The sixth installment of Resident Evil, although it earned a lot of money for Capcom, showed that the formula invented on the occasion of the revolutionary “four” has burned out and the series needs changes. Is Resident Evil 7, which draws heavily on modern horror films, the right direction? You will find out from our review.
For twenty years, Resident Evil remains the strongest brand in the yellow-blue portfolio, but its history can be reduced to three specific titles. Released in 1996, the original set the standard for console survival horror for years, the “four” released eight years later popularized the view over the shoulder and turned the series into – as the creators themselves described it – an action horror movie. The final collapse of the series came in 2012, when Resident Evil 6 was released, which, although it sold very well, rejected the lion’s share of fans. The incredible scale of the events, powerful melee attacks, the gameplay focused on pure destruction, a huge number of QTE sequences, a terrible script or terrible cutscenes staggering between the convention of romantic realism and anime poetics, left an unequivocally negative impression. Correct interquels in the form of the handheld Revelations and its solid continuation still drew more from the newer installments of the series than the classics, which fortunately the publisher decided to remind us of, spitting out reissues of the excellent REmake and RE 0, for years available only for Nintendo consoles. Putting the “six” and the remake of the original together, you can clearly see how much the authors have deviated from the original assumptions of the cycle. Here a revolution was needed, which had to be achieved, even at the cost of worse financial results. Capcom had the courage to do so.
Welcome to the family, son
Richard Pearsey, the creator of the script for the memorable Spec Ops: The Line, is responsible for the Resident Evil 7 script. For the first time in the history of the series, the storyline for the canonical version of the saga is not the responsibility of the Japanese, which – bearing in mind the last few episodes full of kitsch and trash – was a great move already in the initial development phase. After watching the end credits, I can say that it was a bull’s eye. The action of the game takes place four years after the events of the “six”, although the knowledge of the series is irrelevant, because in the field of scenario the newest part almost completely separates from its heritage. As an ordinary middle-aged guy, Ethan Winters, we receive a video message from Mia, the main character’s wife, who has been dead for over three years. The woman informs her husband that she is at the Baker’s plantation in Dulvey, Louisiana, but also asks him not to come for her. The protagonist, wanting to find out the truth about the disappearance of his spouse, moves to the address indicated. On the spot, it turns out that the Bakers are completely crazy, but inexplicable things are happening in their ruined household.
For about ten hours it takes to complete the adventure on the normal difficulty level, I followed the events with great interest, which in almost two decades of dealing with this franchise has not happened to me yet. This was due to several factors: a Western scriptwriter at the helm (eliminating Japanese quirks ex officio), an interesting story with a few twists, excellent English voice-acting, a convention reminiscent of American slashers from the 80s, and a sensational wet atmosphere Louisiana. There is practically nothing left of the camp atmosphere of the older versions and the blockbuster envelope of the latest achievements of the series.
Before the premiere of Resident Evil 7 I came across many comments, according to which the “seven” resembles a generic, independent horror movie, Capcom made the game at a cost, and the entire experience was developed with virtual reality in mind, as a result of reducing the gameplay. It’s not true. The latest episode is an intelligent, classic survival horror, which is what every iteration of Resident Evil should be. We have here most of the elements for which we fell in love with the cycle years ago. The need for wise inventory management, saving ammunition, a manual save system, puzzles requiring perceptiveness, the ability to “play” opponents, memorable battles with bosses, various endings or an additional challenge level and fresh poppers unlock after completing the adventure.
Despite the change to the first-person perspective or resignation from many stationary points of view, the “seven” is played similarly to the classic versions of the PSone and GameCube era. We traverse a huge plantation, including a mansion resembling Spencer’s house, exploring the environment in search of items necessary to push the action forward. Importantly, the authors managed to differentiate the “problems” encountered by the protagonist so much that the “find the key / card to the next door” scheme, which he could wear out even in the excellent Alien: Isolation, does not apply here. It is worth looking into every nook and cranny, as it may turn out that we have just discovered a shortcut to an important location. Level-design, as in the classic trilogy, Code: Veronica X or Zero, is the highest shelf. However, what you will seek the most persistently will be weapons, ammunition and green plants …
Classic and modern
In the game, you will not meet zombies or other mutated mammals. The standard adversary we see most often is a mold-covered creature that comes in several varieties and resembles the Ooze mutants from the first REvelations. Clashes with them raise adrenaline both in the first part of the game, when we only have a pistol equipped, and later, when they attack in groups. Unfortunately, they are not able to break through ordinary doors, as long as we close them behind us, so it is relatively easy to outmaneuver them. With time, they make up for the lack of force arguments in numbers, but then we already have a shotgun, magnum, flamethrower or grenade launcher.
The authors consistently stick to the goal once chosen, so that survival will accompany us all the time, only occasionally proposing sections on slightly different principles, but even then survival is the number one goal. Then you can see which titles the developers drew inspiration from, and there are some of them. Several times we are forced to play a game of cat and mouse with an indestructible stalker, which raises the tension in the same way as in the aforementioned Alien: Isolation or horrors from the hide-and-seek subspecies, eg Outlast. In some parts of the game, the game tries to build an atmosphere of fear with the same means as the popular walking simulators like Layers of Fear or the unforgettable PT, which works out pretty well. There was also something from The Evil Within, namely traps that one of the characters sets for Ethan. As in the production of Shiji Mikami – the father of Resident Evil – we can save some ammunition by giving the opponent an explosive surprise. There is nothing wrong with peeking at the best, after all the authors were extremely sparing in adding something else.
Is Resident Evil 7 a scare? In a few moments, definitely yes, and in addition, we feel anxious all the time – the greater the less careful we are when using a firearm. I do not hide, however, that something was missing. Do you remember Crimson Heads from the remake of “one” or hard-to-beat Leechman from RE 0? Here, a similar, stressful and unpredictable factor is not implemented. This flaw is partially compensated by the ghostly Bakers, but the encounters with them are scripted, so the tension after such sections disappears for a long time. The checkpoint system is also a bad idea. Although the game can be saved only with tape recorders, the death of a character does not mean going back to the last save. It is a pity, because the penalty for death is lower, and therefore the player is more willing to risk. After all, this is probably the only element that shows that the producer would like to reach as many players as possible. The lack of the components of the last two numbered RE episodes, i.e. cheap gimmick, Quick Time Events sequences, moments straight from the shooter on rails or rendered film inserts, makes me very happy.
The plot is at least ten hours of intense survival in the old Japanese style, so it turns out that the authors did not lie, telling in interviews that they are going back to their roots. This is a great restart and an excellent starting point for continuing the cycle, but before we lay our hands on the announced REmake 2 or new installments, we will return to the “seven” more than once, which, although closed in terms of the story, will receive three sets of extensions by the end of 2017. All paid, of course.
Return to the roots
The manufacturer has definitely abandoned the MT Framework multi-platform engine, developing a new technology for Resident Evil 7 – RE Engine. This engine provided the game with high-quality, photorealistic graphics, and some compromises, such as less accurate models of individual elements of the environment or average-quality shadows, compensate for the tricks with lighting and sixty frames per second on all platforms. The creators did not express interest in creating a version for the Switch, although it seems to me that the Nintendo console would bear this title. I have already mentioned great voice-acting, a strong point of the game is also the sound, so important for survival horror. I was impressed by the soundtrack prepared by Akiyuki Morimoto (Lost Planet 2, Resident Evil 6). The musical setting sounds completely different than in the riotous “five” or “six” – here it is very economical, the guitar dominates, and the whole perfectly corresponds to the atmosphere of the American province. PlayStation VR owners can play the entire adventure with goggles on their heads, although I did not have and will not have the opportunity to test the reviewed position in virtual reality.
I have respect for Capcom for the fact that in the case of Resident Evil 7 he took up such a project. “Seven” is less affordable and effective than the latest achievements of the series, so the publisher probably expects worse sales, but sometimes it is worth taking a step back to take two forward. Resident Evil 7 is a successful return of the series to its roots, reconciling the classics with modern solutions. Not everything sounded right, the checkpoint system and scripted clashes with the pursuers dilute the thick atmosphere of terror and hate, and the adventure could take a little longer, but the seventh episode of the famous series should satisfy all fans of survival horror, especially RE fans, who will find a lot of flavors here. or references to old, iconic parts. Now I am calm about the remake level of the “two”.