Resident Evil 7: ‘fleshing’ out a story

There’s a while to wait until the next Steam sale at the end of October which means we’ve got time to work through the new titles we picked up (or leave them languishing in our backlogs). I bought 13 games myself including Mainlining which I’ve already completed, and Virginia which was recommended to me by several bloggers here on WordPress.

My other-half didn’t buy as many but, as most of the titles on his wishlist are big-budget releases, they didn’t come in as discounted as the indie titles I tend to go for so he’s holding out a little longer. He did however purchase Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Pete has had his eye on this one for a while because he loves a good horror; and it was hard for him to resist after Nathan told us it was one of the scariest games he has ever played.

I myself am bad at playing horrors because I’m just too much of a wimp. I’d much rather watch someone else take over the controller while I sit beside them on the sofa, hiding my eyes behind my hands or a cushion. I really enjoy a creepy storyline – I’m a sucker for a Stephen King or Dean Koontz book, for example – but when I’m responsible for taking the actions, I fall to pieces and start acting like a terrified idiot.

That’s why I (and my cushion) have been watching Pete play Resident Evil 7 for the past week or so. At the time of writing, we’ve only got through around four hours so far but the plot is pulling me in. Players step into the shoes of Ethan Winters, a civilian who has fewer combat skills that most previous protagonists in the series, as he looks for his missing wife Mia. His search leads him to a derelict plantation mansion, the home of the Baker family – and let me tell you, they’re not the sort of people you want to drop in on for a cup of tea.

Over the past few years there has been much discussion around whether cutscenes damage video games by breaking immersion. Your character suddenly becomes unplayable so new pieces of information can be shared with you, and to some extent this makes sense; after all, if titles want to tell a story, they need to have some kind of narrative mechanic to enable them to do that and cutscenes by far are the most straightforward.

However, the purpose of a video game is to play and interact with the digital world you find yourself in: to feel as if you’re in control of your character’s actions. Movie-like moments have the potential to detract from that feeling, particularly when they’re used far too frequently or are too long. Just take a look at Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. It holds the Guinness World Record for the longest cutscene, coming in at 27 minutes; and four separate scenes in the game’s finale total 71 minutes.

Resident Evil, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, video game, zombies, family, Bakers, dinner, dinner table

Cutscenes are still used by developers but they’ve fallen out of favour with a lot of gamers in recent years. They’d rather skip through these sections to get back to the gameplay rather than put down their controllers, even if it means missing out on a vital piece of information or clue. Releases that allow us to experience the storyline at our pace, where plot elements are revealed through exploration and discovery, are generally much more positively accepted.

Resident Evil 7 utilises flashbacks to flesh out its story but it’s not as simple as sitting back and watching a cutscene. Ethan comes across VHS tapes that can be played using VCRs around the Baker family’s plantation; and ‘played’ is exactly what I mean, as you’re able to relive and control the events of the footage you witness. This mechanic not only offers insight into people other than the protagonist and reveal sinister secrets about the Bakers, but also provides some excellent gameplay.

It’s possible to interact with the environment shown in some of the tapes in a way that leaves an impact on Ethan’s own adventure. For example, unlocking something seen in the past footage will cause it to remain unlocked in the present, even if you’ve already seen it locked; this does cause some time-travel paradoxes but who cares if you can get your hands on a new weapon? While you’re in one of these VHS sections, the graphics change: they become grittier and slightly blurry, and static lines remind you you’re playing found footage.

Its modern first-person view in a photorealistic style may make Resident Evil 7 seem like a far departure from the original instalment in the series, but everything that made the classic game so great is here: a chilling location, a foreboding feeling, weird puzzles and terrifying enemies. There are even green herbs! As stated on the game’s Steam page, it ‘embodies the series’ signature gameplay elements of exploration and tense atmosphere that first coined ‘survival horror’ some twenty years ago’.

Cutscenes are a tool rather than a finished project. They need to assist the player in coming to the conclusion of the story rather than just giving them something pretty (or in the case of horrors, disgusting) to look at. So far Resident Evil 7 is handling them marvellously and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the title holds in store for us.

If you’re a fan of the series, why not take part in the Resident Evil Memories collaboration hosted by Brandon from That Green Dude? Take a look at this post for more details.

16 thoughts on “Resident Evil 7: ‘fleshing’ out a story

  1. Pingback: Resident Evil 7: ‘fleshing’ out a story — Later Levels | Fantasy Sources: Art, Gifts, Ideas, Article Resources, News

  2. This was my favorite Resident Evil! I’m just like you in the sense that I am a fan of horror, but will often sit back and watch others play it instead. The VHS cut scenes were pretty awesome in this game and I liked the idea of playing as the character that you were watching. I’m actually thinking about replaying it in order to find every item and upgrade. Also as a chance to hone my skills for the DLC.


    • Watching someone play a horror game is just like watching a film, except you get to help them decide what action they should take! We downloaded Until Dawn recently and I’m looking forward to ‘playing’ it with the other-half – I really enjoyed what I saw of it on Twitch when it was released.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is in the top five for me so far this year for sure. The first person approach threw me off a bit at first but as the game went on it became more and more like a classic RE game which was fantastic.


    • Yeah, I really like the little touches that hark back to the original Resident Evil despite this game looking so ‘modern’. I almost expected some dogs to come crashing through a window at any moment…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: It’s Halloween!! Videogame Edition – Arthifis' Place

    • It’s definitely worth giving it a go if you can. The first half of the game is scarier than the second, as is the case with a lot of horrors, but it’s really breathed a bit of life back into the Resident Evil series (pun intended!).


  5. I didn’t even last 4 hours into Resident Evil 7 :). I was completely bored out of my mind and quit. Fast forward over a year later and now own the game on PS4 because my local pawnshop had it for $7 and it’s not even worth that to me. I don’t like the direction this game is taking the series and it feels like Outlast with guns to me. So I deleted my game, again, and I doubt I’ll ever finish the game or put more than 3 and half hours in it. I’m glad you guys are loving it though!


    • I wrote this post a few hours into the game… and I have to admit that I got bored around the halfway mark because it started getting a little repetitive. I did enjoy it more than some of the more recent Resident Evil games however and I loved the way it handled cutscenes, so it wasn’t all bad! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I see. I’ve tried to get into the game twice. And I actually love the recent Resident Evil games. Well… I don’t love part 6, but I thought it had it’s moments. The Revelations games are excellent though.

        The cutscenes are well done. I’ll rather watch them on Youtube than play the game again though…


        • I tried playing the first Revelations game with my other-half a while back, and experienced the same thing again: I enjoyed it for the first few hours but then didn’t want to play any more. Once the scare-factor wares off, I start to get a little bored. Maybe I just need to give it more of a chance? 🤔

          Liked by 1 person

          • The first Revelations game isn’t as good as the second one. The second one has local co op and the second player is more of a support role. The only thing you can do is shout (because you play as a little girl) or blind enemies with a flashlight. It’s creepier too in my opinion. Revelations 2 is on of my favorite Resident Evil games. The first one… is a little rough around the edges since it was originally a 3DS game.


            • Ah I didn’t know that! The other-half and I are on the lookout for more games we can play together and the ‘support role’ aspect sounds like it might be the best option for me. 😉

              Liked by 1 person

              • To be honest he’ll be the support role when he’s Barry. I’m not going to spoil anything, but that little girl can see things that Barry can’t and you’ll have to direct his aim in certain situations. It’s a really awesome game and the story isn’t too bad. I really enjoyed it. I beat it like 20 times lol.


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