Prior to Resident Evil Seven, the Resident Evil franchise had been in a rut for awhile. The franchise had shifted from horror to a more bland action game with light horror elements. With Resident Evil Seven, however, developer Capcom has shifted back to its horror roots and made a game deserving of the survival horror franchise.
Resident Evil Seven starts with protagonist Ethan Winter searching for his wife Mia, who has been missing for three years. After receiving a strange email, he arrives at a decrepit Louisiana farmhouse where he is taken hostage by the backwoods Baker family, a family with abnormal strength and regenerative abilities.
The story feels like a focused horror narrative, instead of the standard ‘corporations-are-causing-weird-monsters-around-the-world’ storyline we have come to expect from Resident Evil. I was genuinely curious to figure out what happened to this family and wanted to make it out alive in a way that left me forgetting I was playing a Resident Evil game.
Another change for the franchise is the perspective you play it in, as it is a first-person game. This doesn’t change the gameplay, though. It retains the slow and methodical pace inherent to the Resident Evil games of the past.
Despite the unchanging pace, the game is much easier to play thanks to that first-person perspective. Anyone who has played a first-person game will easily be able to play from the get-go, which is new for a series that, for the most part, has very clunky controls.
Not only does it pay homage to previous Resident Evil games, it also nods its head at several horror movies. You will see bits of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “VHS” and even “Day of the Dead” throughout your playthrough that give a great context for the type of atmospheric horror the game lays out for you.
The game is, above all, a technical masterpiece. It runs a solid 60 frames per second, even on the standard Playstation 4. The quality is also impressive, with the game being on such a small scale it can render objects and the environment to a very fine detail.
However, the back third of the game is where it tends to drag. Instead of continuing what made the first two-thirds of the game so great, it has you running and gunning against nameless blob creatures. It loses a lot of its scare factor here. There is nothing really to be afraid about because you can kill these creatures. In contrast to the Baker family, you can temporarily immobilize them but they will eventually come back to accost you.
The perfect blend of hanging on for dear life with the items you have and focusing on stealth instead of taking enemies head-on is lost to the fact that you are so overpowered at that point there is no longer any tension. I will give the game credit, though, as it does not dwell on this too long and the ending leaves you asking what is really going on in this world.
Resident Evil 7 does a lot right when it comes to redefining what a horror game is in 2017. While it does take a stumble near the end, the first two-thirds are well done and leave me excited to see the future for Resident Evil.