My Experience with Resident Evil 7

I know, I know. I’m sorry. Unfortunately, my time is extremely limited what with me working on other creative projects through this second lockdown that will hopefully keep me financially stable in the new year. However, in my moments of spare time, I found it within myself to do something that at one time I swore I would never do.

Those of you with really long memories will remember that a few months ago (during the first lockdown), I made a video showcasing my top tips for getting through ‘Resident Evil 4’ and at the end, I spoke about ‘Resident Evil 7’ and how I didn’t like it because I didn’t like the idea of not being able to defend myself. I even attempted a YouTube playthrough for my gaming channel but stopped about an hour in because I misplaced my big girl pants. Well, now I’ve bought a new pair (in a bigger size) and am proud to say that I have now completed my first playthrough of ‘Resident Evil 7’… (on easy mode, still a sissy)… so what’s the plot?

I could sit here and explain the entire tangled backstory to ‘Resident Evil’ but it’s largely pointless because A, if you’re reading this then you’re already an RE fan and have finished ‘RE7’ and B, ‘RE7’ *almost* doesn’t follow the established canon or even *mostly* associate itself with the universe and some could argue that was a huge draw for the audience and why ‘RE7’ has been (arguably) the most successful instalment since ‘RE4’.

Instead of playing as an already well known RE character, the player takes control of Ethan Winters, a man who arrives at the Baker Farm in Dulvey, Louisiana after being told to by his estranged wife, Mia who has been missing and presumed dead by Ethan. When he arrives at the decrepit manor, it’s not long before he finds Mia but instead of a romantic reunion, she develops a monstrous personality with a swollen, veiny face and an exceptional regeneration ability. She also can go from ‘murderous’ to ‘apologetic’ after only a few strikes with a massive knife… then screwdriver…. then chainsaw, otherwise known as the ‘Resident Evil Escalation’.

Even after losing a hand and shooting his wife in the face over and over again, Ethan remains undeterred in finding and curing his wife, even if that means sneaking around a family of deranged southerners.

‘Resident Evil’ has a habit of redeeming themselves after they fuck up and they’ve been doing it quite reliably for over twenty years. The first was with ‘Resident Evil 4’ after the series fell into some bad habits by just merely going through the motions and then ‘RE4’ flipped the motions like a table and came with the most ‘balls to the wall’ action gameplay and as many set pieces as they could get away with (they let you suplex cultists) whilst also being super campy and hilariously written. After the massive disappointment that was ‘Resident Evil 6’, we all knew that if there were to be another game, Capcom would have to do something pretty extreme to make up for what was essentially a 20 hour ‘whoopsie’. This was 2013.

Then in 2014, Konami released ‘P.T.’ or ‘Playable Teaser’ which was basically an hour long affair about a first person protagonist circling an ever repeating hallway as their environment became more and more spooky and then occasionally a scary woman would jump out and go ‘BOO!’. Or at least that’s what I gleamed from the ‘Let’s Play’ that I saw of it because I wasn’t going to play the bloody thing.

The point is that once the player had completed an absurd checklist, it was revealed that ‘P.T.’ was actually a demo for ‘Silent Hills’ and would feature Norman Reedus. However, once ‘P.T.’ director Hideo Kojima and his team parted ways with Konami in 2015, Konami decided to cancel ‘Silent Hills’ and then remove ‘P.T.’ from the PlayStation store. Norman Reedus would stay with Kojima and star in ‘Death Stranding’ which I didn’t play because it looked like a whole lot of nothing.

Fast forward to E3 2015 and another ‘Playable Teaser’ starts doing the rounds. This teaser, dubbed ‘KI7CHEN’ was about a spooky house where spooky things happened and was passed off as a demo for Sony’s upcoming VR headset, ‘Project Morpheus’ but was also secretly a demo for the new game engine developed by Capcom (RE Engine) and Resident Evil 7 itself which would be the debut title for the engine. The same game engine would go on to house the ‘Resident Evil 2&3MAKE’ along with ‘Devil May Cry 5’.

Fast forward again to E3 2016 Press Conference and in front of an auditorium full of fans, gamers and the gaming press plus a live stream of viewers watching online, it’s Capcom’s turn to impress as they reveal all along that the KI7CHEN demo was just a taster of ‘Resident Evil 7’ and it got a lot of people very excited as it appeared to be such a drastic change for ‘Resident Evil’.

Just in the way this article is structured, it may read like I’ve implied that Capcom took advantage of the cancellation of ‘P.T.’ and created something very much like it only to slap their most established and again ailing franchise name onto it to ensure that it sells more copies. It would be fair to assume that because that’s basically what everyone else thought and Capcom has denied not only ripping off ‘P.T.’ but also that people who worked on ‘P.T.’ did not work on ‘RE7’.

Fast forward again to about two weeks ago when I picked up the game for around £5 in the Steam sales despite buying it at full price on my PS4 when it came out three years ago. I did this because I remember not being very good at aiming with my controller and somehow aiming with a mouse would make the game easier. Did it help? A bit.

The reason why I initially stopped playing RE7 in the first place is because the first few hours is everything that I hate about horror games and when I say ‘horror games’ I mean games like ‘Outlast’ and ‘Soma’ where I can’t defend myself, only hide. Yes, you do get a gun in ‘RE7’, but it doesn’t do diddly jack shit to Daddy Jack Baker unless in the designated boss fight areas. Sure, you can put him down temporarily, but you can only do this once and so choosing the moment is what is called for.

The bit that I really wasn’t looking forward to was the bit after the dinner with the Bakers when you have to sneak around Jack and take the Hatch key to escape. Shamefully, at 26 years of age, I genuinely asked my mum to sit with me so I had a kind, warm presence beside me when I did this part again because I was haunted by the first time I played it when Jack caught me and cut Ethan’s leg off with a shovel. Fortunately, that didn’t happen this time and I escaped. I could carry on alone after that and could probably do it again on a more ‘grown-up’ difficulty but as someone who is allergic to being chased, I wanted my Mummy. Sue me.

Now that I think about it, the first few sections feel very ‘set-piecey’. I would say that’s the case for the opening section in the guest house with Mia. You’re tasked with finding the fuse to power the button for the stairs that will lead to the outside and all the encounters with Mia are nothing more than a mini cutscene and QTE to get past before she does something horrible to you. Granted, you don’t know that you’re not in any fatal danger. Wandering around the darkened guest house masterfully creates a dark and spooky atmosphere and the lack of any sounds from anything gives the impression that something is ready to jump out at you at any moment. Even playing it for the second time and knowing that nothing bad is going to happen until I find Mia, my surroundings and the atmosphere kept me on edge.

Even the first boss fight with Jack in the Garage has definite ‘set-piece’ vibes. Once Jack kills the deputy, you quickly grab his gun, the car key on the table and as soon as you’re in the car and have Jack in the right spot, the boss fight is pretty much over. There’s nothing else for the player to do. You can get through the boss fight without firing a single bullet.

I could even make the argument that there’s very little in terms of ‘organic’ stalking in getting the hatch key because there’s not enough space to properly evade Jack on your first run. Maybe on easy because the AI is tuned down to have a more difficult time spotting you but on normal, it’s tricky. The most common strategy (and the one that I used because fuck stealth) is to run for the key as soon as you see Jack, tank and damage from him and leg it straight for the hatch. When you break free from your restraints, you’re not in any immediate danger until you leave the dining room and turn the corner, basically until you see Jack, then the ‘stealth’ begins.

The next moment is when you find the wooden statuette in the bath and Jack returns after seemingly dying by blowing his own brains out with your gun. The regeneration ability is not new in Resident Evil and in fact, the constant return of defeated boss characters is something that pissed off players in ‘RE6’ but in this game, it feels differently because the characterisation and presentation is totally different. It doesn’t feel like the constantly regenerating boss is there because it’s standard for a ‘Resident Evil’ game but rather because it’s in the context of the story.

Instead of the ‘Alphabet Virus’ of which the letters ‘T,G,C and A’ have already been claimed, the ‘affliction’ taking hold of Mia and the Bakers isn’t straight up related to any letter of any virus or even directly related to Umbrella or it’s derivatives. Instead, it’s some kind of mold but what I will say is that there is the same problem of the abilities of the infected being inconsistent from creature to creature. It’s possible for the named Boss characters to have limitless regeneration but the standard gob monsters who are a visual representation of the infection can be taken down in a few well-placed headshots.

I would like to say that I’m well aware that in the ‘Not a Hero’ DLC, there are Molded that are impervious to regular ammo and need special ammo to be taken down but at the moment, I’m just talking about vanilla ‘RE7’.

Another tense moment for me was getting the shotgun. The chase after the wooden statuette was pretty simple, I just ran straight for the plinth and did the puzzle super quick and didn’t have any more problems with Jack. Also, those Molded can fuck you up really easily. I went into the basement with about 70 handgun bullets and came back out with roughly 20 and more than a few depleted health kits. More to the point, when you get the Scorpion Key from the basement, it’s time to go back into the Main House and retrieve the Broken Shotgun from Grandma’s Room on the first floor to replace the real shotgun in the statue on the ground floor, a puzzle that mirrors the method of getting the shotgun in the original game. One problem, there’s a crazy regenerating Southerner with a variation of sharp things on the end of a big stick and he’s really wants to make friends.

As soon as I went through the first Scorpion door and into the main hall, My Boy Jack came through the door from the dining room and chased my upstairs but I lost him on the way to Grandma’s room. This is where I fucked up. What I should have done is gone out the way I came along the balcony as the door to the main hall is just on the left but what I actually did was leave through the door in the recreation room and out into the hall where Daddy Jack was waiting for me and gave me the business with his big sharp stick. I ended up dropping down the broken staircase and into the hall next to the dining room where I was hoping that Jack had despawned and I could get the shotgun in peace. What actually happened was Jack spawned in the Hatch room and burst through the wall which achieved two things. 1, making me scream like a bitch and 2, pulling out my pistol and putting 4 bullets in his head which did the job really because it put Jack out of commission long enough for me to get the shotgun and make my way down to the dissection room for the boss fight. I got through the boss fight and I was so happy that I had overcome my fears. All I knew about the game led me up to the chainsaw fight with Jack and to the trailer outside but after Jack’s top half explodes, I was so happy to explore the house freely.

Although I was so happy to have defeated Jack (for now), it’s not the only ‘stalky’ section of the game because his wife, Marguerite has her own section as well. However, I was not in the mood and upon some research, there’s something you can do about it. After you go through the fire place and down to the basement where there is the little cutscene with Mia and she’s grabbed by Lucas. When you return to the ground floor and try to go through the door to your right, Marguerite will be there to swear at you and tell you to go away. That is the start of her turn to stalk the area however, if you burn off the spiders she puts on the door, head through the door and through the door on the left, Marguerite will be there and attack you. If you face Marguerite and do enough damage (if you have the ammo to spare) she will chuck you to the ground and then piss off until your first boss fight with her. Not only do you get an achievement, but Marguerite leaves you alone and you can explore the house in peace.

That is until you grab the Crow Key and make your way to the second floor. This is the part it begins to feel more like a ‘Resident Evil’ game in terms of the boss fights. Scary, contorted creatures with a large, glowing weak spot and the strategy tends to be ‘shoot and dodge’. That’s definitely the case with Marguerite’s second fight in which the only strategy is to shoot her and dodge her attacks. I will give it to ‘RE7’, Marguerite’s second form is quite creepy.

I’ll be honest, the rest of the game isn’t that scary. There are moments when the atmosphere is pant-wetting but overall, once the stalking is out the way, the only combat you’ll see is The Molded and their worst trait is being annoying since they like lunging at you and tearing chunks off your health.

I did enjoy the story and more than I usually would with a ‘Resident Evil’ game. Normally, the plot is only there to set up the action and then the gameplay takes over but in ‘RE7’, the plot takes some time in setting up the context of why we’re all here and what we’re doing. For the first few hours, it seems like we’re searching for our missing wife and these crazy southerners are the bad guys and culprits in all this but by the end, that notion and assumption is flipped on its head.

All the way through the game, Ethan is ‘assisted’ by the Baker’s daughter, Zoe who is infected but still has control over her body. She knows how to cure both herself and Mia but she needs Ethan’s help in getting the ingredients which is Ethan’s task whilst taking on Marguerite and navigating Lucas’s traps. Once Ethan retrieves the ingredients and scares off Lucas (he’s someone else’s problem now) so Zoe can make two syringes filled with the cure, Ethan has one final battle with Jack who is unrecognisable but more recognisable as a Resident Evil boss. To properly defeat Jack, Ethan has to use one of the syringes prepared by Zoe which totally destroys Jack’s infection and kills him for good. However, this poses a problem, now there’s only one syringe and two people to cure. Ethan must choose to either cure his wife who has done nothing but viciously assault him and reduce his number of functioning limbs whilst also lying to him about her life and occupation which ultimately put both of them in mortal danger, or he can cure Zoe who helped him escape from the house and led him to an escape albeit having her own interests at the heart of her actions. Hmm? Tricky choice.

Spoiler alert, the choice doesn’t really matter or impact the game in any way. All it impacts is a few cutscenes.

You’re meant to cure Mia which rightly upsets Zoe who pretty much pushes Ethan and Mia into a boat and away but Ethan promises to send help for her. Once Ethan and Mia leave the swamp, that is when we learn the identity of the true villain and the real reason why we’re all here.

Especially with ‘RE 4, 5 & 6’, the plot has ended up being a dick or dicks trying to spread a virus all over the world but at the end of ‘RE7’, it’s about a girl wanting a family. The girl in question, Eveline, was a genetically engineered human developed by ‘The Connections’, a group who I can only guess as being the new Umbrella Corporation but more secret. They do develop bioweapons to sell but Eveline proved to be a breakthrough since her ability to end battles through mind control rendered all convention weapons, bio or otherwise, totally useless.  

By the way, the ‘ingredients’ that I mentioned earlier to make the cure were the head and arm of two of the eight previous ‘D-Type’ bioweapons who were also genetically engineered humans. Just like Eveline, they were genetically altered in the embryonic stage and then had their age accelerated to resemble the appearance of a 10-year-old girl. These girls were created to infiltrate cities whilst posing as lost children or refugees. However, all the D-Types died, and the project considered a failure.

Eveline was somewhat of a success but that also meant that she was in danger from other factions and one faction in particular (I’ll speak about that soon) and so it was decided that Eveline should go into hiding.

For me, this is where things get a little bit confusing. All the way through the plot, Mia can’t remember what happened to her, either of the two videos that she sent to Ethan or even sending the email that called him to the Baker Farm. As Mia and Ethan are on the boat and leaving the swamp, they come across a shipwreck. Moments later, their boat is attacked by the mold and the two end up beside the shipwreck and Ethan is taken by the mold. For now, we are playing as Mia and we see how she ended up with the Bakers.

Mia was an operative who worked for The Connections and she along with another guy called Alan were escorting Eveline to another lab whilst posing as a family. However, possibly due to the violent hurricane, Eveline escapes their care and begins producing the mold monsters and infecting the crew. When Mia goes in pursuit, Eveline makes it clear that she wants a family and wants Mia to be her mother. Just before the ship is somehow ripped apart by the storm (I suspect Eveline played a part in that also), Alan is killed by Eveline and Mia is infected. Then the boat is ripped apart and both Mia and Eveline fall into the water.

It’s explored more in one of the DLC’s but the Bakers were actually really nice people who found Mia and Eveline washed up on the shore and gave them shelter. However, the didn’t know who they’d let in with Mia already compromised and Eveline the source of it all. Eveline infected and took over the Bakers, manipulating them into kidnapping tourists and homeless people to add to their family but not everyone survived the infection.

The one person who resisted Eveline (for a short time) was Lucas Baker. Even prior to infection, Lucas was seen to be the most mentally unstable but was also highly intelligent. Isn’t that the basic trait of a Resident Evil villain? Highly intelligent and mentally unstable. Lucas worked for The Connections and they provided him with a serum that allowed him to resist Eveline’s manipulation and in exchange, he had to spy on his family and work in a lab near the farm. In the end, Lucas betrayed The Connection, locking the scientists in a room with the Molded where they were killed and Lucas could take and sell the data for himself. This storyline gets wrapped up in the ‘Not a Hero’ DLC.

Back to the point.

Mia finds Ethan encased in Mold where he has a hallucination of the real and nice Jack Baker where he begs Ethan to free his family. Ethan is freed my Mia who has once again seemingly fallen under Eveline’s influence but before she leaves him, she gives him a small vial containing Eveline’s tissue samples which can be used to craft the Necrotoxin which will kill Eveline.

Ethan succeeds in both crafting the Necrotoxin and finding Eveline in the guest house where the game began, and Eveline tries to stop Ethan by throwing hallucinations of his infected wife at him.

And this is the twist.

When Ethan reaches the attic and injects Eveline with the Necrotoxin, he removes the needle to show that ‘Eveline’ is actually ‘Grandma Baker’ or the old lady in the wheelchair who pops up every now and again through Ethan’s journey. She is first seen at the ‘family dinner’ and never acknowledged by any of the other characters. ‘Child Eveline’ is merely a hallucination that she projects.

But that’s not the last surprise.

Just before Ethan enters the salt mines to prepare for the final confrontation with Eveline, he overhears a radio communication between two military personnel and not soon after finding some paperwork on ‘Blue Umbrella’.

Well, if this isn’t confusing, I don’t know what is.

‘Blue Umbrella’ are an ‘Anti-Umbrella’ group who were formulated to undo all the terrible actions committed by the original Umbrella which is was I thought the B.S.A.A. was for. Well, when confronts Eveline’s final mutated form and begins to be on the losing side as he gets the shit whipped out of him, a crate falls from the sky containing a special gun and Ethan gets a call on his smart-watch telling him to use it which of course mirrors the Tyrant battle at the end of the original ‘Resident Evil’. After Eveline is killed, a helicopter hovers overhead and soldiers drop down to the ground. Just as we’re wondering who these guys are, a soldier approaches Ethan, removes his helmet and OH MY GOD! IT’S CHRIS REDFIELD! A significantly younger Chris who is not yet in his ‘boulder punching’ form but for all intents and purposes, it’s Chris and I suppose there’s no better way to properly connect this game to the ‘Resident Evil’ franchise.

Chris also appears again at the end of the ‘End of Zoe’ DLC where he rescues Zoe and then contacts Ethan and puts him on the phone with Zoe where he fulfils his promise that he would send help for her.

Side note – If Ethan cures Zoe, then Eveline kills Zoe by encasing her in mold while she’s in the boat with Ethan and the whole section where you play as Mia plays out as normal… somehow. After Mia pulls Ethan from the mold, she falls under Eveline’s influence once again, attacking Ethan and he is forced to kill her with her crowbar, her dying words are begging Ethan to kill Eveline. The ending cutscene is also different as Mia isn’t found and rescued by Blue Umbrella.

So, yeah. Overall, I’m really happy that I decided to be brave and stuck it out to the end. I wouldn’t have been happy with myself if I didn’t eventually do it. I liked the little nods to previous games and all the in-jokes/references to other franchises. It felt a lot like the original ‘Resident Evil’ but in a modern era, it felt a lot tighter and if that was the intention then, well done.

I have also played through the ‘Not a Hero’ DLC where you play as Chris and go after Lucas Baker which I would recommend just to finish the whole story but the gameplay wasn’t as good as the base game. I would say that it felt more ‘military’ than playing as Ethan who was just a normal dude. A normal dude who could shoot straight but…

I, just like all the fans of this game, am excited for he upcoming ‘Resident Evil Village’ and I know there’s some speculation of the intentions of Chris’s character. I watched the trailer when it came out and what I will say is that I don’t think we all saw what we saw… if that makes sense. We saw Chris shoot a person that looks like Mia and Ethan reacting in distress. It looks like Chris is now the bad guy, but I don’t think that’s the case. We know that this will be Ethan’s last game. I feel that Chris being the villain is too big of a revelation to be the last shot of a reveal trailer. I personally would take that with a pinch of salt.

I don’t know, I think that fans would be seriously pissed off if ‘Village’ pulled a ‘The Last of Us Part Two’ where an established and beloved character is flipped into the bad guy just for the sake of drama. Or if the bad guy did a shitty thing that pissed off a lot of fans and then we had to play as the bad guy? I still haven’t bought ‘The Last of Us Part Two’ but I fucking knew they’d pull some bullshit like that. I saw it even before the leaks. I understand you don’t want to make the same game twice, but I don’t think anybody really thought about how many people would be pissed off by that. Or they did know and didn’t care. Either way, it’s not right. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, I really hope ‘Village’ doesn’t do all the things above.

But this is Capcom we’re talking about. With the franchise now on its 8th instalment and they’re being shady about it in the same way and older person lies about their age in their dating profile, somehow, I don’t think they’d risk it. Maybe this is all bollocks and if a mutated Chris Redfield is the final boss, then I will be the first person on here to shout, ‘WHAT THE FUCK!’

For now, my brother bought me the ‘Resident Evil 2Make’ at my request when it came out almost two years ago and I stopped playing the moment I found out Mr X was in it. It’s time for me to once again put on my big girl pants and suck it up… I wonder what my Mum is up to.

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