[ Game Theory ] Resident Evil VII: Biohazard – Back to Basics

Even though Beginning HourResident Evil VII‘s playable trailer, has only been out for nearly a month, there has been plenty of speculation regarding the contents of the demo and what the new entry in the storied franchise is supposed to be about. Those involved in its development insist that this demo is more akin to a proof of concept and a judgment of interest but it’s really hard to think that there isn’t more to the eye when it comes to this.

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A Quick History Lesson

To understand the franchise’s roots, one would need to know how far it’s come along and where it’s been. What started as a fairly simple tale of a leaked test of genetic engineering by Umbrella Corporation and its discovery by the local law enforcement in the area quickly escalated into a global incident led by one of Umbrella’s dirtiest agents, Albert Wesker, a man who eventually planned to single-handedly subjugate humanity under his rule. While it’s implied that several of the medical and pharmaceutical companies behind a lot of the disturbances seem to have an iron grip on a lot of global industry across the world and the implications of the events in the games up to this point have had irreversible effects on the world, it could also be said that the effects are not so far reaching that the world was ravaged and destroyed by the events in the franchise, much unlike the events set out by the movie franchise, which treats the T-Virus outbreak and Raccoon City incident like an accidental pandemic instead of a focused test of genetic engineering.

If some of this seems a little bombastic, you’d be right: there’s an almost equal blend of the seriously dire and the laughably fantastic throughout the game and you don’t even have to get through the first game in order to get a full taste of what I mean. It’s become so prevalent that the franchise is responsible for some of the most basic video game tropes that exist in the industry. However, it wasn’t until its second entry that it became a staple in the survival horror genre and a representative of the genre in the industry: it redefined the jump scare, gameplay-based tension, and ambient horror. Even though the fourth game in the series is considered one of the most beloved in the series, it was the second that set the foundation for nearly every survival horror game to come.

However, after time, it seems that the franchise deviated to match the scope of its sometimes utterly unbelievable story. People became more and more disenfranchised and hope for a game that brought back some of the feelings people got in the early entries of the franchise started to seriously dwindle, especially after the wildly deviating sixth main entry in the franchise, which took pretty much every convention and trope the series was well-known for and turned it on its ass in exchange for what felt like, to some, pandering to the lowest common denominator in gaming.

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Story Theories

One of the biggest questions that seems to be hanging over this coming game is what the game’s premise it going to be: the global conspiracy surrounding dealings with Umbrella and companies like it was unraveled, most parties involved in the spread and distribution of the genetically mutating viruses have been killed or otherwise eliminated, the world’s governments are learning how to deal with the effects of the virus’ spread and created organizations to do so, and it seems that the world has successfully been kept in the dark, relatively, in regards to the incidents outlined in the games; it would seem the world is finally on the mend from the franchise but there were also several places that were ravaged by the events outlined in the franchise, which is where I think we start finding clues for what this game might entail.

Beginning Hour and KITCHEN seem to portray a home housed by a backwater and extremely disturbed family but that isn’t the interesting part about this because we’re really not seeing anything unique to Resident Evil, with just that information: what I suspect, though, is that this is a backwater religious family that was torn apart by the T-Virus, perhaps in an area nearby Raccoon City that somehow survived the fallout of the incident that happened there. There’s suggestion, through the demo, that there’s at least one child in the family and that child is incredibly gargantuan, perhaps due to a mutation through the T-Virus; what’s provocative enough, here, is that this child may even have turned into a Tyrant class monster. There’s evidence that there’s some research done into Umbrella and that they’re some kind of religious fanatics and that a mother figure is likely not present.

As far as the demo is concerned, I suspect this scenario played out: the virus ravaged the area around this home and infected the family’s children, be it one or more, the resulting zombies having killed the mother. Desperate for revenge and psychologically twisted by the trauma of losing, essentially, his whole family, he decides to keep his child or children alive, slowly feeding it the remains of alive or dead humans and preparing to take revenge on Umbrella. What you experience in the demo is just another person lost in the house in question, being hunted down by the father so the fresh body can be dissected and fed to the child or children in question.

While it’s been told that this demo is not indicative of the story in the full release of the game, I believe it does seriously lend itself very strongly to the setting of the game and the approach the story will take – we’re likely going to see a place ravaged by the T-Virus, among other viruses found through the course of the franchise, and see what else it did to the world other than create a bunch of zombies and otherworldly creatures.  This can lend itself to plenty of creepy and hyper-realistic situations while keeping the franchise history intact.

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Gameplay Theories

Based on statements from the development team so far, I actually see the strongest deviation from the franchise roots in this element: while the Resident Evil flavor will still be present, it will actually, in my opinion, in terms of its actual gameplay, represent something more akin to Outlast or Metroid Prime. It falls in line with what’s been said so far that there won’t be so much combat but it will still be present and that tension and horror elements will still be quite high. If the demo is to be believed, gathering lore and elements from the franchise’s history will be a large element, too. I think this is probably where the demo is more of a proof of concept than a chunk of the game itself: you get to see what the gameplay will offer, firsthand.

While I think that these elements will play a big part in the gameplay, I also think that P.T. and Silent Hills seem to have a super large influence on this game, as it seems to have the same kind of approach of taking an isolated and seemingly outlying but ultimately relevant incidents and tying them into the franchise, leading me to believe that this may be episodic or it may be a series of incidents that tie into a larger narrative.

What do you guys think? Developers have stated something along the lines of updates to the demo that may expand the narrative or add gameplay elements so things may have only gotten started.

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