While most people see January as a new beginning, signing up to a gym or a short-lived stint as a vegan. I see January as a time to dust off my shotgun, gather my green herbs and work those shoulder pads baby, as the cop with the 90s boyband bangs gets the RE7 treatment for the remake of Resident Evil 2.
When this game was announced at E3 in 2018 I was only a bit excited, as at that point in my gaming life I’d had little experience of Resident Evil. My only introduction to it was the absolute train-wreck of a film in 2002, so when I plunged into the Baker family drama of Resident Evil 7 there was some trepidation going in. However, I needn’t have worried.
The game played out beautifully and started like every horror film I’ve ever facepalmed at. Where sexy teens with more hormones then sense make ridiculous judgement calls and decide to carry on despite the mutilated deer carcasses and saw blades hanging from the trees. The sexy teen in question here is Ethan Winters, who is not a teen and as you never actually see him, sexiness is hard to judge, although he does have nice hands.
However RE7 follows the formula that most survival games unfortunately have. The first half is always the best and most tense and I spent most of the early parts of the game in the time-honoured safety crouch position, ready to face anything the game would throw at me at knee height. When you finally get a gun the celebration is cut short as ammo is scarce and the first antagonists, Mia and Jack, are total bullet sponges who despite having severe failings in axe handling, automotive safety and an alarming fondness for gardening equipment, treat death like a power nap.
I found my best bet in these early sections was to run or hide. Although in one memorable moment of my gameplay I just kited Jack around a pool table while trying to figure out the real-life implications of having a dog’s headlock, a shadow lock and a range of creepy animal keys. I have days where I fail to use a bog-standard key, so it’s no wonder at one point in the game Jack gives up all pretence and straight-up smashes through a wall!
In the second half, after you’ve roasted Marguerite in what can only be described as her “bee-parts” you begin to feel fairly invincible. You’re more tooled up than Arnie in Commando and you’ve got so many herbs you could probably whip up some immortality pesto! Survival becomes easy and safety crouch is a distant memory. Enemies become a copy and paste annoyance that can routinely be taken down by a shotgun shell to the face. I’d also killed Jack so many times at this point I was expecting a Christmas card!
The end was big and silly and because of being so ridiculously overpowered at this point, taking down the final boss was just a 3-second exercise in lobbing explosives, and not at all like my initial panic-filled first encounter with the head of the family.
And yet… I absolutely loved this game. I loved the expectation subversion, predicting when the jump-scares would happen only to be left on the back foot when they didn’t, and then genuinely yelping when they did. The voice acting was brilliant, the design and textures were beautiful and disgusting. The plot and environmental story-telling, while not exactly ground-breaking, was engaging enough, that towards the end of the game in the limbo-esque scene I genuinely felt sorry for Jack Baker and his family. Well except for Lucas.
Speaking of Lucas, my stand out moment from this game was the “Saw” style escape room. Playing through it first as the hapless Clancy and then knowing exactly what to do as Ethan, without getting a tattoo from a motorised Pennywise. This puzzle-solving section was a nice reprieve from mowing down molded and killing Jack for what felt like the hundredth time. Sadly I didn’t get to punch Lucas in the face but I’ve got the Not a Hero DLC so fingers crossed.
And that is where this game wins, yes it has flaws, but it made me want to play more. I’ve since completed Resident Evil and avoided being a Jill sandwich. I’ve also just shotgunned my way through a farm of surly Spaniards in Resident Evil 4. So from being an absolute Resi virgin, my cherry has now been popped and injected with T-Virus. I’ve also now fully experienced tank controls (I hate them) and simply cannot wait to see Leon and Claire given the RE Engine treatment and handle better than a Panzer IV.
So while the rest of the world battles through a tofu and cashew “cheese” scramble before grimacing through 100 squat thrusts, I’ll be admiring my beautiful blonde hair while shooting a zombie in the face and making clumsy conversation with a lady in a red dress.
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