Well, this is surprising.
After the unintentional horror that was Resident Evil 6, which brought disgrace not only to the name Wesker but shame to the moniker of Capcom's masthead franchise, I wasn't sure what was coming next. My hope was that we would see a return to form, a game meant to chill the veins of every gamer and send shivers down the spine of even the most indomitably stoic viewer. What I almost expected was a Resident Evil 7 that cashed in again on the name and produced yet another thin conpsiracy, yet another brace of nightmare fuel ripped straight from the playbook of Lovecraft and the school of Slenderman, a comedy in the guise of something intended to be terrifying. Perhaps more rambling about how "THE GLOBAL POLITICAL ORDER" collapsing, which so utterly stank of Deus Ex, and not just because we didn't ask for it.
I was wrong in that near-expectation, however.
Let The Rambling Commence...
Resident Evil 7 is a terrifying experience, that much is certain. The new setting was a breath of air that was hardly fresh insofar as its moldy contents were concerned, but did invigorate the fear and nostaglia of my shriveled and skeptical gamer's heart better than any T, G, I or F Virus ever could. The game is drenched in an atmosphere thick as the bayou mosquitoes; I was more than once afraid to turn around, lest Margeurite's Peter-Cushing-esque face nuzzle itself firmly into mine and tear the flesh from me with her yellowed teeth.
It is not just a game of big bombastic changes, though those are certainly important. The movement from a geopolitical narrative to an intensely personal one containing a mere handful of characters reminded me of the return to form seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens from the reeking and flagrant abuses of the prequels on that particular canon. Meanwhile, the first person view was a welcome change and also accomodates the rise of virtual reality gaming, a trend (or future?) in which I do not intend to participate insofar as Resident Evil 7 is concerned, as I do not feel like being that scared. Ever.
The small changes were almost more notable to me. There were cameos and easter eggs, yes, and some of them were quite intriguing. I was reminded at one point of the Deus Ex franchise's near-obsession with 0-4-5-1 in the way that codes for locks were pulled from previous games, the Molded resembled earlier enemy types from the franchise in a subtle nod to the fact that this shadowy organization in which [you know who] is involved might be Umbrella. Hint, hint.
The timing of Resident Evil 7's release has been noted before. One article I read was intrigued that the game was set in Louisiana, a southern state in America, at a time of harsh political division in that nation often defined by the gaps between regions. I would personally like to add that I found it amusing to see the game come out in such close proximity to what is allegedly the final Anderson film, no doubt the masterpiece we have been slamming our fists on our keyboards demanding since the paint-by-numbers (and name-by-colors, in the case of the doctors at the start of the film) first movie hit cinemas so long ago. While the Anderson films hit rock bottom immediately and then found nowhere to go but up, the history of the Resident Evil games has been much more pendulum-esque. The recent Umbrella Corps shook what faith remained in Capcom's handling after the prior two entires in the mainline series and many of the spinoffs, Revelations 2 and some segments of other games notwithstanding.
A hilarious side note: shortly before I decided to write this blog post, somebody sabotaged the Resident Evil 7 wiki page to bear the name "Trump" instead of "Baker" in some instances, and changed the names of the Baker family in the synopsis to those of Donald, Melania and Ivanka. Though their sabotage was hilarious, I was forced to undo it. Bless my apparently stoic professionalism!
Bad Guys (and Gals....and Plant Life)
Antagonists have been a tricky thing to nail in video games. Far Crys 3 and 4 both handled theirs quite well, while the Fallout franchise has had its share of intriguing concepts. Resident Evil has gone from Saturday morning cartoon to early 2000s action film (and not just because it was the subject of a prolonged number of those; thanks, Anderson) and all the way to comic book rogues gallery levels of cheese.The Molded are intriguing to me. I love (but am frightened by) the concept of their creation; murdered hitch-hikers and runaways brutally transformed into monstrosities that lumber through the bayou. I do believe that Resident Evil missed a kind of opportunity here by not exploring a bit more who these people were, allowing us to sympathize more with their plight and perhaps hesitate in (or expedite) the demise of thesr creatures. Perhaps finding methods to identify each of them (a wallet, a toy, a trinket) on their bodies after killing them and matching them up with documents written by the Bakers would have allowed for some other storytelling; a runaway is taken by the Bakers as she flees to New Orleans, and the runaway's mother follows her daughter a la Ethan Winters until she is similarly consumed, and the two creatures they become are encountered together. So on and so forth. I digress.
The Baker family is...Texas Chainsaw. I love it, and I find them immensely frightening (none more so than Jack). Their [SPOILER] redemption/exoneration at the end of the game due to the ultimate revelation stung; the thing with Resident Evil antagonists is that they've often been evil for evil's sake, or been human equivalents to the more intelligent member of the duo Pinky and the Brain, or...been there because the piece needed a central antagonist. Even Wesker fell into this trap (GLOBAL...SATURATION...), which is a claim that I do not make lightly as the Albert fanboy that I am.
I never intended for this post to be so long. I wanted to document my thoughts on the game and put them somewhere that might have seen them read by an interested party. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am below. Thank you for reading.