say RE6 was the worst game in the franchise is that I didn't even play it. If RE5 was scoring 8-9 on many review sites, I didn't want to know what an average score of 5 was like. I'm not that much of a masochist. At this point, it seemed like Capcom was milking the franchise for all it had left and I wasn't keeping up to date on the new sequel in the works. With the transition to the first person and VR, I thought this was a gimmick, similar to if RE7 was released with motion controls. It wasn't until recently that I saw the game on sale and decided to give it a try. In hindsight, I should have waited or spent the extra money on the gold edition that included all the DLC because it was that good I wanted to know more about the story. The game does come with one free DLC, but after playing it I felt it was a weak addition to the main story and could be skipped.
Even though the game falters a bit in the third act after the final antagonist is revealed. I feel they hit a good balance between the survival-horror and action in this game. My favorite part is early in the game when you have to make decisions on conserving ammo or health. Aiming for the head for extra damage but taking the risk of missing made each encounters impactful instead of facing hordes of enemies at once. Another thing missing from this game that would have made it perfect was the amount and type of puzzles. There are a handful of great puzzles but most were easy and little gratification as a result.
One of the best segments of the game is the use of videotapes that found periodically in the game. Instead of watching an important cutscene revealing parts of the story, you take control of the person in the video making you feel you are experiencing these events firsthand. Each of these segments was awesome and varied greatly. The game also has multiple endings, something that everyone loved in the original games. The branching path is obvious but it did give significantly different outcomes and added a couple of extra hours of reply value. For those interested in playing through the entire game again, there are collectibles to find and after the first play through a couple of new items are added to your inventory.
Resident Evil 7 is a great game, that returns to the old survival horror gameplay of the original games that made it popular. It's genuinely terrifying and I'm excited again to see what direction the next Resident Evil game will take. Thank you all for reading, I had fun reminiscing and leave a comment if you want to see more posts like this in the future.