Resident Evil 7 came out last week and horror gamers have been scaring themselves silly playing it. Capcom themselves said they were looking to bring the franchise back to its roots, so have they succeeded?
It’s no secret that Resident Evil 7 is a massive departure for the series in many ways. The game uses a first person perspective for the first time, and the main character Ethan isn’t an army veteran or special agent. He’s just a normal guy looking for his missing wife, and gets caught up in the horror of the surroundings.
The story and settings have been stripped back too. The whole game takes place in the same grounds. It’s a mansion, nodding back to the original Resident Evil, but it’s still one house. The bad guys aren’t a shadowy agency either, just one family comprised of really scary people. Even Grandma. Especially Grandma.
While none of this sounds like Resident Evil, there’s still plenty of the franchise in the game’s DNA. Doors are unlocked via complicated puzzles and bizarre locking mechnaisms. There’s talk of viruses and serums. Inventory space is limited, and you need to manage what you carry. The safe rooms are even back, although you save on a tape player rather than a typewriter.
You can see the influence modern horror has had on the game, too. There’s more than a whiff of Outlast, as you run and hide from the monsters when your weapons are taken away from you. There’s also the inclusion of VR support, something that fellow horror title Alien: Isolation used to great effect.
Overall, it feels as though Resident Evil 7 has attempted to go back to the feeling of constant dread that permeated the earlier titles. You’re outnumbered, outgunned, and painfully vulnerable. As a horror title, it works incredibly well. Early players have reported online that they’re terrified to play. One online guide even gives readers ways to play it if they find themselves too scared to try it.
Does this mean it’s reinvented horror gaming? Far from it. However, it shows that there’s much more to horror gaming than cheap jump scares and mountains of gore. There’s a place for both in Resident Evil 7, but they’re never over used. Instead, the fear comes from an enemy that’s’ almost impossible to kill and the claustrophobic feel of the level design.
Now that Resident Evil 7 has done so well, we’re sure to see other horror games follow suit. The one problem with 7 is that it follows the now trite formula of a man looking for his missing wife. Hopefully we’ll see new and exciting plots to go with a new breed of horror titles.