Resident Evil Retrospective

Resident Evil has been one of the most successful and revolutionary videogame franchises of all time, though not without some inconsistency. The original Resident Evil helped create the “survival horror” genre. RE2 and RE4 are considered two of the greatest games ever made. RE3 was excellent yet felt oddly out of place with the first two games, both in narrative style and length. RE5 is borderline unplayable (unless you play with a friend) and RE6 is literally unplayable. RE7: Biohazard saved the franchise with its switch to a tense first-person thriller and abandonment of the cartoony action of RE4, 5, and 6. With Resident Evil Village (RE8) set to release May 7, I thought it might be fun to look back at the mainline numbered entries of one of my favorite horror series.

Quick side note: as fun as Resident Evil Zero, Revelations, or Code Veronica are, I am not going to be talking about entries outside of the main series. Games like Gaiden, Outbreak, Operation Racoon City, and Umbrella Corps that would also need to be considered and they are, to be blunt, quite awful. Perhaps a list of the five best and five worst RE spinoff games will be coming, stay tuned…

Resident Evil (1996) and Resident Evil Remake (2002)

The game that started it all. Released on the Sony PlayStation in 1996, this terrifying survival horror game puts you in the S.T.A.R.S. boots of Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine as they investigate a creepy mansion outside Raccoon City looking for their lost team members. As you search the mansion, you quickly learn that you are trapped with zombies and other, much worse monsters. You ultimately discover that the Umbrella Corporation has created a biological weapon (the T-Virus) that had turned the mansion’s personnel and animal inhabitants into the horrifying creatures that stalk you. Once you discover the underground Umbrella lab, you find out that your captain Albert Wesker is a double agent, and his goal is to release the Tyrant and provide combat data to Umbrella after it kills your S.T.A.R.S. team. The player kills the Tyrant (and seemingly Wesker) and destroys the mansion.

The gameplay changes slightly depending on your choice of character – Chris has limited firepower and a smaller inventory but can withstand more enemy attacks. He is assisted by Rebecca Chambers, who supports him with medical expertise. Jill is stronger with attacks, has a larger inventory, and gets a lockpick that allows her to access areas more easily than Chris. She’s joined by Barry, who gets Jill even more weaponry. In every way except defensively, Jill is the superior starting character. Talk about girl power! Notable about this game is the four possible endings, based on your actions at key moments, all boiling down to who survives and if the mansion is destroyed.

The graphics do not hold up well, but one key feature does – the fixed camera. Your view is an angled top-down perspective where the only things moving in the room are the player and NPCs. The off-kilter angle provides a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere and helps obscure things you are not meant to see. Having to stop moving to shoot, while annoying, is another key piece for providing tension. You cannot simply walk backwards and shoot like in so many action games we know and love. Every bullet must connect or you will be swarmed and die. The voice acting was subpar, though it didn’t prevent Chris, Jill and Wesker from being memorable and amazing characters. The best character, however, was the mansion itself. It was almost alive, with its puzzles and atmospheric lighting and sounds. Hallways and rooms were claustrophobic, and you never really feel safe anywhere.

The 2002 remake updated the graphics, sound, and made small tweaks to the gameplay and story. It is the perfect remake – gameplay mechanics feel more intuitive, the graphics are much better, and the mansion is more frightening than in the original. It improves on the original in every way, to the point where I’d say the RE Remake is the definitive version of Resident Evil. If you’ve never played a game in the series before, start there.

Resident Evil 2 (1998) and Resident Evil 2 Remake (2019)

Resident Evil 2 takes place two months after the events of the original, introducing new characters Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield (sister of Chris from the original). Leon is a Raccoon Police Department reporting for his first day of duty, while Claire is searching for her missing brother Chris. Trapped in RPD Headquarters, Leon and Claire discover that Chris has left the country and just about the entire police department is dead. Important characters are introduced in the Birkin family and Ada Wong, as you discover more evidence of Umbrella’s increasingly deadly virus enhancements (now it’s the G-Virus).  William Birkin becomes infected with his G-Virus, turning into a hideous and deformed creature. He joins the Tyrant in stalking around the RPD (and eventually the Umbrella lab) looking to kill Leon and Claire. Many tense encounters and battles ensue, and Leon escapes with Claire and young Sherry Birkin, as the lab explodes.

RE2 keeps much of the same mechanics as the original, with a fixed camera and tank controls. The best addition, however, is the A/B scenario. If you finish the game as Leon in his A scenario, you unlock Claire’s B scenario, playing seeing the events from her eyes as Leon is taking the lead. The opposite is true for Claire’s A and Leon’s B – they face different puzzles and stories based on which A scenario you are playing. Much like the mansion in the original game served as a character, so does the RPD. Facing more zombies and newer variants, the tiny hallways and cramped rooms are more terrifying than ever. RPD was not spared from the horror outside, and as more and more zombies find their way inside, the building takes a much more Hellish turn.

The Resident Evil 2 remake takes the winning formula of the original and cranks it to 11 and is therefore my favorite Resident Evil game to date. With top-of-the-line Xbox One/PS4 graphics, RE2 Remake is beautiful in all the most disgusting ways. The horror comes alive like never before, as everything feels more lifelike. Seeing the RPD descend further into decay and destruction as the zombie horde rages through the hallways is a remarkable sight. At times, I had to literally stop and marvel at the viscera hanging out of RPD officers that were torn apart (or, in one case, catch my breath after jumping out of my skin when a hanging officer falls from the ceiling).

RE2 Remake gives newbies some help if they so desire, with an assisted mode allowing for minor health regeneration and allowing unlimited saves (Hardcore mode holds you to a limited number, based on the ink ribbons you find).

You still have the options for the A and B scenarios for both Leon and Claire, and you play as Ada for a noticeably short amount of time. What I like especially is that you must play the B scenario (called 2nd Run) to see the true ending of the game. That ending, William Birkin’s attack on the train carrying Leon, Claire, and Sherry, is one of the most disgusting moments in modern gaming (only really matched by certain scenes in The Evil Within and RE7).

The RE2 Remake was made with the same engine as RE7 and allows for different controls and movement without sacrificing the atmospheric horror. Removing the fixed camera and tank controls was a huge gamble for the series, as much of the original’s horror came from the lack of control of many of the aspects. To compensate, the zombies were made to move a little more quickly and take you by surprise more. The Lickers were made faster and more terrifying as a result. Room layouts, lighting, and other effects had to be adjusted and used to conceal the zombies to effectively make them a surprise without feeling cheap, and the development team pulled it off. A true masterpiece.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) and Resident Evil 3 Remake (2020)

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis released to much fanfare in 1999 and delivered on all the hype, from a gameplay perspective. Made with the same engine as the first two games, you control Jill Valentine, who, after the first game, joined the Raccoon Police Department and subsequently quit over concerns that they were not adequately protecting the city from the T-Virus. Beginning exactly 24 hours prior to the start of Resident Evil 2, Jill must escape a Raccoon City that has fallen to the T-Virus. She is relentlessly hunted by the intimidating Nemesis, a super soldier inspired by the T-1000 from Terminator 2 (according to an article in Edge magazine). Nemesis was programmed to take out all remaining former S.T.A.R.S. members (including Brad Vickers from the first game, who you seem brutally killed). Jill meets Carlos Oliveira and his U.B.C.S. team (man, RE loves its acronyms) and informs her that they can escape the city if they can ring the bell at the clocktower. They make it (losing U.C.B.S. member Mikhail along the way) only to see Nemesis once again, but this time he infects Jill. Carlos finds a vaccine in a nearby hospital and saves Jill’s life. Jill meets up with the third member of the U.C.B.S. Nikolai, who, in a very Wesker-like move, admits he is there to gather data on the superweapon’s fighting prowess. Depending on the player’s path, Nikolai is either killed by Nemesis or he escapes altogether. Regardless, Jill kills the Nemesis and escapes with Carlos shortly before a nuke vaporizes Raccoon City.

RE3: Nemesis was an excellent game. In fact, its biggest flaw was that there wasn’t more of it! With only a single protagonist and a single storyline, the game felt much less replayable than other entries in the series, thus feeling out of place in the series. In many ways it felt less like Resident Evil 3 and more like Resident Evil 1.5. The controls, graphics, and gameplay were a step forward, but the length and story itself were a noticeable step back. The missteps, however, did not prevent the game from overall being excellent and receiving rave reviews. Ultimately, it was a worthy successor to the fantastic Resident Evil 2.

Enter the disappointment of the Resident Evil 3 remake. Where do I even begin? It was about half as long as the original, with entire parts of the game completely removed (the Clock Tower and Raccoon Park are gone). Made in the new RE Engine like RE 2 Remake and RE7, this game was gorgeous and easy to control. However, one big complaint about the graphics I have is that Carlos’ hair, for some reason, looks like each individual strand of hair was designed with its own physics but not allowed to move independently. The odd physics led to his hair bouncing awkwardly and unnecessarily like one of the Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball girls (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve seen that game more than you’re willing to admit).

The scripted nature of the Nemesis fights led to less tension surrounding the creature than in the original RE3. While the third person shooting of RE2 Remake didn’t make the game more boring, the implementation of the new controls did in fact make the RE3 gunplay less enjoyable. Carlos, especially, was less fun, as his assault rifle came with plenty of ammo to dispatch enemies. It felt less like a survival game and more like a shooting gallery, especially during the final “protect Jill” objective. The hospital in which you locate Jill’s cure, however, is spectacular. It is gross, scary, and reminds me of RPD in RE2. It’s the only area that feels truly alive (or *ahem* undead). While still better than RE5 and RE6, this remake wasted a lot of potential. Still worth a play, though.

Resident Evil 4 (2005)

Released a whopping six years after Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, RE4 had a lot to live up to, and even more questions to answer. Raccoon City was blown up with a nuke – where do they go next? Do we return to Chris, Jill, Claire, or Leon? Will we have multiple protagonists again or did RE3 start a new trend? We were given all our answers in the form of a spectacular, fast-paced action masterpiece.

Around five years after RE3: Nemesis ends, Leon Kennedy is dispatched to a nameless village in Spain to rescue the United States President’s daughter, Ashley Graham. The cult that kidnapped her, Los Illuminados, is using a mind-controlling parasite, Las Plagas, to enslave the farmers of the village. The cult’s leader, Saddler, plans to infect Ashley and wants to use her to infect the President, allowing Saddler to control the world. Escaping the village, Leon and Ashley make it to Salazar’s castle. Salazar is comically short and speaks in very weird metaphors – honestly, he was a dumb addition and did little more than extend the game and give you another mini-boss. Eventually you run into Ada Wong again, and then confront Salazar (at one point a giant Salazar Statue chases you) and you kill him. Leon then discovers that a man from his past (Jack Krauser) kidnapped Ashley and was working with Ada and Wesker to steal samples of Las Plagas. Leon, in action movie style, kills Krauser, rescues Ashley, removes Las Plagas from their bodies *just* in time, and kills Saddler with Ada’s help. Ada, however, takes the sample and escapes. Leon and Ashley make it out alive as the island explodes.

Anyone notice a theme here? Every Resident Evil game so far has ended with an explosion that you barely escape. Very action movie, and very predictable, and yet still very cool.

Anyway. The nameless village of RE4 is incredible. It is large and yet somehow feels very claustrophobic. Danger lurks around every corner in the form of its inhabitants. The villagers that attack you at every turn are called Los Ganados, which means “the cattle” in Spanish. And boy are they treated like expendable cattle! Each encounter is not one or two enemies. No, it’s like 8 or 9 every time. You can’t really run, either. They will throw weapons at your back and they can very easily kill you. The scariest enemies, however, are the Chainsaw Men and Chainsaw Sisters. Talk about nightmare fuel. The Chainsaw Man is relentlessly violent and larger than other villagers. He wears a burlap sack over his head (think Jason in Friday the 13th Part II) and swings his chainsaw in a one-hit-kill arc. The female counterparts wear bloody bandages and swing faster, making them even more powerful. Absolutely terrifying. Every encounter is typically accompanied by a “shit shit shit SHIT!”

Apart from finally moving the main series out of Raccoon City, RE4 marks a real tonal shift in the main series Resident Evil games. Gone are the days of fixed cameras and tank controls – the game focuses much more on third person action and shooting. Movement is still very clunky (you do need to stop moving to aim and shoot), but much smoother than before. Enemies can be stunned with shots to the legs and shooting arms can make them drop their weapons. Projectiles can be shot down and grenades can be shot and detonated. Context-sensitive actions, in the form of dodging boulders, wrestling enemies, and quick-time events, are often incorporated into the battles, forcing you to avoid one-hit kills. Bosses are much more frequent and sometimes avoidable based on the path you take. The guns all come equipped with a laser sight and ammo is much more plentiful. Hidden collectibles are all around the map, which could be sold for money (and plenty of money can be found) to spend on upgrades, new guns, and ammo. The cartoony action is generally executed well in RE4, but you can see the beginnings of the franchise’s downfall with certain things like Salazar’s entire character, Leon’s “superhero landings”, or the “mash square to run from Robo-Salazar.” The “keep Ashley alive” parts of the game are immeasurably irritating. I hate escort missions, and about 1/3 of the game is an escort mission. My blood still boils when I think about it.

Fun fact: as you may know, the developers intended to make a Resident Evil game with a “cool” protagonist that was action-heavy and borderline superhuman. The creator of the series thought it strayed too far from Resident Evil, and that original project shifted gears to become Devil May Cry. If only the devs learned something, seeing as they tried to make the “cool guy” come back in Resident Evil 6 and nearly ruined the franchise.

Resident Evil 5 (2009)

Resident Evil 5 was the release I had been most hyped about since it was launching for the Xbox 360. RE1-3 started on PlayStation and was ported to consoles like the Dreamcast, and RE4 was on GameCube. While yes, I had those consoles and played the games on them, I was most excited about RE5 because of the power and controller of the 360. It had the ability to give us more zombies on screen and a larger, more intricate world. The controller fit my big dumb hands better, and the buttons were easier to locate when I was freaking out in a tense moment. What we got, however, was more of all the bad parts of RE4. The game was much brighter, physically, than any RE game before it, which was nice until you realized what you were looking at – an ugly landscape with ugly enemies and ugly action. We got ridiculous cartoonish action and violence, and very little in the way of horror that made the franchise so great.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about RE5’s greatest strength – its story. As with all Resident Evil games, story is a key component to building the world and RE5 has a fantastic setup. RE5 takes place five years after RE4 and drops Chris Redfield into Kijuju, a city in an unnamed country in Africa on the brink of collapse. Part of the recently formed B.S.A.A. (seriously with the acronyms, Capcom!), Chris meets his new partner Sheva Alomar to investigate rumors of an impending bioterror attack. Chris and Sheva quickly find that the locals have been infected with Las Plagas, those nasty parasites from Resident Evil 4. Called the Majini, these infected locals are fast, deadly, and like to swarm. Las Plagas isn’t the only thing from the past that comes back to haunt you, however. After being rescued by B.S.A.A. Delta squad (Alpha had been ripped apart by a nasty creature) Chris sees that Jill Valentine is presumed dead after a confrontation with old friend Albert Wesker (also she looks completely different, but I guess I’m the only one who cares about that). Chris begins to disobey orders to hunt for Jill. Along their search, Chris and Sheva discover a new strain of Las Plagas called Uroboros. Chris and Sheva ultimately find and rescue Jill, stopping Wesker’s partner Gionne and forcing Wesker to crash land in a volcano. Wesker does Wesker things, exposing himself to the Uroboros strain and mutating into essentially a giant tentacle monster. What ensues is probably the worst boss fight in Resident Evil to date, including the infamous “Chris punches a boulder” quick time event. That scene alone would have ruined the boss battle, except you can basically beat the entire nearly twenty-minute ordeal with just your starting handgun… so the battle is horrible by default. It ends with Chris and Sheva launching RPGs from the helicopter that rescues them at Wesker and killing him. Remember, this whole thing takes place IN A VOLCANO. They shot RPGs from a helicopter at a tentacle monster inside a volcano. Feels like a far cry from the original game’s mansion. We’ve come a long way! The game ends with an incredibly cheesy voiceover from Chris deciding to keep fighting for “a world without fear”. Woof.

Resident Evil 5 was not the worst game I have ever played, but at the time it was easily the worst mainline RE game in the franchise. The focus on cooperative gameplay was a nice thought, but the execution was horrible. The game was almost impossible to play solo, as Sheva’s AI was completely incapable of helping. She wasted ammo, rarely shot with accuracy, and had no awareness of swarming enemies or boss weak spots. Not only did I have to manage my inventory, but I had to manage Sheva’s, too! In co-op, the game is much more fun and playable, but if you didn’t have a friend that loved Resident Evil, you were out of luck.

I must take a second to talk about the allegations of racism. This is a dark cloud hanging over the RE5 legacy and it’s ridiculous. An overzealous editor (call them a cancel culture warrior about a decade too early) tried to tank sales of RE5 before release by claiming the trailer showed a lot of classic racist imagery, since a white man was killing black zombies. What this idiot did not realize, however, was that the game featured an African partner, plus zombies of many different races. The British Board of Film Classification stepped in to review the game and found that it was not racist. The claims of a scene depicting black men dragging off a white woman were debunked, seeing as the woman they dragged off was not black. The presence of black zombies made sense, being an African country and all, but the devs were smart in recognizing that not every person in Africa is black. Despite these clear signs, people pop up again occasionally to describe the game as racist and claiming Capcom was trying to depict Africa once again as a dark and savage land (seriously it’s like these people never played Resident Evil before – Raccoon City was *way* more savage and destroyed than Kijuju). Despite the occasional agitator popping up, RE5 became one of the franchise’s best-selling games.

Resident Evil 6 (2012)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Perhaps Capcom saw the criticism over the lack of multiple scenarios in RE4 and RE5 and decided to course correct. Perhaps the “action movie” turn that the games started to take at the end of RE4 and all of RE5 made this type of game inevitable. Maybe Capcom wanted to play a prank on us. I’m not sure what happened, but in 2012, we were treated to the steaming pile of unplayable shit that was Resident Evil 6.

Instead of a tight, tense, cohesive narrative, Capcom opted to have four separate interwoven campaigns that all meant to feel different from one another in tone. The problem is that while the tone was intended to be different, the gameplay was so bad that you only ever got hints of what the developers wanted the tone to be. You were clearly meant to have each campaign represent a superhero flick, a spy film, a horror film, and a shoot-em-up action movie. Excellent in theory, as it should have capitalized on the strengths of each lead character. However, as with everything in this game, the awesome concept turned sour very fast.

The game’s four campaigns are led by four main protagonists: Chris Redfield, whose campaign is the action shooter; Leon Kennedy, the lead in the horror film scenario; Ada Wong, in what is meant to be the spy thriller portion; and Jake Muller, the superhero that RE4 almost turned Leon into.

It’s hard to accurately describe the poorly executed and convoluted narrative of RE6. Starting in 2012, about 4 years after RE5, Jake (son of Albert Wesker) partners with D.S.O. agent Sherry Birkin (yes, *that* Sherry Birkin from RE2 has gotten yet another acronym!) to escape Edonia (and the hulking Ustanak bio-weapon hunting him) in order to help synthesize a vaccine for the new C-Virus. Chris Redfield and his strike team member Piers Nivans are in the area fighting the local populace when Neo-Umbrella forces led by a woman calling herself Ada Wong attack them. She kills the B.S.A.A. team, leaving Chris and Piers alive. Chris goes into hiding with amnesia, and Sherry and Jake are captured. Now we jump forward to 2013! The United States President is attempting to finally let the world know what Umbrella was up to and what the US Government knew about the original Raccoon City incident. HOWEVER! The town of Tall Oaks is hit by a bio-terror attack, and the President is infected. Leon Kennedy teams up with Secret Service agent Helena Harper, killing the president and running back into old pal Ada Wong. She tells them who is responsible for the attack, and Leon pursues him to China. Jake and Sherry, conveniently already in China, escape as all this is happening. Even more conveniently, Chris Redfield returns to duty and is sent to the same town in China with Piers. Chris hunts “Ada” and is stopped when Leon reveals that it was an impostor that killed Chris’ team in 2012. The narratives at this point tie themselves so tightly into each other that it can be summed up like this: the group all stop a potential huge bio-terror attack,  destroy an underground base (along with the Ustanak monster chasing them), and confront the final boss in the form of “impostor Ada” who mutates with a powerful does of C-Virus. “Impostor Ada” is killed, her lab of origin destroyed, and the teams go off their own ways to continue their jobs, and Jake decides to go be a superhero in underdeveloped countries fighting bio-organic weapons (called B.O.W.s in the games but honestly these acronyms are killing me).

Before I shit all over this game again, I will go over some positives. They tried hard to have a cool concept of multiple lead characters in multiple campaigns all tied together. I really liked the idea of using these characters to set the tone for their campaigns by playing on the strengths of the games they were previously in. I will never fault developers for wanting to take a step forward and move their franchise in a new direction, and they clearly tried. A real focus on movement and fluidity was noticeable in the control scheme changes, and it helped the game play a little easier than previous installments. Each area felt unique and well designed, and the lighting and sound were excellent. Even the creature designs were good, moving away from the horrible tentacle monsters of RE5, back to a more zombie-like enemy. Leon’s campaign was the best, being the closest thing to classic Resident Evil horror, and I’d be lying if I claimed that his portion of the game wasn’t good.

But now the bad.

Let’s start with Ada’s campaign. It was such an afterthought that she was the only one originally without a partner. A partner was later patched in, called Agent (I am not kidding) and was unable to interact with anything. He also disappeared during cutscenes. Jake’s campaign was incredibly boring and unmemorable, taking that “cool guy” idea from the original RE4 development and absolutely ruining it. Chris, however, was the most disappointing. His section of the game boiled down to a below-average third person shooter with the most cheesy and stupid cutscene dialogue I’ve seen in a supposedly serious game. Chris could never be confused for anything other than a meathead soldier, but I was hoping for more than what I got.

Really, the worst part of the game is that it is too ambitious for what it can deliver. I appreciate the focus on movement and fluidity, and I love the idea of trying to have multiple campaigns. But when the movement and controls essentially give you exactly one way to play (run and gun, baby, WOO), it hurts more than it hinders. When the campaigns become too convoluted and intertwined to make sense, then you have a problem. Also, most reviewers labeled RE6 a third person shooter and nothing else.

These failures and all the backlash over the underwhelming game almost killed the franchise. It sold well, but it seems like most of the sales came form the first few days of release, before anyone tried to play the game. Fans were vocally unhappy. Ultimately, it led to a soft reboot that matched the original game in terms of impact on the franchise. So thanks, Resident Evil 6!

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017)

I admittedly did not play RE7 before this year. I played the demo, which I loved, but RE6 had dulled my enthusiasm for Resident Evil games. That plus a focus on other things in my life led me to overlook this gem of a game.

Inspired by The Evil Dead, the entire narrative is scaled back to a single location and a small cast of characters. The player controls Ethan Winters as he searches for his long lost wife in a plantation occupied by a family infected with some unknown virus. RE7 is the first game in the RE series to use a first person view and it is used to perfection. The Baker family, the residents of the plantation, relentlessly pursue you as you try to simultaneously find your wife and then escape with your life. You find your wife, Mia, held captive in the house, and Zoe Baker, daughter of patriarch Jack who wants to help you. Zoe tells you that Mia and the whole Baker family are infected and can be cured with a special serum. After a boss fight, you must choose to cure Zoe or your wife with the serum. The story differs drastically depending on who you choose, but canonically Ethan chooses to save his wife. You find out some interesting things about Mia and how she got there in the first place – I will not spoil it if you still want to play the game. It’s a fantastic story. Anyway, as with the other games, you will eventually find a lab, have some boss fights (including a heavily mutated creature), and meet up with an old friend! This time it’s Chris Redfield, extracting Ethan in a helicopter branded with the Umbrella Corporation logo. DUN DUN DUNNNNN!

The Not a Hero DLC explains what Chris is doing there and why he’s with Umbrella. It’s apparently been re-formed as Blue Umbrella (I wonder if that’s going to be important in the future), and they send him to apprehend Lucas Baker, son of Jack, and uncover evidence of a new bioweapon. This all takes place during the main story campaign. The second DLC, End of Zoe, takes place after Ethan canonically decides to save his wife, detailing how Zoe and her uncle Joe help find her a cure and survive the creatures chasing them.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is spectacular in that it not only goes back to the Resident Evil horror roots, but it takes the series forward in giant leaps and bounds. The tense, confined, claustrophobic atmosphere is back. The limited inventory space returns and limited saves are also back, based on the difficulty. What’s different now is what really sets it apart from the rest of the franchise. While you spend various sections of the game running from the Baker family, you can either incapacitate them with combat, run away, or use stealth to avoid it altogether. The narrative shift based on the choice you make between Mia and Zoe is more meaningful than just “who survives” ending of the early games. It completely changes how the latter portion of the game plays out.

Returning to its horror roots is where RE7 really shines. Yes, there is plenty of action, but it is all rooted in self-defense, not taking the fight to the zombies. In many ways, the game felt like playing through a Resident Evil-style modern retelling of The Evil Dead, the film that I mentioned was a direct influence on the game. The pacing keeps you moving from area to area, always worried about what’s going to pop out next. You always felt able to defend yourself and yet you were always worried that you couldn’t. Jump scares are usually cheesy ways to create tension, and yet the unpredictable nature of the scares felt organic and real. The sound design only added to the horror. As with previous games, the house itself was a character, with its creaking and groaning and puzzles to solve. You want to explore but you are terrified of what you will find.

Honestly, I’m mad at myself for not playing it sooner, but I am also glad to experience it for the first time just a couple weeks before the release of Resident Evil Village.

Resident Evil Village (2021)

We will end this look back with a hopeful look forward. Set a few years after the events of RE7, Village drops Ethan into a mysterious European village ruled by multiple mutant lords. The trailers and demos have looked awesome. Yes, the internet is smitten with Lady Dimitrsecu and her vampire gals. I get it. Their looks have inspired countless cosplays and are once again turning Resident Evil into a cultural phenomenon. However, the mutant lords answer to the major antagonist, Mother Miranda, and her portraits found in the demos make her look imposing and more terrifying than any villain we’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to get a look at this game, and I will likely be streaming it over on Twitch for anyone who wants to join me.

Let me know what your favorite Resident Evil games are, and why. Also go ahead and find me on Twitter and Twitch (I will start streaming again, I swear). For something a little more relaxing, go see Brett’s list of his picks for most relaxing video game music.

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