By Kimari Rennis
Resident Evil has finally returned to survival horror! This new installment of the Resident Evil franchise shows a transformation from a series of third-person action shooters into a fresh first-person survival horror game. In Resident Evil 7, you assume the role of Ethan who is in search of his missing wife, Mia. After entering a seemingly abandoned house in Dulvey, Louisiana, the door shuts with no escape. From that moment on, you go through evil personified with the Baker family and their disturbing glances, ungodly lifestyle, and gross motives.
Resident Evil 7 has amazing, sharp graphics. In fact, they have a focus feature where the visuals become clearer depending on where you look. The first person view comes with realistic hand animations, such as putting your hand up to the door to open it, putting your hands up to block attacks, and animations in certain cut scenes where your hand is actually cut off. The voice acting and script really show off the personalities. For instance, Marguerite Baker’s caring nature changes into pure psychotic rage when she is rejected and disrespected.
There is a ton of horrific, memorable events in the game, such as traversing a dark infected basement where you avoid seemingly countless numbers of “The Molded,” who are mold-covered, flexible humanoid monsters boasting crooked jaws with sharp teeth and claws. Going through a horrifyingly disgusting boss battle with Marguerite Baker as a spider-like mutant is tense. Going through an intense chainsaw battle with Jack Baker where you shove the running chainsaw through his head repeatedly is scary and gross.
After completing the game, you unlock Madhouse mode. In Madhouse mode, the difficulty increases tremendously. Items and supply locations have changed and are scarcer so you must look more intently for items. And enemies are extremely aggressive, alert, and fast. You rely more on rooms with save features since the rate of auto-save has been decreased. In my personal opinion, difficulty that requires thinking makes horror games more heart-racing and scary than playing on normal difficulty.
The major strengths in Resident Evil 7 are the atmosphere and environment. The location, the design of the house, the effort put into the visuals all raise the proper tension. In the beginning, you drive past a thick grove of dull, green-leaved trees and mosquitoes only to be greeted by a daunting, dark mansion and a house covered in wild greenery that screams “abandoned.” The atmosphere and environment went so well with the horror aspect that it took me personally 40 minutes of coaxing by my friend to step foot into the house. The house is full of ominous noises, creaks, and footsteps. The yard is dark and wet with distant sounds of monster-like screeches. Every inch of the property puts you on edge. Capcom did an amazing job with the design on visuals. And *spoiler alert* it is eventually revealed that “Eveline,” who is a part of the Baker family, is an unstable bio-weapon who has corrupted the clan. Eveline’s ways are what made the Baker’s the unnatural, superhuman freaks they are.
The downloadable content brings you entertaining yet stressful replay-ability. For example, The Banned Footage (Vol. 1) DLC introduces Nightmare in which you play as Clancy (he was kidnapped by the Bakers and was a cameraman for “Sewer Gators” in the main game) where you survive till dawn, down in the basement fighting waves of The Molded and occasionally battling Jack until he’s defeated and your exit is finally clear. Another part of the Banned Footage DLC is Bedroom. Once again, you play as Clancy as you quietly find a way to escape the room and Marguerite’s clutches. Whenever Marguerite is alerted by the ruckus you make while planning a getaway, she will come upstairs to check on you. At this point, you have a timer in which you must put the room back in order and hide your progress and get back in bed before you are caught. Marguerite has great memory for where and how she organized the room.
The major “eyebrow raiser” in this game is the AI. It’s both good and bad. The good part about the AI (specifically Jack and Marguerite Baker) is their patrol mechanics. The AI actively patrols the area and take specific routes to try and find you, as well as reacting to sound and open doors. The awful thing about the AI in this game is the fact that the difficulty affects how smart the AI actually is. The AI still actively patrols but it takes more time for enemies to spot and pursue you. Their speed, and aggressiveness, all depends on your difficulty level. The idea to slow things down is kind of ridiculous considering the fact that the Bakers are psychopaths and should be aggressive. Toning this down dulls the “survival horror” aspect greatly. Playing on easy mode just isn’t scary.
One suggestion to make it better and scarier would be to add the idea of being infected when hit by The Molded, similar to the Midnight demo of Resident Evil 7 in which, after being hit, you gradually become weakened, and then are visually and physically taken over by the mold. This aspect of the game would more than likely make players fear infection by these enemies and dispose of them with caution. This would add heart-racing, exciting, and serious moments overall.
All told, Resident Evil 7 has exceeded expectations. Although it will probably be one of the better releases of 2017, and the return to the survival horror is welcome, the game is quite short. At the end, here’s what’s important: the game makes you question why you even went to find your beloved wife after going through hell and back.
Kimari Rennis is the Circle’s 14-year-old intern from our partnership with the DreamYard Prep School in the Bronx. This is her first story for the New York Videogame Critics Circle. She also drew the Molded artwork.