Resident Evil, also known in Japan as Biohazard, is a game series that simultaneously conceived the genre of survival horror and popularized the Playstation console in such a way that it quickly became a staple title. It’s an old friend to billions of fans around the world (including myself) who recognize it as the first real zombie game.
Before 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead 0r any countless number of comics, films and other mediums dedicated to the zombie genre — Resident Evil paved the way with it’s iconic characters, detailed backstory and challenging puzzle-style progression in-game.
I remember watching my older brother play earlier titles religiously; solving puzzles, beating tough virus-ridden bosses, fight off various zombified dobermans that smash through windows and crows. It wasn’t until I turned sixteen that I had my own chance at beating the second game and truly falling in love with it to the point that I didn’t mind losing sleep out of fear of being eaten alive after playing for hours at a time. Side effect.
The execution of the overlying theme/idea in earlier Resident Evil games drew me in immediately. The evil pharmaceutical company Umbrella Corp’s deadly experimentation with the T-virus causing destruction and chaos in Raccoon city before spreading to devastate the world. Resident Evil was known in it’s earlier days for it’s spin-tingling atmosphere, the terrifying monsters, the vulnerability players are forced into when counting their sparse inventories, the dread of running out of bullets or plants to use nearly always present. That, is the series I know and love as the best.
I don’t know about everyone else but the last installment that made me feel all those things was Resident Evil 4. Following the 4th installment I felt the rapid decline of the true claustrophobic fear and panic that Resident Evil games were known to induce. Resident Evil 4 leaned more towards a thrilling action tale with the dreamy Leon Kennedy (Did I say dreamy out loud?) on a quest to save the president’s daughter from a religious cult in Spain. It was, dare I say it….fun. But then the fun continued with Resident Evil 5, further distancing the series from it’s roots and eventually Resident Evil 6 became a good idea with its measly campaigns and hyped up co-op feature. I barely made it through Leon’s storyline (the first one) before I called it quits.
It was at that point that I mourned the death of one of my favorite game series. 4 years later Resident Evil 7 was announced at E3 2016 with a trailer that gave me goosebumps all over (might have been the cockroaches and maggots from the trailer…) and and I felt like jumping up and down and screaming, Yes! It’s Back! Of course I was immediately concerned I’d made the mistake of assuming Resident Evil 7 would be a tribute of the good old days. After all, both the trailer and subsequent demo were in first person and one of the best traits of the early games to me was the fact that third person was a norm for the series.
Looking back on it, there was no reason to fret. Resident Evil 7 was not only meant to revitalize it’s fanbase, but to remind them of it’s tendency to break new ground. The game would be released on VR as well as PS4, not unlike how it popularized the original Playstation at it’s inception, Resident Evil 7 showed that a new type of technology could revolutionize how we gamed. Again. (Also, how to break said technology out of fear… poor headsets).
Resident Evil 7 meshed the demands of an advanced gaming environment that exists today, with the dread and giddy disgustion we love and crave, serving as trademarks of it’s earliest releases. The hasty pace of the story and confined setting gave the feeling of being watched in false seclusion, like every rusty or creak as you walked (or often limped) along was a taunt by an unseen threat just outside your view. Often I found myself physically tensing when turning directions or entering a new hallway or room, half expecting something to jump out at me. Luckily I can retreat to a golden-hued safe room, store my items in a box and save my progress with an antique recorder to proceed at a point when my nerves aren’t shot.
Though I love the latest installment in the Resident Evil series I noticed a few minor improvements or clarifications it wouldn’t hurt ol’ Capcom to look over.
#1: Mia & Ethan Can’t Be Married
This actually is a bigger fault with the general backstory overall but the legitimacy of Mia and Ethan’s close, marital relationship specifically leaves me doubtful. To the point that I actually pretend that they don’t know each other and Ethan just happened to run into a mutated hillbilly family in rural Louisiana and that’s the end of that. Perhaps it’s the way they treat each other like old college roommates when they reunite in a basement cell after years of separation. No tearful embraces or heartwarming moments between these two lovebirds, no sir. Actually I’m even more confused as to why Ethan would go out alone, in the middle of nowhere with no backup after Mia supposedly emails him after missing for 3 years under mysterious circumstances, which leads me to point 2.
#2: Why is Ethan Himself?
This is related to the first point of Mia and Ethan being weird but mostly centers around Ethan being the stranger of the two. I know he’s the protagonist but I witness him (mostly, since I peek out from between my fingers) his arm getting sawed off, being shot at, stabbed, burned and harboring various other fatal injuries without so much as a whimper. He witnesses without a doubt the most gruesome, terrifying things; from a thousand centipedes swarming every surface surrounding him to murderous wasps bursting out from under the hillbilly mother’s skirts, specifically her nether region. He’s meant to be perceived as a normal guy who rises to the occasion when trapped on a swampy farm with monsters but I just don’t feel comfortable with his apparent passiveness as a character. (Maybe I wouldn’t complain if I played the VR version and Ethan screamed bloody murder every other minute, likely leading me to black out from filling in one of the few missing game elements that developers purposefully withheld to spare gamers from that very fate).
Let me know your opinion on the latest installment of the Resident Evil series in the comment section below. How do you feel about Mia and Ethan’s relationship? Do you agree or disagree with mine? I’m sure there are different opinions on which title truly caused a shift in the series style, or if there was even a shift at all. I’d love to hear any and all.