Resident Evil 6 & 7 Retrospective
It might seem obvious to start this with throwing Resident Evil 6 under the bus, but it’s the sort of catharsis anyone who has played it desperately needs. Resident Evil 6 is a big, sprawling, dumb blockbuster, probably designed in a vain effort to appease the Transformers generation. I don’t even want to think about how much money Capcom blindly threw at this game. It had a 600 man team working around the clock to produce as much devastatingly mediocre content as possible. The true horror of Resident Evil 6 is realising halfway through Leon’s campaign you still have 18 hours to go. But hey, it’s co-op. That’s fun right? You and a buddy can laugh at the game together, maybe even sharing a few laughs with the game. Though, after every numbingly explosive hour passes, Resident Evil 6’s novelty fades like Leon S. Kennedy’s optimism with every canon appearance, and you’re stuck just playing the game. And if you haven’t guessed yet, it’s not a very good one.
Resident Evil 6 is like a midlife-crisis in the form of a video game, as it absorbs every other then-contemporary video game via osmosis. Every other level feels like a different game, done badly. Leon’s campaign starts in true Resident Evil style: slow zombies, calculated gameplay and true spooks. Of course, it doesn’t last long since about an hour or so later you’re piloting a helicopter through the burning streets of China via QTE and wind up crashing it straight through an office of a skyscraper, which is only a fragment of that bombastically stupid scene. Chris’s campaign is basically Gears of War, in the worst way. Zombies with guns? Hell yeah they’re here, baby. What’s that? Nobody asked for that? Oops. Gameplay-wise, Jake’s campaign is the most interesting as it plays like a stiff as hell brawler. It’s easily the most fun to play, which admittedly isn’t saying much, and the repetition of previously played levels completely diminishes any fun you may or may not be having.
And if that’s not enough tepid gameplay for you, Ada’s campaign shows up uninvited like your friend’s weird cousin at a house party. I mean, it’s not as if I literally thought, ‘I do not want an Ada campaign because I hate her in general and for teasing my boy Leon through one too many games,’ but when it unlocked I felt like I was trapped, playing Resident Evil 6 til I could finally grow a beard.
In summary, Resident Evil 6 is just a video game adaptation of the movie series, clones and all. If that doesn’t basically sum up all my thoughts in one sentence I don’t know what will.
You may be wondering right now, ‘this is a review for Resident Evil 6, there must be a typo in the title!’ Well, no, because understanding Resident Evil 7’s game design comes from its context in a post-Resident Evil 6 world. The Resident Evil name was in shambles, and with only a few flickering beams of hope in the form of the Revelations games, it felt like Resident Evil 7 was doomed to suffer the same fate with Capcom’s then-tyrannically bad game design.
Resident Evil 7 harkens back to the series’ roots as the evil is indeed residential. Stripped out are the dozens of zombies, clones, martial arts cutscenes all wrapped in a cacophony of explosions. Now you’re just a faceless dude called Ethan who is looking for his missing wife Mia, who he locates in the rurally-isolated Baker home. Within the first five minutes of meeting Jack Baker, the dad and breadwinner of the Baker family, I was firmly on board with what Resident Evil 7 had to offer. Which is the far more claustrophobic experience of sneaking around the Baker home in a desperate effort to escape, all while hiding from the colourful members of the Baker family, who patrol their home like hillbilly sentries. Aided by the first person perspective which confines your sight to only exactly what you can see in front of you, the tension is raised as Jack Baker is high on your tail screaming hilarious obscenities - want to look around to see how close he is? Of course you do, but you might also risk slowing down in doing so, allowing him to take two big strides and stab your ass with his obscenely large shears. Does Jack just sit in the basement designing these weapons? Probably. Now that’s a minigame I want to play.
I spent a lot of time hiding from Jack both giddy with fear and laughing to myself at some of the wild shit he comes out with. Did I feel both scared and some weird admiration for Jack? Yes I did. Did Jack Baker become a sort of father figure to me through the course of the game? I’m not sure I can deny that. And I admit every time he said I was joining the family I felt myself more and more on board with the idea.
The perplexingly vast Baker house is what the Spencer mansion would be if built in the Bayou. Featuring the obtuse secrets, puzzles, and doors locked with specific keys that everyone’s accustomed to, yet draped in a grimy Texas Chainsaw Massacre aesthetic. It doesn’t really make any logistical sense that the Baker’s front door requires three doghead-shaped pieces to unlock, but neither do the many ridiculous puzzles to simply get to your office in the Resident Evil 2 police station, so it works. It’s Resident Evil through and through.
After the blunder that was Resident Evil 6, I wanted Resident Evil 7 to do a few things differently: I wanted a simple plot, I wanted stripped-down gameplay design, I wanted some grit and I wanted some honest to god spooks. You know as the old saying definitely doesn’t go: three outta four ain’t bad. ‘Well, what’s the one that didn’t quite make it?’ You’re probably asking yourself.
You may have noticed I haven’t spoken about the story at all. That’s because it doesn’t really matter til about three quarters through when all of a sudden it decides it needs to explain itself. Not once before this moment did I think about the plot whatsoever. I just appreciated the scenario I was in. I was a guy looking for his wife, and some crazy shit was going on in this family’s home. That’s really all I needed, and definitely all I wanted. When you arrive at a wrecked ship - whose cold steel and clangy interiors are very much unlike the rural grit of the Baker home - you take control of Mia, Ethan’s girlfriend, and uncover the mysterious plot of how all this madness came to be. Of course it all stems down to a bioweapon in the form of a little girl called Eveline. Of course the game suddenly shifts to a paranormal-esque haunted-house spookshow for the duration of the boat sequence. Of course there is also a bafflingly super powerful submachine gun in this section. I was low-key having some PTSD flashbacks from Resident Evil: Dead Aim and Cold Fear throughout this left turn. It’s a mediocre at best section in an otherwise great game. One which completely shot dead my interest in replaying the game straight away on Madhouse (the game’s Hard mode) because I knew I’d have to go through this ridiculously out of place section again. The ever-gnawing unintentional horror of Resident Evil 6 rears its ugly head yet again.
After this the reigns are given back back to Ethan, the guy that literally lost an arm and a leg just trying to get his bae back, in a vain effort to pick up the pieces. It almost works, but the game actually ends abruptly just as it was getting back on track. The last little section in the mines is fine and all, but it’s little undercooked, consisting of just few small combat areas.
If it sounds as if Resident Evil 7 sucks as much as 6, I assure you that’s not the case. Nowhere near. I just felt like I needed to vent about that one section in an otherwise great game. It may have soured an otherwise great experience a bit, but it was not enough to completely ruin the aftertaste.
If this is the first iteration of the new and improved Resident Evil formula, I’m all in. I know that the recently released and critically acclaimed Resident Evil 2 Remake shares more than a few traits with Resident Evil 7, including the crafting element and even the engine, so it’s a sign the series is back on track. I’m interested to see how these gameplay changes impact the Resident Evil 2 Remake, especially when the original is still considered one of the best in the franchise. Though, that’s for future-me to find out. Maybe future-me will also find some sort of silver lining in knowing that Jack Backer will never be my father. Maybe. Maybe not.