Sunday, December 11, 2016

Resident Evil VII: Return or Departure?

Resident Evil VII is coming out soon and I almost certainly will be making an early purchase. Based on everything I've seen from the demo and trailers, it's got this old survival horror vet interested and while I am highly intrigued to navigate those dingy and disturbingly brown corridors we've been teased with for the past year, I can't say that I quite feel like I'm anticipating a Resident Evil game yet.

As I see it, the Resi- design (as our cross-Atlantic cousins are fond of calling it) is composed of the following essential elements:
  1. Sci-fi monster horror
  2. Resource management
  3. Fight or flight combat
  4. Strategic exploration
  5. Puzzle solving
  6. Camp
  7. "Spec-ops vs Illuminati" theme
  8. Appealing characters
These eight elements comprise the core aesthetic identity of the Resident Evil series. They are explicitly present in the first five titles (and by definition, REmake as well.) The series was redrafted with a new perspective in the excellent Resident Evil 4, although elements 1, 4, and were perhaps more weakly represented and element began to lean a little more in the "fight" direction. With RE5 and RE6 this shift in elemental priorities was pressed to the point where many fans simply could not stop lamenting the decay of this once horrifying franchise into a thrill based action flick. I reckon the further you depart from a combination of these eight things, the less your game is going to come off like Resident Evil.

Capcom, surprisingly some would say, has apparently decided to cater very specifically to the desires of these critics by once again redrafting the Resi design with REVII. As mentioned above, it's certainly caught my eye, but I would be remiss as a true blooded  Resident Evil Fan if I did not confess that I am concerned that some of what I consider to be Resi's essential character may be left behind. Namely, elements 6, 7, 8, and maybe even (although I expect my worries are misplaced on that last one.) Element 3 is almost certainly a pendulous reversal from the shift that took place after RE4's success, which could be fine. 

If those concerns turn out to be well founded, that means around 50% of what is responsible for creating a "Resi Vibe" has been excised from REVII.

You'll notice that I did not address the new first person perspective, despite this being the most obvious departure from previous titles. This is because my aforementioned list of eight is comprised of features that are both:

1) Aesthetically meaningful 
2) Important to Resident Evil in particular

While a FPP is certainly a substantial emotional shift, it only really threatens feature 8, and not even necessarily so. You need only consider Mr. Nukem for proof on the matter.

It does, however, make it more similar to many, many horror games that have arisen from the Indie realm over the past few years.

So, will it be good? Hopefully; things look good so far. But, while this appears to be a return to horror, I'm not yet convinced this is otherwise a return to what we originally fell in love with. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Hell of a logo, though.

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