How Resident Evil 7 Biohazard Revitalized the Series and Redefined the Horror Experience

Check out our history of Resident Evil, here

After its official announcement at E3 2016, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard generated a significant amount of buzz. Fans of the series, as well as the general gaming community, grew accustomed to Resident Evil’s action-horror focus. Justifying the excitement, by many, to see the series go back to survival horror. This would prove a tall order, indie games held the market for survival horror, could a triple-A developer do any better?

From Action to Horror

Resident Evil’s core always revolved around horror, however, it shifted from survival horror to action horror over time. Capcom had focused too much on creating a huge blockbuster experience, with undefeatable hero’s leading the way. A short time after Resident Evil 6, Capcom realized that they needed to change the series direction. The game received mediocre reviews, an unacceptable result for them, therefore they sat down and decided to return the series back to its bare bones.

During E3 2015, the demo for “Kitchen” showed that the resurgence of horror would indeed find its way to VR. Little did anyone know it had ties to Resident Evil at the time. One year later Capcom announced its eleventh Resident Evil installment–Resident Evil 7 Biohazard– as well as a playable teaser, released that night.

WHAT A TEASER

Resident Evil 7 - Dummy Finger

The teaser, Beginning Hour, provide a taste of the upcoming installment. It became abundantly clear that the series wanted to completely change its image back to one of survival horror. Excitement by many ensued after seeing that the game would get back to its roots, however, some concerns arose.

In efforts to return back to survival horror, Capcom decided to have a first-person perspective for the game. Every main installment prior showcased a third-person perspective. Therefore, some wondered if it would even feel like a Resident Evil game.

Furthering this line of thought, the teaser demo conjured up feelings from the canceled Silent Hills game and its demo PT. Director– Koshi Nakanishi– and producer– Koshi Nakanishi– both expressed that the game began development before Silent Hills announcement and that the game differed in many ways.

The demo also suggested a presence of supernatural ghost elements, which did not line up with classic Resident Evil themes. The team, however, reassured that they aimed to present a sense of mystery. The demo withheld many of the game’s mechanics which caused some to worry whether or not the game would retain a Resident Evil feel.

THIS IS RESIDENT EVIL

This is a Resident Evil game. Biohazard is actually more Resident Evil than any other prior installment. Capcom deserves praise for taking the best of the series and putting into this game, without it feeling forced. For long time players, moments from every game felt present.  andre-3000

The terrifying atmosphere and cramped spaces reminded players of the days of exploring the Spencer mansion from Resident Evil. Biohazard also reminded fans of the days when finding a save room brought tears of joy. Screaming and running from the main antagonist Jack reminded players of dodging Nemesis in hopes that he wouldn’t follow to the next room. Breaking boxes even reminded fans of the newer games.

It did not stop there. Herbs make an appearance in every game, but usually with some slight differences. In Biohazard one could mix herbs together with other chemical agents that provided players with stronger healing items, like prior games.

Also, the inventory system felt reminiscent from that of the original games. Yet, as the game progressed one could upgrade inventory space, much like in RE4. The game also used gunpowder to give the player options with ammo creation, much like RE3. Also much like its predecessors, the player can use a variety of weapons such as a; knife, pistol, shotgun, grenade launcher, flamethrower, and magnum.

On paper bringing back certain old school mechanics didn’t make much sense, however, they pulled it off. This game took everything great and implemented into the ultimate Resident Evil experience.

LEAVING BEHIND THE NEW

The game abandoned many game mechanics from Resident Evil 4 to 6. Mechanics such as quick time events, multi-player/co-op capabilities, and action heavy situations. It did, however,  present similar boss battles and similar atmospheres that paid homage towards more recent installments of the game. But overall, the series changing direction meant that it would differ from more recent action-oriented releases.

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A WHOLE NEW GAME

While Resident Evil 7 Biohazard retained parts from the older installments, it still felt new. Resident Evil never shied away from trying something new in the past and they took this approach with Biohazard as well. Capcom decided that the first-person point of view would better immerse players into survival horror over a third- person view. But not only were they changing the perspective, they also announced the games compatibility with PlayStation VR. This allowed players to experience horror in an entirely new way.

LETS PLAY

(Story Spoils in the next three sections)

Even with retaining many of the elements from prior games, it still forced players into a new, fresh, experience. While Biohazard is not a reboot, it totally deviates from the rest of the series. The game follows lead protagonist Ethan Winters on his search for his missing wife Mia Winters. An email from Mia, three years after she went missing, lead Ethan to the Baker’s residence. While exploring an “abandoned” house in Dulvey, Louisiana Ethan soon discovers that he is in over his head.

lets-playThis ordinary guy realizes that the Baker family is alive and “well”, the only problem is that they are constantly trying to murder him or make him “part of the family”. The game shifts quickly from, trying to find your wife to trying to survive the clearly infected Baker family. All the while, the infected called “molded” pursue Ethan.

The first half of the game consist of players surviving Jack and Marguerite, the parents of the family. Zoe the infected daughter, but yet somehow sane, guides players through most of the game. Until Lucas captures both she and Mia. After running through Lucas’s funhouse of tripwires and booby traps the game shifts.

Here the game moves from surviving to actual plot development. A ‘choice” presents itself–more about that later– between saving Zoe and Mia. Regardless of the players choice, the next section of the game follows Mia trying to find Ethan. In her search, the players finally come face to face with Eveline, who is behind all of the chaos. Throughout much of the game players only discover little bits and pieces of her story.

THE PLOT THICKENS

As the mystery unravels, players learn that Mia was charged with transporting and caring for Eveline. After remembering that Eveline had destroyed the tanker that was transporting her, Mia sets out to not only save Ethan but also to kill Eveline. Players discover that Eveline infiltrated the minds of the Baker’s to create her own “family”. After Mia finds Ethan she gives him a tissue sample of Evie’s DNA and charges him with killing her.

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Ethan finds his way into an abandoned salt mine which seconds as a secret lab. While in the mine, Ethan discovers Eveline’s identity as a bioweapon created to infiltrated the minds of her enemies to convert them. After creating a serum to killer her, he sets back to a familiar setting. He injects Eveline with the serum to discover her identity as the helpless “old lady”, who popped up in various areas of the game.

After defeating old Eveline, a helicopter rescues Ethan. Chris Redfield unmasks himself and offers a helping hand. As they fly away, players discover that they are escaping in an Umbrella-owned helicopter.

TWO ENDINGS

Much like the original, the game had different endings. If players chose to save Zoe, players got the bad ending. Where everyone but Ethan dies, but other than that the rest of the game plays exactly the same. If players choose Mia, everyone lives. Well, Zoe’s fate remains ambiguous. This sparked some conversation. Some debate over the purpose of the choice. Others find it disappointing that the choice doesn’t really affect the gameplay, just the ending.

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WHAT THE GAME DID RIGHT

Horror games can find many ways to induce terror. Ranging from physical natural horror to psychological supernatural horror, Resident Evil 7 covers all of it. It combined and executed every element of horror into its game. Cramped dark spaces, created an uneasy feeling from room to room. The player never knew whether or not a “molded” would appear around the corner. If enemies were not pursuing Ethan, the game instilled fear through the unknown.

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Mystery prevailed as the main theme of the game. From the first moment through the last, players don’t know fully understand the events that are transpiring. The mystery that the game creates leaves players feeling unsettled.

This left open the possibility for anything to happen, players did not know the parameters of the game. Making the Bakers regenerative abilities all the more horrifying. Causing tension in almost every moment, wondering what could possibly happen next.

The game also creates a bit of psychological horror from time to time. Whether playing head games with Lucas or exploring the terrifying bedroom of a mysterious “ghost-like” girl, Biohazard messed with players heads. Towards the end of the game Ethan and Mia, both experience hallucinations leaving the player questioning reality.

IMMERSION DONE RIGHT

Resident Evil 7 immersed players fully. With VR capabilities, this game really had a unique ability to provided a new horror experience. VR adds a whole new level to player immersion, however, the game proved just as immersive outside of VR.

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The use of sound can make or break a game. Biohazard utilized sound perfectly. Each creaking step added to the horror atmosphere. Hearing the Baker’s yelling through walls while looking for Ethan left players feeling uneasy. Moments of silence induced fear, while moments of sounds made the player’s skin crawl. From Eveline humming or the loud chase music, it added to the overall horror.

The game also presented relatable characters. Ethan felt like a normal man looking for his wife, which added to the level of helplessness experienced by players. The story builds the desire for one to escape at all cost. This gave more meaning to Mia’s search for Ethan, players had grown attached. Even towards the end of the game, one grows empathetic towards the Baker’s. All culminating in a satisfying conclusion, where characters and players alike feel victory over their situation.

BACK TO THE BASICS

Most importantly, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard got back to the basics. As the series grew more theatrical, it also began to lose its identity. While it had to progress and adapt to the changing market, it didn’t need to abandoned what made the originals so great. Resident Evil’s innovation kept the series fresh, however, it did not please fans of the series.

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The game got back to the mystery and intrigue, from the originals, conjured by its story. It also got back to meaningful item management, enemy management, and time management. It got back to making players scream from unpredictable jumpscares, back to giving players sweaty palms from terrifying atmosphere’s, and most importantly back to making players have a hell of a lot of fun.

In more ways than one, the game achieved getting back to what made the series great. Yes, the game took place in a cramped mansion, it brought back save rooms, cassette tapes for saving, and similar themes from the first game. This was not, however, what made the game great. It reintroduced gamers to survival horror.

Those who play horror games often become desensitized to either the genre or a specific game. And Resident Evil fans can easily forget the horror of the original games due to the passing time. Biohazard redefined the horror experience yet again. It brought back survival horror in a bigger and better way. The series seemingly lost their way, but yet, it comes back with its best game since Resident Evil 4. And maybe one of its best games ever.

CONCLUSION

The game did not come without its flaws. Textures did not always load fast enough. The dialogue did not feel natural at times. The story became a bit convoluted. Also, the game had some forced moments. Resident Evil, however, takes certain liberties. They don’t explain the logic of limb reattachment, interconnected item boxes, or certain plot holes. And they don’t care to. That is just how Resident Evil works.

The Baker Residence. Photo Credit: Capcom
The Baker Residence. Photo Credit: Capcom

Capcom succeeded in generating buzz around the conclusion. Many have taken to message boards to discuss various theories. They left players wanting more, and in the best of ways. Hopefully, through DLC, players will receive much more.

The series has found its mojo again. Resident Evil 7 Biohazard delivers an innovative, yet, familiar experience. The game succeeded. Players now get to look forward to future installments, hopefully, similar to this one.

Ryan McDaniel
Managing Editor of Two Left Sticks. You will probably find me speed running Resident evil or trying to dodge lightning bolts in FFX.

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