Capcom recently held an event at which they invited the press to come and play five hours of Resident Evil 7. Now this has resulted in a slew of videos, and preview articles in which the adoring press mostly praise upcoming release, but what exactly does Resident Evil 7 look like?
A wide range of gamers, from absolute horror novices who never play scary games to hardcore fans of Resident Evil and horror games in general, have played the five hour demo, but most agree that this new direction for the series is generally a good one. I say generally because it seems as though Capcom is treading the very fine line between resorting to exactly the same types of puzzles and enemies, ripping off enemies and themes from other games completely, and creating an original horror game. How exactly Capcom is doing this is really interesting.
Firstly, Resident Evil 7 definitely feels more like the remake of the original game, the very latest version of Resident Evil to be released. As soon as you start the game you’re confronted by the familiar-feeling, yet utterly terrifying, hub world of the Baker Farmhouse. This location is a labyrinth of locations which are all carefully woven together by clever puzzles. Doors with mangled snake and scorpion insignia indicate to the player that they’ll be returning once they have some vile item that no doubt opens each door. To find the vile items in question, players will need to navigate through the Farmhouse, the Old Farmhouse based behind the new one, the Swamp, and a number of other locations which play host to some truly awful people, the Bakers. While the Farmhouse definitely takes inspiration from the Mansion of Resident Evil 1, it’s far enough removed from that trope of the series to make it feel original and new, especially considering the fact that you’re almost constantly hunted around it.
That’s right, the Baker family, owners of the Farmhouse and presumed kidnappers of protagonist Ethan, will be a near constant presence throughout Resident Evil 7. While there are moments when players are given breathing space in order to take in the atmosphere and story, these are short-lived, and often come to violent ends with serious encounters with the nutty family. Even from the word go you can hear the loud footsteps of Jack Baker, father and head of the family, as he searches for you around that first opening area. As you unlock more doors and gain access to larger parts of the Farmhouse, he’ll extend his patrol to ensure he doesn’t miss you. Not only is this terrifying, but it throws even the most confident of Resident Evil players into disarray. Yes, we’ve all been stalked around games by horrific entities for a while, but Jack never ceases to look for you, even when you’re trying to solve the complicated puzzles of the rooms and corridors around you. So determined is Jack in his quest to slam you into submission with a shovel, that if he hears you outside the room he’s in, he’ll just Jack Nicholson his way through the nearest wall to confront you, petrifying you with fear.
While Jack Baker occupies one area of the Farmhouse, his wife, Marguerite, stalks around another, the Old Farmhouse out back. It’s safe to say that each of these murderous lunatics is themed around the location they occupy, with Marguerite possessing a slightly more paranormal, yet just as sickening, way of harming you. Each Baker is unique and will require different tactics to avoid of kill, but if you think they’re going to go down easily you better think again.
Boss fights take place in small, claustrophobic, arenas. Ethan must use the environment, and any items he’s picked up along the way, to take down whichever for is currently bearing down upon him. Or at least maim and disable them for a while. Everyone who played the five hour section said they had no idea what to do in each boss fight, and there was no indication that anything they did was right. On this point the game is as hands off as the original, and that’s never a bad thing when it comes to horror, as long as it doesn’t encroach into frustration territory.
Even through this five hour demo session with the game people are finding more mysteries, or rather things they don’t yet understand about the world of Resident Evil 7. Aunt Rhody is a prime example of one of these mysteries. Clearly this wheelchair-bound old woman is another member of the family, but every time players are confronted with her, they can neither move nor kill her. Interestingly enough she has so far behaved as part of the environment for now, doing nothing as Ethan approaches her, except pretend to be part of the surrounding environment.
Video tapes, just like those from the public demo of the game, are also something of a mystery in the game. While they work in a similar way to how they did in the demo, allowing the player to control another character, following their story however it’s related to the Bakers, they don’t change the environment as they could before. Instead, I believe these tapes serve the purpose of both building the story of Resident Evil 7 outside of what’s immediately going on around the player, and aid Ethan in finding potentially life-saving objects.
Finally, I want to touch on one point that’s been dividing critics on the game, the Moulded. Whether that’s the correct name is anyone’s guess, but everyone seems to be calling the creatures in this basement, within a non-disclosed location, some variant of ‘The Moulded People. These creatures are the only known enemies in the game that players need to kill to get past, other than the Bakers. They seem to resemble the Ooze from Resident Evil Revelations, or the Regenerators from Resident Evil 4. While some seems to think these are a call back to the zombies of the original game, or a reference to the wider Resident Evil Universe, others see them as a way to weaken the player.
While the Bakers are a known quantity in many ways, they are also seemingly invincible. That invincibility is mostly fabricated by the lack of lethal weapons available to the player, and even when small ones are acquired, it’s clear the Bakers won’t go down easily. These Moulded are placed before a confrontation with a Baker, which seems to make some people feel as though they’re placed to suck up any bullets the player has before this area, artificially weakening them. There also seems to be the sense that while the Bakers are terrifying because of how normal they appear, these Moulded are less so thanks to their grotesque exteriors.
I can understand the need to Resident Evil 7 to have cannon fodder for players to murder their way though, because it’s what’s expected. What isn’t expected is that element of humanity in the more imposing foes that overshadow anything else I’ve witnessed in the game so far. I reckon players will get over the Moulded, and whatever other small enemies there are, because this family is bat crap crazy.
In short, this seems to have elements of many games you’ve played or heard of, but it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.
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