I think I’m alone. The floors are creaking as I stand completely still, and whispers are swarming around me from every direction. I can barely make out the end of the hallway through the dimly lit wall sconces, but I’m pretty sure I see something moving. No, I know I see something moving. I dread taking another step forward in the Baker home. This is Resident Evil 7 Biohazard in PlayStation VR, and its scary as hell.
Capcom seems to have had a moment of clarity and regained their strength and focus with the beloved Resident Evil series. This latest installment seems to wash away all memories of the recent lackluster additions, and bring back the substance and fear that we all remember so well. Along with the standard version, they have also utilized Sony’s new VR hardware to deliver the entire terrifying experience from start to finish. I chose to do my complete playthrough using PSVR, and I can honestly say it was the scariest piece of entertainment I have ever subjected myself too. Resident Evil 7 Biohazard proves that VR is not just a gimmick, it can be the definitive way to experience a video game.
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard tells the story of Ethan Winters, who receives an email from his wife Mia, who had mysteriously vanished a few years back. The message leads Ethan to the abandoned Baker plantation in the deep South of Louisiana. Here Ethan must find his missing wife and rescue her from the spine-chilling members of the Baker family while uncovering their sinister secrets. I absolutely loved the new story approach implemented for Resident Evil 7. You can jump in never having played a previous entry and find yourself completely invested in this tale. Not to say there aren’t some nifty throwbacks for series veterans to enjoy.
The Baker family can bring about a palpable unsettling feeling that is incomparable to any horror game I’ve played. They remind me of a family pulled straight from the world of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Being in their broken home and surrounding yourself in their environment through the PSVR is not for the faint of heart. You can feel your heartbeat race and hair raise without even taking a single step. There were numerous times where I was so scared I actually had to pause, regain myself, and then continue back into the nightmare that is RE7. Now while Capcom still hasn’t hit the mark with character dialogue and writing, you almost appreciate the cheesiness of their own tropes as the VR headset locks you and your senses into their very dreadful home.
What makes Resident Evil 7 work so well is its perfect blend of new and old. For the first time in the series you play from the first person perspective. This adds a new level of fear as the ability to see around your character is eliminated, leaving you more vulnerable than ever before. While in VR, I found myself frantically looking over my shoulder as every creepy noise haunted me from the 3D sound headphones. Bringing back the familiar item scarcity and inventory space management was a more than welcomed return as well. Every bullet counts, and every slot in your inventory is cherished. It provides almost a meta-game within itself that speaks true to what the Resident Evil series is.
RE7 paces itself near perfectly and keeps the player engaged with well crafted puzzles, secrets, and new lore to absorb. Trying to find items to craft new weapons, acquire collectibles, and playing through the VHS tapes, flesh out the experience in between following the main story path. Beneath the surface you uncover that RE7 is much more than a horror game banking on jump scares, its game that has substance.
For many people, VR is a skeptical platform to play games. RE7 breaks the mold and may be PSVR’s first killer app. I even went back after beating the story and tried the standard way, but there was no comparing. RE7 is played best in VR, hands down. Controlling Ethan felt more intuitive than I expected. The left stick moves the character, while a flick of the right stick will change their view perspective, all while the head-tracking from the VR headset is giving you full motion view of your surroundings. These controls have fluidity and responsiveness that I hope other VR developers take note from. A benefit of the VR headset compared to standard play is the gunplay. It was so much easier and life-like to hold L2 to aim, and just move your actual head to where your target was. RE7 only supports the Dualshock 4, but I am curious to how it would have played using the PlayStation Move controllers.
Not so much a fault to RE7, but more on the hardware capabilities, is the visual presentation in VR. The very first scene where you take control can be absolutely jarring. Jaggies and pop-ins can blanket your screen while in the outdoor environments. I can say though that once you enter into the plantation, the visuals smooth out and look decent. I don’t so much blame Capcom, as I do the limitations in resolution for this first round of PSVR headsets. Now don’t get me wrong the game doesn’t look bad, and for the most part actually holds up really well. But there will be some adjusting at first to its grainy display, which in the end I felt really enhanced the horror vibe.
Where Resident Evil 7 shines and absolutely enthralls you into this dank, dark world, is in its sound design. Using the 3D sound of the PSVR headset, you are transformed into the unnerving Baker home and you almost immediately regret it from fear. Every step, crack, creak, and voice can be heard with such distinction. What makes it so chilling is hearing it come from multiple directions around Ethan. You don’t know what’s behind you, to the side of you, and deep down to your core, your just too scared to want to look sometimes. I can not overstate this enough, RE7 is not for the faint of heart.
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard not only illuminates the series into a new horrifying direction, it also shows the importance VR can have in the gaming medium. Capcom has resurged the series, bringing along all of the strengths from its past, while implementing exciting innovations for its future. While many have held Resident Evil 1-4 in such high regard for years, I truly feel Resident Evil 7 now holds the crown. Not only is RE7 my favorite in the series, it may be my favorite horror title of all time. Word to the wise, don’t play alone, and bring diapers.
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