A glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality – Alfred Hitchcock
The true nature of horror is rarely seen in video games. Once the horror genre lost focus in the mainstream eye, indie-developers snatched the opportunity to deliver the unrelenting terror that gamers have been yearning for. Titles like Outlast, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and most famously, P.T., all exhibited these terrors in their own creative ways. Ironically, this is where indie-horror titles replaced the mainstream market of horror gaming, including the doomed Silent Hill franchise and Resident Evil 6. When Resident Evil 7 was revealed as a return to the series’ horror roots, many were excited but cautiously skeptical with this new direction. However, what is really beneath the layers of this mysterious title? I believe we’re in for a new kind of horror, and something far more sinister than a few mere zombies…
To understand the direction Resident Evil 7 is taking, we need to look at its setting: a derelict rural plantation in North America. This opens up the potential for a claustrophobic and isolated experience, one that would benefit from a psychological approach to its horror. According to Capcom, Resident Evil 7 was heavily inspired by its own roots: the original Resident Evil released in 1996 for the PlayStation. For any fan familiar with its setting, the game revolved around a large mansion that forced players to navigate the closed off, tight spaces of the home, solving puzzles and fighting off the occasional Umbrella Corps nightmare creation, such as zombies, infected creatures, and even rabid hounds. However, the original Resident Evil had its own inspiration in the form of a 1989 Famicom title called Sweet Home, based on a Japanese horror film of the same name.
Home Sweet Home
I took it upon myself to source Sweet Home and play through it to better understand the type of horror it presented, and was pleasantly surprised. Sweet Home was set in a closed off Japanese household with supernatural occurrences and toyed around with the idea of psychological horrors over cheap jump scares. Then again, the software limitations at the time meant developers had to use clever mind tricks such as moving inanimate objects and atmospherics to deliver the impact of genuine terror. The results are actually quite innovative, and paved the way for some of the most praised (and scariest) horror video games of our time, including Fatal Frame and Clock Tower. I believe this is the direction Resident Evil 7 will take, and will also serve as the base of the games central themes: psychological horror.
We're All Mad Down Here
Being set on a desolate plantation, players will most likely assume the role of a new main character whose own deteriorating mental state will be the source of its horror. The zombie outbreak events of the previous Resident Evil games are definitely acknowledged as shown in the Resident Evil 7 demo, Beginning Hour. Of course, I imagine a pandemic zombie apocalypse will cause some folks to go loopy after a while, especially being kept in such isolation from the rest of the world. The new main character has only himself to fear. Well, that and the infected undead…
Richard Pearsey, the writer behind the F.E.A.R. expansion packs and Spec Ops: The Line, will helm the script of the game, and has a very distinctive style of writing. He favours exploring the psychological defects of people stuck in dire situations, most evident in Spec Ops: The Line that saw its delusional main character suffering insanity as a result of PTSD. Pearsey may introduce that to Resident Evil 7, which further cements the theory that the game will include supernatural elements but only as a result of the main characters’ delusions. We’re looking at a hellish nightmare of a mind ride; one that favors slowly winding tension build up and a relentlessly deep-rooted style of terror, something that indie-horror developers haven’t quite embraced since the Silent Hills teaser, P.T.
Finishing What Kojima Started...
Resident Evil 7 can only be open to speculation at this point, but all signs point to the sinister effects of the troubled mind when put in a compromising space and situation. Sweet Home seems to be its greatest influence, and for anyone caught up with horror folklore and ghost stories, nothing is quite as unnerving and truly horrifying like Japanese tales of horror. It’s unfortunate that Hideo Kojima’s Silent Hills was cancelled, but Capcom was entrusted with its legacy, whether it was intentional or not. With the innovations brought into P.T. alone, we may see Resident Evil 7 as a full game reinvent the horror genre for the better.