BY CHRIS TRUMBLE
Longtime fans of survival horror videogames know that although there were one or two precursors, Resident Evil was the game that kicked off the popularity of SH games in earnest in 1996. Those same fans also probably know that for many years, alternating releases of Resident Evil games and Silent Hill titles were the tentpole launches that continued to fuel gamers’ appetite for scary games, which eventually led to the proliferation of horror-themed games that we enjoy today.
Over the years, however, the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series diverged considerably in theme and content to the point where they were more like members of two distinct genres than entries in the same one. This began especially with the arrival of Resident Evil 4 in 2005; RE4 was a great game, but it was more of an action shooter with elements of horror mixed in here and there, and that trend continued with the releases of Resident Evil 5 and RE6. Silent Hill, on the other hand, mostly stayed true to its survival-horror roots, creating atmosphere with oppressive, creeping dread more than with automatic weapons and truckloads of ammo.
Earlier this week, Capcom debuted the latest entry in the Resident Evil saga, Resident Evil 7, and the game is notable for a couple pretty big reasons:
For starters, it is the first major release in the series to shift the player’s perspective to full-time first-person, and second, it’s very clearly a return to the basic principles of survival horror; creepy environments, terrifying opponents, and extremely limited resources.
In RE7, you play the role of Ethan Winters, a regular guy whose wife Mia left home three years ago and never came back. The game opens as you drive to a dilapidated plantation out in the bayou in Louisiana in response to an email that arrived out of the blue from your wife, asking you for help. Although
PC, XOne, PS4 • ESRB: (M)ature • Capcom residentevil7.com
the old place is crumbling with decay, it is not vacant and you very quickly encounter the Baker family, several people who are at best stark raving mad; it’s hard to say what the worst-case scenario is.
As Ethan, you must run, fight, hide, and solve puzzles to survive and to piece together the story of what has happened here to your wife and to the Baker family, not to mention the many travelers they have waylaid and who subsequently disappeared. You have access to a few weapons, but you will not find the ammo you’d need to go into every enemy encounter guns blazing—often, avoiding your foes is the best policy. RE7 also drops you Into a number of boss fights at pivotal moments, and in these situations there are often more expedient ways to win than just shooting a lot, providing you can recognize and execute them (pun intended).
Along the way, you’ll collect keys for specific rooms, find herbs to heal your injuries, and enjoy other Resident Evil gameplay staples. The game is built on Capcom’s new RE Engine, and although there are a few uncanny-valley issues with the game’s characters, they generally look pretty good, and the environments are masterfully done. We played the Xbox One version, but it’s also available on PC and PlayStation 4. (The PS4 version is PS4 Pro- and PlayStation VR-compatible.)
This game is not for the faint of heart, as no horrific stone is left unturned throughout your journey. You’ll hear terrifying sound effects, witness mind-bending acts of violence, experience jump scares, find creepy videotape messages, and wade through buckets of gore. But although the game has some flaws in mechanics and execution here and there, it delivers a superbly scary experience that no survival horror fan should miss.