Resident Evil 7: Review "Welcome to the family, son...."

(spoilers)

Go Tell Aunt Rhody....

You can hear it growing closer and your breath hitches… that low screech of something metal being dragged across the floor… the slow, lumbering footfalls of some immortal figure hellbent on finding you… that unsettlingly sinister creak of a door being pushed open… It’s in the air, the skin-prickling scent of fear…

And then a hand rougher than sandpaper latches onto your shoulder and whirls you around.

“Welcome to the family, son,” is all you're able to comprehend—not your faltering heartbeat, not the sudden release of your bladder, not the scream that died in your throat before it could even get out—it’s that single iconic phrase before a fist invades your vision and everything goes dark.

That right there will pretty much set the dreary, helpless tone for the entirety of Capcom’s latest entry into their beloved horror series, Resident Evil 7. Compared to it’s two predecessors, RE5 and RE6, and arguably to some degree RE4, Resident Evil 7 is such a tonal shift in virtually every way that you don’t even need the tacked on virtual reality schtick to catch whiplash.

It’s that jarring. But in a very heart-pounding, white-knuckled way. It leaves you feeling breathless and on the edge of your seat throughout a great majority of the mentally draining ordeal you’re about to take on.

So yes, go tell Aunt Rhody, because there’s a lot to discuss this time around.

Jacky boy loves to play possum...

Shoulda Called The Cops

I just have to say right off the bat that I freaking love this game. Everything from the visuals to the mechanics to the overall aesthetic just strikes all the right cords. Apparently, Capcom utilized their new RE Engine to build this puppy, and the technology has not been squandered in the slightest. Every squeak, every crunch over the grass, every bullet fired, you hear it all, and for good reason because sound is very, very important in a game where you’re constantly being stalked and you never know what’s around the corner or trying to sneak up behind you.

Story-wise, you play as everyman(?) Ethan Winters–

He's got that 'I've seen some shit' thousand-yard stare going on.

–who’s come to the Baker’s eerily derelict house in search of his wife Mia, who’s been MIA for three years. The Baker’s consist of your usual carnival of hillbilly horror movie killers from the unstoppable father, Jack, to the foul-mouthed, estranged wife, Marguerite, right down to the elderly grandma who does literally nothing except recline in her chair but is somehow ten times the threat because of it, and their brilliant yet psychotic son, Lucas.They have a daughter, too, Zoe, who… is there. She is, she helps Ethan gather supplies around the house needed to craft a cure that plagues him, her, and his wife.

You might have noticed that question mark next to ‘everyman’ up there, and I put that there because of various scenes throughout the game that suggest Ethan may not even be what he appears, insofar as knowing what’s going on despite the appearance of normalcy he’s coated in. For one thing, despite all the gruesome, gnarly, and downright insidious things that occur not only in the Baker’s house but to him as well, Ethan rarely ever shows surprise. Ever. He handles horrific loss of limb and hordes of roaming molded like a man who’s dealt with that kind of depraved shit on the daily.

For another, note the sheer lack of common sense exhibited just ten seconds into the opening monologue. Ethan’s conversing with what we guess is a friend about his wife, who went missing three years ago but somehow managed to send him a message telling him to come find her. Pause right there. So, your wife’s been AWOL for such and such a time and the first thing you do when she hits you up is NOT contact the police. Okay, I mean, sure. It’s not what I’d do but hey, it ain’t my wife. Still, it’s this very early moment that lends credence to the notion that maybe Ethan ain’t so on the up and up.

Or maybe that’s just game logic and Ethan’s an idiot.

Past that, the opening is bloody fantastic, like the first bite of a freshly baked pie, only to find that, wait a minute, that’s not flaky pie crust! It’s the crunchy exterior of a bunch of roach carcasses and wasps and the filling is actually teeming with mold that seems hellbent on trying to assimilate with you via your oral cavity. It starts off phenomenally good, one of the best openings in the series since RE4 and the village segment, then quickly morphs into jaw-dropping horror, but in the best way possible.

From there, the gameplay style shifts into this deadly bout of hide-and-seek during which you’ll frantically struggle to duck and evade the Baker family patriarch, Jack, as you scour about for keys—keys that make not a lick of sense—to get the hell out of the house. Now, I’ve played a lot of horror games and games claiming to be horror and seen all manner of jumpscares and whatnot but… oddly… nothing quite got my heart racing like being chased around a dining room table by a deranged hillbilly brandishing a bloody spade. I was screaming, “Get away from me!” before I even realized it, shuffling left and right in a bid to slip past. It’s a different kind of raw fear, right in your face, something that could realistically happen, and that’s how the fear really grips you.

It’s just an infected family looking to rearrange your insides like a jigsaw puzzle.

Did he really just give me a knife...?

As highly lauded as I think the game is, there are several, several points where logic just dives headfirst out the window of a skyscraper.

Case in point: The Deputy–

This guy... this guy right here, just... We already know Ethan is a love-driven idiot for storming the Baker house Normandy-style in search of his wife but this deputy right here is a shining example of 'things not to do if you wanna live through a horror film' if I ever saw it. In fact, let's just run through a checklist of all the ways he royally fucked himself up, shall we?

  1. He investigates a known hotspot by himself.
  2. He doesn't immediately call for back-up after spotting Ethan in obvious distress.
  3. Has a chance at redemption by not giving Ethan his gun, only to fuck that up by giving him a knife instead.
  4. Continues to investigate by himself.
  5. He doesn't listen to a word Ethan is saying in the garage.
  6. Gets killed in a way that's was so eye-twitchingly and easily preventable stupid that all you can do is laugh.

I mean, I get it, the deputy was a plot-device, existing solely to give Ethan hope and then die to push him into a further state of desperation, I get that, it's the circle-of-life regarding the horror genre, but wow, they could have gone about it a better way. Unless, of course, they wanted us to laugh at the Deputy's plight, in which case, Capcom has some twisted humor.

And speaking of characters who do outrageously stupid things, now we turn to the wife.

Three years without the 'D' and this happens, true story.

Yes, that diseased-looking, jaundice-eyed woman is Ethan's wife. Pucker up.

And then beat her with a brick. No, seriously, that's not just me taking potshots at her less-than-stellar looks, that's me giving you some solid advice before she whips out a chainsaw and carves you like a Thanksgiving turkey. The chick is bad news, due in no small part to being possessed eighty percent of the time.

As you storm through the game blasting away molded and solving puzzles, the story pieces begin to fall into place and you learn that Mia was part of some shady sector of Umbrella that performed even shadier experiments which resulted in the birth of a highly unstable little girl named Eveline with a family complex. After a botched transfer for the little girl, Eveline inhabits Mia's mind, transforming her into the ghastly beast up there that only wants to bring Ethan into her sadistic 'family' through any means necessary.

Can I give you a... hand?

Sorry.

the one that got away

The game takes you through a plethora of environments, even though after digesting those you'll be all the more disappointed that they let you out of the manor like you're suffering from Stockholm's syndrome. Because, honestly, the true horror experience comes with the manor, with Jack chasing you like you stole his oft-mentioned lawnmower.

Following close behind that would undoubtedly have to be the Old House, run by the matriarch Marguerite.

The gingivitis is real.

Much like Jack, Marguerite skulks about the unfinished hallways and byways of the Old House carrying her lantern and muttering increasingly murderous threats to both Ethan and Mia (who had traversed the area before her husband arrived). Avoiding her is easy enough, it's the various insect hotspots she's 'laid' about the house that will more than likely do you in, from the hives to the spiders–it can really make your skin crawl.

That said, Marguerite easily brings the games best boss battle when she unleashes her final form, which is so unbelievable hideous that it'll probably be the one thing you remember about the game long after you've beaten and shelved it.

If the game had ended, or been near the ending, with that battle then there would be no currently circulating complaints right now about the ease or anti-climaticism of the final brawl, because that would have blown minds. Granted, that would have also cut about half the game, but when you look at what the other half decides to throw in your face, the sacrifice would have been well worth it.

Especially when Lucas hits the spotlight.

The surprise break-out character of RE7

And that's not to say I didn't enjoy Lucas–because I really did, everything from his character to his voice, it was pretty on point throughout–but being strung along through his Saw-inspired traps got tiring after awhile. We get it, he's the hillbilly with a brain, cool; he also murdered some kid during his childhood, who hasn't; and he has all the messed up tendencies of that lonely kid who spent his time burning ants with a magnifying glass because he liked the way they curled up. Gotcha. He's not exactly a new trope but he's interesting enough purely through his well-acted dialogue and the fact that he looks like an adorable little crack addict (at least, that's what most of the art of him depicts anyway).

There are absolutely no scares to be had with Lucas. At all. None. You're merely a plaything for him to throw his traps and tricks at. They're plentiful and varied enough but after awhile I found myself wishing Jack would burst through the wall and smash a watermelon over my head. Just, anything to bring back the abruptly tossed tension, which did come back for one brief and shining moment during the 'Birthday' cassette, but that was pretty much it.

And unfortunately, from there the game takes on an whole other identity that woefully burrows down the tunnel of formulaic, starting with ghost girl Eveline, a biogenetically enhanced human with the terrifying ability to fuck all kinds of shit up with a single thought.

"They're mine now...."

Previously stationed under Mia's detrimental watch, Eve caused their transport ship to crash when she threw a tantrum by vomiting up… mold… and moldifying the entire crew onboard. After she washes up on shore, she’s found by Jack and taken back to the Baker home. From there, thirsty for the familial love she was denied during her experiment-heavy upbringing, Eve latches onto the Bakers like a lamprey and contorts them into nightmarish puppets that trot around screeching about family, ripping off limbs and showing off their severe genital infestations. (Looking at you, Marguerite. Go get a doctor, seriously.)

All that said, Resident Evil 7 is a lot of things ranging from astronomically good to infinitesimally bad. It’s a survival horror powerhouse stepping out from under the shadow of it’s action-drenched predecessors, a move that many of the fans, including me, were waiting for. Sure, it stumbles every now and again, a hiccup there, a glitch here, but for the most part? It finally seems like Capcom is coming around and giving one it’s more infamous franchises the treatment it deserves.

So go. Go tell Aunt Rhody that everything's coming up great.

Now. We wait....

Now we wait for the Resident Evil 2 remake.

Created By
Izzy Durriken
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Header pic by: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Welcome-to-the-family-son-659914434 Lucas pic by: http://spooky-head.tumblr.com/

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