You’ve just run to the end of a hall and squeezed yourself into a corner. The shuffling footsteps of creepy Marguerite are coming closer, her bright swinging lantern throwing shadows that make your heart jump. If you just close your eyes, you’ll be okay – she won’t see you… Or you can take off your VR headset and remember how to breathe again. It’s just Resident Evil 7 . The other Resident Evil games certainly didn’t make you jump at your own shadow like this. Capcom is taking a huge leap by switching genres mid-series, but will it take fans with it? So far, I think everyone is pretty thrilled with it as a horror game, but not necessarily as part of the Resident Evil series.
The Resident Evil series is usually based on a group of people that fight against the “Umbrella Corporation” (a pharmaceutical company front for an organization of bio-terrorists) and those associated with them. Umbrella developed the “T-virus,” which can transform humans in to zombies and mutate into horrifying monsters. As such, the series has a reputation for being a third person shooter game, with enemies en masse . The scary part was usually in situations with enemies, being overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, or by strategic placement. Resident Evil games made much use of confined spaces, something that can frighten the player into panicking and needing to start over. In addition, surviving (depending on the game) often meant healing yourself with the correct materials (bandages, etc). This was never really scary so much as annoying if supplies were limited.
Resident Evil 7 , however, is a whole a new ball game. The developers of the game promise that it is placed in the same world as the other games and that combat and resource management are coming soon. Judging by what they’ve revealed so far, though, I don’t see combat feeling like much more than swinging a stick. This looks like the kind of horror game that forces you to survive without anything so fancy as a true weapon. Never mind how inhospitable the environment might be, with what appears to be a serious lack of exits and open areas. In addition, resource management will probably make food and anything that helps you gain health a rare and precious blessing. You know, in between running for your life and hiding.
It’s clear that Resident Evil 7 has scary material in spades. I think this is emphasized not just with the lack of weapons, but with the very personal first person perspective VR provides. In the silence of the main character’s breathless fear and the soft shuffling of Marguerite, I don’t think you need much more to be immersed in the game. Immersed enough to be carefully checking around each corner and jumping at your own shadow. This, I think, is what has hooked us all – fans of the series or not. Something this immersive that incorporates the thrill of fear would intrigue any gamer, even if it turns out to be part of the Resident Evil series only in name.