*Warning: This may contain minor spoilers*
It’s been more than a year and a half now, nearing two, since Capcom released the most recent “new and improved” Resident Evil/Biohazard game. Their main selling point for this new addition to the franchise seemed to be that it was going back to its roots. Uh-huh, and what exactly does that mean? It would be what it was always supposed to be: a survival-horror game.
As a huge fan of the franchise growing up, my first and foremost question was: Will Leon be in the game? Yeah… no, that didn’t happen. Scratch that thought and don’t even consider Chris Redfield as the main protagonist either. This wasn’t a re-telling or a continuation of any of the routes or stories that we all came to know and love. It was a new spin on the story we were already accustomed to, but with an entirely different cast of characters.
Before I begin rambling about my thoughts regarding everything that comes to mind with this game, I must state that this is one that I backseat gamed to, with a few minor exceptions for specific parts. I’m of the rare breed that prefers backseat gaming to actually playing; I seem to enjoy myself more and look at things a bit differently that way.
So, as soon as I saw the title screen, I immediately turned to my significant other and asked, “You’re playing this, right?”
We had both heard the stories about how this one was far scarier than any of the past ones and he had actually seen a few minutes of game-play from it prior to that day, so he was already nervous about it (he doesn’t do well with jump scares). I, on the other hand, was stoked to begin. A Resident Evil game that would actually scare me? COUNT ME IN.
Let’s begin with the plot. It’s nothing extravagant or unique at first sight. You start off playing as Ethan, who, immediately at start-up of the game, gets a very vague email video message from his missing wife telling him not to come and look for her and that she’s sorry. Obviously, we have no idea what she’s talking about and we decide to go and find her anyway (because let’s be honest, the game would’ve ended then and there if he had listened to her, right?).
Upon reaching our destination, that’s when I realized that this story had much more ‘meat’ to it and was far more intriguing than I was expecting. You come upon this abandoned house/mansion, the Dulvey plantation, that almost reminded me of those ‘hillbilly horror’ movies (which is also ironically a nickname I found that this game was given by the community). I was tensed up by the eerie atmosphere the game created only minutes into it and I was nervous for every step Ethan took closer to this building.
Inside, you find photographs, trophies, rotting food, and other remnants of the not-so-distant past, showing that there had been people living there at least several weeks prior to that. Being a Resident Evil game, we can instantly assume that they are no longer human and might end up popping up in front of us later down the road, so it’s safe to say I was excited to find out what had occurred in that house.
The thing that stood out to me the most about the setting was the fact that there was always something new to explore. Once you began to think to yourself that you had seen everything, then boom, the story progressed you to a different location, whether it was in the same building or an entirely different one.
Something that I really enjoyed seeing and experiencing was the fact that you had to sort of struggle to adapt to every situation. On the one hand, the puzzles eventually became very predictable and easy to solve, as they were all rather similar; but on the other hand, a majority of the time was spent micro-managing every single item you came across. The route to victory was essentially how well you could conserve what little ammunition and weapons you picked up throughout the story. That alone made the game feel more challenging than just hoarding up on bullets and blindly “spraying and praying” with every enemy we came across.
There was also a surprising lack of hiding spots at each location. That might not catch a ton of people off-guard since the game-play isn’t heavily based on stealth, but for at least the first half of the game, you’re trying to stay away from the Bakers (the second half is much more fast-paced and action-packed). In my mind, that’s more than enough reason for me to call this a part-time stealth-based addition. It also made my heart beat so much more than the well-placed (for the most part, anyway) jump scares.
The enemies throughout the game were also something that I wasn’t entirely used to when it came to the franchise. Normally, we would encounter some form of zombie or genetically-engineered human/animal, especially early on. For this game, there are two main enemies that we come face-to-face with a good portion of the time.
I’ll start with the disappointing ones first: The Molded. These are the closest ones to your classic Resident Evil enemies. They’re zombie-like creatures that pull themselves off of this thick, black liquid that can be found around certain portions of walls and floors. During our first encounter with them, I must admit that I was creeped out. They were isolated in a part of one of the buildings you explore and are in nearly complete darkness. After the fifth one we had to fight, though, I was completely over it. It was the same thing every time. You would hear them peeling off of the walls and walking over toward you and, if you had a decent amount of ammunition, wouldn’t take much to go down. There were a few that popped up out of thin air and gave us a good scare, but otherwise, I was highly disappointed with them.
The other enemies were the saving grace of the game: The Bakers. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not fond of being chased or hiding from someone. It gives me anxiety and I start to freak out if I’m the one playing or participating. I’m a masochist, though, so that’s why I keep coming back to horror games.
Most of the time, you’re just trying to get around the Bakers, who will be patrolling the premises or flat-out searching for you for reasons that I won’t go into. When you do have to fight them, it’s intense and disturbing. This is one of the few exceptions where I took the controller and played myself. It was against one of them and I must say, while it did pose its minor challenges for me, I didn’t find it all that difficult to face a ‘boss.’
Was it scary and nerve-wracking? Yes.
Did I have a hard time maneuvering or “getting shots in”? No.
I think the most emotionally draining aspect during those encounters was running out of ammunition because you didn’t plan ahead or you just missed too many shots (Is it safe for me to admit to the second one?). And if I can play it just fine, then so can everybody else.
That being said, the most upsetting part about this game for me was the characters. I hated all of them, and it wasn’t even that “I love to hate” scenario that I’ve had for Ada Wong for years on end now. No. I genuinely disliked every character and couldn’t, for the life of me, find any personal enjoyment out of them apart from just trying to kill them. Sure, they brought about a fresh breath of air to the franchise with their unsettling (in a good way) personalities. However, Resident Evil’s biggest appeal to me has always been the characters (Leon, Chris, Wesker, etc.). Sometimes I regrettably even found it a bit cringey how forced some of the Baker’s ‘hillbilly attributes’ seemed to be. Or maybe that’s just how they were coming off? But that’s fine because everything else that the game had to offer made up for the lack of character enjoyment.
Along those same lines, my absolute favorite part about the game was, believe it or not, the extra content. 21 was, to my great surprise, the most entertaining one out of all of them. It’s pretty much just a sadistic life or death game of Blackjack between you and a character named Hoffman, where ‘game modifiers’ can be used to either directly help you or to screw him over.
I’m sure a Resident Evil version of Blackjack might sound lame to some, but my heart was racing the entire time from feeling like my life was actually on the line, and I wasn’t even the one holding the controller! It was a cool and fun twist to the classic casino card game.
The other extra content I really liked, as well, and was very enjoyable to backseat game to. As they are sort of ‘extensions’ to the plot and/or just background or side-stories to some of the characters, I will refrain from going into detail about them in order to avoid spoiling the surprises for those that dive into the DLC content. If you like the plot and characters, then the extra goodies are certainly worth it.
The game, in its entirety, took us two days to complete at about 5-6 hours a piece. So, in total, it took us anywhere between 10-12 hours, I would estimate.
Final thoughts? There’s no doubt in my mind that I would recommend this to both Resident Evil lovers and haters alike; especially if they’re fans of the horror genre. Knowledge of previous games in the franchise is not needed whatsoever to fully enjoy everything this game has to offer. It also successfully goes back to its roots and proves that these types of games are still possible with the new generation of gamers.
Overall, taking my great dislike of the characters into account, I would rate this an 8.5/10; the plot, game-play, and atmosphere are that good.