Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Perspective of a Retro Gamer: Resident Evil 7

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This series is basically a review of a modern game but with the context of a retro gamer visiting the present.  As such it does not contain a review score and often speaks to concepts and franchises from the past.  This article is spoiler free outside of what is revealed in trailers and public demos, which is why the screen shots are so vague.

resident_evil_7_bakers

Resident Evil has had a rocky journey over the last five years, up to and including the “Beginning Hour” demo for this very title.  The comparison to P.T., Hideo Kojima’s “playable trailer” for Silent Hills that has since been canceled by Konami, is unmistakable.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want my Silent Hill getting mixed into my Resident Evil, the two should remain mutually exclusive.  Couple that with the recent missteps of Resident Evil 6, my personal distaste for Revelations 2, and whatever goal Umbrella Corps. had, it wasn’t looking good.  I for one was also a bit worried about the hodgepodge of features thrown at this title including support for 4K resolution, PS4 Pro support, Playstation VR support, and HDR support on all platforms.  To my shock and awe, every bad indicator going into the release was without merit as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demonstrates a return to form I have not felt since the remake of the original on GameCube in 2002.

resident_evil_7_eerieSet in an old farm house in Louisiana, you play as main protagonist Ethan in search of your girlfriend Mia, who went missing years ago.  Those that played through the “Beginning Hour” demo, especially if you caught the final “midnight edition” will find the opening scenes to be familiar but clearly re-engineered.  I like this touch and I feel it was necessary for how many times Capcom made us play that thing in hopes to figuring out what was with the dummy finger and several other mysteries from the last six months.  While it’s interesting to play through – not to mention the reward you receive for completing it with the good ending and the on-edge “kitchen” demo on Playstation VR – none of this is required if you’re just jumping into the main game.  It reminds me why I’ve always appreciated the original work Capcom did on the Resident Evil series.  Whether it was “arrange mode” in the original, the way the mansion was reworked in the remake, or even the drastic differences between the shack in the demo and the main game of Resident Evil 7, you won’t be able to guess what’s coming.  After that opening sequence you will descend into a literal house of horrors and beyond that kept me on the edge of my seat and thoroughly creeped out for a majority of the game’s 8-12 hour campaign.

It’s not so much what Resident Evil 7 brings to the table that’s new, but rather how effectively Capcom was able to capture what I loved about the first title.  Back when we were given fixed camera angles because of technical limitations that ended up grasping the concept of confinement and horror in the process.  Now the first person perspective, even at 60 frames a second, your peripheral view adds a new limitation (even in VR) and it’s exploited just as effectively.  The late game aside, ammo will often be an issue, forcing you to value every shot and try to take your time as something hideous rushes at you.  On normal difficulty, and especially on madhouse, you will not be able to kill everything you go up against and thus must learn to avoid or run from things creeping in the darkness.  Even the mansion opening up to be much more than it seems from the first game has been re-captured here with distinct but impressive depth.  It all wraps up to a game where you will constantly be worrying about what’s lurking in the corner, low on ammo, and probably in some form of reduced health.  I loved every moment.  This is why I come to Resident Evil.

resident_evil_7_knifeDepending on your play style, these attributes will be as unattractive as they come.  It’s been my experience those who don’t like to explore, backtrack, and wonder about aimlessly to figure out what to do next will get frustrated with this title.  It’s not “levels” in the vein of your traditional shooter campaign; your ammo is scarce enough that if you waste a bucket of bullets shooting the belly of a creature that’s not weak there, you’re probably best off reloading a save.  Bosses will most likely not be taken out on your first attempt – and perhaps not your second or third either – because they are just that: bosses.  It’s not supposed to be easy, you’re not supposed to stumble your way through, and you are supposed to die.  The game’s length can also be deceiving because six hours of running through a battlefield and popping off enemies like super soldier doesn’t come with it the fatigue that six hours of rummaging around in the dark with 3 bullets while half dead does.  I feel like everyone I’ve talked to that burned through this game in a matter of days comes away both exhausted and disheartened, which makes perfect sense.  The original game is like 4-6 hours, half that if you’ve played before, and it probably took me a month to complete in the summer of 1996.  As such, you’ll probably move through Resident Evil 7 with more haste but it’s still not a bad idea to play the game in shorter bursts.  For me it was about five sessions of approximately 2-3 hours each and even then I felt the fatigue sinking in.  You’re probably best off playing about an hour or so and then returning to it the following day or two.  Play how you like, but again, this title isn’t intended to be burned through the first time, it’s intended to scare the hell out of you while also trying to kill you in the process.  I had limited experience with this title in Playstation VR and while it was incredibly effective, my stomach couldn’t handle it.  You have the choice to play in a full control mode like outside of VR, but most experience some form of nausea in this scheme.  For this reason, quick-snap 30-45 degree shift controls avoid watching the world spin and thus the motion sickness as well.  For me it didn’t eliminate the problem, although it was stifled, but despite not having any motion sickness in my life before VR, I have learned I’m more prone to VR sickness than most.  So in short, yeah, it’s really cool and probably the best way to play, but I just can’t hang in there long enough.  I found HDR to be an effective replacement that didn’t cost me any queasiness, but even in a standard non-HDR presentation the game is very effective.

I’m not sure whether or not today’s audience wants a game like Resident Evil 7 or will find it to be as impressive as I do, but as a fan of the series since the original, I am smitten.  It showed me a new world, it scared the hell out of me, and I was watching the credits with my heart pumping and a smile on my face.  I cannot believe this title managed to capture the magic of the original while also updating it to the modern day.  Resident Evil could not sustain the action-packed direction it was going – sadly hints of that still exist in the late game of this title – so in the least it’s a new way to keep the franchise afloat.  Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but Resident Evil 7 is easily the scariest and most fun horror game I’ve played in over five years.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

One Response

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  1. I am really eager to play this game, since I love horror games a lot. Hope I will have a great experience. Thanks for your review

    jackpepper016

    February 14, 2017 at 1:27 am


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