You’re walking down a dark hallway. You turn left, then right, then left again and BAM! You are face to face with a wall. You turn around to find that the hall you were walking down is no longer there…instead, there is only a door. You open it, hesitant, and you tiptoe into a room completely devoid of light. Armed with only your tiny flashlight, you scavenge for supplies, wary of your surroundings. This is only the tip of the iceberg in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The new installation of Resident Evil goes back to its roots in that it is actually frightening. The new game detaches itself from the droning, button-smashy shooter the series has been known as for the past few iterations, settling like a creepy old house dipping into its foundation.
A Little Back Story
Ethan receives a strange video in an email from his missing girlfriend, Mia. In the video, Mia says she is sorry for lying, but to not come find her. So naturally, you set off to find her. Your search begins in the swamp town of Dulvey on the Baker Plantation—you know, that place you weren’t supposed to go to. The plantation is dark, filthy, and in shambles and so are its inhabitants. Mold grows in the corridors, trash and animal parts are strewn about, and there are bobbleheads everywhere. Backwoods family Jack, Marguerite, Lucas, and Grandma Baker reside on the plantation and they aren’t happy to find you skulking about. After Ethan is detected, the hunt ensues. You may very well be captured, and they will make you pay. Will you ever find Mia and escape this nightmare?
Go with the Flow
Making your way through the houses feels very natural. Resident Evil 7 is the first in the series to use the first person camera angle and it does wonders for the ambiance of the game. Without the ability to completely see your surroundings, you can be caught off guard more easily. Noises now come at you from all directions. When it feels like the voices are right behind you, it is deeply unsettling. Resident Evil’s new perspective lets you see more of the environment than ever before and it’s… different. Imagine playing Resident Evil 2, but instead of entering a new hallway and seeing what is approaching because of the angled third-person view, you now have to turn a corner to find out what is there, possibly coming face to face with a zombie at any moment. It would make you think and hesitate before making decisions as unease overtakes you.
90% of the rooms you enter are very, very dark. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. The absence of light creates an air of unpredictability. In a game that surrounds you with the unknown, pumps in creepy sounds, and sets the tone with unsettling music, darkness is but another weapon in their arsenal. The eye for detail is stunning. I’d catch myself stopping frequently to stare at different parts of the house, from paintings to kitchen utilities to doors. These details only elevate the realism of the game world. Little references to previous games are also littered throughout the plantation, which is a neat little way to pay homage to what got Capcom to this point. Details are also a big factor in the all-new puzzles, something the last few installations got away from but were always my favorite part of the series, aside from the zombies.
Take What is Given to You
The puzzles in RE7 range from small shadow tricks and finding appropriate keys, to being trapped in a room of certain death. Try putting a lit candle on a birthday cake without exploding. While the smaller puzzles are relatively simple, the larger ones require travel between rooms, being in possession of the correct items, and some serious thought. I for one hope puzzles continue, as it adds a ton of value to the game and extends the play time. The struggle often leads to great rewards, including items that help you progress.
You start with a very limited inventory, which you’ll discover rather quickly. You can expand your inventory but not until about 2/3 of the way through the game. At times you will have more items than you know what to do with, including, but not limited to guns, ammo, herbs, medkits, pills, gunpowder, and various keys and coins. You do have a chance every once in a while to deposit the items in a chest at a safe space, but running all the way back to specific rooms can be tiresome. Then there is the flipside. RE7 often does a great job of preparing you for heavy encounters by loading you up with ammo, but it’s not guaranteed. You can craft your own ammo using materials found in the house, but you will spend most of you mats on health kits so you can stay alive. I went into a few encounters running in circles, waiting for opportune times to run in and shank my enemy with a crappy little pocket knife. This would be equivalent to poking an elephant with a plastic spoon. Not ideal. Luckily, the enemy variety is limited so you’ll learn quickly how to dispatch each one.
Not You Again
The Monsters in RE7 are called the “Molded”. The end. No, seriously, there is one monster type. There are a few different flavors of Molded, like the crawly one, the barfy one, and the strong hook-armed one, but when you defeat them time and time again, they become more predictable and less scary. They turn into more of a roadblock bullet-sponge where you can waste a ton of ammo for little to no payoff. The Baker family is trying to catch you, but the only real threat in the house is Jack, who, for a portion of the game, will just follow you around to bash your face in. Some annoying bugs also make an appearance, but these can be easily dispatched with a flamethrower. However, the lack of variety doesn’t hinder the game because the story is phenomenal.
I’m not one to give spoilers, so I won’t, but trust me when I say you will never guess how this story ends or even how it gets there. Everything unfolds almost perfectly through boss interactions, papers strewn about, and dialogue lines. Just when you think you are close to beating the game, it keeps going on in more mind-blowing ways. This aspect alone with the promise of both free and paid DLC may make Resident Evil 7: Biohazard a game of the year contender.
Bag it and Tag it
The only gripes I can come up with are small. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for the game to load, which feels like hours. The first boss encounter can get very annoying without the appropriate items and the mouth movements from characters sometimes don’t happen or fail to sync with the wording, but that’s about it.
Overall, the game guides you masterfully from one objective to another without being obvious or pushy. The map can be navigated with ease, the story is deep and meaningful, and the setting is beautifully dark. The atmosphere will unsettle even the most hardcore survival horror fan. Heck, catatonic old women in wheelchairs are always creepy. Resident Evil 7 feels like a success where previous Resident Evil games have tried and failed. One can only hope that Capcom will see the success in this chapter and continue along the same route with the next game.
- Engaging Story
- Photo-realistic Surroundings
- First Person Perspective = Super Creepy
- Initial load times are long
- Small variety of enemies