After Four Years, was I wrong about Resident Evil 7?
It is of no secret that i have been a fan of the Resident Evil game franchise since its debut on the PlayStation circa 1996. What coined the Subgenre "Survival Horror" Resident Evil's popularity has branched out beyond the games and into other mediums such as Comics, Toys and Movies.
While the series have reached its high marks, like Resident Evil 4, there were some low points, and I am looking at you Resident Evil 6 and Paul WS Anderson! So, around four years ago, January 2017 to be exact, Resident Evil Biohazard, the 7th installment of the game's canonical timeline, made its grand entrance however, after the disappointing RE6 and a shift from 3rd person perspective to first person, I as a longtime fan, was put off by this. Yes, I purchased the game when it later went on sale within the same year and stopped playing after 90 minutes.
Why? First, where are the RE mainstays like Leon Kennedy, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton, Claire, and Chris Redfield? Instead, we get this Everyman archetype Ethan, who comes off a bit boring and lacks any charisma let alone military experience, which he is going to need to fight what awaits him.
Then there is that setting which takes place in some house within Louisiana where our protagonist Ethan Winters, receives a message from his wife Mia who was presumed dead well over 3 years. Ethan drives off to Louisiana to find Mia and when he does, their reunion is cut short, as with Ethan's hand as he encounters a bizarre family, the Bakers who are not your average "friendly neighborhood" individuals. Are the Bakers an homage to the Sawyers from 1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre? In hindsight, I was spoiled by RE's paramilitary and science fiction premise combined with shadowy conspiracy tropes.This was not the game for me. Or so I thought.
Fast forward to today where the follow up Resident Evil Village is here, which takes a much different approach from the series' lore when you throw in Vampires and Werewolves?? Oh, hell naw! Is the franchise running out of ideas with far-fetched concepts? Maybe I was too harsh on Resident Evil 7 after all.
So, this is the part where I decide to give RE7 a second chance and you know what, it is good! The story behind the Bakers and Mia's disappearance further unravels, as you venture through a few stages throughout the Baker plantation house.
The tension and atmosphere had me on full alert, especially when it came to my run ins with the family's Patriarch, Jack Baker who unexpectedly busts through walls like Nemesis or Mr. X . The "stalking" implementation is now more of a RE staple as witnessed from this game, Resident Evil 2 Remake, and now Village.
The scare factor has been turned up to 10 or 12 if you are playing this on Sony's PSVR! Sure, there is no Zombies thus time, but the Molded is scary as fuck especially when in droves!
To balance out the walk and stalk gameplay, there are segments where you are treated to flashback sequences when playing a VHS cassette that involves playing as different characters either evading a stalking Baker or solving puzzles to escape a trap room in the vein of SAW.
The boss battles are very sparse, yet engaging and as for the overall narrative, let us just say that it gets more interesting during the third and final act when further revelations come to light. Just when I previously thought of the Bakers as some deranged family and how Mia is this innocent victim, it is somewhat quite the opposite. You see, Capcom was clever when revealing some adolescent girl called Eveline, as the main antagonist and catalyst behind the self-contained outbreak within the Baker estate.
Created as a bioweapon from a new organization called " The Collective" Eveline, codenamed E-001 was previously transported abroad a tanker with Mia as her escort.
Eveline using her powers, managed to escape containment, killing nearly everyone onboard save for Mia who both washed ashore and discovered by Jack Baker and you can guess what happens afterwards.
RE7's flashback sequences and playthrough involving the events of the tanker, often reminded me of the F.E.A.R. videogame series with Eveline as the new "Alma." But it’s of no pure coincidence or plagiarism, since one of the writers was also responsible for scripting the two expansion packs of F.E.A.R.. This was in my opinion, the scariest level from the game especially when you are playing as an unarmed character who forages items while evading the Molded within a dark atmospheric tanker.
One cutscene that was the standout involved Ethan, while imprisoned by the Eveline experienced an apparition of Jack and Zoe with Jack explaining how taking in this young stray out of kindness has infected him and his family. This explained not only the tragedy behind the Bakers, but how Eveline originally created as a bio engineered weapon, longed for a family and a sense of belonging as any young girl would. After Ethan injected her with the serum, her final words were "why does everyone hate me?" Although not as ill-fated as Resident Evil Remake Lisa Trevor, Eveline was the defining tragic villain from this game while the Connection are the true monsters of this story.
Was Ethan's experience with Jack's "ghost" a hallucination or encoded memories from Jack's DNA when affected by Eveline's mold?
This concludes to a final boss battle between Ethan and a mutated Eveline and just when the odds are against him, in the tradition of the past Resident Evil games, "someone" drops Ethan a weapon from above (And no, it's not your average rocket launcher!) and this is when the game's story reaches it dramatic conclusion....or does it?
Remember when I complained about major this game not including RE characters, well one does make an appearance but it’s during the final scene! As a matter of fact, Chris Redfield, has his own playthrough via the Not a Hero DLC where the sadistic Lucas Baker, is still on the loose and its up to Chris to apprehend him before things take a turn for the worst!
After years of doubt and skepticism I'm glad to have finished RE7's main campaign. Despite my grievances, it’s still a very good entry to the iconic game series, with its emphasis on exploration, puzzle solving, item management and of course terrifying moments, Resident Evil Biohazard ☣ is a welcomed return to form!