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Resident Evil 7 is Pretty Okay

Resident Evil 7

  Well, Resident Evil 7 has been released and a lot of people are having orgasms (metaphorically (kinda)) over how it’s the bestest-ever Resi game since that one you, specifically, did not like very much. I have also played RE7 to rich (sorta), satisfying(ish) completion and found it to be largely inoffensive and, in some moments, kind of fun. In all, there are worse ways to fritter away ten hours of your time as the world turns into an unrecognizable hellscape.

I mean, you're basically just speeding up the process by playing, really.
I mean, you're basically just speeding up the process by playing, really.

  The plot, while interesting early on, ends up getting Resident Evil all over it by the end, meaning that all of its potential just ends up being comfortably familiar. In other words, if you’re looking for something unnerving and new, you will not find it here. Because Capcom seems to have an unwillingness to venture into uncharted territory regarding their plots or white bread protagonists, even the one narrative shift/quasi-twist about two-thirds in is quickly backtracked and returns you to a boring REtread.

  Fuck you, I’m hilarious.

  Further, Resident Evil has always had a hard time actually being legitimately frightening. I feel that this is primarily due to the series’ singular obsession with combat; while this is probably the closest the series has ever gotten with making a protagonist powerless outside of the Outbreak games, I also did take down a miniboss with a knife on a lark. There was never a moment in the game where I felt truly at a disadvantage despite monsters’ veritable walls of health. Add a block move that seems to completely negate bosses’ most punishing attacks, and by the time the final beastie turned into yet another towering mass of oily tentacles, I was less scared and more annoyed: How do these things keep happening in this universe?

  What sticks in my craw the most about the presence of combat is the fact that I was hoping there was going to be an emphasis on stealth. I had played the demos enough to be under the impression that I was going to be doing a lot of sneaking about, exploring, and generally avoiding enemies rather than fighting them. Instead, at its heart, the game is much more like The Evil Within than I was led to believe; that isn’t to say that it’s particularly a bad thing, per se, but adjust your expectations accordingly.

  The thing is, even with the missed opportunities and ground so well-trod you can see fossils, I can’t really get too worked up one way or the other about it. Resident Evil 7 is competent and does at least suggest the series wasn’t killed quite as dead as RE6 made it appear. But that’s the thing: it is largely inoffensive at best and spends most of its runtime being an average first person shooter with a horror pastiche. Despite trying to, as the box art claims, be innovative…

I'm going to get a lot of mileage out of this claim.
I'm going to get a lot of mileage out of this claim.

… the reality is that this game is largely a remix of other ideas that have been done better elsewhere—or, at the very least, done within the series itself. In other words, just like Resident Evil 6 cheated off the homework of what was popular at the time, so too does this new entry. It’s just that this new entry manages to do it far more competently than the inept clusterfuck that was RE6.

  As such, I feel that it is my duty to suggest that if you absolutely must, buy Resident Evil 7, but you also wouldn’t go wrong trying these other games that do the same things, only better.

  Beware of minor spoilers or whatever.

First Person Shooting with Horror Aesthetic

Resident Evils What Done This Before: Survivor, Survivor 2, Dead Aim, The Umbrella Chronicles, The Darkside Chronicles

  Resident Evil 7 truly innovates by placing you in the first-person perspective of heroic white dude Ethan, as opposed to the four other times that the series did the exact same thing without people named Ethan. In keeping with the tradition, then, you will be utterly pleased to know that the generic gun range of stock RE weapons are pretty much all here. If I’m being generous, I guess I will concede it’s nice to have a non-shitty flamethrower in this series.

Maybe Try: DOOM 2016

It's like walking through a heavy metal album cover.
It's like walking through a heavy metal album cover.

  Run around as the Doom Slayer, a gentleman who uses a variety of weapons with a litany of add-ons to eviscerate big growly demons. Unlike RE7, DOOM understands that you can’t have horror and loud shooty bits. As such, they don’t bother with trying to make the monsters act like bad props in a cheap horror film when they can all just at you all menacing like. As such, it’s just you and an army of shrieking hell beasts that desperately need to get splattered.

  Also, too, the voice acting and lore is pretty sweet, and doesn’t include anyone shrieking “WHY DO YOU ALL HATE MEEEEEEEE” in what is nowhere near the shittiest writing or acting in Resident Evil history.

Resident Evil, but on a Boat

Resident Evils What Done This Before: 5, 6, Dead Aim, Revelations, Gaiden

  Someone really needs to tell the level planners for Resident Evil that they, and they alone, think that boats are some kind of fertile ground for horror shenanigans. Not because they’re wrong, but because they’ve done this now six fucking times now and have yet to get it right. I am a little conflicted about this, because the closest Resident Evil 7 gets to being truly fun is when you’re running around a cargo ship that’s on fire, but at that point I realized it was only fun because it was essentially Alien: Isolation with less tension and lower stakes.

  Because it’s a flashback in RE7, you see.

Maybe Try: Monstrum

Realistically, this is the only time hiding in a locker works on this particular monster.
Realistically, this is the only time hiding in a locker works on this particular monster.

  The indie game Monstrum for the PC is a neat, short horror game that puts you in the rubber wellies of an unnamed member of a cargo ship. Everyone else is dead, having been smushed dead by one of three possible supernatural threats: a big magma bastard, a bipedal translucent fish predator, or a psychic alien-thing. Your job is to not be murdered by whatever horrific whatsit is prowling the ship as you repair one of three escape vehicles.

  While it’s not perfect, the game does a pretty good job of environmental storytelling and requiring exploration of claustrophobic spaces. It also understands that, if you actually want to scare players, you have to make them powerless.

A Dull-as-Dishwater, Oddly Unflappable Protagonist

Resident Evils What Done This Before: Pretty much all of them, Katie

  Ethan is our borderline-palatable hero of the hour, doing boring white bread hero things in an effort to save his far more interesting wife from cannibal mutants. The game does start developing Ethan promisingly enough in that he reacts to the world around him with quiet horror, but after he murders his wife for the second time in ten minutes after having just lost his hand to a chainsaw, Ethan somehow unbakes himself into the boring, squishy dough that is the blight of way too many fictional works. It doesn’t help that he reiterates essentially the same one liner to evince his utter lack of qualifications for being a protagonist.

  See, if there had been an editor or qualified writer of any sort involved, they probably would have actually suggested that the story be about Mia, starting with her escape from captivity to send Ethan a message to stay away. She gets caught again, but manages to escape and begin the trial of fleeing the Baker estate, only to turn around and have to rescue Ethan because the knucklehead tries to rescue her. And hey, that way the heavily armed secret agent for the Umbrella Corporation or whatever is the star of the show and it makes sense as to why she’s proficient in firearms and YOU WOULD HAVE A GOOD FUCKING STORY.

  But no, instead we get Ethan, a man so pointlessly and hopelessly schmucky that he doesn’t seem to notice or care that his arm was stapled back on without the tiniest shred of complication.

  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the Resident Evil writers may not be the best at this whole “writing” thing.

Maybe Try: Bloodborne

Keep in mind, it is still a very serious game about very serious things.
Keep in mind, it is still a very serious game about very serious things.

  Look, if you’re going to have a protagonist just not react to things, that’s fine. If you’re going to have them be shocked, have them be consistent about it. Don’t try to walk between those points and expect a good outcome. So, really, if you are looking for a blank slate dipshit who approaches every conceivable horror with the same overwrought emotionality one associates with a fucking couch, just go whole hog and give Bloodborne a whirl.

Limited Ammo, Shoddy Targeting, and Twitchy Baddies

Resident Evils What Done This Before: 6, Gaiden, Operation Raccoon City

  Although I get the idea behind making guns inaccurate to help build tension, I feel that designers need to understand that enemy movement needs to complement that decision. Super twitchy enemies, like RE7’s Molded, lead to wasted bullets. This wouldn’t be a problem if:

  a) crafting bullets takes away supplies needed to craft other items, and

  b) the guns had any reliable stopping power whatsoever.

  This is made all the worse because, like most Resident Evil entries, it wants desperately to be a hardcore action game but also a super tense horror experience. Because of this, it seems to take a special joy in oversupplying you one moment only to spawn an enemy that will eat up all your ammo the next.

  And don’t even get me fucking started on the boobytrapped supply boxes at the end of the game that require you to either expend ammo or eat an explosion. Fuck the ass-faced cretin who came up with that.

Maybe Try: The Evil Within

No similarities at all. No sir.
No similarities at all. No sir.

  Limited ammo? Check. Shoddy targeting? Check. Twitchy baddies? Check!

  When Resident Evil 7 fires on all cylinders, it comes across like an unofficial sequel to The Evil Within, right down to its gross aesthetics and how its enemies bob and weave. The big difference is that with The Evil Within, there actually are mild stealth mechanics that are rewarding and offer some substantial tactical benefit. When shit goes down, too, the guns actually have enough stopping power to give you breathing room or reliably take out a foe. It’s like planning went into the combat instead of it being stapled on.

  I also prefer The Evil Within because it doesn’t really try to be horror as much as it tries (and succeeds) at being panicky, gross action. As such, it’s much more tonally consistent than anything the Resi series has put forth in years.

Enduring Hunters

Resident Evils What Done This Before: 2, 3, 6, Outbreak, Outbreak File 2, Gaiden

  Resident Evil probably didn’t pioneer the idea of a murderous fiend dogging your every step, what with Clock Tower debuting a year before the first RE game, but monsters like the green trenchcoat-clad Tyrant, Nemesis, and the terrifyingly aggressive zombies of Outbreak have definitely made a mark in many players’ minds. And while there has been much hype surrounding the Baker family and their pursuit of the player, I hate to be the bearer of bad news: it’s just two enemies, and only one of them is an active hunter unless you use a VHS tape to get some optional gameplay.

  And even then, Jack Baker is clearly meant to be put down rather than circumvented. He’s nearly as fast as you are and after taking enough bullshit hits, you’ll be compelled to drop him out of reciprocity more than desperation. Even if you wanted to avoid combat and hide like a proper protagonist in a horror situation, you aren’t given the most basic of distraction or hiding options—your choice is combat, combat, or combat.

  What I’m saying is that, for all the hype, the implementation just isn’t very good.

Maybe Try: Alien: Isolation

At this point, it's already smelled, heard, and seen you. So you're screwed.
At this point, it's already smelled, heard, and seen you. So you're screwed.

  Outside of being the only part of the Alien franchise outside of the first film that I recognize as canon, the game has the honor of mixing stealth, combat, and story in a way that, having gone completely through it no less than three times, I’m surprised by the xenomorph’s behavior every time. Your distraction tools are only truly effective the first few times, meaning you’re constantly in a position to second guess burning an item or waiting just a few moments longer to see if a clear path opens up. Most weapons serve to merely draw the alien’s attention, and even the flamethrower loses its effectiveness as a way to frighten the thing off as the game progresses.

  In other words, if you wanted Resident Evil 7 to be the intelligent, frightening stealth show I certainly thought it was going to be, you’re better off with Alien: Isolation.

Enemies Consisting of Glisteny Bullshit

Resident Evils What Done This Before: Zero, 2, 3, 5, 6, Outbreak

  I think we can all agree that Resident Evil’s monster designs have basically pointed toward the “incoherent bullshit” singularity, wherein all baddies end up looking like an incoherent mess of chewy, oily skin and possibly a vague human face, because “horror”. If you don’t agree with that, then you just haven’t been paying attention, considering that I think every main RE since Zero has had some variation of the “leechman”, right down to that foe’s doofy stretchy arms and pointless existence.

  I suppose it’s nice to know that Jared P. Taffyman is still getting work after Silent Hill 2.

Say what you will, he's the best glisteny-looking wad of ambulatory taffy in the business.
Say what you will, he's the best glisteny-looking wad of ambulatory taffy in the business.
Source 1, 2, 3, 4

Maybe Try: Dead Space

While technically this is Dead Space 2, I didn't want to fix my PS3 for one screencap.
While technically this is Dead Space 2, I didn't want to fix my PS3 for one screencap.

  Although the sequels are pretty resoundingly bad, the first Dead Space is a pretty atmospheric romp that manages to be startling and only slightly cribs its plot from System Shock 2 (in that it effectively is System Shock 2 without the rogue AI plot point). There’s more enemy variety, too, even if you’re probably used to what has long passed into stock-monster archetypes by now.

  At the end of the day, the towering final boss monster that picks up your character and dangles them in front of its slavering jaws blew my mind when I first played it, and Resident Evil 7’s impersonation of it is much less interesting.

An Ominous Girl/Woman

 Resident Evils What Done This Before: 2, 4, 5, 6, Code: Veronica, Survivor, Revelations 2

  Nothing says originality quite like the creepy girl/young woman who may or may not be evil and may or may not even really be there. By the time ominous and clearly evil girl shows up in RE7’s narrative, the opportunity to develop her as a character has been wasted having the player murder a shrieking bug woman instead and we’re left with the remaining three hours or so of half-assed exposition to do the heavy lifting.

  Now, to be entirely fair to RE7, the fact that they’re using basically using a psychic murder ghost as a plot point is at least kind of new territory for the series (until you realize she’s actually just Alexia Ashford from Code: Veronica with her ant super powers replaced with mold ones). I’m still going to say it’s not so much innovative as oddly reminiscent of F.E.A.R.’s Alma or Silent Hill’s Alessa. I mean, what’s a little borrowing between business rivals friends?

Maybe Try: Detention

The 'ignore it and it'll go away' approach in action.
The 'ignore it and it'll go away' approach in action.

  A relatively new game of the indie variety, to say too much is to spoil the journey that is Detention. Just like Resident Evil 7, it isn’t particularly scary, but it is disturbing and surreal in a way that makes the main character’s journey all the more engaging. Approach this game as a character study of a lonely soul and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Chris Redfield Makes an Appearance (Playable or Otherwise)

Resident Evils What Done This Before: 1, 2 (Dualshock Edition), 3, 5, 6, Umbrella Chronicles, Code: Veronica, REmake, Revelations

  For some reason, the developers of the series seem to think that Chris Redfield is an interesting enough character that he should make guest appearances as often as possible. Here’s the thing, though: he is boring. Even when they try to give him some kind of weird, thoroughly unconvincing martyr complex in 5 and 6 using rehashed plot points, he just ends up being boring and wildly inconsistent.

  I guess if you’re the kind of Chris Redfield fan that would cream yourself over his useless mug appearing for a few seconds (and promised free DLC, THIS SPRING!!!!!!1!), then are you in for a surprise, you lucky so-and-so.

  Or you would be if I hadn’t ruined it.

  Sorry.

Maybe Try: Marvel v. Capcom 3

No image for this game, but enjoy a dramatic re-enactment of trying to understand why anyone would choose that charcter in MvC3.
No image for this game, but enjoy a dramatic re-enactment of trying to understand why anyone would choose that charcter in MvC3.

  The best part about Chris Redfield’s guest appearance in this franchise is the fact that you are never required to play as him. Optionally, of course, you are free to pummel his ridiculous melon pecs into paste as one of the far more interesting characters populating the roster.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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