Resident Evil 7 is alright. It is still not the best in the series, but as a fresh approach on a stale series, it works well enough to bring the franchise back from the brink of death one more time.
I've played all the main entry games in the Resident Evil series, but had only ever completed the even numbered entries. That said, I always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for the goofy, melodramatic plot that was offered up. Cheese-ball characters with hammy acting had always been the staple. Resident Evil 7 took a drastic step away from that old formula. When I played the teaser for RE7 I was hooked. The setting dripped atmosphere and the whole thing had me incredibly excited for the main release. For the first time in a long time, a videogame made me tense. It abandoned the old conventions and incredibly convoluted story in favor of something smaller, more focused, and genuinly terrifying.
The set up is simple. Dead wife turns up alive and you have to go save her. A fairly boilerplate intro leads to the true meat of the story. She is being imprisoned by the Bakers, a family of cannibals who capture you as well. They are immediately reminiscent of the family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unsettling and at times genuinely frightening. The atmosphere in these early parts is oppressive and anxiety inducing. You are defenseless to start and even when you get your first real weapon, a handgun, it is largely ineffectual against your enemies. While you explore the Baker the patriarch that is always looming as a threat.
Early moments in the game can easily fill you with a sense of dread as you try to progress while avoiding encounters. Ammunition for your gun and healing items are scarce, so running away to a saferoom is one of the few viable options. The feeling of helplessness in the face of your antagonists is incredible.
The problem is that this feeling of tension is relatively short lived. Once you are able to get the shotgun, most of the generic foes can be dropped relatively quickly. By the time you get the upgraded shotgun they become a joke that can be dropped in a single shot. Resources are generally few and far between, but you get loaded up before any major encounter. As a result, I never really ran out of much. There was always just enough to get by without any issue. Enemies became more of a nuisance than a threat. Any time I would get hit by an enemy it would illicit anger in me rather than fear. Any dread I got early on from seeing an enemy had long since dissipated into busywork of either running past them or simply shooting them to get past. By the second main area, the enemies are seemingly designed not to kill you, but to pick away at your inventory, making you waste seemingly valuable healing items and ammo.
Even Ethan, the protagonist, has a glib attitude of annoyance rather than fear in the face of his circumstances. He seemed just as fed up with his tormentors as I was, shouting obscenities at them given any chance. I didn't expect to relate so strongly to him in this way. At one point he yells at one of the Bakers "Fuck you!" and I felt him steal the words right out of my mouth. The boss fights start strong and get less memorable as you get further on in the story. By the end they are no better than the boss battles from RE6. There are upgrades to purchase with collectible coins, but on the normal difficulty, they are all but unnecessary. Maybe the game would shine more on the harder difficulties, but nothing in the game is compelling enough to warrant a second playthrough.
The Resident Evil franchise has been going for quite some time and this is definitely a step in the right direction after the laughably bad RE6. It looks good, sounds amazing, and controls well enough. I kept my playing to dark hours and played with headphones to try and maximize the effectiveness of the scares, but each successive attempt was less and less effective. The ending is cheesy and can be guessed ahead of time if you take the time to read through the files in the game. The last level is fairly satisfying, but the final sequence leaves a lot to be desired.
Resident Evil 7 is ultimately a short game with some great moments, but fails to keep the scares going. I was able to complete the main story in just under 7 hours and I'm glad it didn't go any longer as I don't believe it would be able to maintain the small amount of atmosphere it had left as it ended. I appreciate the change in direction for the series, but feel there are some major stumbling blocks and pacing issues. While this game ended up being fairly middling in my opinion, I am very excited to see what they do next.