Resident Evil VII
Resident Evil 7 features Ethan Winters, a milquetoast protagonist whose search for his missing wife leads him to the bayou of Louisiana. Once there, Ethan finds himself kidnapped and tortured by a family of murderous cannibals known as the Bakers. Both in the specifics and general tone of its seemingly stand-alone story, much of Resident Evil 7 is a departure from the zombie outbreak roots of the series at large. I won’t spoil if or how RE7 might eventually tie in to the greater Resident Evil universe, but I’ll say this much: You don’t need to be invested in the 20 years of backstory that exists to jump into this game.
Capcom doesn’t require a degree in Resident Evil lore to jump into Resident Evil 7, but there are echoes of the series’ history within it. Dulvey, Louisiana, isn’t Raccoon City, but as with the first Resident Evil, RE7 takes place in and around a single large house. A huge portion of the game’s 10 to 12 hours is devoted to exploring the Baker residence — and not just exploring it, but really getting to know it. I had to scour every corner of the house for resources. I had to memorize secret passageways and figure out which doors I could hide behind, and which hallways could get me to safety fastest.
That last requirement is notable, because no Resident Evil game since the first has done as good a job as RE7 at making me feel scared and helpless. Ethan is not a special forces agent or a police officer; he’s just a regular dude with no particular combat skills. When enemies start popping up in the Baker house — both the Bakers themselves and some other terrifying opponents — oftentimes Ethan’s best tactic is simply to run like hell. The more I memorized the layout of the house and surrounding areas, the more likely I was to dodge and juke my way past bad guys without wasting precious, rare ammo and healing items.
Of course, there is ammo, because there are guns, and combat is an option. Every weapon you acquire in RE7 feels different, and, most importantly, everything beyond the standard pistol feels powerful. When you blast a bad guy with the shotgun or fire a spray of machine gun bullets, it very clearly and visibly has an impact. Head shots, in particular, are both extremely satisfying and damn near necessary to take out most enemies without throwing away tons of bullets.
The approach to combat is fairly standard for Resident Evil — albeit more on the side of limited, difficult fights, like the early games, rather than constant combat as in Resident Evil 4 through 6 — but RE7 features at least one major controversial change-up for the series: It’s now in first-person. Some fans have decried this change as further evidence of Capcom losing its way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The shift to first-person takes Resident Evil 7 closer to its roots than the series has been in more than a decade.
While a fully controllable first-person view is quite different from the static third-person cameras of the old-school RE games, it shares a key element with them: a limited perspective. Resident Evil 7limits this perspective even further by making turning speed very slow. This adds a huge amount of tension as you explore.
In the original Resident Evil games, you might be cautious because one corner of the room was obscured, and you didn’t know if an enemy hid there. In RE7, you have to be cautious because you never know if an enemy has slid into the room behind you, or if there’s some creature shambling down the hallway to your right. If you turn to check, you might find yourself suddenly blindsided by an attack from ahead of you.