What’s in a name?
The Resident Evil series has made a name for itself in the horror video game genre thanks to its groundbreaking game design, atmosphere, and mechanics. Released back in 1996, the original Resident Evil was critically and publicly hailed for delivering players a plethora of scares and tense combat scenarios. It also helped define what we now consider the survival horror genre, thanks to the noticeable lack of ammunition and healing items offered to users. This title kicked off one of the most well-known franchises in gaming as it’s spawned a number of sequels, spin-offs, comics, books, toy, and even a six-part movie series. However, Resident Evil 7 marks a rather drastic change for the series as it has not only shifted in tone but moved to a first person perspective.
This has drawn a rather noticeable line between fans of the series as most of the YouTube videos on the official Resident Evil page are filled with comments debating this title’s validity to be included in the core series. Given how this is Capcom’s first attempt in years to steer the Resident Evil series in a more horror focused direction, there’s a lot riding on the success of this title. With the game set to release tomorrow one has to question if this title is a Resident Evil game at all or just another horror game masquerading under the iconic name. Before we begin, however, it’s important to understand that we are talking about the numbered series and not the various spin-off titles like Umbrella Corporations. Spin-off games can be set in the same universe but are afforded more of a chance to experiment since they’re not directly died to the main narrative.
We also need to identify what attributes actually make a Resident Evil game. This can obviously vary from person to person as horror, above almost all other genres, is incredibly subjective. However, there are core fundamentals that are in each of the main titles and thus have become staples for the series. These are:
- Engaging, Sometimes Complex Puzzles
- Horror Elements
- Combat via Firearms
- Campy, B-Movie Themes
- Multiple Types of Enemies/Infected
While these 5 base ideas have changed or altered over the past, there is a pretty clear pattern in terms of what each game offers players. In terms of puzzles, we know from the various demos released that there will be a variety of different challenges that users will need to overcome. This is in line with the rest of the franchise and is clearly making a return in a big way that pays tribute to its roots as the earlier games were far more focused on puzzles than combat. We also know that this was the intention of the development team thanks to an interview with Game Informer with producer Masachika Kawata. During their discussion, Kawata stated that “It is still a Resident Evil title, which draws on the series’ roots of horror, exploration, puzzles, and combat while offering something new.”
There’s little doubting that Resident Evil 7 is focused on delivering a truly terrifying experience as this title is clearly inspired by films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and video games like Outlast and the P.T. demo. The horror has a much more tangible feeling then it ever has, as the previous games mainly relied on jump scares and being chased by monsters. There’s a greater focus on tension this time around, something that was noticeably lost once the series shifted to a more action oriented direction with the release of Resident Evil 5. Given fans have been clamoring for game in this franchise that prioritizes scares over explosions, this is a welcomed return that is true to the series.
Combat has also been confirmed and showcased for Resident Evil 7, as multiple trailers and gameplay walkthroughs have shown off players using a pistol, shotgun, magnum, and axe. A weapons effectiveness will depend on what type of enemy you decide to use it on, which harkens back to the classic Resident Evil formula. Along with this comes the notable low level of useful items you will need to scrounge up which is clearly shifting back to the series roots where players were in short supply of ammo and health. While the combat may have shifted perspective, there are clear ties to the original titles with both their pacing and sense of urgency.
We also know that there have been a fair amount of different weird creatures shown that users will have to fight throughout the campaign. This is to be expected and it’s important to note that zombies do not need to be included for this to be considered a Resident Evil title. Both 4 & 5 focused around a new virus that created more sentient and aware foes, which would be more than enough of an explanation for why this backwoods family is able to survive gunshots to the head and summon giant swarms of insects. However, we still don’t know if there are any true bosses in this game like the ones we’ve seen in every previous installment. While the idea of being stalked by a powerful, near unstoppable foe is very reminiscent of the older Resident Evil game and further shows that this is a game embracing the old.
However, the one aspect that seems to have been lost in translation is the tone that this video game’s look and story is using compared to the other. With the exception of the first, Resident Evil has always embraced a more B-horror style that homages cheesy monster films and dumb one liners after a particular foe was defeated. Even though the original was meant to be taken seriously the terrible dialogue and weird enemies (such as a giant infected plant) seemed to jump right out of a drive-in movie. The developers clearly leaned into this idea since then as even the second installment was riddled with campy moments such as a dying police officer telling Leon his party was going to be postponed.
It’s silly and made to make your eyes roll as characters and villains are almost cartoonish in their over the top design. Monsters have always been big and varied, with giant bugs, reptiles, and animals appearing in almost every installment. Resident Evil 7 has gone a different direction and ditched the one-liners for a grittier and grimier feel that exploitation films thrived on. There’s nothing wrong with this, however, it’s one of the most glaring changes that this title has implemented.
Another, which is perhaps the biggest, would be the shift in perspective from third person to first person. This marks a rather big change for the series because outside of some spin-off titles there hasn’t been a core Resident Evil that forces players to play the entire game from this perspective. Yes, this is a rather noticeable change, yet it’s important to remember that such comments could be thrown at Resident Evil 4 which is considered by many to be one of the very best in the entire franchise. A change in perspective does not necessarily mean that this title is no longer a part of the series, just a shift to offer something different for the players. Games need to evolve, especially those in the horror genre, as tastes, hardware, and mechanics grow over time.
Resident Evil 7 is a title that could very be the horrific shot of adrenaline that this game has needed for a long time. While the change from first person to third person may seem odd, it’s fairly clear that this title has more in common with the original titles in this franchise then those of recent memory. Even though it takes cues from titles like Outlast, it molds this around the Resident Evil universe and offers a dynamic new way to experience the game. Resident Evil 7 is a Resident Evil game even if it may not appear like one at first. Exploring a decrepit estate, scavaging for supplies, solving puzzles, and fighting off foes is everything this horror franchise was built on. Even though this may mark a new direction for the franchise, it’s one that has been long over due.