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Resident Evil 7 is coming to store shelves this January, and people are either excited or repulsed by the idea of a first-person Resident Evil game. In the past, fans almost unanimously clamored for Capcom to go back to their horror roots after the action-packed Resident Evil 6. While the sixth game of the Resident Evil saga slightly called back to its roots, it also tried its best to reach the Call of Duty audience. Because of this, reviewers gave Resident Evil 6 lower ratings. However, Capcom did not relent its desire to appeal to the action game niche. They released Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, and the recent Resident Evil: Corps. Despite these efforts, most fans clamored for the old Resident Evil.
The Essence of Evil
Miraculously, the arrival of Resident Evil 7’s demos shows that the devs at Capcom listened to their fans. However, another uproar rose. To many fans, the game is too similar to the upcoming horror game, Outlast 2. This is an outrage to many classic RE fans. However, I disagree. I think that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a Resident Evil title through-and-through, because it retains most of the series’ elements and themes.
The Resident Evil (or Biohazard) saga is a very old franchise. In fact, Capcom released the first Resident Evil when the first Playstation became popular. The series has come a long way. It was once the figurehead of the survival horror genre, but recently dabbled with action-packed elements as the series progressed. However, the franchise is not without its recurring themes.
Infections and Experiments
The theme of infected residents consistently appears throughout the games. For example, in the earlier games, you will encounter many, many zombies. These are victims of the t-virus, a viral agent that reanimates the dead and causes horrible mutations in animals. Another example are the villagers in Resident Evil 4. These are controlled by a parasite, causing villagers to mutate in forms that remind you of The Thing. One way or another, bio-hazardous agents create the majority of your enemies in the Resident Evil series.
Some of the tougher enemies you face are experiments. These hideous monstrosities are often bred to be bio-organic weapons. Monsters like these often become the bigger threat, prompting you to save your ammunition to destroy them.
Of course, these abominations come from somewhere. Seedy corporations and organizations in the Resident Evil universe experiment on people and animals all the time to make horrible abominations. Examples of seedy organizations and corporations are the Umbrella Corporation, Tricell, and Los Illuminados. However, while they create viral agents that drastically cause the deaths of thousands, they sometimes do not intend to release their creations. For example, Dr. William Birkin released the t-virus throughout Raccoon city via the water supply because Umbrella sent assassins to kill him. However, the opposite is also true. Incidents like the horrifying C-virus attack on Tatchi were caused by the sinister organization, Neo-Umbrella.
At the head of these organizations are equally seedy, malevolent villains. The best of these is Albert Wesker, head of Tricell, and Umbrella defector. While most officials of the leaders are villains on their own, Wesker trumps over them by his sheer charisma and badassery.
However, many villains of the franchise are also oftentimes victims of their viral creations. The aforementioned William Birkin took a dose of his own creation, the G-virus. He became a horrible mutant that Leon and Claire fought throughout Resident Evil 2.
The final theme that Resident Evil games have isn’t an in-universe plot element or trope. It’s atmosphere. When I was a kid, the atmosphere and the environment crept me out the most. The best of these come from the Resident Evil: Remake. Many games in the franchise like Resident Evil: Remake built a terrifying atmosphere so that the sound of a zombie’s moan is enough to set you on the edge. This could be seen in Resident Evil’s eerie mansion vibe, the death and gloom of Resident Evil 2 and 3, or the misty, ghostly rural vibe of Resident Evil 4.
Where Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Stands
The Bakers and the Molded
There are spoilers beyond this point. You have been warned.
Now, where does Resident Evil 7 play into this? The Baker Family seems to be invulnerable when you attack them. They have strange abilities. For example, Marguerite assaults you with bees, while Jack chooses to rage at you with brute force. They are residents who present an opposing threat to our protagonists and are infected by some mysterious catalyst that makes them invulnerable and strong. Furthermore, the latest demos tell us that a new enemy has come to the fold: the molded. The molded are humanoid creatures covered in rot and blackened flesh. If they manage to hit you, they will infect you, transforming you into one of them. The “infected” ending implies this having depicted the player character collapse as his skin putrefies. Therefore, the first theme, infected residents, is alive and well.
Signs of Malevolence: Umbrella’s Return
I have to admit that the second theme is less prevalent. Resident Evil producer Jun Takeuchi denies this in his interview with Leon Hurley. Hurley narrates:
For a change, it sounds like there might not actually be any big arch villain waiting to burst from the wings with a cape over their face. “Maybe in previous games, you’d beat a few creatures and then mid-bosses or later bosses are the ‘faces’ behind it all, or the people who are pulling the strings,” Takeuchi explains.
This time, however, things are a lot more simple. “We wanted it to be pretty clear from the start that this is what’s happening – you’ve come here for this reason, the situation is not what you thought it was but your goal is very immediately clear that you need to get away from these crazy people in this house.” That goal of escape, then, “sets up the context for the rest of the game, rather than you discover your goal through exploration.”
So while there is still a clear biohazardous threat involved, it isn’t the fault of some sinister corporation. However, this does not mean that the spirit of Resident Evil has dissipated completely. In fact, there is a picture of a helicopter with the umbrella corporation logo next to a telephone within the game. Whether Umbrella will play a bigger role in Resident Evil 7’s story remains to be seen. However, one photo might be enough to remind us that the horrors we will face come, directly or indirectly, from sinister organizations.
Louisiana Backwater Murders
This also doesn’t mean that there are no enigmatic antagonists in the game. The developers have painted a very menacing picture of a hillbilly family in the Bakers, whose habits are reminiscent of characters in films like The Hills have Eyes or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While they are not as cheezy and narmy as Albert Wesker (Chriiiiiissss) and Ramon Salazar, they are still charismatic enough to both terrify and amuse the player at the same time. Jack Backer, for example, laments the table he destroyed when he attempted to seize you, saying:
“Goddammit! How’m I gon’ replace this?”
Furthermore, the Baker family’s interactions with one another depict a terrifying-but-loony synergy, again reminiscent of Ramon Salazar (RE4), Ricardo Irving (RE5), and even Alfred Ashford (Resident Evil: Code Veronica).
A Callback to the Old Atmosphere
Finally, there are terrifying locations. In fact, this is where Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is most similar to the old Resident Evil games. For one, the whole “house in the woods” vibe comes back, learning from current games like PT and Slender. The dilapidated house reminds me of REmake‘s terrifying rendition of the Spencer Mansion, in all its decrepit creepiness. The viscera that the Bakers considers as food is also very, very similar to the rotting meals the villagers eat in Resident Evil 4.
It’s in your blood…
I think this is a sufficient case to show that Resident Evil 7, despite its similarities to Outlast and the lack of a sinister villain, is still a Resident Evil title. I don’t think that a first-person POV and a similarity to other games can change that. In fact, I expected that this game would still retain its classic Resident Evil vibe, and the latest demos vindicated my expectations. So with that in mind, let’s just hope the final release is worthy to be regarded as the return of Resident Evil to its survival horror roots.