Somewhere in the bowels of a dilapidated guesthouse……

Bugger.
 
(Stares out from above the step)
 
Move you bastard, go somewhere else…..please?
 
(Nothing for 2 minutes, no opportunity to do anything, but then…a chance)
 
Good, now I just need to be quiet and it will all be fine.
 
(Creeps, nay eeks, forward)
 
Oh fuck!
 
(Steps back losing the ground gained in the previous 2 seconds of brave movement)
 
You know what? I like these stairs, they feed me safety. I feel nourished by their qualities of being stairs.
 
Yes, here is just fine…….
 
Crouching on these stairs leading down to a garage, I can poke my nose above the second from top step and see what is happening in the corridor at normal ground level.  
 
I am a fearless meerkat safe in my burrow in all but one way. 
 
I’m scared shitless…….
 
 
Explain stuff please
 
Before we , or rather I, waffle on let’s do a little disclaimer:
 
I have not finished this game yet, I’m about 4 hours in. Yes there is a chance this could all go tits up and turn into a festering maggoty decapitated head, the sort you may find the fridge of an unhinged lunatic, but as it currently stands I doubt it. I may be wrong but this is a ‘firstish impressions’ piece you see, not a review.
 
So let us don our helmets of many blue lights, our headphones of atmosphere and our tenna pants of bodily function collection.
 
Let us once again step into the world of survival horror.
In a minute anyway.
 
Resident Evil and me
 
Resident Evil, I’ve been there from day one. As a floppy haired teenager whose body was starting to fill out a little from underage drinking sessions I travelled with a friend to buy Resident Evil on the PlayStation.
24 hours later it was bested and a new gaming love had been born.
And yes all of the major entries in the series followed.
Much like the majority of opinions, from what I have heard, I loved the early games but started to tire after code Veronica.
My thirst was awakened by number 4 despite it being a very not traditional Resident Evil game.
Number 5 took that blueprint added the yellow to red end of the colour spectrum along with a dose of co-op play.
As enjoyable as they were, 5 really does get its balls kicked too hard, it did seem that Resident Evil had changed, never to go back.
No more mansions, no more dread and dare I say no more survival horror. As for zombies, they shuffled off into the sunset in favour of local people with flappy tentacle claw head things caused by ancient parasites…..er ok.
 
Number 6 arrived and that seemed to be that. We now had Gears of Evil. A straight shoot em up in many respects, well at least part of the game. 
The ongoing plot, that had been bubbling away since that incident in the Arklay mountains just outside of raccoon city, had become a horror/sci-if turd explosion of confusion and acronyms; S.T.A.R.S, B.A.A.S, R.S.P.C.B. We’d had the G-virus. The T-virus, T-Veronica virus, Chlamydia, Progenator virus etc.
 
I remember simpler times, when it was all about a science experiment gone wrong, those pesky Umbrella scientists and their virus mishaps. The scamps.
 
I remember when Wesker was just a naughty double crossing, cheese spouting ruffian. He then turned into the love child of what would have happened in the Matrix if Neo and Agent Smith, rather than punching each other repeatedly in the face, had instead gone behind the bike shed for a game of hide the sausage.
 
Poor old Chris Redfield went from stern but likeable Johnny template special police to something else. Somewhere along the line he decided protein was required in vast quantities. So in number 5 he rocked up with the upper body needed to crush mountains and donkey punch elephants.
 
Leon Kennedy also took the Chris Redfield root but with slightly less vascular worship. From petrified green rookie cop having a rather troubled first day at work he became a bulkier secret agent bodyguard. Oh and he could punch giant boulders into submission while having wonderfully fashionable hair.
 
 I could go on, but I wont. Safe to say that after 6 my hopes for Resident Evil 7 were around the same excitement levels as being presented with a dog shit pop tart.
 
Nevertheless it’s now here, and I’m playing it.
So
Finally
Let us once more step into the world of survival horror.
 
Resident EVII….Resident Evil Biohazard…or as the game title screen says Resident Evil 7
 
Let’s get a petty negative out of the way. This has no real bearing on the game itself but I did feel a little deflated for a few seconds. 
This game has been billed as a return to Resident Evils of yore, a step back to its survival horror roots but it does omit the first staple of the series. What happens when you press start on the menu screen. 
Past games, or at least all the previous ones this particular human sack has played, have always announced itself upon pressing start.
 
‘RESIDENT EEEVIL’ the game announces.
 
But not here, it’s gone. 
Like I said it has no bearing on what follows but I won’t pretend that I wasn’t a little disappointed to just be greeted by a loading screen and the intro. I miss the voice.
 
Anyhow, this isn’t a review so let’s break this game down, from what I have played so far, into sections like a review. Which this isn’t.
 
Once upon a time there was a Resident Evil
 
Stories are a pretty integral part of a game for me. I like a story, I like to be told an interesting yarn with characters and twists and turns. Now Resident Evil hasn’t ever been about a magnificent tale of wonder but in the start of the franchise it had enough b-movie plot scenarios that it perfectly matched the tone of the game. As we went through the sequels we had recurring characters we could grow to care about, in their own simple way, and a plot about evil cooperation and bio weapons. 
Yet this started to get lost up its own arse and become over complicated and frankly stupid. And if a plot about zombies and monsters starts to feel stupid then maybe it’s time to take a step back, breathe a little and start again.
And that is what has happened. Sort of.
 
In Resident Evil 7 you are cast as Ethan Winters, a man of standard personality and attributes who receives a letter from his wife Mia, who has been missing for 3 years. The letter points Ethan in the direction of a derelict plantation in Louisiana. Having had no one to iron his shirts or make him dinner for three years, one can assume a life in tracksuits and eating pot noodles has become the norm for poor old Ethan, he decides to take a road trip to find his missing love.
 
There is a whiff of Silent Hill 2 about the setup to this story and that’s fine. A simple journey to find a lost love is in my eyes more compelling than being a roid monkey working for an elite government thing trailing after an evil doodah while jet hopping round the world to murderise squelchy things before they kill a load of Bulgarian farmers.
 
You as the player assume Ethan’s role as he searches the plantation, owned by the er let’s say unusual Baker family, sadly Cheryl is missing. 
So far this is a simple tale of; 
Why the fuck?
What the fuck?
Who the fuck?
 
Why the fuck:
Did your wife disappear?
Has she got back in contact?
Would Ethan think strolling into a creepy ass farmhouse is a good idea?
 
What the fuck:
Is going on?
Is going on?
Is fucking going the fuck on?
 
Who the fuck:
Are the Bakers?
Is pulling strings in this wholly fucked location?
 
I do not have the answers to these questions. Yet. All I can say is that there is a plot slowly unfolding and I am slowly learning about this world the game is in. Let us not forget that this game is indeed set after number 6, and the links to the resident evil world, story wise, are starting to show. 
 But this is a more intimate story, a more personal one, at the moment and I’m enjoying it. I just hope that I don’t end up in a sterile laboratory or underground facility. It deserves to carry on in this intimate style while nodding a veiny bleeding face to what has gone before.
 
Resident Evil: old is the new new
 
As mentioned earlier this game is supposed to hark back to the earlier games in the series and in many ways it does. So what’s been found at the bottom of the wardrobe and dusted down for another use? like your whore mothers wedding dress as she marries for the 5th time a man who will never be your dad and is a bit of a cunt?
 
Mansions
We’ll sort of. The Baker farm is not a mansion, it does not have the fine velvet curtains and la de da flock wall paper of the Spencer mansion. It’s a bit of a dump. What it does have are maps to find, layouts over multiple floors, basements, outbuildings to nose around in and most importantly a need to learn layouts and backtrack. 
Yes, gone are the mostly linear levels in recent games and back comes a house you will have to explore remember and go back around once you have the right keys. Speaking of which.
 
Nonsensical keys and locks
Ah, bless them Bakers. A bunch of horrible psychopaths bent on murdering people and doing……things. They have no idea about DIY, don’t know what miracles a duster and a bottle of Mr Sheen can carry out in a dusty room. They also have frankly terrible taste in food.
However they appreciate the need for the use of baffling locks on doors. The sort of locks that would only be needed in case a man called Ethan came snooping around for his long lost wife.
So it’s a welcome return for doors that require specialist keys like the crow key or the scorpion key. To get them of course you will need to solve puzzles. Speaking of which.
 
Having to think a little.
I have heard some complain that the puzzles in this game aren’t very taxing and that is true, they will not test your grey matter a lot. But it is nice to have them back again in the old Resi way. So we have button sequences, shape finding and that sort of thing. Just like the old days, and just like the old days clues can usually be found around the house on notes. Speaking of which
 
Remember to book seats at bingo for next Wednesday.
There are all manner of photos, notes and diary entries dotted around the house. A nice little way to give history to the Baker family and background info on what is going on. I’ve always liked these since the ‘itchy, tasty’ diary from the very first game. 
Just remember when you read these now it is in real time, the game doesn’t stop. So probably best not to read the stuff you’ve picked up when in a situation of peril and fear. Speaking of which.
 
That parp was indeed my bottom.
Fear. Wonderful exhilarating fear and atmosphere. It’s back and due to a number of reasons. Here are some of them;
Enemies. So far zombies aren’t here, a little gutting but you can’t have everything. What you do have are the ‘Molded’. Mutated corpses that do have a similarity to past Resident Evil horrors. You also, so far, have an assortment of insects, a staple of the series since the spiders in the first game. 
However the stars of the show are undoubtedly the Baker family. A series of grotesque family members, one of each habit certain parts of the game area. These lovely folks will not die by conventional weapons. But they will search for you, taunting you as they do. I was worried initially that this family were ripped straight from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and while they do owe a debt to that film they have enough different about them and enough emerging links to the Resident Evil universe that they don’t feel out place.
 
Sounds. The atmospheric sound in this game is excellent. The creaks of floorboards, the ambient sounds of the house, the something moving upstairs or under your feet all combine to create an atmosphere of dread in the pit of your stomach.
 
Weapons. Yes there are weapons in this game but rather than the bullet spreading super soldiers that the original characters turned into through the series we are back to the old school here. The pistol and the shotgun at least are back and so is the scarcity of ammo. You best use it wisely because without it you only have a knife, and that isn’t a place you want to be.
 
There are other things like the green herbs that are back and a limited inventory which means you have to think about what to carry and remember where you have left items when your slots are full. If only you could store them somewhere…speaking of which.
 
The relief of a safe/safe room
 The safe rooms are back, and so is the ambient twang of music just to let you know that in this room you won’t be turned into a meat puddle. 
The inventory chests are back from Hogwarts. So put an item in and it’s available from any chest anywhere else. 
The typewriters remain a relic but these have been replaced with cassette players. At one of these little beauties you may save your progress, no you do not also have to pick up a cassette tape to actually save. There is an auto save system in the background but you can’t just save anywhere a la games dans le modern.
 
There are other winks and nods to the past but there are also new things in here as well.
 
Shiny, dirty, grimy and new, like a virgin.
So we have considerable familiarity in this game to warm those cockles that yearn for old Resident Evil but the perspective has changed, a lot.
In recent years we have seen games such as Amnesia, Soma, Alien Isolation, Layers of Fear, Outlast and the promising but dead Silent Hills all use first person perspective to great success. And now Resident Evil has followed suit, but does it work?
Yes. Yes it does.
Having drenched the game world in a dark oppressive atmosphere the move to first person only makes this feel more personal and claustrophobic. The restricted view means you will get surprised from another direction . You will want to poke your head around corners before committing to full on moment. It’s sublimely done in large parts of the game. 
The only downside could be that the combat can be a little clunky, though outside of mowing down the dead motherfuckers in number 6 the combat in Resident Evil has alway been less than silky smooth. It’s perfectly serviceable here though.
 
The change in perspective has also given this game a party trick, if you have the right equipment…….which I do (fist pump)
 
Hello Resident Evil may I introduce you to Mr VR?
 
I think you may get along splendidly.
 
 
I’m in the game, this is brilliant! Oh fuck I’m in the game…..
 
So my main play through of this game will be using the PSVR. This was an exciting prospect as for me this marks the first big release on the many lighted accessory. Yes there are exclusives and other games but this feels like the first AAA release playable with the headset. The fact that the VR is an option and not a necessity is a smart choice. For me this would be the best way to move forward with VR in many ways. Release games and have a VR option where the graphics are scaled back so it can run at the required fps. 
I would be happy with that.
Speaking of graphics, in VR my first impressions were less than excellent. The first few minutes are dare I say a little ugly. The mainly brown and dark green forest at the start of the game does not make the system sing. It’s all a little muddy and ill defined. The textures have had to take a hit to get this to run in VR and on top of the lower resolution of PSVR I was wondering if Capcom had bitten off more than it could chew.
Luckily we aren’t outside for long and we move inside and things improve. A lot. 
Having played the beginning hour demo I was expecting it to improve once we moved inside and once here the atmosphere of this game reaches levels I have previously not felt while playing any other game ever, and that my friends is astonishing.
 
The tattered house feels oppressive, menacing and vicious. The long dankly lit corridors are imposing, there is a sense of fear about going anywhere for the first time. When you are ‘in’ this world, when everything is real life scale, when you can practically smell the decay, it’s almost overwhelming. 
The Bakers are no longer characters in a screen, they are life size solid threats hunting you down. 
The Molded are towering creatures of teeth that creep up on you.
The immersion in this is baffling.
Early in he game I find myself wading through a flooded tunnel beneath the floorboards. The water level is just below my nostrils. I find myself tilting my head up a little as I don’t want to breathe any of this stagnant ooze.
I find myself hiding from the Baker clan all scrunched up in a ball behind some drawers, ducking on stairs, making all kind of body shapes to keep myself hidden. I’m leaning round corners, peeking through cracks in doors and walls to make sure it’s safe. I’m occasionally shrieking out loud and losing any remaining masculinity I have.
 
Yes this is a game. But this is a game played in a way I have not experienced quite in the same way. Technically it may loose a little visual flair but the trade off in immersion is worth it beyond words I can find.
 
It is nothing short of a triumph, the first proper showcase of what VR can give you.
It takes what so far has been a Resident Evil game that looks both backwards and forwards for inspiration and elevates it.
Will VR succeed? It is doubtful, the price of entry is too high for many. But even if it fails this time we now have proof that it works and perhaps in the future we will be ready for it.
VR is not a replacement for traditional game interaction but it’s a damn nice option to have.
 
So far this Resident Evil has delivered what I wanted. It’s given me the familiarity I wanted from the old classics at the start of the franchise and it’s given me new ideas and experiences that have rekindled my love for this franchise.
I hope it maintains it through the rest of the game. I hope it can trigger the renaissance of Resident Evil.
 
All of a sudden that fateful day in the Arklay mountains, just outside of Racoon City doesn’t seem so long ago.
 
And that is wonderful.
 

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