I knew you’d be fine if you landed on your butt.
The history of the Resident Evil franchise (much like it’s fictional universe) is a thing plagued by the missteps of a corporation unwilling to recognize a bad idea when it presents itself. For the last decade since RE 4 was released on the GameCube the Resident Evil franchise has limped along like one of its virally induced necrophages, hobbling about in the skin of its predecessors with an eye locked firmly on the limitless payday that every AAA publisher believes it deserves by divine right.
Well, Capcom finally cut that shit out and, while I’m skeptical as to just how long it will take them to start repeating the same mistakes all over again, Resident Evil 7 stands as a shining example of reboot by homage in the best way possible.
Ethan Winters has misplaced his wife. She left home for a long-distance babysitting gig that should in no way arouse any sort of suspicion and didn’t return for three years. Now, most stable minds would report the disappearance to the proper authorities, take whatever time they needed to mourn, and move on with their life. And, well, that’s just what Ethan Winters did until his wife, Mia, contacted him again three years later, under further mysterious circumstances, and told him, in no uncertain terms, to stay the fuck away.
Ethan didn’t, of course. He called the police and had them reopen the cold case file using the concrete evidence of his missing wife’s whereabouts he just obtained and- of course he didn’t! This is a Resident Evil game and Ethan Winters is a fucking idiot and he went to investigate a collapsing Louisiana farmhouse in the middle of a fucking swamp all by himself!
So, of course, shit gets out of hand in a hurry (pun intended, you’ll see). Mia has been taken captive by a family of deranged hillbillies called the Bakers, every door and window is either barred or guarded by a ludicrously ostentatious and complex lock, and (in the most disturbing twist of all) the most up to date video recording technology available to you is VHS! The scan lines! Oh, dear God, the scan lines!
Evasion and survival is the name of the game now. The Bakers are relentless adversaries and seemingly immortal. They will stalk, chase, and outmaneuver you at every turn should you give them an opening, so don’t. Stay low. Keep an eye on them. Find cover and wait for an opportunity to move on. Should you be sighted, run for your life but expect the unexpected. The Bakers have a few tricks up their sleeves that might catch you off guard should you make the mistake of feeling at ease anywhere beyond a safe room where you can save, plan, and freely resupply yourself from a small cache of constantly dwindling resources.
Most of this might sound familiar to you if you’ve played some more modern examples of survival horror such as Outlast or Amnesia. Indeed, Resident Evil 7 bears a striking resemblance to these games in its opening hours as it builds tension through a series of closed corridors and scripted story events. Once it opens up, though, you’ll see the Resident Evil in its DNA and it’s a cool refreshing drink of water that’s not at all a tortured metaphor I failed to properly unify.
Much like its well-established predecessors, Resident Evil 7 offers you a small arsenal of small arms, rifles, close combat weapons, and a few more exotic and bizarre options should you decide to take the out that RE7 constantly dangles in front of you. Do you take a hike and hope you can make it to the next safe room where you’ll be able to save and resupply or do you take a stand and hope against hope that your hammer won’t let fall on empty chambers this time? The choice is yours and it feels like pure Spencer mansion all over again.
A few encounters you will be unable to avoid, of course. Terrible boss fights are as much a staple of Resident Evil as green herbs and ludicrous evil plans involving impossible conspiracies. But, you know what? These boss fights ain’t so terrible. In fact, a couple of them are pretty damn good. They play out more like puzzles than actual battles as you’re intended to read and adapt to your environment instead of let fly with every ounce of lead you have saved up and their outcomes are pure, gory fan service.
The Baker estate is also beautiful in its misery and decay. The engine that Capcom is using renders so much depth and fidelity in its environments that, at times, when the sun is down and the lights are out and you’re alone in your room with the beasts of this fallen home you may find yourself transported into its halls where every footfall and settling creak of its age-old lumber gives you pause for fear. Then one of the Bakers sticks their ugly mugs right in your face and spits out some poorly lip-synced dialogue and contrary to a dozen hastily written blog posts you’ll find out there you realize you’re nestled comfortably in the uncanny valley and you can relax for a bit.
That’s a minor squabble, though. The fact is that Resident Evil isn’t just an absolute return to form for the series it is also a potential standard-bearer as I’ll argue its merits over those ardent supporters of 4, 2, or even the weirdos who jizz their pants over the mere mention of Code Veronica X. Resident Evil 7 is a gem, a true gem, and one hell of a way to kick off what looks to be one hell of a year for gaming.
Recommendation: Best in class. Go from this place and purchase now. Play, play, play!
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