This article contains spoilers for Resident Evil 7.
In a previous article of mine I said I believed Resident Evil 4 to be the best game of the longstanding Resident Evil series. Even throughout most of my initial playthrough of Resident Evil 7, I still believed it. I had mixed feelings about RE7 initially – not as a horror game, however. If I was judging it by its standards as a general horror game, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
The first half of the game in the Baker mansion played like a blend of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Evil Dead video game, and that is by no means a bad thing. In fact, I’ve been hoping for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre video game for close to 13 years now, after watching the gory remakes under blanket covers at sleepovers with friends (nobody tell my parents please).
Resident Evil 7, by all accounts, was a dream come true on that front. The atmosphere, characters, boss fights, the tension I felt while wandering through the mouldy house, waiting for Jack Baker to burst out of the wall wielding a shovel and a witty comment, ready to take my head off at the shoulders, was all fantastic. I hadn’t had such feelings of dread since Outlast and it was exhilarating.
As a Resident Evil game, however, I was undecided how I felt about it. Some of the series staples remained present, such as the safe rooms, the healing herb items, the bio-terror threat hanging over the main character’s head, etc. In terms of gameplay and story direction, it was very different to even the original RE titles, which while horror at their core, were also heavily steeped in action-oriented gameplay. This became more evident as the series progressed, and we ended up with Resident Evil 6. After the extremely negative fan response to the last instalment, it’s understandable Capcom would’ve chosen to go the tried and true route of first person survival horror, that had previously served other horror titles so well, for their next RE game.
“Bring back the horror elements!” fans begged the devs. Even I found myself wishing the series would return its focus to horror, especially after RE6 and Umbrella Corps, though I was hoping for another RE4. A true blend of action and horror – that’s what Resident Evil was to me, and I didn’t realise how well-ingrained that belief and expectation was until I got my hands on RE7.
Objectively, up until RE7, the series had never been purely focused on its horror roots like, say, the Silent Hill franchise. They’d always had their terrifying moments, of course, and you never exactly felt like some kind of unstoppable powerhouse. But it’s hard to listen to complaints of “Resident Evil used to be all about horror!” when the last boss fight of the first game had you shooting the massive Tyrant monster with a rocket launcher on a helipad. The fight was still tense up until that moment, but in this humble fan’s opinion, this series has never exclusively been about horror.
That’s why RE7 was so bizarre to me. Here’s this Resident Evil instalment that plays like a cousin to Outlast and Amnesia. It took a bit of getting used to how jarring it was. I’d asked for a horror Resident Evil, and I got it, but I wasn’t sure if I *liked* it. Be careful what you wish for. The lack of inclusion of previous, beloved characters like Chris, Jill, Leon and Claire furthered the disconnect I felt from RE7 actually *feeling* like I was playing a Resident Evil title.
By the time the credits rolled after the ending, though, I was in love. And quite ready to take back everything I’d previously told people about RE7 not feeling like an RE game. The final boss fights with Jack and Eveline had RE written all over them. Over the top and simply perfect. And then a guy calling himself Chris Redfield (one of the series’ previously well-established protagonists) showing up in an Umbrella helicopter was certainly enough to send me off the deep end on putting on my tin foil hat and speculating. I loved the curve ball I was thrown by Capcom. I thought I was playing a soft reboot of the series, when it turns out, I was merely doggy paddling in the beginnings of the next story arc Capcom had planned for the already pre-established universe. The relief I felt could not be described.
Some of the questions I had at the end of the game are likely to be answered in the next DLC, ‘Not a Hero’, which will be released for free sometime in the coming months and centred around Redfield. Despite this, I’m hoping Capcom sticks with the story foundations they’ve laid out with RE7. I’d love to learn more about what Umbrella is up to these days, why Chris is working for them when he’d sworn in previous titles he would never succumb to the dark side. I want to know more about the rival company that created E-001, or where (the notably absent) Lucas Baker’s story goes from here and what other catastrophic events will occur in the wake of this newly-made bio-terror threat.
Subsequent playthroughs had me loving the game even more, enough to 100% it, finishing it on Madhouse difficulty (something I had been convinced I wasn’t even going to attempt) and getting the platinum trophy. I caught on to hints and easter eggs that served as reminders that we were still playing around in the same universe, and came to truly appreciate RE7 as the herald of the new and improved Resident Evil. It managed to maintain its ties to its roots while still managing to renew itself and become fresh and exciting once more.
To me, RE7 is the now best game in the entire franchise, finally beating out RE4, which isn’t bad for a brand new instalment of a series that’s been around for more than 20 years, and I hope Capcom sticks with what they’ve established and sees it through to some sort of terrifying, mouldy conclusion.
May we never see someone falcon punch a boulder in Resident Evil ever again.