After being understandably leery of any Resident Evil games beyond the shit show that was Resident Evil 6, I was cautiously optimistic about the upcoming latest installment. There were promises to go back to the franchise’s roots and while I was still skeptical, it certainly signaled to me at the very least that Capcom realized if they didn’t change Resident Evil for the better, the series would eventually go the way of Sonic the Hedgehog.
The demo that’s been available for awhile now gave us a pretty good taste of what’s to come (hopefully). As I’ve mentioned before on the podcast, horror games tend to really scare me. With that in mind, I thought the RE7 demo was pretty damn scary. That might only mean “fairly scary” to a lot of other people, but I think either way you have to think that they’re headed in the right direction with this latest installment. You’re trapped in a poorly lit, dilapidated house that would be right at home on one of the more ghastly episodes of Hoarders, and it certainly doesn’t seem like you’re alone in there. The demo was an example of when horror is done right in my opinion: most of your uneasy feelings are derived from that anticipation of what’s going to jump out at you. Of course in the full version we can look forward to actually dealing with all manner of horrors face to face, but the demo set a tone that I hope follows through to the retail release.There’s seemingly no mention of S.T.A.R.S. and its hammy cast of officers. Although the earlier RE games were scary enough in their own right, at least at the time, they did have a campy side to them. This was arguably unintentional and simply due to bad Japanese-to-English dialogue translations, but it became an endearing part of the series. Resident Evil 7 seems to have no traces of this, and I think that’s for the better. While that slightly goofy tendency of past games is likely an endearing aspect of the series for some, if you’re going to get back to what people should think of when they hear “Resident Evil”, it should be survival horror plain and simple. Capcom seems to be aiming at reclaiming the title of go-to franchise in the genre. To do that you sometimes have to trim a little fat, and while it could be argued that far too many AAA games are overly serious in tone, this is a necessity for Resident Evil in my opinion.
What I’m hoping for when I get my dirty mitts on the game tomorrow is a logical progression from what we saw in the demo. A much larger house with more interactions with the family seem to be locks. After that it becomes a matter of whether or not those encounters with the monsters/zombies/whatever they are stay fresh and intense. A good mix of survival combat and that creep factor that was present in the demo is critical to success here I believe. That and a good story. I admit to not having read up on the game past the demo, which was intentional. I want to learn what made this crazy ass family the way they are, which should heighten the dread if done properly.
While I don’t imagine Chris or Leon will be showing up any time soon, I still think this is the most promising approach to take with Resident Evil at this point. The series should be scary above all else, and if a reboot or starting from scratch is necessary then so be it. It does beg the question though: will there be proper sequels in this franchise or will each game be a standalone? Also, there’s the ever-present issue of setting. How many scary houses can one series visit? Resident Evil 7 gets a bit of a pass considering it’s a refresh for the series, but after that where does the series go? Whether or not certain characters carry over to the next game will depend a lot on the ending of RE7 of course, but it will be interesting to see how the franchise as a whole progresses after the honeymoon ends with the new direction they’re taking.
From the perspective of a casual fan of Resident Evil who mostly enjoy the first few games, I’m hopeful. I think Capcom is doing the right thing here and so far it looks like they nailed it. The demo experience translating to a full-priced title is always the catch though, so I’ll be interested to see the final product. Check back this Saturday for the week’s podcast episode where I most certainly will be sharing my impressions!