*The below content contains no spoilers… I promise*
I’m going to be honest with you. When Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was announced, I didn’t really give a fuck. I didn’t make time to read any articles, watch any videos, or even ask any of my friends about it. After being greatly let down by just about every title the franchise released since Resident Evil 4 (except Revelations… those games are lit), I figured I’d wait a year until it dropped to under $20 and play it then.
That was until I saw it in action one night at a friend’s house. I walked into his bedroom, which was illuminated by nothing but the faint blue light of his PC monitor. All I could see was the dark silhouette of his head and the game displayed on the screen; it was Resident Evil 7. Without taking my eyes off the monitor, I uttered “hello”, slowly crept towards his futon, plopped myself down, and watched.
Within a few minutes I was hooked. Its first person perspective, fluid combat, and eerie vibe had me on the edge of my seat and kept me wanting more. There was no denying that I was impressed. I wanted to play it. I NEEDED to play it. A few days later, I borrowed the PS4 version from a different friend, brought it home, slid the disc into my console, and started my descent into terror.
A Return to Horror
From the first moment you’re given control of protagonist Ethan Winters, you know you’re in for a tense and terrifying experience. You’re immediately prompted to navigate through an eerie Louisiana bayou, where you stumble upon a crude sculpture made from dismembered cow parts and a mysterious stranger strolling through the swampy wetlands. Following the path, you eventually find yourself at the gate of an estate that looks like it came straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel. This is the beautifully designed environment where you’ll be spending most of the next 10 hours of your quest.
The creepy, quiet, and disturbingly calm southern setting perfectly sets the tone for this game, creating a dark and dreary atmosphere where you feel death lurking around every corner. From start to finish, Resident Evil plays like a horror game; not an action game like 5 and 6. There is no roided up Chris Redfield or Neo-lookin-ass Wesker. There are no quick-time events or special abilities. There is just an ordinary man on a mission to find his missing girlfriend, a mutated redneck family that is out to get you, weird mold monster things, and an arsenal of weaponry to protect yourself.
Although I’ve played a handful of first-person horror games, there was something special about a Resident Evil game leveraging this perspective. Historically, the series is set in the third person, with the exception of the lackluster Resident Evil: Survivor from 2000. This change in perspective gets you up close and personal with hideous monsters, limits your field of vision, and even makes walking through doors a nerve-wracking experience. Mind you, this is only on a standard HD TV display. I can only imagine how much more horrifying it would be in VR. I’m considering dropping $300 on a headset just to find out.
More Than Cheap Scares
One aspect of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard that I love is that it doesn’t solely rely on jump scares. Sure, there are some sprinkled throughout the game, but the tense sequences where you’re hiding from and fighting off members of the Baker family more than make up for them. Because encounters with these mutated hillbillies are so spontaneous and unpredictable, you’re constantly on edge, waiting for one to jump through a wall and hit you with a “Boy! Get your ass back here.”
The incredible sound design of the game amplifies the spookiness tenfold. Numerous times throughout my 10-hour playthrough, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up at the mere sound of insignificant thudding or clanking. Most of the time, these noises were caused by me clumsily bumping into a chair or table. Other times, they were actually caused by the source of my fears, forcing me to either prepare for a fight or hide.
Sticking true to its survival horror roots, RE7 gives you a sense of vulnerability without leaving you completely defenseless. Although I am a huge fan of horror games where you can only run and hide from undefeatable enemies, it was refreshing to have the choice to split some wigs if I so pleased. However, I will say I was a bit disappointed by how often I was more than equipped to fend off an enemy horde. More often than not, I was carrying a mini armory in my inventory, so I never thought twice about conserving my ammo because I had plenty and knew it would be easy to find more.
Frankly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the combat in Resident Evil 7. It was never a huge selling point for me with the series, even in the more action-focused fifth and sixth installments. But it felt more fluid than ever this time around. Because it’s in first person, aiming is swift and seamless. I was able to glide my crosshair from one target to another and never had trouble hitting my mark. Regardless of which firearm I was using, whether it was the shotgun, flamethrower, grenade launcher, or machine gun, I was able to quickly take aim and cut my enemies down.
Accessing your inventory is a breeze. With the click of a button, you can see all of your items in a small window to the right of your screen, and quickly reassign them to different slots or combine them to make something new. This made swapping weapons and crafting items so streamlined that I was able to comfortably do so during combat. This especially came in handy in boss fights. If I ran out of ammo for one gun, I could quickly combine some items to make more or swap in a different weapon. Likewise, if I needed health, I could quickly concoct some first aid and heal up.
Boss fights are where the game really shines. Although there aren’t many, each is spectacularly designed and challenging. During the first fight against Jack in the garage, he gets inside of his car and chases you around the confined space. In the next fight, you have to kick body bags into him to knock him off balance to set yourself up for an easy attack. When you battle mutated Marguerite, you have to be aware of any holes in the floor and any bugs nests she gives birth to. Each of these encounters is thrilling and unique in their own way. Without them, Resident Evil 7 wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable.
I will say that I was pretty disappointed in the poor design of general enemy types known as the Molded. Other than the few bosses, these are the only foes you face throughout the game. They’re dull, unoriginal, and not very difficult. To make matters worse, there are only four different types that hardly vary from one another. Aside from the Fat Molded, which is essentially the Bloater from Left 4 Dead, the other Molded look exactly alike and barely differ in difficulty.
A Serviceable Story
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is how it manages to deliver a serviceable, non-cheesy story. It’s not great or groundbreaking by any means, but it gets the job done. Essentially, Ethan receives a video of his missing girlfriend urging him to stay away. Like any white knight, he doesn’t listen and tracks her last known location. Things get weird, then they get even weirder, and eventually everything starts to piece together and make sense. Like I said, it’s not emotionally gripping or thought provoking, but it’s enough to keep you interested.
Miscellaneous items such as journal entries, files, newspaper clippings, photographs, and videotapes provide more background information on the story and the characters within it. Not only do these items help shed light on the Bakers and develop their personalities, they also remind you that they were human before shit hit the fan. Some of these items even draw connections to other notable entities and events from within the Resident Evil universe. As a long-time fan of the series, I appreciated these homages.
Videotapes were perhaps my favorite items to come across. These playable flashbacks place you in the perspective of past visitors and show you areas of the estate before you explore them. One tape even helps you safely solve a deadly puzzle by allowing you to bypass all the dangerous steps. It’s sad that there weren’t more sequences like this in the game. Truthfully, I would have liked to see more puzzles. The ones already featured in the game were alright, but they were few and far between.
In addition to the lack of puzzles, the final sequence is a bit disappointing. Because the other boss fights in the game were so well designed and challenging, I was expecting the final fight to be on the same level. Sad to say that it wasn’t; it was hardly even a fight. Also, the game doesn’t do much to make you keep playing. If you finish on Normal, you do unlock a harder difficulty and a few new items, but that’s hardly enough. It would be nice if there was a survival mode like The Mercenaries minigame from past installments. Some story DLC is on the horizon, but I would like to see Capcom release some new game modes with higher replay value to keep me coming back.
Play This Game Now!
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is exactly what the franchise needed – a fresh new installment that delivers more scares than action. I highly recommend you pick this game up ASAP. It does an incredible job creating tension and keeping you on edge. It’s a solid return to form for the series and a step in the right direction. Because it’s a bit short and doesn’t offer much in terms of replay value, it’s hard to justify paying full price. However, if you can get it discounted, don’t hesitate to buy it; you won’t regret it.
Have you already played Resident Evil 7: Biohazard? What do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree? Is there anything you particularly liked or disliked that I didn’t mention in the article? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!