Honestly, I can’t help but feel like Resident Evil 7 has been falsely marketed. Trailers, posters and the thrice updated demo all make the latest entry in the RE franchise look like its capitalising on the Outlast, Amnesia, Slender (etc…) jump scare hype train. All the marketing seems to downplay anything to do with guns and actual combat in favour of making the game look like its following in the foot steps of the hide and seek simulators that modern Horror game have become. Basically the pre-release material make Resident Evil 7 look like any thing but Resident Evil. I don’t really like what modern Horror plays like in the video game space, I did enjoy the first Amnesia (more accurately I enjoyed the first half of Amnesia) but I really hate the way the survival aspect of Survival Horror has been left on the cutting room floor. You know, like how in the old Resident Evil/ Silent Hill games you would constantly be low on resources and the overall challenge came not from dispatching your monstrous foes, but ensuring you had enough to stay alive, or to use a different synonym: Survive! The discussion of what makes a game a true Survival Horror experience is a worthwhile one, but one that we don’t have time for in this review. What I will say, is that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a pure survival horror game and just about as classic a Resident Evil game there has been since Resident Evil: Zero.
Yes I suppose I should back that statement up, after all, how could it be just like the Old Resident Evil games when it is playing in first person…. Said all the idiots in the audience. No seriously, are there really still people who think that a perspective shift is enough to turn a game into an entirely new genre? Metroid Prime was over 15 years ago for goodness sake! RE7 does not play exactly like RE’s 1 through 3, how could it after all these years, but what’s most important is the way it captures the spirit of classic Resident Evil and creates something that feels invigoratingly new for the series, whilst staying true to series roots. All the greatest hits are here and accounted including old favourites such as: A trapped shotgun room; gigantic bioweapons; and even a super weapon handed over at the last moment to polish off the final boss. All of which will sound very familiar to any who’s played any Resident Evil game, but all of this is just window dressing really, after all stick a lad in a green tunic and you don’t automatically have a Legend of Zelda game. So this raises the question: what does define a Resident Evil game. Well it’s an interesting discussion, but for the sake of brevity I’ll boil it down to one aspect… Item Management. Throughout your play through you will constantly be running back and forth between item boxes to rearrange what you have on you, making sure to take enough survival items and make sure you bring the right keys and keeping space for anything you might need to pick up along the way. It’s creates a meta game in which you are always forced to make choices in exactly the same way you had to do in the first 3 Resident Evil titles.
It’s not all the same however, as the new first person perspective brings along with it many new gameplay experiences for the franchise. The scares can be much more intense now, as the goons will get right into your face whenever they feel like it. I did fret that this game would be nothing but forced jump scares the whole way through, but thankfully I was totally wrong. Honestly the amount of BOO moments are surprisingly scarce. The majority of the tension is created through the atmosphere itself. Being in first person you have a lot more freedom to really scrutinise your environments and clearly Capcom where well aware of this as the environment is richly detailed and packed with hidden items that reward more observant players. This isn’t a run of the mill first person shooter because of how little ammunition you have to play with, but that being said, the guns and weapons you pick up all feel very satisfying to use especially the Magnum you can unlock later in the game. Of course I won’t be able to get away from talking about the Virtual Reality aspect of Resident Evil. The game wasn’t built scratch with VR in mind, but you wouldn’t know that from how expertly the peripheral has been integrated in. To be completely open and honest, I struggled to play for longer sessions with this, but the times when my eyeballs weren’t trying to claw out of my head were some of the most intense gaming sessions I think I have every played. It created a whole new dynamic to gameplay when you aim is tied to your view, because is you don’t keep your cool and your aim true, then you will miss every shot! If you’re like me and very susceptible to VR sickness, then it is hard to recommend you play the whole thing with your headset on, but the options available to ease your discomfort are very impressive, and while I could never last more than an Hour, I did manage to find a sweet spot that kept me quite happy.
The new engine developed for Resident Evil 7 has produced a very handsome title. The creatively named RE Engine was made specifically to enable to dev team to add more detail to characters and environments and they absolutely succeeded on both fronts. The main antagonists in this game are the Baker family, who are all wonderfully realised characters who all feel like very real people, regenerative murder powers aside and the mansion in which they inhabit is a lived in fleshed out environment, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Spencer Estate. The secondary threat, and in game cannon fodder, are known as the Moulded, who are not what I would consider particular striking in design. They are very appropriately a walking pile of black goo (or mould) with varying archetypes. To the games credit, each variant is instantly recognisable from one another. But then again there are only four types. I never found myself wanting for more though, they do a good enough job of keeping up the pace between Baker encounters, but the focus here is the family without question. The only visual aspect I found myself disappointed in was the frankly atrocious lip syncing present throughout. It may sound like a nit pick, but in scenes when character gets right up in your face are meant to be tense and revolting experiences, but when you see them doing there best impression of a dubbed Bruce Lee flick, the mood is somewhat ruined.
The game opens with the player character, Ethan Winters, driving through the Louisianan Everglades. He is speaking on the phone with some unnamed third party about his wife, who has sent Ethan a message to collect her, after she’s been missing for the last three years. Which will sound very similar to the beginning of another classic survival horror to those paying attention. This is where the similarities end with the aforementioned game that rhymes with Miment Dill Chew, and the story here is surprising competent for a Resident Evil game. It’s not Shakespeare but it does you through some pretty interesting twists and turns as events unfold, and it rewards players who actually take the time to hunt out notes and files with a more comprehensive understanding of individual character motivations and a fleshing out of series lore. The game was actually written by a westerner for the first time in the series, who just so happened to be a writer who as involved in the F.E.A.R franchise, which makes more sense as the story progresses (take that as you will). Ethan himself is an engaging protagonist, he has very clear motivations and reacts to all the ridiculous nonsense like a real human being, meaning he actually freaks out when he sees monsters and cannibals. The real stars of the show here are the Baker family, each of whom torments Ethan in there own way. Jack Baker is the classic all American dad (murder notwithstanding), a former marine who loves Football, he values strength and constantly chases Ethan down to beat the living daylights out of him. Whereas Marguerite, the wife, who loves to cook and tend to her green house… um… shoots bugs at you. Okay, so that one is a bit of a tenuous link, but her encounters force you to engage more intelligently than Jack ever did, which makes sense for the character who does attack you directly. And finally we have the Son, Lucas, who is an arsehole. He’s a smarmy smart arse who fills out his domain with traps and tricks to throw you off balance. Each of these characters feel shockingly real despite how cartoonishly they act, almost like you could know one of these people, which makes you really glad supper powers don’t actually exist.
Resident Evil 7 is a gripping experience from start to finish and beyond. While its hard to say right now if this game offers up the endless re-playability that titles like Resident Evil 4 and RE-make do there are plenty of special items to unlock and the additional Madhouse difficultly changes up the beats of the main game in a significant way. The value proposition here is dependant on what you value, while I found myself spending around 22 hours on this titles before my review, you may not appreicate extra difficultly levels or unlocks. There is an additional story mission releasing sometime in the future, but it is impossible to say right now whether or not its any good.
I love Resident Evil 7, its a game that reinvigorates the entire franchise and reminds players why they loved it in the first place. No matter what, we can definitely expect to see RE8 in a similar style, and I can’t wait. Usually, whenever I recommend a game, I do so with certain caveats, Resident Evil 7 is a game a can recommend without hesitation to any one. It’s only February and I already feel like I’ve been sinking my teeth into a game of year worthy title. Don’t let this one pass you up.
Resident Evil 7 was reviewed on PlayStation 4, the game is also available on PC and Xbox One