After the action-heavy excess that was Resident Evil 6, fans have been clamoring for the series to return to its survival horror roots. The Revelations titles filled the gap between main entries in the franchise, and many expected the seventh game to follow a similar blueprint – third person gameplay with a bigger focus on exploration and atmosphere than the last couple of titles in the series. But Resident Evil 7 takes the series in a brand new direction that’s sure to polarise fans, swapping out the familiar third-person camera for first-person gameplay. It’s a surprising change, and one that appears to be influenced by the developer’s focus on delivering an experience that is fully playable in VR.
Set 20 years after Resident Evil 6, this latest instalment acts as both a sequel of sorts and a reboot. The emphasis here is firmly on immersing the player into the world, with combat taking a back seat in favour of exploration and some mild puzzle solving. The switch to the first-person viewpoint combined with the game’s ambient use of lighting and environmental sound effects certainly creates a memorable impression, though not always for the right reasons. Wandering around a derelict house in disrepair, creaky floorboards, random noises, and fleeting ambient music rarely do enough to shock or surprise. The game really wants you to take in the surrounds and become immersed in the experience, but doesn’t quite deliver enough to really provide solidify the connection.
Visually, the game pushes more of the right notes, with lighting and effects work creating a distinctive style that is closer to Konami’s PT demo than past Resident Evil titles. Capcom’s new RE Engine paints the environment in realistic shades, with authentic surface shaders adding a natural appearing to materials, while also targeting a 60fps update. Rusty metal work, dusty glass jars, and wooden beams very much look the part, and this is held together with a lighting model that illuminates the dark indoor environment sparingly. Small god rays shine through boarded up windows, while bloom effects creates a mild glow in areas where natural light sources enter the building.