I have more experience with the Resident Evil movies than I do with the games, and there’s a reason for that. The movies are a lot of things—“terrible” is one word that comes to mind—but they’re not scary, an aspect I appreciate because
horror stories like this usually give me nightmares. But while the movies might be poorly made, I’ve heard good things about their notably scary games. Until recently, I was only familiar with the first and fourth in the series, but against my better judgement I decided to check out Resident Evil 7. Thankfully for me, Team4Star published a series of videos of Krillin from DBZ playing the game, and without Krillin’s hilarious commentary, I doubt I would have made it through the story. Resident Evil 7 scared me. A lot. And the first two days afterward, I had nightmares.
But the more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed the story, and I even went back to watch the playthrough a second time. I doubt I’ll ever play the game for myself, but I ended up loving the story and the characters a lot more than I thought I would.
Three years ago, a woman named Mia went missing while off on a babysitting job. In the present day, her husband, Ethan, gets an email from her out of the blue telling him where she is. The email leads Ethan to what appears to be an abandoned mansion in the middle of bumfuck nowhere Louisiana, and even though the place is surrounded with cut-up animal parts, abandoned vehicles, and obvious signs of criminal activity, Ethan decides to enter it anyway instead of calling the police. From there on, we learn that the owners, the Baker family, have been infected with something that turned them into near-immortal cannibals and for some reason they want both Ethan and Mia to be part of their family. At one point, they even try to force Ethan to eat someone’s remains.
Throughout the game, Ethan keeps finding letters and pictures of a little girl named Eveline. We later learn that Eveline is a bioweapon and Mia worked as her caretaker, using babysitting as her cover to her husband. Although we never actually learn what company Mia works for, we know that she was transporting Eveline somewhere on a large tanker and that Eveline has mind control abilities. Unfortunately, Eveline went rogue in the middle of their journey during a storm. Being obsessed with family, Eveline declared Mia her mother and then killed the crew. The tanker washed up near the Baker home, and when the Bakers tried to rescue Mia and Eveline, Eveline infected them and took over their minds.
Both Ethan and Mia spend the game trying to escape the Bakers, with some help from the Bakers’ daughter Zoe, who’s not completely taken over yet. Unfortunately, both Zoe and Mia become infected and they cannot leave unless they have the cure. Worse yet, once Ethan finds the cure and they try to leave, Eveline attacks again. It’s not until she’s killed that the game gets its happy ending.
As I said earlier, I liked Resident Evil 7. I liked it quite a lot. Sure, it’s scary and all, but underneath that, it had some good characters, a great use of setting, and is just a fun story. Unlike the other Resident Evil settings I’m used to, which consist of winding passages, elaborate puzzles, and castles, towns, and homes that must be inconvenient for everyday use, the Baker mansion actually feels like a real house people used to live in. It’s also filled with photographs and journal entries telling us about the Bakers before they turned. This made the villains more interesting than random zombies killing people for no reason. The Bakers have personalities and they felt like real people who had some rotten luck.
Mostly, I was impressed with Mia’s character. I can’t say that I expected all that much from her—after all, I wasn’t too impressed with the female characters in the fourth game. Resident Evil 4 was also about some man (Leon) going to rescue a female character (Ashley Graham, the U.S. President’s daughter). Ashley, to put it nicely, was useless at best, and aggravatingly annoying at worse. She spent the game being kidnapped, and I kid you not, not running away from the zombies trying to catch her, even though she was more than capable of doing so. Mia, like Ashley, is a kidnapping victim, but she’s much more active in the story. She’s got military training, fights back against Eveline, and even the times that she’s weaponless, she does her best to fight back against the Bakers. Despite also being infected, Mia can sometimes break through Eveline’s control. This results in her acting like a normal person in some instances and violent and evil in others. Ethan finds her early on, and even though she appears helpless with some PTSD symptoms, not five minutes later she turns and attacks Ethan. For me, the most surprising part of the game was when she saws Ethan’s hand off with a chainsaw. (It gets stapled back on later.) Mia’s journey ended up being what really sold the game for me. It’s her backstory that gets the plot in motion, her struggles that get Ethan captured, and then it’s only through her knowledge that Ethan manages to destroy Eveline.
This was a twist on her rescue, albeit an obvious one, but what I mostly liked was that at a later part of the game, Mia has to rescue Ethan instead. Although Ethan’s the main character, Mia ended up with more personality. This is because the game is a first-person perspective, and Ethan’s mostly a blank slate the player can imprint themselves on. We never even see his face. This allowed Mia to be more active in the story, and given her interactions with Eveline, the game also passes the Bechdel test.
But while Mia’s character was fairly well written, I can’t say the same for the other female characters, such as Zoe and her mother, Marguerite Baker. When Ethan finds the cure to Eveline’s control, he only has enough for either Mia or Zoe, basically forcing the player to chose between which female character you’re going to save. Choosing Zoe results in both Zoe and Mia dying, whereas choosing Mia results in Mia’s survival. What happens to Zoe afterward, we never find out. This felt somewhat like pitting two female characters against each other, and looking back, the game could have just as easily saved both characters. We don’t know all that much about Zoe—Ethan mostly talks to her through the phone—and this would have allowed her character to grow and let us get to know her better.
As for Marguerite, the boss battle against her had me rolling my eyes. Marguerite ends up with bug-controlling powers or something. Then, during her battle, her body starts morphing and there’s a nest growing out her vagina. I’m not sure what else there is to mention there. I mean, I doubt we’re ever going to see a male villain shooting bugs out his penis. Because it’d be fucking stupid. But hey, women parts are scary, I guess.
There’s not a whole lot more representation than what I just mentioned. The only Black character, a cop, dies after about five lines, when one of the Bakers shoves a shovel through his head. Later on, we see his body strung up on a meat hook, which is just icky and horrifyingly racist. It looked a lot like a lynching. Louisiana also has the second largest Black population in the United States, but the game doesn’t reflect that. One of the problems with adding more characters of color is that all or most of them would die, and making the Bakers Black would also play into problematic stereotypes, since they’re evil. But there’s no reason Ethan or Mia had to be white. Making Ethan white plays into the “white as default” perspective our society has, but nothing would have been lost by changing it. I can’t say that previous games have done better with racial representation, since I only know the story behind two of them. Resident Evil 4 took place in Spain, and all the zombies run after the main character screaming “¡mátalo!” (“kill him!”) That was neat and all, but even then, both Leon and Ashley were white, and the one Hispanic character who’s not evil dies gruesomely. As for the first game, I don’t remember it all that well, but I doubt it did much better.
Resident Evil 7 lacks diversity, and despite how well Mia was written, it also still plays into tired sexist stereotypes. If you can look past that, the story has some neat twists that keep it new, and it’s actually scary, unlike the movies. It was nice to partake in a Resident Evil story that wasn’t completely awful. I’d be aware of its failings, but the rest of the game is fun and exciting, so check it out if you’re interested!