“Welcome to the family, son.” That was the signature line throughout the marketing of Resident Evil 7 and also capped the first iteration of the demo I played when succumbing to Jack Baker.
For me personally, this was my first Resident Evil experience and what a welcoming to the family it was.
Resident Evil 7 is a survival horror, placing you in the shoes of Ethan Winters as he travels to the derelict, creepy Baker plantation to search for his missing wife, Mia. However, here he’s faced with the Baker family who seem to sport regenerative abilities and other disturbing tricks up their sleeves who wish for him to join the family. When he refuses, the ‘fun’ begins…
For me, the game is at its strongest in the early stages when you’re up against Jack Baker.
He’s formidable. He’s frightening. He’s funny.
After you spurn the offer of dinner, Jack chases you around the house taunting you with some immensely quotable lines in his Southern drawl. He’s formidable. He’s frightening. He’s funny. And honestly, he fast became one of my favourite characters period. He’s the sort of character I want to see more of – in whatever form of media. There’s just so much to enjoy about him.
I think it’s the initial realism you get with him that makes him such a foe. It takes a while to discover his regenerative abilities so instead, you’re being chased by this unhinged giant with a southern accent, familial obsession who most definitely does not want to give you a hug and share a drink should he catch up with you.
The stand-offs you share with him are greatly enjoyable in their originality, from the garage fight where getting in the car before him is a good idea (I found out the hard way), to the chainsaw stand-off, which was probably the stage of the game I found most challenging to overcome.
As the game progresses, it develops from what I’d say is more of a psychological horror to something more supernatural.
That’s illustrated very well in the lovely Marguerite, who controls bugs and eventually mutates into, well… See below:
The gameplay itself is more than solid. You accumulate a variety of weapons as you tick along, beginning with a knife from an unfortunate cop, gaining guns, a flamethrower, a grenade launcher, bombs and more the further you get. The more you collect however, the more decisions there are to be made.
During a late phase, I made quite the misjudgement and it stopped me in my tracks for quite a while until I went back and switched a few things.
Throughout the game, you contacted by Zoe. Zoe is the Baker’s daughter and mostly free of infection, doing her utmost to guide you through the house, giving you pointers and enabling you to put together a serum to cure both her and Mia.
…the challenge that came in the shape of Jack and Marguerite isn’t there.
After collecting Marguerite’s lantern – I can’t tell you how satisfying it was defeating her – you’re off to meet Zoe, only for Lucas to interfere and it’s at this point that shift I spoke of appears. Although Lucas’s Jigsaw-like traps and games have their fun, and Lucas himself is seemingly another character with good depth and plenty potential, the challenge that came in the shape of Jack and Marguerite isn’t there.
I breezed through the Lucas section of things before encountering Mia, Zoe and a very different Jack. After another fight with Daddy Baker, which was over far faster than I expected it to be, the mystery of what happened to these people begins to unravel. That mystery, in a word is ‘Eveline’.
Without straying into spoilery territory, Eveline as the ‘big bad’ just wasn’t as interesting to me as the Bakers. Her motivations to have a family make it somewhat heartbreaking in a way, but she never scared me – not like being chased around the house by Jack did, or how I felt tackling the challenge of mutant Marguerite.
The highlight of the second-half of the game comes in the shape of an impressively touching scene with Jack and Ethan.
As an aspiring writer, TV watcher and movie lover, I can’t praise this scene highly enough. The voice acting from Jack Brand (Jack Baker) is terrific, each word sells the position of the Bakers and by the end, you’re chomping at the bit to put an end to Eveline and free the Bakers once and for all.
Lucas and Eveline aren’t as compelling as Jack and Marguerite.
The game stretches towards its conclusion at a surprisingly speedy pace – maybe I just got better at it, or it is simply quicker than the opening I don’t know. As I’ve said, I don’t feel the second-half of the game is as strong as the first. It just doesn’t pack as much of a punch and the switch from psychological horror to something more supernatural didn’t quite work for me. Lucas and Eveline aren’t as compelling as Jack and Marguerite. The unravelling of the mystery itself arguably takes a little away from it. It’s obviously a necessity but during those early stages that lack of explanation and the feeling of being out of your depth work so well.
Furthermore, I guess the initial fear factor has been overcome as well and you know a little more of what to expect.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve had fun. I’ve been frightened. Very frightened, at points… I’ve been inspired (I actually want to go write myself a horror series, now) and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what the Resident Evil series has to offer in future.