When people ask me what I did this holiday season, I’ll tell them exactly what I did, I played Resident Evil 7 in the dark, alone. Whilst you were getting cosy tucking into your pigs in blankets, mince pies and miniature heroes, I was tucking into my pigs in blankets, mince pies and miniature heroes, only crapping them out moments later. Whilst carollers were singing in the street I was yelping in my front room, and whilst spiced mulled wine was being slurped I was busy choking on my own spittle and gasping for breath. Resident Evil 7 has been re-released as 1 big bundle of joy just in time for Christmas, and though playing it was not the most festive of activities one could carry out, December still remained the most wonderful time of the year.
Resident Evil 7 was easily one of 2017’s greatest games, and luckily for those who were unlucky enough to have missed it first time round, its terrifying, ugly head resurfaces once more in 1 definitive edition. In this latest incarnation of the legendary franchise, Capcom have gone back to the series roots by bringing players back into a disturbingly claustrophobic environment, similar to the ones that made this franchise such a hit back in the day. This time round you play as Ethan, a lost lamb following in the footsteps of his wife Mia who went missing 3 years ago. After receiving a mysterious email from Mia regarding her location, Ethan goes out to track her down, only to find himself captured and trapped within the demonic Baker Estate, a derelict swamp land owned by a family of murderous and monstrous hillbillies. Using nothing but sharp wits and broken shotguns, you must find Mia and escape with both of your heads intact, a task much easier said than done. As well as the incredible base game, the Gold Edition also features all of Biohazard’s released DLC, Banned Footage Volumes 1 & 2 and End of Zoe, each of which fleshing out the events leading to and past Ethan and Mia’s traumatic ordeals. The Resident Evil franchise has split opinions in the past, particularly with the last 2 games taking more of an action-adventure approach, so does this latest release truly bring the game back home to it’s roots, enough to forgive and forget the last trip out at least? Absolutely yes.
I can’t remember the last time I held my breath during a playthrough, but I sure as hell won’t forget again. For the first time in a long while I felt like I had literally stepped into the shoes of the game’s protagonist, that his eyes were my own, his fears were my own, and the gun that he was holding was in my own hand. Slowly and silently stumbling through narrow corridors, patiently hiding from monsters and Bakers, using ammo and health kits sparingly, fundamental tasks for survival in Resident Evil 7, and arguably fundamental essentials in recreating a classic survival horror game. Playing on my deepest, darkest fears, I felt nothing but anxiety and paranoia flowing through my veins, perfectly complimenting the sound of my heart pounding through my chest and mouth. These harrowing emotions are ones I’ve not felt since I was a child, a child playing the very first Resident Evil in fact, so does this title bring the franchise right back to it’s glory days? Without a shadow of a doubt. Resident Evil 7 was (and very much is), one of the most unpleasant games I’ve ever experienced, but boy will I cherish it always.
Resident Evil 7’s narrative is a disturbing and terrifying tale of possession, disease and unity, a steer in the opposite direction to the stories it’s predecessors have told, with a focus on an imminent, intimate threat opposed to yet another looming global apocalypse. What Resident Evil 7 does so well with it’s narrative is keeping it in the confines of the here and now, only you are at risk here and only you can stop this threat from getting completely out of hand. Oh and the fact that you’re not ex-military is great, because sometimes playing as a civilian is fun *nudge nudge. The direction and pace that Capcom have chosen to tell Biohazard’s story too is terrific and wise, once again a complete contradiction to how it’s been delivered in it’s past couple of attempts. If I’m to be fully immersed in a tense and suffocating survival horror game, the last thing I want is to be inundated with plot twists, complex storytelling and a dozen different characters, and Resident Evil 7 has none of these issues. Throughout the course of its 10 or so hours the narrative is chilling, tense and simple, escape this, fetch that and rescue her, it’s all this game ever needed and thankfully it’s all that it got. My one gripe with this game however is its length, and despite the fact that I was gripped from start to finish, one could only pine for just a few hours more, especially considering how fantastic this entire game is. You could say that it’s quality over quantity and I would absolutely agree with you, but sometimes we can’t help wanting more, especially if we’re told that a game’s “real” conclusion will be in the form of future expensive add-ons; luckily for me I don’t need to spend a single penny more!
When a developer announces multiple instalments of future DLC, I must admit I’m amidst the crowd of groaners. Before I even begin playing the game it suggests to me that the story is unfinished to a point that you’re required to spend more money to get your fill, and though admittedly this is the case here, Resident Evil 7’s story was so good I would have purchased the additional chapters regardless. Included in this Gold edition are a few additional challenging chapters that successfully manage to expand and progress the game’s story, all thankfully closing out the over arcing narrative without taking away the shine of the main title. During the course of the game are a variety of VHS tapes that when played will showcase some harrowing footage captured by another character intertwined with the Baker’s web of corruption. Each of these VHS tapes provided a change of pace and direction compared to what you were currently doing, adding an additional level of difficulty in an already terrifyingly difficult ordeal; so rejoice as more of these tapes have been found! Banned Footage is a collection of additional disturbing material uncovered within the Baker estate, each of which lead up to the events of the game’s main story and each offer a completely unique playing style. First up is the aptly named Nightmare, a Zombies-esque challenge where you, the unfortunate cameraman Clancy from the first found footage, is stowed away in the Baker basement, and through weapons, traps and skills you must survive until dawn with nothing but metal scraps paving the way for ammo and health kits. Clancy is later recaptured and imprisoned in the Bedroom, an escape room puzzle where you must make your grand exit without making a sound. Moving on you soon find yourself playing 21 where…well you play 21, a devilish game of blackjack with brutal rules and consequences, so rather like the real thing really. The 4th and final banned footage is entitled Daughters, a sequence that puts you in the shoes of black sheep Zoe and tells the tale of how she escaped her family and the grotesque plague that corrupted them. Each Banned Footage chapter varies greatly to one another and offers a hugely contrasting game mode, from a chaotic survival shooter going into a patience driven escape room, each video tape perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of Resident Evil 7 in 4 truly unique ways; a real credit to the ingenuity and creativity of those dedicated to injecting life back into the franchise.
End of Zoe is the 3rd and final expansion included as part of Resident Evil 7’s Gold status, an expansion that wraps up the events of the story and ties (and kills) all of the game’s lose ends. In this epilogue we learn the fate of Zoe Baker after she was left for dead at the hands of Ethan and Mia, and upon the death of the game’s antagonist, Zoe is found and rescued by another Baker, Uncle Joe, who vows to make things right and save his family one fist at a time. Following the trail set by the previous DLC, End of Zoe yet again gives us the Resident Evil 7 experience in an entirely different way, sure the core gameplay is marginally the same, but a new character is introduced, an outsider who will tell part of the story in their own unique way; that unique way being punching monsters until their heads explode. Yeah. What End of Zoe does so well is taking the otherwise dark, tense and serious Resident Evil mood and turns it completely on it’s head, that is before stomping a mud hole into its gaping mouth. Don’t get me wrong, End of Zoe is still very much a serious chapter and conclusion to the Biohazard story, but it just feels less stuffy and more tongue in cheek, a more Dead Rising approach, because nothing takes the threat of the molded away quite like punchng it’s head clean off with a glowing mechanical power first. The change in direction may not be to everyone’s taste, however I found the twist in gameplay deeply challenging and engrossing, plus Big Joe Baker pummelling his family to death was just a perfect and fitting ending to a game (and franchise at that) known for its shotguns, grenades and patriotism. Again, much like the first offerings of DLC, End of Zoe isn’t a terribly long playthrough hitting the 90 minute mark, and though the Baker family narrative was wrapped up nicely and to my satisfaction, I was still left wanting more, which is more a credit to Capcom’s amazing creation rather than a criticism of the short conclusion.
Even though it’s not part of the Gold edition re-release, it’s worth noting that the immediate follow up to the main story, Not a Hero featuring our man Chris Redfield, is also available right now at no cost for those who have purchased Resident Evil 7. After the successful extraction of Ethan and Mia, Chris must dive back into the disease ridden salt mines to take out the missing piece in the jigsaw, Lucas Baker. With powerful weapons and a new HUD, players will take Mr Redfield through the deadly trials and traps set out by the unhinged hillbilly to stop him unleashing a new variation of the E Virus from hitting the black market. With new enemies, fears and controls to come face to face to, Not a Hero is yet again a heart-pounding and monstrous addition to the Biohazard saga, so be sure to tackle that one before diving into Joe and Zoe’s farewell.
At the start of 2017 Resident Evil 7 was considered an instant classic, a definite contender for game of the year, and I can confidently say that 11 months on, this is still the case. For a franchise that was beginning to smell a little stale, bringing the action back to its roots and scaling down the action was by far the greatest decision Capcom could have made, as both hardcore and casual fans will become entranced and immersed in this old school survival horror. As a complete package the Gold Edition provides the best means of experiencing this game, giving you instant access to the diabolically challenging Banned Footage chapters, as well as the game’s essential epilogue that will greatly satisfy those left a little deflated after the main game’s conclusion. For around £30 you’re getting one of the decades greatest horror games bundled with some of the most harrowing and ‘value for money’ DLC around, so recommending this disease-ridden package is an absolute no brainer.