Resident Evil 7: Biohazard represents a new beginning in Capcom’s long-running Resident Evil franchise, releasing on January 24 for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation VR.
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (the subtitle is the series’ main name in Japan, where the game is called Biohazard VII: Resident Evil) departs from the Resident Evil tradition of military and police personnel going up against undead monsters. Instead, players are cast as Ethan, a man who arrives at a derelict mansion in Louisiana while searching for his missing wife, Mia.
Borrowing from recent hits like P.T., Outlast and Alien: Isolation, Resident Evil VII is also the series’ first main entry to be played entirely in first person. The developers suggest this change was made to accentuate the horror, but it also facilitates the game being 100% playable in virtual reality.
Whether in VR or not, it goes without saying Resident Evil VII is not for the faint of heart. The dilapidated mansion and surrounding plantation are owned by the villainous Baker family, each of whom has unexplained and frightening powers. Combined with Ethan’s lack of combat expertise, this makes exploring, let alone avoiding the Bakers, a tall order.
With only seven months between the game’s announcement last year and its release, there is a lot we still do not know about Resident Evil 7. What mutated the Bakers, and why are they so hostile? Is Ethan in for a rude, Silent Hill 2 style twist when it comes to his missing wife? How does the story tie into the lore of the Resident Evil universe, if it even does? The game’s developers have offered one hint: the series-first combination of both the “Resident Evil” and “Biohazard” titles in all regions is supposed to suggest what is happening in the story.
What we know for sure is the gameplay of the series is alive and well in Resident Evil VII: the claustrophobic locations echo the first game, item puzzles will have players scratching their heads, and the Bakers are relentless, AI-driven characters who pursue Ethan across the map like Resident Evil 3‘s Nemesis.
With the game just around the corner, survival-horror fans have a lot to look forward to. For those of us who are more squeamish, games are about to get a lot more terrifying.
Like any franchise, Resident Evil has its ups and downs, and like any long video game series, it has a history of being torn between changing with the times and maintaining its essence: what makes a game a Resident Evil game?
After the first game codified so many aspects of the survival-horror genre, Resident Evils 2 and 3 reinforced the elements that have come to define the series. As it grew, however, this structure stayed more or less the same (despite the GameCube’s excellent REmake), leading to creative stagnation. Both fans and key developers, including series creator Shinji Mikami, were anxious to see where they could take Resident Evil next.
Enter Resident Evil 4, in January 2005. Not only did 4 revolutionise third-person action games, as much as the first Resident Evil had done for horror, it also injected new life into the series while retaining the elements that make a game Resident Evil.
Unfortunately, time would show that 4 became the series’ undoing. As western games rose to prominence in the Xbox 360 generation, so too did blockbusters like Gears of War, a series with gameplay openly inspired by Resident Evil 4.
In an attempt, some would say futile, to directly compete with these megafranchises, subsequent Resident Evil entries transformed from tense, puzzle-driven adventures into bombastic shooters centred around cooperative multiplayer.
After Resident Evil 6, even the developers knew they had taken the series too far. For the next main entry, they set about stripping away the extraneous elements until what they had was an immersive, horror-focused experience set in a single location, rather than 6‘s bloated, globetrotting antics.
Resident Evil VII is as different to the last three games as Resident Evil 4 was to the original trilogy. But where Resident Evil 4 went from a horror game to action-with-strong-horror-elements, Resident Evil VII aims to reduce the action, ramp up the tension, and return to its survival-horror beginnings.
Aside from the obvious cause for excitement—Resident Evil is again a single player survival-horror instead of a co-op action game—there are plenty of reasons why Resident Evil 7 is worth keeping an eye on.
The visuals, though perhaps not the cutting edge, are realistic enough to accentuate the dark and dingy locations; and the monster designs are appropriately unsettling. Even aside from the game’s commitment to be playable start-to-finish in virtual reality, the small and remote setting should make for an incredibly immersive experience.
Finally, Capcom’s choice to return the series to its roots is bigger than a single game. It shows a willingness to give players what they want, rather than what players ought to want. Resident Evil 7 is an easy shoo-in for OnlySP’s most anticipated games of 2017, and we only have to wait a few weeks to play it.