The latest game in the Resident Evil series will soon be hitting shelves. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard has a radically different aesthetic and approach to gameplay compared to recent entries. Will this be a return to form for the granddaddy of horror games?
The first games
The first Resident Evil game was released 20 years ago in March 1996 on the original PlayStation and Sega's Saturn (kids, ask your parents). Resident Evil defined the survival horror genre, with slow-moving protagonists, fixed cinematic camera angles, and limited inventory and ammunition. The games that immediately followed – Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis – brought a few new ideas of their own but largely stayed true to the formula set out in the original.
Then, in 2005, came Resident Evil 4 – a watershed moment for the series which moved away from survival horror towards action-adventure, with quick-time events and an emphasis on gunplay. Technically, you weren’t even fighting zombies anymore, but 'Ganados' – human villagers infected with a sort of mind-controlling plague. Later games, Resident Evil 5 and 6, continued the action-orientated tone, moving further from survival horror and towards third-person shooters (and were not so well received).
While the fourth Resident Evil game is arguably the series' finest outing, the creative decision to move away from survival horror meant that it, and the following games, sacrificed some of the personality – and the shocks – that endeared fans to the original games.
Rising from the dead?
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard looks set to change the series' fortunes. From what we’ve seen so far, the game is a return to the series’ survival horror roots. The player is trapped in a house, creating a more claustrophobic atmosphere, with lots of secrets to find and creepy things to discover. Instead of waves of easily-defeated monsters, the antagonists are a family of seemingly-invulnerable cannibals, forcing the player to run and hide rather than simply shoot them to pieces. As a result, more of the gameplay revolves around exploration and puzzle-solving, similar to the first games in the series.
The main innovation is that the game is in first-person. While this is partly to facilitate better integration with VR devices, it's also an effective way to immerse the player in the experience, heightening the fear caused by the game. This move will allow the game to focus on more subtle psychological horror, rather than in-your-face gore. Anecdotes from those who’ve played the game in VR is that it’s a very scary, intense experience; a co-worker said he ripped off his headset as he found the game so disturbing. This should sound like music to the ears of survival horror fans. Although it should be noted that the VR experience is a timed exclusive with PlayStation VR – don't be surprised if you see Resident Evil 7's VR mode on PC before the end of the year.
Still, the PC version of Resident Evil 7 will feature the latest graphics and sound technology. These will offer players a fantastic visual and aural experience, further immersing them in the game and making it feel even scarier. For maximum immersion, Resident Evil 7 will be best played on a virtual reality headset, simply because it’s clearly been designed to capitalize on the technology. Thankfully, laptops such as the GX800, G701, G752 and GL702/502 are ready for VR.
Some of the games mentioned above may be old, but the best are classics. Overall, this new venture into Resident Evil is exciting. It’s a new direction for the series and one that seems to firmly place the game back in the horror genre and away from the action.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard will be released tomorrow on January 24, 2017!