At long last, Resident Evil 7 is finally available. After rave announcement at E3 this year, and the release of a progressive playable teaser at the same time, this game has been building up the hype for months. I got to spend some time last night getting acquainted with the game, the new mansion, and the Baker family, and these are my initial thoughts on the new installment in the Resident Evil franchise.
The game opens innocently enough. It’s daytime, we’re surrounded by a wooded area, and everything seems quite normal. Following a small exploration segment that mostly serves as a tutorial to the movement and controls of the game, we come across a very familiar site. The house from the playable teaser is the first real structure we discover, and we enter with the assumption that we know exactly what will happen next. The house is actually quite different, however, which is refreshing. While I was prepared to play through the teaser segment all over again, this segment did not play out the same at all, and once we pass through the familiar hidden door near the fireplace, the game begins spreading the tension on thick. We are soon acquainted with the Baker family, and given a crash course in backwoods table manners. This is where the game truly begins.
What I experienced in the first few hours of gameplay, I found very refreshing. The game is completely unlike any Resident Evil game we’ve seen before, but at the same time, it revives and revamps some of the familiar conventions of the series. Within the mansion, there are various doors that are grotesquely adorned with various forms of wildlife. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was their form of a labeled key system, similar to the sword, armor, shield, and helmet keys from the original Resident Evil. Similarly, we also see the return of some actual puzzles. Some of the puzzles are far from daunting. Having to find and place all of the pieces of a relief carving to open a door has not only been used a few times in Resident Evil, ever since RE 4, is a puzzle that is more akin to looking for your car keys. There are also the shadow puzzles, which, while hardly complex, are a very interesting means of progression. There are a few puzzles that require a little more intellect, as well as attention to detail and reading the documents, such as the morgue drawer combination lock. Overall, in combining the puzzles with the game exploration and the constant threat of attack, the game is hardly a walk in the park for the average player.
Speaking of attack, the enemies in the game are quite horrific. They are always an intimidating presence, even when you have full control of the situation. However, they also seem to be limited to certain areas of the game so far, where they not only roam, but may also be able to spawn infrequently. I never stuck around in one particular area long enough to find out if any would be coming back. Aside from these “typical” enemies of the game, we must also occasionally face members of the Baker family. Enemy interactions are not all just point and shoot, though. There are elements of stealth and hiding involved in the early portions of the game. Fortunately, however, if you’re caught, it isn’t the end of the line. It can draw pretty close, if you’re not careful, but it is still perfectly possible to regain the high ground if you can manage to go back into hiding. Some of the more major fight sequences have different cues, depending on how you choose to fight (I don’t want to give too much away). The only issue with fighting, particularly “boss” battles, is not being able to tell if you’re even making a dent in the enemy’s health. What’s impressive, though, is how they will actually show scarring and damage on their bodies, according to where you hit them.
Overall, I’m enjoying the game quite a bit. It’s got just the right atmosphere to keep me on edge, but without keeping me from moving forward. It’s great to see one of my favorite franchises returning to what made them so great in the first place, especially as concerned as I was about the first person perspective of it. It’s a great survival horror game, and keeps you captivated by the story and exploration. I’m looking forward to finishing it in the coming days.
What do you think? Have you played the game? Do you plan to? Are you happy with the direction Capcom has gone with the series? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check back here later for a review of the full game, once I finish it. Also, come by and watch me stream on my Twitch Channel, most days from 9pm to 12am central.