How Resident Evil became the "guiding light" for SOMA and Amnesia

We chat with Thomas Grip of Frictional Games about his horror influences and Resident Evil 7's new perspective.

With Resident Evil 7 just days away from release, I reached out to some of the best horror developers out there to ask them how Resident Evil has shaped their lives and games. Last week, we learned that, without Resident Evil 4, Dead Space would have been System Shock 3. Now, I've talked to Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA designer Thomas Grip about how Capcom's survival horror series has influenced him throughout the years.

The first time Grip had ever seen Resident Evil was when he was flipping through the pages of a game magazine, of which he doesn't remember the name. What he saw of Resident Evil that day, however, is something he'll never forget.

Resident Evil builds so much around letting each section of the game have its own mood and story, and that has been extremely influential.

"I remember there being this big article where it compared the dangers you face to different death scenes in horror movies," he recalled. "That really grabbed my attention... I must have been 15 at the time."

And when Grip first got his hands on Resident Evil, he was blown away, having never seen anything like it before.

"I was really unaware that you could make games like this," he told me. "The mixture of action, exploration, and puzzles was completely new to me, and it fit me perfectly.

"I especially remember one moment when I was talking to a friend over the phone as I was playing, and one of these lizard monsters suddenly jumped out. It took me by surprise, and I just screamed out loud. A game had never made me feel these emotions before, and it was awesome. I craved more!"

In addition to his love for playing the games, Grip told me that his passion for Resident Evil has informed every horror game he's designed. The impact the survival horror series has had on him has been nothing short of huge.

"It has been a guiding light for pretty much everything I have done," he said. "I think one of the most basic features is to have a very scene-centric design approach. What I mean by this is that you think of your encounters less like elements of a level, and more like a certain emotional scene you want to convey. Resident Evil is filled with great examples of this, like the first dog encounter or the shark attack. It can also be less intense sections; for instance, simply walking outside and hearing crickets chirping. Resident Evil builds so much around letting each section of the game have it's own mood and story, and that has been extremely influential."

With all the games Resident Evil has influenced, it's interesting to see the next game in the series, Resident Evil 7, take an approach that is very familiar to Grip and other horror developers. The first-person perspective has become ever-so-popular over the years with games like Amnesia, Outlast, and Alien: Isolation. Now, Resident Evil is taking a stab at it, and Grip couldn't be happier.

"It is really exciting," he said. "I recently played the demo and I think they had a really nice spin on the first-person horror genre. The demo had many things in common with other weaponless horror, but it still managed to have that distinct Resident Evil feel to it. 

"For the last 15 years, I have basically been doing first-person versions of Resident Evil, and it is awesome to finally have an official version of that."

Resident Evil 7 launches January 24. In the meantime, you can check out our  rankings of every Resident Evil game, from worst to best.

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