The survival-horror fan base held their collective breath for the release of the newest addition to the Resident Evil universe. We all know the 20-year-old franchise has suffered from its own malady in recent years in trying to recapture the magic of the revolutionary 4 (and let’s face it: 5 and 6 were a bit of a punch in the boulders). With 7, it seems Capcom are keen to innovate once again, and in the most controversial way. Since the announcement at E3 2016; diehard fans have been in uproar over the decision to go 1st person, among other things.
“That’s not Resident Evil!” They screamed in their droves.
As a 20-something 90’s baby; I’ve been in love with the franchise since the days of Jill Sandwiches. You might describe me as one of the diehard fans (I died a lot). Well in any case, I just finished my first playthrough of Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, and I am sad. Why, you ask? I am sad because I will never get to play through this beautiful game with the same naivety as when I started. How I wish I could play this game again with no memory, just to love it all over again. I’ll get into why that’s not necessarily a good thing later on. Suffice it to say, Capcom: you listened. This is a Resident Evil game through and through, and more so than its recent predecessors. Let’s talk about that.
From the second you step out of your car you’re reminded of the opening to games like Slender Man. Oh boy – the silent dereliction descends like a fog and you don’t dare to test out the sprint function as you edge cautiously toward the Baker plantation. This really is a return to formula.
There’s a real B-movie horror feeling to this game right away, the long hallways and silent landings drenched in black mould are as unsettling as you’d expect. The interior of this new hell tells as much of a story as the characters. The quiet anticipation is used to perfection to enhance the horror experience, minimal score gives way to only the sound of your own footsteps (and sometimes those of your pursuer) making for possibly the best atmosphere of a Resident Evil game yet.
Yes, it’s first-bloody-person, and that isn’t a bad thing. This series has made a habit of shaking things up after every third iteration. Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is no different; it drops you right into the horror, and it gives you agency. The fact that you aren’t the Herculean Chris or roundhousing Leon becomes apparent all too soon. You’re just some guy (or gal) who doesn’t have a clue, in a harsh and unforgiving scenario. Just like the fixed-camera of earlier games, the first-person perspective restricts you. It’s claustrophobic, and you never know what’s standing behind you or around the next corner. If nothing else, it’s much more immersive, and yes I bought the candle as well. No regrets.
Another returning feature to be greeted as an old friend; the heart monitor! Finally! That green, yellow or red line between you and a moldy grave might seem a little arbitrary for modern gaming, but it’s Resident Evil to a T (…virus). Of course herbs make a comeback as well, along with an improved crafting system that will have you scrounging for chem fluid and gunpowder wherever you can find it. It’s truly a return to survival this time, bye-bye action horror! Inventory management is a big part of that, before long you’ll be making the classic
choice to discard that all too precious ammo to pick up that gruesomely themed key. Yes, the key puzzles are back too. Did I mention this is a Resident Evil game?
However, while this genre-defining franchise has very much gone back to its roots, it hasn’t been idle in its long exile. You’ll find influences from all kinds of survival horror titles released in between. Be it the photorealistic and claustrophobic interiors of the Silent Hills Playable Teaser or Alien: Isolation, all the way down to the iconic Safe Room music (oh, how I’ve missed thee) which sounds like something straight out of Gustavo Santaolalla. It makes you feel equal parts safe and somewhat creeped out as you save your progress, rummage through the item box and work up the gaul to head back out there.
The combat calls for a cool head and a steady hand, and it’s strangely satisfying. Pea shooters and limited ammo render you utterly powerless until you finally manage to grab the shotgun and blow the head off of an enemy. The exhilaration of that meaty explosion makes the overwhelming fear so worth it. However you’ll often find running away the preferable option, especially when faced with the persistent Baker clan. Jack can be a bugger to put down, and don’t go thinking he’ll stay that way. Seriously.
An unfortunate downside, enemies can seem a little lackluster in hindsight. The Molded introduced in the Beginning Hour demo are terrifying, but that’s basically all you get. I was hoping to meet a few classic zombie/ganado types around the house, a few distant cousins of the family maybe? It seemed the logical thing, as you’ll see so many missing person posters dotted around. You expect to see the Molded late game as with the Crimson Heads of Resi 1, renditions of enemies you thought you’d dispatched once already. That however isn’t the case. Despite some small variations here and there, it’s all a bit of a slimy mess. A fall back to the Uroboros enemies of 5.
Though I wish I could turn back the clock and experience this with fresh eyes all over again, this game absolutely has replay value. True to its form; there’s more to read, more to collect and more to unlock should you choose to take on the speedrun challenge, or subject yourself to the aptly-named Madhouse difficulty. At a blind run; taking time to explore and exercise caution, my first playthrough took just under 12 hours. A respectable length. However, story and scare-wise, this game does heavily rely on the blind play. Like many games before it, you’ll find repeated playthroughs aren’t nearly as exciting and terrifying as you learn where to go, what to do and where the jump scares and enemies are coming from. You pray for some procedural elements to keep you on your feet. It is, sadly, possible to finish this game in under 2 hours when you know what you’re doing.
Overall, these are but a few qualms in an otherwise great game. Gorgeous visuals from the new RE engine, and an enticing and brilliantly delivered story that makes good on its promise. Horror has indeed come home. Whether you’re a diehard Resi fan or totally new to the franchise you’ll be welcome into the Baker house. Well, not welcome, but you won’t be able to leave.
The verdict? A mixed bag. As soft reboots go, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is top class. A game that strikes the balance between new and familiar, scary and challenging. It has its flaws but overall Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is a lot of fun. So sit down, get your headphones on, and take your time with it.
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