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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Resident Evil 7.

Transcript Edit

Resident Evil 6 left the franchise in a bit of a state, didn't it? Imagine a nice, fluffy omelet that you mixed together from perfectly acceptable ingredients and lovingly cooked in a pan for just long enough, but then you cooked it a bit longer, then a bit longer still and subjected it to eight seconds of concentrated machine gun fire, that sort of state. Fortunately, Capcom has an emergency policy in place in a little box on the wall marked "In Case of Resident Evil Becoming Shit Again, Break Glass", and that policy states that if at first you don't succeed, give up and do something else. It worked for Resident Evil 4, when Capcom said to itself, "Hey, we're shit at writing story and dialogue that always comes across as laughable and slightly camp. Let's just play that up and make the combat not so much like trying to teach the elderly how to dance to Stayin' Alive."

Resident Evil 7 again reworks the formula from the ground up. Now it's first-person, much tighter in scope, emphasizing the "horror" part of "survival horror", and Capcom have finally figured out how to write a half-decent story: they got someone else to do it! It's also emphasizing the "resident" part of "Resident Evil", because it takes place entirely in a spooky residence. Well, three or four spooky residences, but it's set in rural America, where there's fuck-all to do in the winter except build yourself another house.

Our protagonist, Ethan Winters, drives to a scary place in the middle of nowhere because his wife who's been gone for three years sends him a message asking him to-- Hey, wait a minute! That's just Silent Hill 2! Fortunately, RE7 swiftly differentiates itself, because while James Sunderland gets drawn into a masterfully crafted atmosphere of dreadful symbolism, Ethan Winters gets a hand chainsawed off. Well, that's much more expedient! He finds himself at the mercy of a family of psychotic superpowered Republicans who want to "Make Ethan's Bodily Integrity Great Again" by sawing more bits off of it. Whoops! Bit political, that; better insult the other side to retain balance. In contrast to previous Resident Evil protagonists, Ethan is a normal dude with all the fighting skill of a Democratic party election campaign, although having said that, he bounces back from traumatic injuries remarkably quick. Stuff gets shoved through his hand so often, he should start using the hole to store his biros and business cards.

RE7 has taken a lot of cues from that popular breed of claustrophobic first-person chasey-chasey horror of the Slender and Outlast sort of area that for a while was using Steam the way parasitic wasps use the bodies of caterpillars, the kind of thing that goes, "No, you can only run away and hide because we decided not being able to fight back is scarier, and it's just coincidental that it's also massively easier to program." Resident Evil 7 looked at that and said, "How about we do that, but also - weird idea - give the player a big fuck-off gun? Would that still be scary?" Yes, actually, especially since guns bother these regenerating rednecks about as much as maintaining cultural diversity.

Resident Evil 6's giant, overblown monster battles feel even sillier now that I'm ten times more unnerved from being chased around a coffee table by an angry bloke with a spade and a stripy pajama top. This does, of course, raise the question of why they bothered to give us a gun if redneck du jour can keep shrugging it off, but it turns out sometimes your attacks do have a permanent effect. It's a little bit inconsistent, story-wise, but the game usually gives you a signal to indicate you're supposed to stop running and start attacking. The signal is that all the doors are locked and there's a big neon sign over the roof saying "Boss Fight".

So why do you bother letting us have weapons anywhere other than in boss fights, Resident Evil 7? "Well, um, there's still all those crates to smash! All right, fine. We'll throw in some standard monsters for you to kill in between the Redneck Fun Time Hoedowns. Here comes some now! Woo, scary!" I look at the monsters, and then at RE7, and then back at the monsters. Is this a fucking joke? They look like theme park mascots. They've got huge, curvy smiles. They look like the dude in the original Japanese Godzilla costume went on a crash diet and fell in a septic tank. They slowly lurch around like they're balancing books on their heads, and every time I hit them with anything, they spend half an hour recoiling from it like they're trying to get me sent off the pitch.

There's always a palpable buildup of tension every time the game goes a bit quiet for a while, because I know it's getting ready to have Farmer Shovelfuck burst out of the medicine cabinet or whatever, but whenever they broke the tension by throwing more shit monsters at me, I'd think, "Phew, that's a relief!" The game stops being scary when it loses the Texas Chain Saw Massacre vibe and becomes... well, becomes a Resident Evil game, I suppose. It's not very long, since it takes place almost entirely on the set of Little House on the Prairie and everything, and while it's at its most intense when you're trying to avoid patrolling hillbillies, looking back, there's only, like, three occasions when that happens, and they never chase you beyond a miniscule patrol route restricted to about two stretches of hallway and an outside loo. Then they pack that in altogether for the entire second half of the game and combat becomes mainly a single-file parade of comedy turd monsters.

And the game gets really overgenerous with supplies and ammunition. Christ knows why there need to be so many flame grenades around the farm; those groundhogs must be resilient little buggers. In the last hour or two, the game acquires a bizarre obsession with trigger bombs. I don't know if the level designer was in unrequited love with the person who designed the trigger bomb model and tried to get their attention, but you could re-tile your roof with the fucking things! They make the final gauntlet of monsters even more trivial since they lurch towards you slowly enough that you've got time to lay a trigger bomb in their path, back off to a safe distance, and read another chapter of Of Mice and Men.

I do recommend Resident Evil 7. I like the story and its reveals, the tighter focus, the fact that it's not Resident Evil 6, but then, after Resident Evil 6, I'd have been pleasantly surprised by a dead prawn in a sock. It's no Resident Evil 4, because Resident Evil 4 was replayable, and most of RE7's main strengths are lost on a second run when you know the mystery and where jump scares happen, and that once you get past the skinny lady that shits wasps, you might as well put your feet up, because there are very few really meaty challenges after that, and what passes for a "final boss" is about a half-ounce of powdered redneck away from being a series of quick-time events. But the first impressions were that it may even bring back memories of that wonderful first playthrough of RE4, especially as you skip down the opening forest path, dreamily not thinking about chainsaws.

So the stagnating franchise has been successfully rebooted once again; I look forward to seeing how they fuck it up this time. Going from established history, it'll either be from bringing back previous Resident Evil characters no one cares about, or from being incredibly racist. Properly racist, I mean, not just against rural white Americans, the supermarket-owned brand diet cola of racism.

Addenda Edit

  • Spending time with the folks: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • And to think all these years I've been chainsawing my own hands off to get out of family get-togethers
  • Chris Redfield now available for after dinner speaking

ScreenshotsEdit

ResidentEvil7 1

Hey, wait a minute! That's just Silent Hill 2!

ResidentEvil7 2

... but you could re-tile your roof with the fucking things!

ResidentEvil7 3

Dreamily not thinking about chainsaws

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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