Resident Evil 7 was a watershed moment for the series that reinvigorated the languishing franchise. Series producer Masachika Kawata told us how the team over at Capcom brought the series home again.
Kawata explained that Resident Evil 7 creates a horrifying experience by changing the camera perspective, so the player never feels like a spectator.
"We felt that a switch to first person perspective would heighten the immersion and bring the player closer to this horror, making everything feel more personal," Kawata said.
In Resident Evil 7, encroaching enemies often lurch into the player's personal space. Ethan's injuries (like his painful encounter with a chainsaw), gained impact with the change in perspective.
But Resident Evil 7 is more than guts and blood: It's also game about space, about feeling anxiety in creaking floorboards and tight hallways. To capture that spirit, the development team drew from prior locations in the series, like the iconic Spencer Mansion or the estate from Resident Evil 5: Lost In Nightmares.
"Thematically, we aimed for something more intimate, rather than having some large in scope." Kawata said. This meant making the Baker Residence far less sprawling than locations like Resident Evil 4's castle. "We wanted to go back to having players explore a single location with a lot of depth."
Finding the right recipe for terror also required some soul searching. No direct incorporation of explicit fears occurred; the team didn't simply add giant spiders because someone found spiders scary. Instead, abstract concepts helped in creating a consistent mood.
"I have the fear of death that I'm sure is universally shared," Kawata said. "But what also frightens me is the idea of complete loss of communication."
The isolating nature of the Baker Residence seems to consume anyone who enters it, from the hapless Sewer Gator television crew to Ethan himself. Whenever Ethan finds a new ally, they often disappear. The deputy sheriff David Anderson offers a ray of hope at the start of the game before being brutally killed by Jack Baker. Later allies also fall prey to monsters.
"The thought of being completely isolated from the world you know is a terrifying concept to me," Kawata told Kotaku.
Less abstract measures were taken to add new dimensions to Resident Evil 7's horror as well. The game utilises the PlayStation VR headset to immerse players in the setting (and, in my case, create a great deal of motion sickness). Despite being plenty scary, the team often wondered if RE7's VR was intense enough.
"During the campaign, we got a lot of questions about whether the fear might be too intense in VR," Kawata said. "To be honest, it's what we were hoping to achieve. Hopefully, those that have tried it in VR can agree that it was a truly scary experience."
Katawa also spoke to us about Resident Evil 7's secrets. The dummy finger puzzle from the demo, for example, generated a lot of excitement that surprised the team.
"The dummy finger reception was definitely unexpected," Kawata said. "We were expecting it to take a while before all of the secrets were uncovered, so it was completely shocking that players were able to discover everything so quickly!"
As for the prospect of additional hidden secrets, Kawata added: "We do have some off the beaten path items to find in the main game that aren't required but are beneficial for those that dig deeper to discover them."
Resident Evil 7 merges many aspects in order to create an air of mystery and strong sense of place. The reception's been strong, and has encouraged the team to press forward.
"It will definitely be a compass to help us determine the future of the franchise," Kawata said. "Resident Evil has a lot to offer and more to explore, so I hope to bring another 20 years of experiences to fans."