With the release of Resident Evil 7 biohazard, many fans and news outlets have said that the latest entry is a return to the series’ roots, and for the most part they’re correct. The game tones down some of the action that later games in the series are known for and instead puts more emphasis on puzzles and exploration. The switch to a first person perspective also changes the overall tone, allowing players to fully immerse themselves into the world of Resident Evil like never before. While these new changes put more focus on the survival horror aspect that has been absent from the franchise, one of the key factors that helps Resident Evil 7 take the series back to its roots is actually the way that its story is presented.
When it comes to the narrative approach of Resident Evil 7, straying away from the past story arc that revolved around Chris Redfield and company allows the game’s storytelling to succeed even more. One of the key factors of making a piece of work in horror more terrifying is the fear of the unknown. As humans, we are uncomfortable with things that we don’t quite understand. That sense of discomfort drives us to either overcome that fear in order to understand what we have just encountered, or push it away.
Resident Evil 7 takes advantage of this by centering around a new protagonist while also stepping away from the series’ focus of Bio terrorism and the organizations that combat those threats. Though these elements pop up later on in the plot, they are not a central focus. Ethan is an ordinary civilian who finds himself in the middle of an outbreak. Through this refocusing of the franchise, players relate with the game’s protagonist as he tries to understand the events taking place on the Baker estate, and tries to discover who exactly is behind the new outbreak. This unfamiliarity is one factor that helps drives the plot.
As the Resident Evil series went on and players became familiar with the assortment of monstrosities that existed in it, the focus became more on the characters and secret organizations rather than the environments, creatures, and puzzles. The series began to see diminishing returns when it came to capitalizing on mystery. Resident Evil 7 brings that back by not only stepping away from familiar characters and organizations, but by telling its story in a way that leaves players wondering what exactly is going on.
How could a quiet family from Louisiana turn into psychotic killers with regenerative abilities? And how does all of this fit into the Resident Evil universe? These are some of the questions that gamers will ask themselves as they go through the game, and that’s one of its strongest points. At times, the game can get creepy, but the drive to uncover the truth behind the Bakers and the current state of the series is what allows players to push through some of the scarier moments.
Resident Evil 7 is a solid return to survival horror because it takes away some of the familiarity that players have built up from past titles. The game does retain a few of the iconic items and mechanics, such as combining items and inventory management, along with a cameo here or there. But the experience as a whole still feels foreign.
The main factor that allows the game to find its roots is its narrative. It brings back that sense of mystery that has been missing from the series and is presented in a way that causes players to really think about this latest entry and how it fits. Through capitalizing on that mystery and stepping away from some of the key story aspects that have grown stale, even the ones that the series is specifically known for, Resident Evil 7 has brought the original franchise, the horror and suspense fans fell in love with in the first place, back to life.