Author: Liam Riker
Now I know that my designated area of expertise is not horror games on The Gamer’s Smorgasbord. That being said, after spending the past month and a half completely engrossed by the fantastically staged and executed horror in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, I couldn’t resist the temptation of writing a blog post on it, after having completed the game last Thursday. As I mentioned in my last blog post, Resident Evil 7 has some elements that are common in many ARPG games, and with the ongoing debate on what is considered an ARPG and what is not, I felt like this unique horror game is definitely fair game for me to discuss. If you’d like to see other horror game reviews on The Gamer’s Smorgasbord, check out the postings made by my co-blogger Sharon Salazar. She’s already wrote one on the very first Resident Evil, which I recommend checking out.
Alright, so first let me just say that I have never been a particular fan of the horror genre. I haven’t been one to hunt out the latest horror movie releases, or even play the newest horror video games. So, when my friends persuaded me into playing Resident Evil 7, which at the time was already infamously known as being one of the most terrifying horror games that’s been released thus far, I was a bit skeptical and anxious about what I could’ve possibly gotten myself into. However, after finishing it this past week, this one game, might have singlehandedly made me a fan of the horror video game genre. Now the question will be, if any other horror game will ever reach the bar that Resident Evil 7 has set for me.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Resident Evil 7 is a horror game that succeeds because it has strayed away from those very common and over-used horror cliches that have bogged down the genre for years, while making optimal use of other horror cliches through the placement and frequency of them throughout the game. RE7 is also a horror game with so much narrative substance, through its captivating and emotional story and fantastically characterized cast of unique and memorable characters, that provides a solid foundation for everything else to lie on top of. RE7’s narrative design is what separates it from other horror games in my opinion, and is definitely the biggest reason why I’ve decided to give it a score of 9/10.
RE7 is not just a well-done horror game because of its narrative design however. The game seems to excel in practically every single area of game design: with a fantastic soundtrack and masterful sound design; great level design and ironically mesmerizing environmental design, with careful attention and a lot of time put into the Modeling, Texturing and Lighting of the game; mechanics and game systems in place that are easy enough for the player to pick up and master that they don’t become frustrated and thus great game flow; and most importantly, RE7 is a game that knows how to effectively use every horror convention at its disposable to incredible effect. It’s one thing when a horror game or movie depends on nothing but jump scares to create all of it’s terror. In these instances, the audience will quickly build up a resilience to the jump scares and might even find the process of enduring the barrage of them to be more agonizing than terrifying. RE7 uses a careful balance of jump scares, built-up tension through sound design and environmental design, some of which builds to nothing and some which doesn’t, to keep the audience always guessing about what could or couldn’t be around the corner. Through this design, when there is a jump scare, it’s way more startling and effective. RE7 nearly-perfectly crafts a horror masterpiece in my opinion. I’ll explain later, the reason why RE7 is one whole point short of being a perfect 10/10, but first let me go into more detail about the game and the main reason why it’s rated so high in my mind to begin with: it’s story and characters.
As I already stated, the story and characters in RE7 are truly what made this game a masterpiece in my eyes.
The game begins with the main character, Ethan, investigating an abandoned-seeming house in the middle of the Louisiana bayou in search of his wife, Mia, who’s been missing for three years. Ethan’s prompted to investigate the residence of the missing Baker family, after he receives an email from Mia, suspiciously asking him to come and get her. Ethan’s curiosity leads him deep into the Guest House of the Baker plantation, where he quickly learns that there is some extremely dark and disturbing shit revolving around this house, and where he eventually is reunited with Mia. Who’s fine? She’s alive and well, helping to get the two of you out of this mess, up to the point where she’s suddenly gone and the next time you find her she’s…. well this
Yah, Mia’s suddenly transformed into this hideous and horrifying version of herself, after seemingly being possessed by some mysterious force. Given no other choice, Ethan is forced to fight his possessed wife to the death, which leaves him undoubtedly emotionally scarred for life and without a left hand. After killing her for the THIRD time, the possessed Mia, who’s been slipping in and out of consciousness/possession, appears to be dispatched for good. However, when Ethan turns around he’s knocked unconscious by the man Mia alluded to as “Daddy” when you first rescued her. At this point of the game, Ethan’s brought to the Main House and discovers that the Baker family is very much alive, and extremely fucked up.
At this point of the game, Ethan’s mission is to try and find a way to escape the Baker’s house. With the assistance of the Baker’s estranged daughter, Zoe, who isn’t as affected by whatever’s got the other Baker’s minds and bodies so warped, and with added motivation after finding out that he didn’t actually kill Mia, and that she’s seemed to have gotten more control over whatever force was taking over her before, Ethan is able to escape from the Main House, after killing the Baker “daddy”, Jack, SEVERAL times. I mean it took shooting him in the head countless times, running him over with a car, setting him on fire and finally chainsawing his body down to nothing but a pair of legs to seemingly do him in. Spoiler alert: he’s STILL not dead!
After escaping the Main House, Ethan finds Zoe’s trailer in the backyard, where he receives a phone call from her, telling him that there is a serum that they can create to cure both her body of the infection, that’s taken control of the rest of her family, and Mia’s body. In order to get the first of two ingredients to create the serum, Ethan must navigate through the Old House and eventually kill the horrific Marguerite, the mother figure of the Baker family. After disposing of her and all of her “babies”, Ethan navigates through a series of children’s rooms, until he finds a shrine where the first of the two ingredients for the serum is waiting for him. During this sequence, the player is introduced to a new character, Evelyn, and has to endure one of the most terrifying and well-done horror sequences of the game. If you’re interested in what I’m talking about exactly, check out this video.
After obtaining the arm ingredient from the shrine to make the serum, Ethan navigates back outside the to Zoe’s trailer, where she’s promised you she’d meet you this time. Yet, when Ethan arrives at the trailer, the trailer’s empty and Ethan gets a call from the Baker’s psychopathic son, Lucas, who tells Ethan that he has both Mia and Zoe with him. After surviving a few “games” in Lucas’s Testing Area and recovering the head ingredient for the serum, Ethan meets up with Zoe and Mia. The reunion however, is cut short when the not-so-dead Jack comes to try and finish Ethan off once and for all. After finally killing Jack for good, by using one of the two serums Zoe was able to concoct, Ethan must now decide whether or not to use the last of the two serums on either Mia or Zoe. This choice is pivotal to how the game will end, and is a particularly challenging choice to make, given how much Zoe has tried to help you and how Mia has up to this point only been held captive when she’s not busy chainsawing off your hand. When I played the game I decided to save Mia, and so I will only be covering what happens if you make that choice, especially since if the player decides to save Zoe, they get the “bad ending”. And it’s a REALLY terrible ending!
After making this tough choice, Ethan and Mia leave Zoe, abandoned to the docks outside Lucas’s Testing Area, and the two of them navigate through the bayou till they end up reaching this massive destroyed tanker ship. Upon crashing on the tanker, the player is found playing as Mia now, as Ethan has been abducted by the molded – the black fungal like substance that seems to be the reason behind everything that’s gone wrong with the Baker family and the source behind the creation of all the horrific looking monsters that the player has had to fight up to this point. After navigating the tanker, the player discovers that Evelyn is the source of all the mold, that she’s actually a bio-weapon created by some anonymous company, and that Mia was responsible for transporting Evelyn on the tanker, when everything got out of her hands and Evelyn managed to destroy everything. Mia eventually finds Ethan’s body, at which point player control is switched back to Ethan, but not until a particularly moving and captivating scene where Ethan talks to the deceased Jack, who is no longer under Evelyn’s control. This scene inside Ethan’s consciousness was my favorite moment of the game, due to the novel vulnerability and raw emotion it displayed in a horror game, where the player is used to only feeling one emotion, fear. To check out this phenomenal scene, click here.
When Ethan gains consciousness, Mia pushes him out of the room that they’re in and outside the tanker. She tells you to go kill Evelyn and end this once and for all, as you see her begin to become possessed on the other side of the door inside the tanker. Ethan then descends into the salt mines in pursuit of Evelyn. He finds that the salt mines lead all the way back to the Guest House, the player started the game in, where the player finally finds the real Evelyn, who’s been the Baker’s family seemingly-harmless zombified grandma this whole time. Ethan injects her with a more potent version of the serum used to cure Mia that he found inside a laboratory in the salt mines, in a scene that actually makes you feel somewhat bad for Evelyn, who shrivels up and dissolves.
However, the game is not over, as the mold inside Evelyn and her lingering spirit morph into a disgusting colossus of a monster: the game’s final boss. If the game had ended at the point where the player had injected Evelyn with the serum, and she’s revealed to be the grandmother-looking character, I would of scored Resident Evil 7 with at least a 9.5/10 or perhaps even a perfect 10/10. However, this final boss against the colossal Evelyn molded is a great disappointment to a game, that up this point, was brilliantly designed in every way. Not only is the final boss mechanically simple, and limits the player to only a single strategy, but the poignancy of Evelyn’s perceived death when she gets injected by the serum is completely tainted. I realize that the makers of RE7 thought that this colossal boss fight would’ve been extremely cinematic, and it was, I still nonetheless, think that the ending to the game would’ve been so much better without it.
Anyways, after this disappointing final boss, the player finds themselves being rescued by a man by the name of “Redfield,” who is a character from an earlier entry in the Resident Evil series. He brings Ethan into a helicopter, where he finds that his wife Mia is there too, alive and well. The helicopter flies into the distance, where the player see the all too familiar name of the “Umbrella Corporation” on the side of the helicopter, and Ethan reflects on how he and Mia weren’t the only victims to Evelyn, paying respects to the now deceased Baker family.
I meant to finish off this post with the most captivating part about RE7, the incredibly characterized Baker family, but since I’ve let this blog post drag on way too long to begin with, I’ll continue where I left off with my next posting. Keep an eye out for the second and final part of this Resident Evil 7 review, and for the rest of my Dark Souls 3 boss countdown series, which I’ll be starting up again soon.