Forget punching boulders, it’s time to destroy planets
Resident Evil 7 is little more than a month away, and I’m feeling more and more confident that Capcom is bringing a strong return to form. I was impressed back when it was announced at E3, and the interview I had with series producer Masachika Kawata answered some lingering doubts I had.
I had just played the Midnight demo that was released over the weekend prior to the interview. My quick and dirty impressions: VR is in a much better state than it was six months ago, and having a gun and a monster in addition to the mysteries we’ve been solving since the original demo cements this as a Resident Evil game for me, as opposed to an Outlast clone like so many have suggested. These thoughts fresh in my mind, another journalist and I had some questions about the past and future of Capcom’s scary child.
I couldn’t resist asking whether Capcom’s new approach to marketing (showing very little of the game like I urge horror developers to do here, while simultaneously providing a free demo) was from high up in the company, or was the PR department’s idea.
Kawata said that in terms of fan reception, he knows they “always want more, but for a horror game, the less revealed ahead of time the more enjoyable the actual game experience will be.” The project owner Jun Takeuchi wanted to try something new in gameplay and marketing. Capcom is concerned that there’s less for fans to chew on and they might lose interest, but it’s also confident that players will feel rewarded when they discover everything on their own.
That desire to try something new was a risk, but not quite as much as you think. Even though the perspective is in first-person now, I was assured that once I actually played the full game, I’d “immediately think that it feels like a Resident Evil game. There’s combat, boss battles, iconic, recognizable series staples.” When I asked if the Revelations series would remain as a way for Capcom to maintain a more action-oriented spin-off series, I was told that “[Capcom does] see the split between people who appreciate the classic style and those who want action-heavy Resident Evil,” and that latter group is “being kept in mind for the future.”
Kawata said that the team knew they needed to back off from action, because after Resident Evil 4, the main series objective was to keep upping the scale. “After 6, we figured, yeah, we can’t get bigger than this.” A new entry in the series was the perfect time to shrink it all down and move towards a more intimate experience. “If we wanted to keep pushing the envelope, Resident Evil 7 would have been about superheroes fighting in space,” Kawata laughs. While I’m glad that we’re seeing a more personal, horrific game with 7, I can’t help but imagine Leon Kennedy clad in tights and a cape, punching Earth in half.
As far as new inspirations go, films were as influential as games were for Capcom this time around. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, Evil Dead, and the original Resident Evil were all cited. I asked if Sweet Home was in the team’s mind, since the first game was originally conceived as remake of said Super Famicom game. “You can definitely see those similarities, since the theme here is being confined in a tight space and trying to escape. More recent Resident Evil games have been about guys who don’t run away, and 7 is supposed to be the opposite.” Since Saw was mentioned, I asked if Capcom was worried about Shinji Mikami’s (often cited as the father of Resident Evil) The Evil Within already having covered that base, as it shared that same influence. Kawata sees the series as being quite different, especially when you consider The Evil Within‘s Japanese title, Psycho Break. Mikami’s game was more about hallucinogenic travels through the brain, whereas Resident Evil has always been about biological body horror.
On that note, I had to ask about the ghost in Resident Evil 7‘s demo: were supernatural elements creeping into the series? “For fans worried about the supernatural in Resident Evil, rest assured, there are no ghosts in the main game. That was very much an element that was only in the demo.”