Resident Evil VII will be hitting PC and consoles in less than two weeks, and being a longtime fan of the franchise, it’s hard for me not to be excited. Though this level of excitement, as high as it is, also comes with a bit of apprehension, and with some fans even complete dis-interest. What? A new numbered entry in the RE franchise and some folks could not care less? Say it isn’t so. Well, the franchise has changed and evolved over time, grabbing with it new fans and losing some in the process. This is not surprising, as originally the games started very horror focused, slow and methodical, and puzzle based. Combat was involved but in a complete, just serviceable sort of way, not to be a bad ass commando, but to survive. Though inevitable, the series changed and, depending who you ask, more for the better or worse.
With Resident Evil 4, it went for a more survival horror ACTION element. Trimming down puzzle aspects and focusing on more intense combat situations and action yet with horror themes and still horrific enemies, but losing the horror feel. It revived the franchise sales and sparked renewed interest. This sort of split the fan base into two sides now. To cut a long story short, RE7 looks to be changing the format again, taking aspects of old, and mixing it with new elements.
Resident Evil stars a normal, every day person named Ethan Winters. As far as we know he isn’t some super human war veteran or bio chemical analyst. He is just a man looking for his missing wife, an everyday Joe. Little does he know that what he is about to embark on is going to lead him into a terrible Plantation mansion in fictional Dulvey, Louisiana that is home of The Bakers, a family with a seemingly terrible secret who are anything but normal.
The first thing that will be apparent to anyone that is familiar with the franchise is going to be that this is the first time a main line entry is in first person. Now this has taken some criticism to itself, as if Capcom is just trying to copy the recent PT demo, or even that it was shoehorned into this style for VR element purposes. I tend to believe that this is just the intentional way they wanted to move forward, especially as they wanted to bring the horror elements back to the forefront of the franchise. Playing in first person adds tension, putting players in the viewpoint of the protagonist, and while it doesn’t have quite the same effect as static camera angles from the original, the FPS element can still use of off-screen and limited viewpoint moments to scare players. Third person can work in the same sense, but FPS definitely adds a feeling of being there and being vulnerable more than third person ever can in my personal experience. It’s going to be one of the biggest changes fans of the series will have to tolerate.
After the original demo released and the first detailed information came to light, people were worried Resident Evil VII was going for a more stealth approach. While it still has yet to be determined just how much stealth there is, going from recent gameplay events where sites were able to play for about 5 hours, it appears this isn’t a concern. With weapons ultimately being found, used, and ultimately upgradable with a new coin system. Puzzles also play a factor in the franchise from back in the day, but the demo has some of the most obscure and convoluted puzzle solving elements, that most needed a detailed walkthrough for what amounted to the most random things being done to activate.
Again, according to previews, this is just a result of the all-purpose demo, something to drive people to play the demo for long periods of time till the full retail release. This doesn’t seem to have been reflective on the full experience and was simple made to showcase what RE7 is going for in theme and user interface elements, not really representative of actually puzzles. Now is that not to say there will be some super hidden Easter egg in the final game that requires just as much silly investigation? Potentially. Yet this isn’t going to be MYST: Resident Evil Edition.
Enemies in the game seem to be taking a more personal approach as well. Using the Bakers as a fundamental enemy element that stalks and terrorizes the players throughout the experience it would seemingly make things tenser and more personable. There are other enemies to run into as well, called the molded, which look exactly as they sound: dark, wet, nasty plus claws and teeth. We know also that the Bakers have some inhuman like abilities, but to what extent and why remains to be seen. So while it doesn’t appear will be facing the same zombie like enemies from prior entries, the same sense of managing when to run, when to hide, and when to fight, a staple of the original franchise, seems to be making a solid return.
Yet even with the nods that harken back to the original entries and this new first person viewpoint, why is it that it doesn’t seem to “feel” like Resident Evil as of yet to some folks? Well, this is obvious for a few reasons. Capcom has already established its lore and characters over the last 20 years. Each numbered entry seems to move forward on telling stories of characters we have either seen before or adding new people to the lore. In this regard, Resident Evil VII seems like it’s taking a step back. Even taking place after RE6 in the timeline, this iteration, at first glance, just doesn’t seem to have a ton of tie-ins to the original storylines.
We saw a very similar element to this in RE4, and once again people were a bit apprehensive to the changes. Yet we also had a familiar vet to the franchise as the star, Leon S Kennedy. Here, it’s just Ethan, looking for his wife and getting caught up in something he seemingly doesn’t appear to have any connection to. Does he though? Is there more that Capcom isn’t letting onto? Almost assuredly so.
I’m willing to bet we get more information about Umbrella or whoever is behind this, via notes, VHS tapes, or other cut scenes. Why not just let players use a character we are all familiar with though? Well, vulnerability and scare factor. Players have been through a gauntlet of monstrosities with the main characters throughout the franchise. How do you bring back that fear to not only the player but the person being played? A person who hasn’t experienced anything like this before. If done right, using a new person that gets thrust into this survival horror world, much like Chris, Jill, Claire, or Leon, before they knew what they were dealing with, seems the right way to go. Yet I do hope that there are plenty of nods to prior events, potential monsters, and main characters, even if we don’t play as them. This would satisfy me immensely. Let’s face it, if the world has seen bio terrorist event at a global level such as the world Capcom has created, taking it back to a more secluded, scary, and middle of nowhere approach, seems like a drastic change and much like the mansion in the first game, where no one can hear those screams.
Overlooking some of the details that have been released and some of the information that was data mined from the PC demo, it does appear that there will be more than one location, and even as I stated on a previous video I created, there appears to be some sort of boat area, a bayou like plantation, maybe even a factory? We see explosions, water, and little more of this setting. Now I’m willing to bet this is one of two things. Either these are moments from the VHS tapes Ethan will find that allow the player to control other characters in various moments with some different mechanics according to Capcom. Or as it’s been talked about, the main footage shown is just a scratch of the overall game. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a little bit of both as Capcom has been very good at keeping locations a secret in previous reveals.
Resident Evil VII looks to at least bring horror back to the franchise, that much is clear. I have high hopes for the new entry and am willing to see just how far it goes into pushing new territory for the franchise and yet retains and refines elements from the prior games. Will it settle right into place with the franchise more than we realize? Will it please both style of fans while bringing on new players? One can only hope to see the latest Resident Evil continue to evolve the series and proves that survival horror can and will thrive, even with change.
Editor’s Note: This is not based on the recent five hour demo of the game, as we have not had access to that.