Resident Evil 7: Biohazard – PlayStation 4
Release Date: January 24, 2017 (NA)
Genre: Survivial Horror
Nerd Rating: 9/10
Reviewed by: InfiniteKnife
After the critical mess that was Resident Evil 6, Capcom really had to go back to the drawing board if they wanted to revitalize the Resident Evil brand. From Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, we saw major changes in the feel and tone as the series got more and more away from its horror roots, promoting exploration and resource management and replaced it with run and gun action that made them feel progressively less like the adventures in Raccoon City we all came to love.
I was admittedly skeptical about this title, because it really didn’t feel like Capcom cared much about making a game the fans seemed to be clamoring for, opting instead to follow along with what so many other developers are doing these days, cranking out shooter after shooter that essentially holds your hand the whole way through with seemingly endless supplies of ammo and very generous checkpoints.
Little was really known about how the game would be until the Beginning Hour demo was released and we finally got a feel for the first-person gameplay, new for the series (I’m not counting Survivor or Umbrella Chronicles) and I was pleasantly surprised. The environments were beautifully rendered and the team really seemed to show an emphasis on horror and suspense. For the first time in years, I was really excited for a new Resident Evil game, and after playing it, I can honestly say that Capcom knocked this one pretty much out of the park.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard puts you in the shoes of Ethan Winters, an everyman who receives an email from his wife, Mia, who has been missing for the last 3 years and presumed dead. She is on a farm in rural Louisiana and simply asks Ethan to come get her. Wasting little time, he drives down to the bayou and begins to explore the Baker farm. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s some messed up activities going down and while it doesn’t take long to find Mia, it also doesn’t take long for the crap to hit the fan.
Throughout Resident Evil 7, Ethan is tasked with escaping the farm while also fighting and being sought after by the Bakers themselves, along with new zombie-like creatures called the molded. Without giving any spoilers, they are a handful, especially for a guy without any notable combat experience. Sure, there are weapons like handguns, shotguns, grenade launchers, and magnums, but ammunition is pretty scarce, making every shot count. It is possible to craft some ammo, but your crafting resources can also be used for healing items, and those are also limited, making resource management a huge part of the game. This aspect had gotten lost from the Resident Evil franchise and I am beyond thrilled that it made its comeback here.
Controls are fairly straight forward for any who have FPS experience. Ethan can walk, run, crouch, as well as use weapons, but even if you’re fairly well-equipped, it’s still hard to get comfy because of the scarcity of ammo and the panic onset when you miss a few attempted headshots and have low ammo with enemies advancing toward you. Somewhat uncommon in FPS games is Ethan’s ability to block melee attacks from enemies. Blocking lessens some damage but it doesn’t negate it completely, so it isn’t something you can lean on constantly. This was a great addition for those times where you need to take a hit to open a window to escape a sticky situation.
Returning as well is your health monitored by a colored EKG meter but instead of being in a menu screen, it comes in the form of a codex on Ethan’s wrist that can be viewed when in the inventory menu. Like many other newer games, the inventory screen is accessed in real-time during gameplay, so you’ll need to be mindful of when you’re crafting health and ammo to avoid being attacked in menu. I am also very glad there is a pretty minimal HUD on screen during play that just shows your current ammo count and type. It’s tucked in the bottom corner and doesn’t get in the way or feel out of place.
Another gameplay element that returns for Resident Evil 7 is puzzles. Veterans of the series will be familiar with grabbing a few keys needed to unlock a door to another area, but there are also a few doors that must be opened using objects that create a certain shape with shadows. They aren’t particularly difficult but it is nice to see a little bit of variety. Keys also make their return and their theme fits well with the tone of the game. Taking a step toward being realistic, gone is the prompt that a key is no longer useful with an option to discard it.
Also, making their triumphant return to the franchise are the item boxes. Do we know what kind of cosmic portal these things have that allow items placed in one to be accessible in all of them? Of course not! It worked in the early going of Resident Evil, so why not bring it back? There isn’t much new about the item boxes except that it’s possible to take items that stack in inventory, like health, and move them individually in addition to all at once in case you only need one at the moment and want to come back to get the rest later.
Visually, Resident Evil 7 is beautiful. The lighting and textures of the environments are spot on and mixed with the sound, do an excellent job of instilling fear and anxiety throughout. I found myself carefully peeking around corners and creeping slowly down most hallways the whole way through my first playthrough, not knowing what kinds of scares would happen. That right there is the feeling that made Resident Evil great for me, and it is so refreshing that it’s back.
It is a little disappointing that all the enemies in Easy and Normal mode always spawn in the same place, so once you’ve completed one time through, the scares lose some luster. The Hard mode, called Madhouse, somewhat answers this problem. Not only is the game harder in the form of faster and stronger enemies, enemy spawn points, item, and even weapon placements are largely changed, so it plays like a new experience. Madhouse mode even introduces limited saves requiring cassette tapes each time, just like using ink ribbons in the original Resident Evil.
Resident Evil 7 also has an in-game currency in the form of antique coins which are hidden all throughout the game and can be used to unlock cages that contain items and weapons to help Ethan on his journey. In addition to there being different locations from Easy/Normal to Madhouse, there are also more coins to be found in the latter difficulty and there are additional items available for purchase. There is also one other collectible item that will unlock an in-game perk if you manage to find them all. They are little bobble-heads called Mr. Everywhere and are always in the same location regardless of game difficulty. These are also unique in that the ones you’ve found carry to subsequent playthroughs, so collecting them all doesn’t require it be done in a single time through like the antique coins.
There are several boss fights in Resident Evil 7 and they all feel pretty fresh. Each one I encountered made me stop and think “damn, I haven’t seen this before” and brought their own challenges with different enemy types and locations in which to fight them. They are challenging, some requiring a few tries, but not so much that they take hours to beat.
My first time through Resident Evil 7 took me about 11-12 hours, as did my first time through Madhouse mode, but after getting a feel for where everything is, I am now able to complete it in 2-3. I thought about the relative shortness of the game compared to many of the others out there whose campaign runs 20-30 hours and although I’d love more, I think the time fit well for the story Capcom was trying to tell relative to the area in which the game takes place. To promote replayability, there are weapons, items, and infinite ammo to be unlocked by meeting certain criteria in a playthrough. There will be additional DLC with different campaigns later this year, as well.
Compared to the last few installments in the series, Resident Evil 7 was pretty close to a slam dunk overall, but I did encounter one thing that I wasn’t in love with. It’s largely joked about in the communities I’ve seen but it’s a little silly how some of the characters seem to have magical teleporting powers that move them from far away to the spot they need to be for a cutscene, knowing there’s no earthly way they could have run there faster than you. A little nitpicky, maybe, but it drew from the realism enough to mention.
The music and sounds in Resident Evil 7 do an amazing job of keeping the dark and scary tone throughout the game. Although I didn’t play this with surround sound, there were enough out of the blue noises at different times to make me jump and moments like those are a large part of what make these games so exciting.
While not a perfect game, Resident Evil 7 is an incredibly positive step in the right direction for the series and I am not only excited for the DLC to come later this year but also for the next installment in the series. If Capcom uses the formula from RE7 and expands on it, I can see the franchise thriving well into the future. If you love the classic Resident Evil games and haven’t yet played RE7, get out there and pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.
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