You don’t need VR to get immersed into this instant horror favorite.
A sprawling,derelict estate full of labyrinthine corridors and darkened rooms. Perplexing puzzles and twisted riddles. Ghastly creatures and a limited arsenal of weapons. Yep, it’s Resident Evil all right.
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is a return-to-form for this long-running, much-beloved series, despite several large changes to some fundamental gameplay mechanics.
You play as Ethan Winters, a seemingly ordinary guy who has come to the swamplands of Dulvey, Louisiana looking for his wife Mia, who has been missing for the past three years. The email Mia sent him has led him to the rather large Baker Farm- a multi-building estate that seems at first abandoned and falling into slow decay. But soon after he arrives, it becomes apparent that not all is well. There is a measure of disbelief that has to be given about the stark absurdity of the situation and how Ethan still manages to soldier on regardless.
Dismembered legs of farm animals and buzzsaw blades forming a grotesque wreath before you? No problem! Seemingly abandoned house full of mysterious noises and unexplained movement? No sweat! VHS footage of some other people apparently getting murdered in this very house? NOTHING gets to this guy- he will find his missing wife come hell or high water even if any other sane person would have long run off to find the nearest SWAT Team.
But instead of hordes of zombies, the foes Ethan will face are more individualized and personal, mostly being the members of the Baker Family. There’s Jack Baker- the patriarch and father- a bespectacled, balding elder gentleman with a penchant for swinging large axes or shovels and shrugging away bullets like the Nemesis- just in overalls. There’s Marguerite, Jack’s wife and mother of the household who seems to have a very disturbing affinity for creepy crawlies. And then there’s Lucas- an intelligent young man destined to become another Jigsaw Killer in the near future. Each of the Bakers is clearly not entirely normal or human, but the exact nature of this Hills-Have-Eyes/Texas Chainsaw Massacre-reeking clan is a mystery Ethan will unravel as the night bores on- if he survives. Each family member is effectively unkillable, making each one a sort of boss. Aside from them though, there will be other enemies to be found in the course of the game where Ethan’s meager arsenal of weapons may be used more effectively on.
But just like the classic, original Resident Evil, firearms and armaments are not in huge supply. Enemies won’t drop pisetas or bullets after death. You WILL, for the most part, need to make every shot count, unless you want to possibly confront a hulking enemy armed with just a folding knife. It’s this return to a more desperate, more calculated pace of combat, resource management and survival that makes this game so much more in tune with the earlier, and more scary RE’s rather than the later, more action-oriented games of RE4 and beyond.
But aside from hearkening to the original RE, this latest sequel also borrows or takes cues from other sources of horror, from Japanese Horror films to other survival horror games like Silent Hill, P.T., Outlast and more. But you do know there’s still probably some evil pharmaceutical corporation or scientific nightmare behind it all, despite the supernatural trimmings.
Truly helping the scare factor along is the simple change in perspective- RE7 is played entirely from First Person, making everything so much more immersive and personal (note that this probably becomes doubly so on PS4 with PSVR). Enemies can suddenly shuffle into your way, or, in one unique case, even smash through walls at you (perhaps a nice nod to the classic Dogs scene?), and you can just FEEL them nipping at your heels as you turn tail to run. More often than not, it will be a case of evading enemies rather than outright fighting to succeed, at least until you have an ample supply of ammo and a good, strong weapon (and maybe a couple of those nifty healing solutions).
The graphics are pretty spot-on, with the various confines of the Baker Farm having an eerie, almost photo-realistic look to everything. Character models are well done, although still having a bit of uncanny valley with some characters, in particular Ethan’s estranged wife, Mia. On the other hand, the sound design, SFX and voice work is almost uniformly superb- I guess funny and cheesy voice acting was one thing they didn’t feel needed to be brought back.
Resident Evil 7 surpassed pretty much all my expectations to deliver a truly engrossing, entertaining and mature survival-HORROR experience from beginning to end. The production values and quality is impressive, the story perhaps the most easy to understand and well-told both through files, environmental storytelling and just a wee bit of actual expositional dialogue. The boss fights are amazing, the combat satisfying as heck. If this is the new door to what Resident Evil is opening up to, let me the hell in.
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard
Game Rating: 9 of 10