Sorry, We're Never Going To Get A Resi Game Better Than Resident Evil 7
It's hard to believe it's been five years since Ethan Winters faced his fears and stepped inside the dilapidated nightmare of the Baker Ranch. If any of that sounds alien to you, you should probably do what Ethan should've all those years ago, and turn back now. We're obviously about to slice open the festering corpse of Resident Evil 7 and crawl inside - maggots and all.
By the time the seventh (main) Resident Evil hit the last generation of consoles in 2017, we were already some 11 years deep into this weird and wonderful world of shambling zombies, mutant monsters, and sunglasses-wearing bad guys that are an allegory for corporate greed.
Even the most die-hard Resihead will admit that things were starting to smell worse than a Tyrant's armpit by the time Resident Evil 6 bowed out in 2012. So, how did Capcom open up the "umbrella" just five years later and deliver what many hold as the franchise's best? That's right, Resident Evil 7 always was, and always will be the best the series has to offer.
Back To Basics
Following RE6's critiques that it threw the pulse-pounding scares out of the window for an action film that wouldn't feel out of place in the Milla Jovovich-led movies, Capcom went back to the drawing board for internal discussions. An early build of Resident Evil 7 once again kept the focus on action, but apparently took influence from Sam Raimi's beloved The Evil Dead.
Budget constraints meant the developer had to scale things back to a single location, and we've got to say, RE7 was all the better for it. While later entries like RE5, RE6, and even the lauded RE4 toured a map to the stars of locales, RE7 largely kept Ethan locked in the decaying compound of the Baker Ranch. Here, we faced all the usual gang of unhinged madmen and women who were being controlled by external forces.
As we crawled through the main house, an abandoned tanker, and salt mines, the hairs on our neck were constantly erect. It was this same cold sweat and cramped confines that made the Spencer Mansion an icon in its own right for the OG Resident Evil. Still, RE7 was much more than just a spiritual successor to Chris and Jill's debut.
How Did Resident Evil 7 Break The 'Mould'?
It wasn't just the familiar feeling of the early days that helped Resident Evil 7 shift big numbers. Taking a bold step to fully immerse us in the horror, RE7 was the first in the franchise's history to deliver a first-person perspective.
Giving us front row seats to the horror, there were plenty of screams to be heard as Jack Baker would lunge out of a doorway and swing a chainsaw in Ethan's face - except it wasn't Ethan's, it was yours. With straight-up scares back at the forefront, there's a reason Resident Evil 7 is held as one of the scariest VR experiences of all time.
Some originally refused to acknowledge RE7 as part of this universe - writing it off as a reboot and desecration of what had come before. Instead, a last-minute cameo from Chris Redfield and the world-building of organisations like Blue Umbrella tied to older entries and catapulted the story forward. Importantly, we're still talking about it five years later, when most Resi games have gathered rust apart from being dusted off for those clickbait ranking lists.
Sowing The Bad Seeds
Of course, Resident Evil 7 wasn't just one and done. Considering we've only ever seen things through Ethan's viewpoint, he's still become a satisfyingly rounded addition to the cast of characters. We now know this was the first part of what will become a new trilogy that will round off with a mythical ninth main game.
While the first three games can very much be held as the Raccoon City Trilogy, we’ll be damned if we count Ramon Salazar, Chris Redfield punching a boulder, and Ada Wong in a submarine can be classed as a trilogy. Things are very much back on track with the self-titled Winters Trilogy. We're not sure whether the twist ending of 2021's Resident Evil Village will pay off in the long run, but thankfully, that's not something RE7 has to worry about.
It's true that Village continued the winning streak RE7 established, but it falls just short of its predecessor. Similar to how RE7 homaged the original, Village took its cues from RE4. The problem is, moments like the Heisenberg tank fight felt a little too RE6 for our liking. Village was at its best when we were being hunted by a possessed doll through the Beneviento house. It's still one of the scariest moments to grace the Resiverse.
Winters Is Coming
It remains to be seen whether Resident Evil 7 has the legs to break free from the pack like Resident Evil 4 did. Although the GameCube classic has immortalised itself for pioneering third-person over the shoulder gameplay, Resident Evil 7 was much more revolutionary in terms of its storytelling. Although it's easy to find RE7'S influences, it's a testament that will undoubtedly inspire other survival horrors.
Mixing elements of Red Barrels' Outlast with Tango Gameworks' The Evil Within, there was also a healthy dose of movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Capcom admitting The Shining had huge sway. Much like Jack Torrance has become an icon of horror movies, Jack Baker is an unnerving legend of the video game world.
Not that it needed the morale boost, but there's a reason Resident Evil 7 went on to shift 10 million copies and become the second best-selling Capcom game of all time. Take all the scares, spine-tingling story, a new perspective, wrap them in a bundle of rotten skin that's tied off with some intestines, and what have you got? Resident Evil 7 is a game that crawls under your skin and stays there. While we shamble off to give it another go, rest assured it's just as scary when a mould-ravaged Baker pops up to chops off one of Ethan's hands. You'd think he'd be used to it by now.