If the history of Resident Evil has taught us anything, it’s that Capcom really knows how to reinvent the franchise. The classic Resident Evil games are among the finest examples of survival horror, but the formula eventually needed to change to stay inline with the times. This first took place with Resident Evil 4, in which ceiling cameras were traded for a third person perspective experience to relay more depth, tension, and excitement. However, it was from this point onward that the series rapidly shifted from survival horror to action. Indeed Resident Evil 4 is arguably the best game in the series. Resident Evil 5 is passable, but come Resident Evil 6, it was once again clear that Capcom needed to go back to the proverbial drawing board and make some dire changes. Resident Evil 7 was released earlier this year to wide spread acclaim from critics and fans alike.
The shift from third person perspective to first person perspective allowed the developers to really toy with their audience, which is something Resident Evil 7 effortlessly achieved throughout most of the game. Unfortunately, the DLC drops haven’t quite stepped up to the plate, and Not a Hero is by no means an exception. I was raised to believe that we should never scoff at anything that’s free, and to always appreciate that sentiment. Never has it been so easy to disregard that belief, following my time with Not a Hero. Before we begin I need to warn you that this review contains spoilers for the core game, so if you have yet to complete Resident Evil 7, now is your chance to look away. I always try my hardest to dance around any story giveaway, but it’s unavoidable here as the DLC picks up straight after the events at the end of the game. Still with me? Let us dive in.
Resident Evil 7 ended with several unanswered questions and loose threads. First and foremost, Jigsaw wannabe Lucas Baker is still alive, and it falls to Chris and his team to bring him down once and for all. That’s right, with Ethan and Mia now whisked away to safety, Not a Hero sees you swapping that surprisingly incapable protagonist for Chris Redfield, minus the bulging biceps. The DLC does a good job at lightly answering those aforementioned questions, such as why Chris is now working for the reformed Umbrella, and what his motivations are. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all of these questions are tied up with neat answers, but I did come to appreciate how this content doesn’t hang around too much on a single story thread. It’s quite “to-the-point” throughout the two hour serving, and Capcom must be commended for their decision to alter the character design of Chris, one more time.
Chris Redfield in Not a Hero is clearly not the boulder punching Rocky Balboa that he was in Resident Evil 5. Instead he’s a much more believable and (I dare say) likable character to gel with. Sadly I cannot extend that kindness to the overall content. Not a Hero takes away almost all of the tension and ingenuity found in the core game, and tosses it straight out of the window. What made Resident Evil 7 so great was the fact that it isolated its audience into the body of an individual that was incapable, fearful, and utterly out of his depth. Not a Hero immediately begins, and plays out, on the polar opposite of that concept. Chris from the get-go is geared up and ready to tackle the handful of Molded that still populate the environment, and despite some marginally clever mechanics, Not a Hero is two steps back from what I can only describe as one of best games of 2017.
The emphasis on action sequences and the complete lack of puzzle-based gameplay alongside genuinely scary moments, puts this new chapter right next to the likes of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. Capcom needs to pick a concept and a genre, and run with it. There’s absolutely no excuse, despite the fact that this is free content, for Not a Hero’s flirtation with the very formula that forced Capcom to rethink their aspirations for the series. Sure, we get to witness some new scenery, some new gameplay functionality, and some new story threads, but what does any of that matter when it’s not nearly as enjoyable – if at all – as the main campaign? Exactly. Resident Evil 7 restored my faith in the series, but most of the post launch content has me questioning that faith as I anxiously await whatever the hell Resident Evil 8 has in store. The history of this franchise has shown us that Capcom knows how to craft a solid foundation upon each new iteration, but seem to lack the capability of building on said foundation without ruining it.
Gameplay in Not a Hero typically has you moving from room to room as you pursue Lucas Baker whilst outsmarting his wide range of deadly traps. Chris is fitted with a tactical helmet that houses extra compartments for unlocks to slot into. As you make your way through this bite-sized content, you’ll come across some rooms that are contaminated. This puts that extra bit of pressure onto you as you try desperately to maneuver around the room and seek out the way forward. The problem here is that once again, it just doesn’t feel all that tense. In fact it became borderline annoying and felt like a cheap way to extend the play-time. The same can be said about other elements of play within, such as lowering a crate with a much needed item inside, only to have a huge unstoppable Molded spawn in and chase you around the immediate environment until you could grab the item and run.
The only time I actually felt involved was when I was trying to save Chris’ team mates from Lucas, but these moments of engagement are far too fleeting to be considered a saving grace. I did quite enjoy the new enemy variants and parts of the new environment, but it hardly stacks up to the intriguing Baker Mansion or its antagonists. The actual combat is passable as it plays much like the later stages of the core game, which proves to be satisfying to say the most. When all is said and done, this content is clearly aimed at fans that got the most out of the action-fueled Resident Evil games. I can only hope that this is not a recurring theme moving forward, because everything that made Resident Evil 7 stand out this year is almost entirely absent in this freebie. I must reiterate that it’s usually hard for me to argue with anything that’s free, but regardless to that, Not a Hero is undeniably underwhelming.
Capcom needs to pick a concept and a genre, and stick with it. Not a Hero takes almost everything that made Resident Evil 7 so great, and tosses it out of the window. The emphasis on action in this DLC is far too dominant to be considered survival horror. Sure, it may well indeed be free to download, but that doesn’t give it a free pass. It’s lazy, it’s uninteresting, and it’s utterly underwhelming. The very few marginally interesting elements of play does not save it from that.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.