Jan 05

First Impressions of Not a Hero & End of Zoe

I’ve been waiting a long time to play Not A Hero, an expansion pack, or DLC, to Resident Evil 7Not a Hero was originally scheduled to be released in spring 2017, but the add-on got pushed back to December because the production crew felt the game wouldn’t meet the expectations of the fans.  While I was anxious for answers to mysteries presented at the end of Resident Evil 7, I was also patient enough to wait for them.

My most burning questions centered around the soldier who claimed to be Chris Redfield, a veteran hero of the Resident Evil series.  Was it really him?  If so, why would he be working for a company calling itself Umbrella — the corrupt pharmaceutical company responsible for creating genetic-altering viruses and horrific monstrosities?  What was the meaning behind the DLC title, Not a Hero?

Early on December 12, I loaded up Resident Evil 7, eager to play the DLC that I expected had been automatically downloaded the day before.  I was surprised when I didn’t find Not a Hero listed among the menu options.  The only new title present was End of Zoe, a secondary DLC title scheduled to be released the same day.  I immediately shut down the game and searched for Not a Hero on my main gaming hub, the Steam Network.  It wasn’t listed there either.

I searched for answers online, and found one forum that seemed to indicate the add-on would only become available upon completion of the main game.  Not seeing any other option, I proceeded to play through Resident Evil 7 in its entirety.  This took almost the whole day because I kept taking breaks at various points.  The last thing I wanted to see after the closing credits was an ad for Not a Hero explaining how to download and install the DLC.

I was a bit aggravated to see that the desired title was now listed on the Steam Network.  I don’t know if it was made available at some point during the day or if my playthrough of Resident Evil 7 unlocked it.  In either case, I proceeded to install it with the intention of playing it the next day.

I woke up around 2AM on December 13.  Rather than try to get back to bed, I chose to begin playing Not a Hero.  I learned in the first few minutes of gameplay the main character is indeed Chris; he is voluntarily working with a new company called Blue Umbrella dedicated to fighting the horrors created by its namesake.

Not a Hero largely has Chris pursuing Lucas Baker, a sadistic madman and budding bioterrorist who had escaped capture during Resident Evil 7.  The DLC, as with the base game, is told from a first-person perspective, with the player experiencing the world through Chris’ eyes.  Despite checking out trailers and tidbits on what to expect, I went into the game largely blind.  I was very eager to uncover whatever mysteries and dangers awaited me.

Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge worked against me in several instances.  I acted like such a noob during the first few hours of my playthrough, it’s a wonder I didn’t get killed more than four times.

I believed I had a pretty good arsenal at my disposal to begin with.  A pistol, combat knife, shotgun, and several grenades seemed like they would be a good defense against the creatures lurking in the mines.  I changed my mind when I first encountered a variant of the monster that could regenerate and wouldn’t go down so easily.  I initially ran from it, then realized I had to go back in to retrieve a key needed to get to a soldier that Lucas had captured.

Trying to rescue said soldier didn’t go so well.  I unlocked the cell door and approached him.  The cave soon filled with poisoned air and started a death trap that Lucas had put together specifically for his prisoner.  Rather than take an air filter that the doomed soldier offered to Chris, I stupidly tried to make a run for it even though my oxygen reserves had fallen to 5%.  I was pretty much dead in an instant.

Once I retrieved the air filter and installed it, I was left with the problem of how to take out the regenerating monster in the cave where the key had been.  After futilely trying to find special ammo that would stop the creature from healing, I cheated and looked online for tips.  The answer was simple: go back to the main cavern and go through the green door to find a night vision filter and the needed ammo.

Upon going through what I thought was the right door, I found myself in a pitch-black tunnel.  But I didn’t let that deter me, nor did I think I was in the wrong place.  I blindly stumbled through the tunnel and proceeded to set off a variety of pressure-plate traps and tripwires.  Surprisingly, I didn’t get killed during this determined search for items.  I had just enough healing items to make it through in one piece.

I don’t know how long it took me to determine that the door I’d gone through was blue, not green.  Once I figured that out, finding the items I needed was a cinch.  The next challenge was to find my way back to the main cavern.  I found that turrets had been set up in the tunnels I’d used to get to this point.  Initially, I tried shooting the turrets to take them out — which didn’t work — and inadvertently used up the special ammo I’d collected.  My answer on how to conquer the turret obstacle was to run past them to minimize the damage.  Death #2.

When I loaded the last save point, I was given a tip on the loading screen to find an alternate route back to the main cavern.  Once I got through that segment, I returned to the blue door.  Finding my way through these tunnels went much smoother.  At least until I reached a room where another soldier had been taken prisoner by Lucas.  This area was loaded with laser tripwires and explosives.  My first not-so-brilliant idea was to lob a grenade into the room to neutralize the bombs.  Death #3.

Upon closer inspection, I found that it was possible to get through the room without setting off the tripwires.  I carefully navigated my way to the imprisoned soldier and initiated a conversation with him.  The next thing I knew, I heard Lucas taunting Chris over the intercom before the tripwires started rotating in my direction.  Death #4.

On my third try at this, I discovered that I needed to cut the power for the room before talking to the soldier.  This still didn’t save the guy, as he’d been outfitted with a collar bomb that was shortly detonated remotely.  Soon after the soldier was killed, Lucas activated an explosive he’d strapped to Chris’ arm at an earlier point in the game.  I was given a time limit to find some liquid nitrogen canisters to temporarily neutralize the bomb and remove it.  Death #5 occurred because I didn’t make it before the clock ran out.

Similar follies plagued me through the remainder of the game, and I believe I died a total of nine times.  While I was happy to make it through Not a Hero, I was left to reflect on my disappointment with the story.

It hit me, once I finished the game, that Chris is starting to develop a reputation for failing to save the team members he’s working alongside.  The same premise was used in Resident Evil 6 and the recent anime film, Vendetta.  At the very least, I would have liked to see this point addressed in Not a Hero — either through some inner monologue from Chris or through a philosophical debate between him and Lucas.

I feel that Chris’ failings is the meaning behind the DLC title.  It is possible that on some level he no longer views himself as heroic.  I have to wonder if this storyline is building toward something big.  I see two possible outcomes to this scenario: either Chris decides to throw in the towel and retire out of shame, or he encounters a situation that redeems him and possibly has him sacrificing himself for the greater good.

My dissatisfaction with Not a Hero was surpassed by the other DLC, End of Zoe.  The secondary game focused on Lucas’ sister, Zoe, who is infected with the virus present in Resident Evil 7.  The basic plot is that her Uncle Joe – an ex-marine – finds her and strives to locate a cure for her.

Joe is essentially a character who relies largely on his fists to take down the creatures standing between him and the means to save his niece.  My main nitpick with this scenario is the excessive number of locations where you can save the game.  In one area, I could barely take twenty steps before coming to another room where I could save my progress.

As with Not a Hero, I played End of Zoe on the easiest difficulty but didn’t find it nearly as much of a challenge.  Despite playing as a character whose specialty is unarmed combat, I didn’t die once during my first playthrough.  I feel that perhaps the easy mode was made too easy.  I hope that the medium and hard difficulty settings will put End of Zoe on par with the other DLC.  I would hold the secondary game in higher regard if that’s the case.

Overall, I feel that Resident Evil 7 and its add-ons opens up some interesting doors for the future of the franchise.  I look forward to whatever story comes next.

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