Fresh blood for a horror franchise

by Shane Dillon

IN GAMING as in cinema, one of the oldest tropes has been that of the haunted house, or house of horror – somewhere terrifying and mortally dangerous to escape from.

It’s a thematic journey for the onlooker/observer that enjoys intermittent popularity, as do zombies, which are currently enjoying a new lease of (undead) life on the small screen.

Combine the two, and perhaps you’d end up with Resident Evil 7 (PC, PS4, XBO; Cert 18; c. €70)– the latest in the long, long-running survival horror franchise that’s had a scary amount of spin-offs.

At heart, it’s a pure survival horror game, played out from a first-person perspective.

An elevator pitch might say: “It’s a cross between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Night of the Living Dead – you have to survive and escape from a crumbling house and estate roamed by a hillbilly cannibal family, with monsters lurking about, too.”

And that’s it, in a nutshell. Scramble about as you try to evade the monstrous Baker family, survive and escape the ramshackle plantation estate, which has a number of surprises in store.

It’s a fresh, Gothic twist for the series, and breathes new life into the once impressive franchise which had become a tired, stale pastiche of itself.

Interestingly, it’s possibly the first killer app – pun intended – to breathe life into the impressive but underused PlayStation VR headset, as the whole game can be played via virtual reality, adding extra immersion to an already impressive game.

It’s hard to think of a better game to sell VR, with RE7’s great graphics, and jump scares, really showcasing the power of the tech as players roam the shabby house.

A number of niggling game design issues linger, relics of the franchise which are familiar problems to Resi gamers: juggling inventory space, hoping that what you’re using now won’t be needed later, and so on.

Still, for a series which had left many gamers cold with its previous, disastrous installment, the switch to an immersive new game engine away from the traditional third-person view has had an immediate effect.

Largely ditching the clapped-out threat of zombies and shady corporate shenanigans for something more psychologically unsettling, RE7 has freshened up the franchise with a bold new direction that holds true to the core survival horror aspect of the series, while adding some more contemporary twists on dread.

It’s good to see the series return to life with a bold new direction, which has been executed in considerable style here.

For those who’ve lurched away from the series, RE7 is a welcome reboot that deserves returning to – if only to try and escape from …

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