Why I love Resident Evil's panic rooms

Against the horror, these soothing spaces calm us down.

Why I Love

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. This week, Joe catches his breath in Resident Evil. 

I'd never heard of panic rooms until I watched the titular 2002 Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart-starring thriller of the same name. Growing up Glasgow, any bother I'd encountered at this point in my life took place outwith my home, and often involved gangs of youths bigger and stronger than I gratuitously chasing me and my mates around the streets because, well, they were bigger and stronger than us. At home things were suitably quiet, and my parents' need to splash out on a panic room in suburbia was eclipsed by the cost of raising an awkward teen with a seemingly never-ending appetite.

I had no reason to know what a panic room was, then, until I watched Foster and Stewart in action. Except I did know what a panic room was. Because I'd been unwittingly visiting them for years. 

My first stay came off the back of a hard-fought three-on-one situation, where a trio of undead T-Virus-infected bogeymen cornered me at the foot of a stairwell. I unloaded my 15-round S.T.A.R.S. issue baretta twice over, before their corpses finally slouched to the deck and large pools of crimson oozed over the floor. Gun raised and heart pounding, I hung a sharp right and entered the box room ahead. I was met with this: 

That ever-so-sweet melody would go on to define my stay at the Spencer Mansion—the main setting of the original Resident Evil (and it's 2002/2015 remake). I love horror games, but at the same time I'm a bit of shit bag and thus my earliest memories of the Resident Evil series don't always revolve around zombies and Lickers and Tyrants, but often instead involve me limping around their grounds with little ammo and even less health—bumbling from room to room in search of an ever-elusive typewriter. 

Save rooms were my Resi-slanted panic rooms, and I found as much joy in entering a room to the above theme as I did stumbling across ammo or taking down a mid-zone boss. With that door closed nothing could get me, and I was able to revel in the scant reprieve the four walls offered before soldiering out into the wilderness once more. 

In Resident Evil 2, I spent the best part of 20 minutes hiding in the save room immediately following that wall-shattering run-in with this guy. After almost crawling there—Claire all the while clutching her rib cage and nursing a terrible limp—I stood back from my computer, caught my breath, went to the toilet, made a cup of tea, and then waited another five minutes or so before resuming. RE2 afforded me a few of these moments, thus this melody is forever etched into my brain: 

As I mentioned in our list of Resident Evil games ranked from worst to best list, the third series entry, Nemesis, was the first to give enemies the ability to travel through closed doors after you'd activated the area-loading door opening animation. The first time I thought I'd lost Nemesis only for it to burst through a closed gate and continue its brutal hunt nearly gave me a heart attack—therefore the sanctuary of the save room became more important here than ever. The S.T.A.R.S.-despising monster could chase me anywhere on the map, yet the save room was immune to its relentless pursuit. 

At the time, I remember thinking RE 3's save room theme was a little more sinister against its forerunners, but, in light of the above, I don't think I was overly fussed with its composition when it came down to it.

I've visited many Resident Evil save rooms since—some more than others—and have now sunk a few hours into the latest series entry, Resident Evil 7. As you'll have undoubtedly spotted elsewhere, its first-person makeup and decision to part ways with its familiar series-serving cast has taken it in a bold and new direction. 

After some uncertain first steps, I'm now engrossed in a game which does feel fresh but also feels very Resident Evil-like. Locating keys strewn around an incongruously designed map, scouring every nook and cranny for health tonics and ammo supplies, and battling strange, hostile and ungodly creatures feels familiar but is no less enjoyable than before. 

I've had my fair share of panicked moments already, but they've been nothing the sound of entering a room to the following melody hasn't helped soothe. 

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