This Week in Games
Resident Evil 7
by Dustin Bailey,
Video games are back, you guys. Since last week's column went up, we've seen the release of the Dragon Quest VIII remake, Kingdom Hearts 2.8, and Tales of Berseria. On top of that, there are the games I've actually been playing, like Yakuza 0, Gravity Rush 2, and Resident Evil 7.
I've spent the most time playing that last one, so let's talk about it.
First Impressions: Resident Evil 7
My progress through Resident Evil 7 has been slow—an hour or two of gameplay followed by a lengthy breather. It's not that my lungs are worn out from screaming, mind you. The game's light on jump scares and the nature of its monsters is revealed fairly early on. But it's immensely stressful, a delicate dance of resource management against an onslaught of threats from around every corner.
I hated the Beginning Hour. It felt like a collection of cheap scares and supernatural shenaniganry incongruous with the bioterror themes of RE, trying too hard to evoke the haunted house horrors of P.T. and the post-Penumbra wave of combat-free indie horror. RE7 isn't that. It slowly unfolds itself, and it takes a solid hour of setup and slowly ratcheting tension to make it clear what it's trying to be.
And the thing it's trying to be? A Resident Evil game in the classic sense. You get a gun very early on, and you have to scrounge every corner for ammo while carefully conserving your shots against a limited number of enemies. Making it through a particular hallway to get a key item opens a dozen questions about resource management—did I use too much ammo? Did I take too much damage? Do I retreat back to the save point once I've cleared the room, or press forward a bit further? Do I mix these chemicals with gunpowder for more bullets, or with this herb for more healing items?
RE7 feels like a proper reboot that carries the series forward into a new era while still maintaining what made the series special in the first place. As great as Resident Evil 4—and don't get me wrong, RE4 was one of the finest games ever created—it didn't carry forward the scares and desperate allocation of resources that defined its predecessors. The “survival horror,” if you will. RE7 does.
And it does that without the crutches that the original games relied on. No tank controls—you have as much control over your character as you need. But monsters close the distance fast in unpredictable ways that make it hard to draw a bead on them. No fixed camera angles—everything takes place in first person. But the design of the environments, with tight corners, slowly swaying bits of machinery, and monster-shaped coat racks, leaves you constantly guess about what's coming.
The scares are effective without being reliant on cheap surprises and mountains of gore. Despite your weapon options and healing items, you feel powerless, because they can all disappear in a few seconds of bad play. The monster that shows up again and again throughout the game isn't scary the second time you see it—what is scary is that you're now trapped in a room with it after you stupidly locked yourself in without checking the corners, with three bullets in your handgun and not an herb in sight.
If it seems like I'm hesitant to get too specific about things, that's because I am. Cool moments are everywhere, each of them buoyed by a sense of shock and surprise. Sometimes they're scary, sometimes they're disgusting, and sometimes they're just plain awesome.
Of course, the repetition inherent can diminish those surprises. That crazy thing the boss does halfway through the fight sure is crazy, but its impact diminishes significantly when you've been through the battle three or four times. And it's very easy to get yourself in that old Resident Evil strategy of scouting out an area, intentionally dying, and reloading your previous save with knowledge of what's coming next, robbing yourself of the tension that area provides.
If there's one flavor RE7 is missing, it's the cheese. There are no corny one-liners, no sexy secret agents, and no rookie cops bent on saving the world from bioterrorism. At least four or five hours into the game, the cornball anime storytelling that defined the series lore is nowhere to be found. That's the cost of making Resident Evil scary again—the grotesque imagery is no longer undercut with perfectly feathered hair and villains permanently sporting sunglasses.
Is that a bad thing? Probably not. It's probably what RE needed to become survival horror again. And as I slowly inch my way through the puzzle-filled, monster-infested halls of RE7's mansion, I'm constantly impressed with how incredibly effective it is at being that horror revival. It doesn't feel like an imitation of Outlast or Amnesia—it feels like Resident Evil. It's been a very long time since any game has.
I'll have a full review soon, but until then? Resident Evil 7 is good.
TOUKIDEN 2 CONFIRMED FOR WESTERN RELEASE
Toukiden is a monster hunting game in the spirit of—you guessed it—Monster Hunter, but one that features oni and medieval Japanese imagery in contrast to Monster Hunter's sword and sorcery aesthetic. The first game was a PSP and Vita release from 2013, which came West in 2015 with an enhanced, expanded version for PS4, Vita, and PC called Toukiden: Kiwami.
Toukiden 2, after its 2016 Japanese release, is coming to North America on March 21st and Europe on March 24th. I'm reading a list of new stuff for the sequel here, but I'm gonna be real—I don't have any context for what items on this list are meaningful. What I can tell you is that the Kiwami was a well-reviewed game, and if you've exhausted God Eater 2 but still seek a Monster Hunter alternative, Toukiden has got you covered very soon.
DEAD OR ALIVE XTREME 3'S VR MODE IS OUT
Here's a fun fact: as of a year or two ago, Dead or Alive creator, former Team Ninja head, and sexy lady enthusiast Tomonobu Itagaki was accepting every single friend request through Facebook. Turns out, he's not a fan of modern Team Ninja. When somebody let him know about that DOAX3 was sticking to Asian releases, he called the folks who made the decision “Galapagosian Lolita Complexed Chicken.” I don't really know what that means, but I'm desperate for that phrase to enter the common vernacular. This story has nothing to do with the news—I just wanted to share it.
Look. Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is indefensible. It's a bad game supported only by the latest in high-tech bosom rendering. If you're into that, you might be into the game's promised VR support. It was delayed for a long time. It's out now, and it's free. But it's only temporarily free—after February 23rd it will cost 1,500 yen, or about $13 US. Yes, folks, you only get a quick hit of VR in your $60 bikini simulator. After that, you'd better be prepared to pay for the privilege.
It's a bad game, guys. Paying extra won't make it better.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO IS JUST A PUPPET IN KOJIMA'S HANDS
This is barely news, but this quote—and the bromance between Kojima and del Toro—is just too good to leave alone. In an IGN interview, del Toro made clear he has no creative role in Death Stranding, saying Kojima has “discussed his ideas so I could understand the character, but other than that I'm not involved, creatively, at all.”
That does seem to confirm that del Toro's character isn't just limited to the trailer, however. “I'm just a puppet in his hands. My contribution is limited to being a cheerleader for his ideas and being scanned for long hours at a time. That's about it.”
With Kojima now unshackled from the bounds of Konami and Metal Gear, I cannot wait to see the indulgent absurdity he and his Hollywood buddies will put together in Death Stranding. I'm pretty sure it will be bad, but I'm also pretty sure I will love it.
OVERWATCH'S LATEST SEASONAL EVENT IS THE YEAR OF THE ROOSTER
As you might have heard, Overwatch was the best game of 2016, and now it's starting off the New Year with a bang—the Chinese New Year, that is. The latest event for Blizzard's monolithic shooter is the Year of the Rooster, bringing with it a whole bunch of new cosmetics and a brand new brawl.
That brawl is the big thing, since it's the first time capture the flag—Capture the Rooster, here—has been an official Overwatch mode. A bunch of characters are getting fancy red and gold outfits for the event, while several more are getting styled after Journey to the West characters. Can't wait to see the feathers fly and the fireworks in this update.
(That's top shelf bad pun work. Shut up.)
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
DIGIMON WORLD: NEXT ORDER|
Developer: B.B. Studio
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: January 31
The Digimon World series has been running for nearly 20 years. (If you don't believe me, check Wikipedia. I know I had to.) This the first game in the RPG series to make it to the West in quite a while, and despite zero personal affection for the franchise, I'm weirdly curious about it. The battle system sees your digital monster taking action automatically while you issue strategic commands.
DOUBLE DRAGON IV|
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Arc System Works
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PC
Release Date: January 29
MSRP: Unknown (but probably $10)
When you see that Arc System Works is making a new Double Dragon, you might expect something flashy and over-the-top. But Double Dragon IV is a sequel in the Mega Man 9 sense, a stripped-down, 8-bit appropriate successor to the original NES game. Yes, "NES." This ain't the arcade game. My 8-bit nostalgia isn't what it once was, but I'm still curious what Arc is going to do here.
DYNASTY WARRIORS: GODSEEKERS|
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita
Release Date: January 31
If you're hoping to mow down hordes of opposing forces in an big-scale action game, it turns out this new Dynasty Warriors game isn't for you. Instead, Godseekers is a tactical RPG, similar to previous series spinoff Dynasty Tactics. Turn-based battles see you taking control of over 60 existing Dynasty Warriors characters to make war in China's Three Kingdoms era.
FIRE EMBLEM HEROES|
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platform: iOS / Android
Release Date: February 2
Nintendo's latest foray into the mobile market, Fire Emblem Heroes is perhaps the one that most looks like an actual video game. You'll summon (or buy) heroes made up of series favorites and new faces, setting them to battle on 8x6 tactical maps in a variety of story scenarios.
Physical editions of Hitman and Abzu are both out this week, so if you've been holding out as some sort of crazy collector, now's the time to jump in.
If I survive the thrills and chills waiting inside the RE mansion, I'll see you next week!
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