ByStephen Finlay, writer at
A qualified Irish journalist whose interests are all over the shop. A film/TV fan, a gaming fan and a combat sports fan. That's it really...
Stephen Finlay

Resident Evil 7 stormed E3 this past June with a controversial demo that broke a record of two million downloads on PSN. It has caused quite a stir among gamers.

While the series has had an uncountable amount of highs and lows in the past two decades, it's difficult to work out just exactly how the Resident Evil brand has survived for quite this long.

Without stepping on too many toes of the eager gamers awaiting Resident Evil 7 and clearly the ones that didn't buy into the demo, I understand that this is a tricky subject to navigate through without receiving some retaliation as gamers were quite divided.

But in my hopeful opinion, Resident Evil 7 very well might be the game we've been waiting for.

Here are four simple, but major fundamentals which Resident Evil 7 needs to start from in order to save the franchise.

1. An Entire Shift in Focus

One of the many criticisms of the franchise, at least in the modern day, is the action orientated gameplay and its departure from its survival horror roots.

It could be fair to say that it's a gaming series that inevitably changes the structure of its gameplay so drastically because of how 'out of date' it perpetually, and oddly, becomes.

In terms of sales, after the relatively groggy titles in the early 2000s, such as Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil (REmake), RE: Dead Aim and RE: Survivor, Capcom queued in Shinji Mikami to turn around the foundations of its gameplay, hence giving us the action-horror masterpiece, Resident Evil 4.

For the record, I loved both Resident Evil 0 and the GameCube remake. Relax.

But it seems as though history might be repeating itself.

Resident Evil 6 sold 6.5 million copies in 2012, which is a success. But having such awful reception across the board and with it being a monetary decline in comparison to RE5's seven million copy sales back in 2009, maybe another change isn't such a bad idea.

Fretting over Resident Evil 7 doesn't sound too logical now that Capcom are developing a full scale remake of Resident Evil 2.

Who knows? Maybe that'll feature a heroic return of the fixed camera angles, clunky tank controls, basic inventory system and the whole shebang. This way, we'd surely be promised the best of both worlds.

On one hand, we got a game catering to our old school instinctive Resident Evil needs and on the other, we can get taken into a new ambitious direction - hopefully having it succeed in a jolting revamped fashion, like Resident Evil 4.

But would a classically made Resident Evil game really sell? I mean, the whole reason why Capcom veered out into a different direction back in 2004 was because sales were declining and the formula was becoming stale.

I'd happily buy it myself, but the question is: would many others march into GameStop and make the purchase? Would it really achieve at least a four or five million copy shipment?

These are the questions Capcom just have to be asking themselves. I can't imagine a horror survival reboot being lit in the same ball park in sales as Resident Evil 5.

Capcom's ultimate fear must be the sacrifice they have to make by developing a great old school survival horror game at the expense of a decrease in mainstream sales, or making another mediocre actiony co-op title but perhaps making a more comfortable and heftier profit.

They're stuck between a rather large rock and a hard place and this is a time where risks must be taken.

If there is going to be a shift in focus, which it finally seems as if there will be, then horror has to be brought back to the masses however way they can.

As Bob Dylan put it, the times - they are a changing.

2. Scare Factor

One outline regarding the Resident Evil 7 demo was its tone. It is by far the most horror centred RE project in the past 11 years or so.

According to Capcom, the demo is allegedly just a showcase of the tonality and atmospheric feel to the game, as opposed to the gameplay or even the narrative.

Right off the bat, the demo is completely first person which is a new hurdle for a Resident Evil game (Let's pretend Resident Evil: Survivor doesn't exist), perhaps giving a more natural sense of urgency and narrowness to our vision.

Many contemporary survival horror games are first person and are pretty heart pounding experiences to say the least. Outlast, Slender, Layers of Fear, Dying Light and of course P.T. just to name a bare few.

One necessity that hardcore Resident Evil fans appear to exude over the past millennium is for the franchise to return to actually being frightening.

With Resident Evil 7, it has undoubtedly brought that nuance back fairly decisively for once. But according to some gamers, there's only one problem;

It doesn't feel like Resident Evil.

Now, what I'm about to go into will certainly get some backlash.

I frankly pity Capcom because they're fixed into a sort of unwinnable predicament with a wide range of varied fans.

There's either a hum of hypocrisy going on with many RE enthusiasts, or we're simply confused with the true identity of what Resident Evil inherently is - maybe we're the ones who are lost.

Since Resident Evil 5, we've clearly longed for a horror anchored installment to reoccur. It looks as if Capcom has finally been using their eyes and ears, listening to the fans with RE7 for the most part.

And yes - surprise, surprise - RE lovers continue to complain.

'First person?! Where are my old tank controls?' 'Where's Leon S. Kennedy?!' 'Where's my zombies?!' 'Where's my grenade launcher?!' 'Where's the craptastic voice acting?!'

We've been complaining for so long that it abhorrently seems normal now.

Resident Evil fans have to be the most strictly nostalgic lovers to any gaming franchise I've ever encountered - refusing to move on - repulsed by the idea of a fresh start.

Didn't Resident Evil 4 throw just about everything out of the window?

And look how that turned out.

Of course this will cause even further spiralling debate as Resident Evil 4 pervasively evolved the gameplay into the current action based influential series we know of today.

And I'd be lying if I said that notion didn't have some truth to it. Resident Evil 4 put the franchise at a temporary high - a strange sort of limbo, if you will.

The Paul W.S Anderson Screen Gem films don't necessarily support its delicate identity in the mainstream which is already on thin ice.

It is correct that Resident Evil is classically recognized for its zombies, Jill Valentine, rigid controls, placed camera angles and goofy cheesy dialogue.

But what its primarily revered as, most importantly, is being a survival horror game. Not a dual wielding SMG mixed martial arts fest.

Along with Silent Hill, Resident Evil is the father of survival horror.

It may not be precisely what every fan wanted, but if I had to tell those gamers anything, I'd tell them to take the content of the Resident Evil 7 demo with a tiny pinch of salt.

Resident Evil 7 is clearly bringing horror to the forefront, and although some might say the demo is a tad bit clich├ęd, it's finally a horror game again.

Hence the graffiti on the wall in the opening: 'Welcome home.'

3. Mystery

An effect that the Resident Evil 7 demo had on the 2 million curious gamers who downloaded it, was its sheer amount of mystery.

Shrouded in ominousness and a lack of information as to who, what, where, when and why, the short demo is already notorious for driving us insane attempting to solve puzzles that may or may not even exist.

Other than finding a quaint photo of a helicopter with an Umbrella logo displayed and knowing that the dilapidated farm home is that of 'the Bakers,' the demo is meagre on details.

No mentions of any titular characters that are iconic to the series, no plot details, not many concrete gameplay details - pretty much nothing.

This has kept us second guessing, theorising, asking a concerning amount of questions, but most importantly, all of this ambiguity has kept gamers playing it just as much as ever since its E3 debut.

Sure, with just about any Resident Evil iteration there has always been a slice of narrative revelations but the Resident Evil 7 demo is heavily clouded in evil qualm - which is good.

I think it's fairly comprehensive to say that this an unusually good strategy by Capcom that's quite similar and derivative of the way Hideo Kojima's P.T. was handled.

Part of the Resident Evil magic was its whole 'what's behind the curtain?' Wizard of Oz type secrecy and the series has lost that.

The vast and brightly lit spacious settings in modern titles such as Resident Evil 5 and 6 are the apex opposite to the spooky dead end riddled mansion and R.P.D.

The Shinji Mikami/Hideki Kamiya way was the raw way.

That sense of claustrophobia, the feeling of having nowhere to run, that aura that something awful is about to happen and your sixth sense telling you that you're constantly being watched.

There is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it.

If Resident Evil 7 abstains from giving away much and keeps the players genuinely guessing while slowly creeping around every dark corner, then it will interest us no doubt.

4. Less is More

Resident Evil 5 was a substantial co-op adventure game but Resident Evil 6 was a pretty shameless manifestation of how far down the rabbit hole Capcom has gone - consumed by the Call of Duty dominated market.

With flips, kicks, dropping to the floor, rolling over while firing, excessive QTEs (quick time events) and Chris Redfield punching boulders, any more ridiculous abilities and we'd have a Devil May Cry game.

What ever happened to the feeling of vulnerability? Resident Evil was never about empowering the player (although the second half of most installments had you rather well equipped and upgraded), it was about making you feel helpless, small, threatened and limited.

It forced you to strategize, use brain over brawn and plan out every meticulous item switch to the point of overthinking micromanagement. It had always been built around overcoming scarcity.

This was Resident Evil. This was what we loved.

The demo of Resident Evil 7 gives us an inventory system containing 12 small slots to hold our precious items. In more recent installments, we've been spoiled having multiply upgraded suit cases full of supplies.

This is totally not implying that the full game will follow suit. But having the axe as a weapon is a fairly trustworthy indication that there will be combat.

Getting bitten by a zombie in the first Resident Evil back in 1996 depleted you from 'fine' to 'caution' and dying could potentially knock you back to the very start of the entire game if you forgot to save your progress.

This snakes and ladders set-up created a sense of brilliant impending dread and high stakes.

The horror didn't just come from the gruesome cannibalistic enemies, it came from the literal fear of dying.

Succumbing to your demise spelt the worst for the player, whereas, more of the recent one's have us babied with checkpoint after checkpoint extinguishing any anxiety towards death.

And maybe this is why we should have a relatively clean slate with Resident Evil 7. I've read so many comments whining out of fear that one of the famous main characters will not be a playable protagonist.

This is where I'd be absolutely all in on this and I'd welcome you to disagree with me here - come at me.

Chris Redfield, Leon S. Kennedy, Jill Valentine, Ada Wong and Claire Redfield are mere superheroes at this stage. They're laughably invincible and as a hardcore fan of these characters, it aches the cockles of my heart to say that. But these characters weren't always hulking Van Damme karate experts.

Remember how tiny and insignificant we all felt while playing as James Sunderland reluctantly walking straight into the fog of Silent Hill 2?

I believe that having a new protagonist that is more or less oblivious or irrelevant to the events that occurred in the previous games will ensure that, just like the player, we are new to this experience.

I'm not saying that I hope the classic characters don't return, I just desire them to take more of a back seat.

A main character that cannot use weapons all that efficiently and can't take damage all too well - without sounding like I'm dreaming of an Outlast rip-off - I honestly believe that limiting the player is what I've deduced from my this personal analysis.


Sorry for being so docile, I'll mark my words now that I bought into Capcom's bullshit if it fails, but I enjoyed the short inquisitive playthrough of the demo. I'm aware of the division among gamers regarding Resident Evil 7 and this is why this was a bit of a quandary to delve into but I hope this breakdown sparks some discussion.


Will Resident Evil 7 Take The Franchise Out of its Frustrating Rut?


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