When Resident Evil first came along 20 years ago, it was a breath of fresh air for most of us. While there had been plenty of horror-themed games before, nothing had ever quite been like this – ‘survival horror’ had arrived, and it was here to stay.
Gamers lapped it up by the million, and a mahoosive franchise was born. Even today, that first game has it all. The atmosphere. The shuffling zombies lurking around corners, unseen. The fixed angles. The music. That beautifully inept acting. It really was something special.
Over the next few years, two more main games were released. These were incredibly creepy too, with Nemesis’s random wall-crushing interruptions genuinely terrifying.
By the time the fourth game arrived, though, it was all change. And not necessarily for the better.
Not that RE4 wasn’t scary. Believe us, we had our fair share of underwear-testing moments – remember the sound of that first chainsaw-wielding maniac? – but the shift to a more dynamic camera angle, the addition of quick time events, and enhanced combat moves detracted from the series’ original style.
RE5, again, had some scares, but the emphasis was decidedly more on action and less on building a suspenseful atmosphere. In the first few games, Resident Evil was all about isolation – even in the chaotic streets of Raccoon City, you felt alone. The fixed camera angles added to that, with characters often pressed into corners without a clear view of what lay only a few feet ahead.
And RE6? It wasn’t a terrible game in itself, not at all … but it had clearly pushed the series as far into a pure action experience as it could. To put it bluntly, the games had now started to reflect the films, with wild explosions, stunts, massively convoluted plots, and enough cheese to top a year’s supply of pizzas.
The game also brought little to no originality – shooting zombies and monsters is much more common in the gaming industry now than it was back in the series’ early days.
Many long-term fans were left hankering for a return to the frights, slow-burn chills, and originality that had made the series’ name.
So, when Capcom announced that Resident Evil 7 would see the gameplay experience “stripped down to its core, we all started to get a little bit excited. Since then, bits and pieces of the game have been revealed, and the playable demo broke records upon its release, achieving more than two million downloads in only a couple of weeks.
As anyone who’s sampled ‘Beginning Hour’ will know, it’s a powerful experience and a total departure from everything that’s come before. So far, the game looks set to be everything Capcom promised – taking the series back to its roots.
So, let’s check out five reasons Resident Evil 7 might just save the series ….
We Have A New, Immersive First-Person Perspective
We loved the fixed camera angles in the original three RE games, and are happy to admit that the over-the-shoulder perspective in RE4, 5, and 6 was an improvement in some ways. However, with an entirely new approach to the universe itself, nobody can blame Capcom for trying something equally revolutionary with the gameplay.
So, for the first time in a main instalment, RE will be a first-person experience. The Gun Survivor spin-offs were on-rails FPS shooters, of course, and Code Veronica had an unlockable FPS mode, but this is sure to be totally unlike anything we’ve seen in the franchise before.
‘Beginning Hour’ may not have been to every fan’s taste (just check the YouTube comments on any of the playthrough videos), but nobody can accuse Capcom of taking the easy option. ‘Beginning Hour’ shows how powerful the new perspective is, presenting a deeply immersive, atmospheric game a million miles away from the zombie-kicking, OTT lunacy of RE6.
Even though this content won’t actually be in the finished game, it gives enough of a taste to whet the appetite.
The dilapidated house features a stunning amount of detail, all of which contributes to a feeling of being somewhere truly horrific. The dense black, blood, the bodies, and even that disgusting fridge puts ice in your veins, thanks to the stunning visuals.
The first-person perspective will be most effective when played with the PS4’s VR system, of course, but even those playing on a humble TV will be thrown deeper into the world of Resident Evil than ever before.
We Get New Characters and Less Superheroics
Chris Redfield. Jill Valentine. Leon Kennedy. Iconic characters from the RE series, able to handle themselves in any situation thanks to years of training.
In the first few games, these guys were resourceful and handy with a shotgun, but they didn’t kick zombies away, stomp on their heads, and then roll around the floor while blasting at enemies. No. That came later.
Even the biggest fan of Leon might have gotten tired of seeing him AGAIN in RE6, and even the presence of Chris Redfield felt a bit … well, stale. So, we’re actually thrilled to be getting a new main character in RE7, particularly one who, we’re led to believe, will be more of an everyman (or everywoman). We’re also pleased to hear that no characters from previous games will return.
‘Beginning Hour”s leads are TV host Pete and his producer, Andre. (surely not a nod to ‘Mysterious Girl’ singer, Peter Andre?!) These won’t be the main stars of the final game, but their lack of combat training and unheroic attitudes holds plenty of promise.
The less our heroes are prepared to face bad guys and tool-up with high-powered weapons, the easier they are to relate to – and being so underpowered only ramps the spook-factor up higher.
It Loses Most of its Baggage
By the time RE6 rolled along, the series’ mythology had, by even Capcom’s own admission, spiralled out of control. The nefarious activities of Umbrella had gone from building bio-weapons in creepy rural mansions to … well, there was Neo-Umbrella, and global terrorist attacks, and a clone of long-time bit-player Ada Wong. Oh, and that game started with the US president being killed because he’d been infected.
If that’s the start of the game, you know what follows will be big, explosiony, and not in keeping with the original survival-horror feel.
So, it’s great to know RE7 is dumping much of the baggage built-up by previous games. While it’s set after the events of RE6, and will include connections to the other games, this looks set to be a more streamlined story. While Umbrella may be involved, ghostly activity has been spotted in ‘Beginning Hour’ – if this appears in the final game too, it’ll be an exciting departure for the series.
This baggage-dumping also makes it the perfect jumping-on point for fans who gave up on the series years ago, as well as those who have never actually delved into the Resident Evil universe.
Puzzles have always been a massive part of the RE experience, as have healing herbs. Both will return in this new game.
Let’s just hope Capcom learns from past mistakes and doesn’t end up building another bloated mythology. We’d love to see each new Resident Evil game have a different setting, with different characters, to keep it all as fresh and accessible as possible.
Combat will be Overhauled
Combat in Resident Evil started out low-key. You began the first game with a knife (as Chris), a knife AND a gun (as Jill). You graduated to a shotgun. Then a grenade launcher. You managed to get a flamethrower later on. There was also a Magnum. And remember that rocket launcher at the end (thanks again, Brad)?
As the games became bigger and bigger, so too did the weaponry. High-powered rifles and multiple types of grenades were essential, given the scale of some of the monsters, but it’s more difficult to be afraid of standard zombies when you’re packing an inventory full of military-grade firepower.
So, we’re excited to see how combat works in RE7. With a new main character who, we presume, won’t have much in the way of hand-to-hand training or an arsenal of guns about their person, fighting for survival should be a more down-and-dirty experience.
We assume guns will show up at some point, but the prospect of fighting enemies in the all-new first-person perspective is incredibly exciting. There’s real potential here to transform the combat elements in the Resident Evil series, and help to redeem the franchise.
No More QTEs!
Hands up: who actually likes quick time events?
We know you’re out there. And that’s fine – a well-timed QTE can be effective, in the right context. They just didn’t quite fit in with what Resident Evil should be at its core.
After all, fending off a moaning, groaning, brain-starved zombie with a measly little knife is scarily thrilling. Fighting a massive, tentacled monster by pressing ‘X’ at the right time, on the other hand, isn’t quite the same.
The lack of QTEs shows just how serious Capcom is about pleasing long-term fans and taking the series back to its nerve-jangling roots. For those of us ancient enough to remember the excitement and eye-opening brilliance of that first Resident Evil game, the amount of promise Resident Evil 7: Biohazard holds is incredibly exciting.
Fingers crossed the final game lives up to its potential!
Are you excited for Resident Evil 7? What do you think of the change in direction? Let us know!