Resident Evil 7: Review and Thoughts – Part 2: Characters, Level Design and Mechanics

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Author: Liam Riker 

Overall Rating: 9/10

In Part 1 of this game review and analysis of the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 7, I analyzed and throughly dissected the story of the game. In that analysis, I explained how the major reason I scored the game a 9/10 instead of a perfect 10/10 was because of the majorly disappointing final boss fight against the fully transformed Evelyn.

In this 2nd and Final Part of this series, I will be explaining the other reason this game falls a bit short of the 10/10 threshold through my discussion on the game’s Level Design. I will then cover a bit of the game’s Mechanics, explaining how this game has a few elements, and one system in particular, that are extremely reminiscent of an ARPG, as I alluded to in one of my previous postings. Finally, I’ll be covering my favorite part of the game, and the reason why I think Resident Evil 7 is a masterpiece of a horror game: the Characterization of the Baker Family, and how each member of the family embodies a different type of horror.

**Spoilers Below**

Level Design

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Resident Evil 7 for the most part completely nails Level Design, with it’s excellent use of interior spaces. The Level Design throughout the various pieces of property the Baker Family owns, range from; more narrow, abandoned long hallways, that are a very common staple to horror games, building up paranoia and anxiety within the player for what might be lurking around the corner, as they turn the hallway; to smaller rooms, with several crooks and crannies, for something terrifying to hide in and get the jump on the player; to wide-open spaces like the Main Hall of the Main House and the large interior of the barn like area of Lucas’ Testing Area. With the latter of the three types of interior spaces, these wide-open areas are designed primarily, to allow the player to either run away from the enemy that is currently pursuing them, or give them enough time to reload and heal while fighting an enemy, since Resident Evil 7  is a horror game where the player is actually able to fight back.

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Besides just the basic level layout of the various environments in RE7, the game makes excellent use of the way the player interacts with objects, ESPECIALLY doors, and certain areas/rooms in the level that the player would originally believe hold no purpose, to create some of the biggest jump scares in the game. A couple examples of this, and a couple examples of two of the biggest jump scares in the game in my opinion, would be: 1) The bathroom door on the 2nd floor of the Main House: Usually bathrooms in horror games are notorious for being some of the most horrifying rooms in the game, loaded with jump scares and terrible creatures that want to kill you. So, when the player wanders into the 2nd bathroom they’ve encountered so far in the game (with the 1st one also being absent of anything mildly scary) and they don’t run into anything scary, they’re lulled into a false sense of security and comfort. So when they then prepare to leave the bathroom, and begin to open the door, only to find Jack (who they would’ve previously thought was most certainly dead) on the other side of the door, ready to kill them, this jump scare comes across as even more jarring.                                                         2) The stairwell up to the Crow Key Door in Marguerite’s dilapidated and disgusting Old House, certainly makes the player paranoid as they slowly move up the stairwell the first time. They expect for there to be a jump scare before they reach the Crow Key Door. So, when no jump scare occurs, and the player is actually allowed to interact with the locked Crow Key Door and look around the corner to the right to find a relatively nice-looking nightstand, and interact with that to obtain an item, they are once again lulled into this false sense of security. So, after the player obtains the Crow Key, and walks back up this exact same stairway, nothing could be more surprising to them, then for Marguerite to come running out from the hidden alcove to the right of the door where the nightstand was, and confront the player.                                                                                                               Both of these jump scares are executed to maximum effect, and primarily because of the excellent use of Level Design in the game, that play with the player’s ingrained psychological expectations due to typical horror game norms.

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So I’ve covered where RE7 went right with Level Design, and trust me, there are still many more elements of its Level Design that are worthy of praise, but now let’s get to the one other misstep the game made, that kept it from obtaining that desirable 10/10 rating from me and from many other people. To many people, the best part of the game, is the first 2/3’s or so of the game, where the player is desperately trying to escape the Baker Family’s property and leave where their estranged wife Mia, and their new ally Zoe. In my opinion this is mainly due to the Level Design of the environments that follow this section of the game.

After the player escapes Lucas’ Testing Area, they have to navigate the Sunken Tanker Ship that Evelyn originated from, and the Salt Mines that she and Lucas then escape into later on. Both of these environments, while well-designed, from an Environmental Design perspective, have a sort of meager Level Design layout. The Salt Mines are more forgivable because of all the story related content the player is given during their exploration of this area, and the terror that is created from Lucas’ traps and massive hordes of Molded spawned by Evelyn. However, with the Tanker Ship, where the player is now playing as Mia, the player will likely start to feel a bit bored after a exploring the ship for a while. The section on the Tanker Ship isn’t even that scary, due to how the Molded enemies are presented to the player, and how the only sort of terror is executed through jump-scare hallucinations of Evelyn. To me, this section on the ship is necessary and has some positive qualities, but the Level Design and how the execution of horror is fairly lackluster, ultimately lets it down. This along with the extremely anti-climactic boss fight against Evelyn is the reason I didn’t give this game a perfect score.

Mechanics

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Very briefly, I’m going to cover some of the Mechanics of RE7, and how they contribute to the game being an A-tier horror game, and how these Mechanics are reminiscent of various ARPG qualities.

As mentioned many times previously, RE7 is a horror game where the player is able to fight back against the various things that are trying to kill them. Now usually, this balance of giving the player some power and still maintaining a necessary amount of terror and horror is hard to achieve. However, RE7 accomplishes this very well, by making the enemies the player is fighting extremely intimidating and powerful, and giving the player a limited amount of ammo and health resources, keeping them constantly on edge.

In terms of what mechanics-laced game systems are provided to the player, the most noteworthy is the player’s ability to quickly switch through 4 weapons that are each assigned to a specific hot key. Since certain enemies throughout the game are weak to certain weapons, this feature allows for the player to quickly switch to the desired and most effective weapon for the given enemy. With this system the player is also able to switch weapons in the middle of combat. So, if the player is getting dangerously low on handgun ammo, and they feel like they can easily finish off the enemy with a few melee attacks, they can then quickly switch to the pocket knife and hack away. This convenient system is necessary since often times the enemies in the game will be thrown at the player so unexpectedly that they’ll have to act quickly or die. Yet another example, of how RE7 achieves this perfect balance of player empowerment and horror in their combat-mechanics Game System. This Game System is one such system that is used often times in ARPG’s. While the combat in this game definitely feels at place within a horror game and not an ARPG, there are similar elements here that are worth mentioning.

One other system that adds to the difficulty of the game, and that provides it’s own sort of horror for the player, is RE7’s inventory system. The player is given a limited number of inventory slots, and must make due with those few slots, while putting all other items/weapons that don’t fit in various storage boxes that conveniently transfer the player’s weapons and items from one save room to another. Inventory management is  a very prominent factor in determining whether a player succeeds or not in RE7, and is the most ARPG reminiscent Game System in the game. While the player is able to significantly expand their inventory while acquiring various backpacks throughout the game, the player will have to constantly manage their resources effectively, knowing when to use, delete or store something from their inventory.

These systems and a couple others, like how the player is able to increase their player and weapon stats through the use of steroids, stabilizers, and repair kits, respectfully, are all examples of systems that are often times present in ARPG’s and why Resident Evil 7 isn’t your ordinary horror game. And the game is so much better off because of this added layer of complexity.

Characters: The Bakers

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Well we’ve finally got to my favorite part of analyzing Resident Evil 7: the extremely well-characterized antagonists of the game, The Bakers. While Ethan, Mia, Clancy and Zoe (even though she is also a Baker; I will not be including her in this review because her character isn’t as fleshed out) are all fantastic characters, with fantastic voice-acting and great characterization, that the player develops genuine feelings for, and sympathizes with them for all that they go through. Nothing compares to the stellar performances by The Bakers. The Bakers are what make Resident Evil 7 as special as it is, what with their incredibly dynamic personalities, outstanding voice-acting, and fleshed out backstories. They are also primarily responsible for creating the terror and horror that the player feels, and the best thing is, that each character represents a different type of horror. Let me explain as to what exactly I mean.

Jack Baker

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Jack Baker, is the father of the Baker family, and in a sort of twisted-humor sort of way is actually referred to as “Daddy” several times throughout the game. Jack, while under the control of Evelyn, still retains his fatherly-duties as protector of the household and his family. However, this personality trait is warped under Evelyn’s control to the point where Jack is brutal to those who would attempt to intrude on his family, and unforgiving to those who would try to leave his family. If you’re a police officer for instance that’s investigating the Baker residence, you’re going to lose half of your head to a shovel that Jack is carrying.

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As I alluded to earlier, each member of the Baker family embodies a different type of horror, and Jack definitely embodies the intimidating horror type. What with his hulkian strength and his absolute REFUSAL TO DIE, he makes for an extremely intimidating enemy. He’s fast, relentless, and deals loads of damage to the player, so there’s no wonder that the player is intimidated by him. Jack quickly grows impatient with Ethan’s refusal to be a part of his family, and after that, he will try and kill you, in extremely brutal ways., adding to this level of anxiety of when Jack might appear again and tension for when you’re actually having to run away from him or fight him. Here’s a brief slideshow on what all it takes to FINALLY kill Jack, to put this more into perspective.

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It’s almost comedic how ridiculous it is to finally kill Jack. But after fighting that disgusting monster-like form of him with all the eyeballs, and injecting him with the serum meant to cure what’s been inflicting Zoe and Mia, he FINALLY does actually die.

Marguerite Baker

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Marguerite Baker is the mom of the Baker family, and under Evelyn’s control, like Jack, her instincts revolve around protection. In this case, she aggressively protects her sacred shrine which holds one of the components to the serum in the Old House. Marguerite, out of all of the Bakers, is by far, the most visibly consumed by Evelyn’s bio-infection. She actually gives birth to bugs, which she appropriately calls her “babies”, and after taking enough damage transforms into the hideous and terrifying monster you see below.

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From just the two pictures I’ve shown of her, I’m sure it’s not hard to make the leap as to what type of horror she embodies. She embodies the visually and audibly disgusting and terrifying horror that so many have become accustomed to in countless horror movies and horror games. Even before she transforms, she’s creepy as fuck to look at, and though she may not have as intimidating of a presence as Jack, the player will likely feel more afraid of her..especially if they don’t like bugs. They way she slowly patrols around the dimly lit Old House, with her lantern to guide her, is just as agonizingly terrifying as Jack’s quick, aggressive patrols throughout the Main House.

As for how terrifying her voice is, this really isn’t apparent until she’s transformed. Before she’s transformed she’s actually kind of humorous, with how much she curses. The voice she speaks in when she’s transformed is straight out of an Exorcist movie, and can’t really be expressed in words. You’d need to hear it to believe it, and same goes for the fantastic final boss battle against her, which is probably my favorite boss battle in the game, design wise. Here’s a link to a video showing the fight. Brace yourself.

Lucas Baker

 

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Everyone’s beloved psychopathic member of the Baker family. Lucas, is by far, the most characterized of the Bakers throughout the entirety of Resident Evil 7, and is also probably the most pure evil out of all of them. We get a glimpse of the twisted mind of Lucas throughout the entirety of the game. And the scariest thing is, that this man was twisted and mentally unstable ever since he was a young boy. After gaining access to his childhood room in the Main House, which in order to get a key to, the player has to literally reach down the throat of the decapitated police officer from before and pull the key out of his butchered corpse, we learn about a certain incident with Lucas and a childhood friend that happened to get on his nerves. As a young boy, he locked his friend up in the attic and waited for him to die, not thinking anything of what he had done. You also get a glimpse into how smart Lucas is, discovering that he did well in several engineering competitions when he was very young. Lucas is definitely the mad genius of the Baker family, and though he is the most normal on the outside, you should be very afraid of what he’s capable of.

Blog Post 13 Pic 27 In terms of what sort of horror Lucas embodies, he definitely takes the role of the sadistic, psychopathic, mad genius horror character archetype. Lucas just loves killing people. And he loves killing them in incredibly creative ways, which you discover after watching a VHS on how he killed Clancy in a birthday-themed puzzle room.

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While Lucas is very twisted and evil, he’s also a hell of a fun character! His dialogue and sheer level of insanity is priceless, and makes you almost like his character.

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The coward never directly confronts you though, intending for his various traps, puzzles and mechanisms to take care of you in his place. When you finally escape his Testing Area though, he’s nowhere to be found. Later on, you discover that he fled to the Salt Mines under the Baker’s land, when members from a mysterious organization completely destroyed the Main House, Old House and Testing Area, taking out anyone who was there at the time, including Zoe, if you choose Mia before departing for the Tanker. You know Lucas was alive and did in fact flee underground, to due to his signature traps laid out everywhere throughout the first half of the Salt Mines. However, you never find Lucas. You discover that he was helping relay information to the organization that was responsible for creating Evelyn, in exchange for a cure to Evelyn’s biohazard infection, but you never see his character again. A HUGE plot hole that NEEDS to be filled in an upcoming DLC or later Resident Evil game. His character is too HUGE to not get an appropriate or satisfying end.

WTF HAPPENED TO LUCAS!!!?? WE NEED ANSWERS!!!

Well there you have it. That concludes my review and analysis of Resident Evil 7. For someone who’s never been a fan of the horror genre and who hadn’t played much of any horror games, this game, on it’s own, intrigued me about the horror genre as a whole. However, I do think it’ll be hard for any horror game to beat this one for me. RE7 is a masterpiece with just a couple flaws that prevent it from being considered perfect. So much time went into this game and it will undoubtedly be remembered and recognized for many years to come because of this.

 

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