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REVIEW / Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PS4)

 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is, quite simply, a reboot of the Resident Evil series. With the overabundance of action in Resident Evil 6, there was nothing Capcom could do to bring the beloved franchise back to its horror roots but strip it down to the basics. In fact, you can say RE7 is a re-imagining of RE1 in first-person; that’s how much RE7 pays tribute to the very first title in the long-running series. RE7 is both new and familiar all at once, and that is one of the game’s primary strengths.

 

This isn't even the scariest thing I found in the game

This isn’t even the scariest thing I found in the game

 

In RE7, you play as one Ethan Winters, who hasn’t heard from his wife, Mia, in three years. After receiving a message from Mia to come find her at the Baker Estate in Louisiana, Ethan throws caution to the wind and sets off to find her. Things…escalate QUITE quickly early on, and before you know it, Ethan is being held prisoner by the Baker family.

Every member of the Baker family is clearly insane and want Ethan and everyone around them dead. Of course, there is more to this plot than meets the eye, and Ethan will figure out the truth surrounding the Bakers and Mia by the end of his journey. The story of RE7 is good overall; there’s a lot more to it than “This is just The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and leagues beyond the ridiculous, convoluted mess that is RE6.

 

Papa Jack Baker loves having company over

Papa Jack Baker loves having company over

 

In case you don’t know, Resident Evil 7 is the first game in the main series to be in first-person. It was quite a gamble on Capcom’s part, especially since so many of their fans played at least six games trying to get used to tank controls, but it pays off in spades. Ethan gets a very clear, up close view of everything the game throws at you, and some of the shit you see is downright TERRIFYING. Another plus due to the move to first-person: being able to target the specific body parts of your opponents. The importance of this is never made more clear than with Ethan’s encounters with The Molded (RE7‘s main baddies): they take numerous shots to kill, but aim at their head with a well-placed shotgun blast and they are done for in one shot.

Aiming is a breeze, but in a nice twist, the player can miss easily due to the anxiety of seeing these monsters (and the Bakers) up close, in addition to enemies bobbing, weaving, and even blocking your attacks. Ethan can guard and minimize damage, sprint for long distances, use melee weapons and enhanced ammunition, combine and separate certain items, and much more. It’s a refreshing change of pace for the Resident Evil series (though you’d have to pay me a lot of money to experience this game in VR).

 

Though The Molded are the only main enemies Ethan encounters, there are quite a few variations of them

Though The Molded are the only main enemies Ethan encounters, there are quite a few variations of them

 

The weapons and items in RE7 are a nice mixture of familiar items for fans of the series and brand new ones. Of course, handguns, knives, shotguns, grenade launchers, and magnums return, while new components like steroids, stabilizers, and psychostimulants all enhance Ethan’s abilities. Chemical fluid can be combined with herbs to make medicine or gunpowder to make bullets. Antique Coins are hidden in hard to see spots that grant Ethan access to certain power-ups. Mr. Everywhere bobble heads are scattered throughout the game that break into a fine dust when you destroy them, and if you break all of them, you unlock something sweet to use in the main campaign.

Magically linked item boxes return, lock picks help Ethan become the new master of unlocking, and cassette tapes replace ink ribbons as Ethan’s main saving method (only on the highest difficulty). But my favorite new item(s), without a doubt, are the video tapes. These tapes can be popped into VCRs and grant the player access to another protagonist to control. These tapes flesh out RE7‘s narrative, though only one is mandatory to watch (I’d argue two but I won’t spoil why).

 

The game is as gorgeous as it is creepy

The game is as gorgeous as it is creepy

 

As much as I love RE7, there are a few blemishes in the title. Ethan is kind of a bland protagonist. Though he spouts some funny lines, he isn’t nearly as memorable as, say, Jill Valentine or Leon Kennedy. The game is short, with new modes and stories locked behind the season pass/DLC. While many questions are answered by the end of Ethan’s trials, more are left unanswered (though there will be free DLC this spring that will hopefully provide some closure).

Worst of all, RE7 peters out by the end. The last half hour or so feels a bit rushed, which feels quite jarring when the rest of the game is so perfectly paced. Also, the game provides a choice for Ethan to make near the finale that will affect the ending, but one of them is just disappointing and not worth it (it actually made me physically angry).

 

The only things I hate more than bugs are GIANT bugs

The only things I hate more than bugs are GIANT bugs

 

Aside from these nitpicks, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a masterful game of survival horror. The Bakers are all unnerving; Jack, in particular, stalks Ethan throughout his estate, very much like Nemesis did to Jill in RE3. The pacing is phenomenal; Ethan starts off with nothing and literally hides for his life, but before long, he’s a walking tank with an array of weapons. The Baker House is eerily similar to the Spencer Mansion from RE1 in that there are keys that unlock certain themed doors. After a while, all the shortcuts and doors connect to each other so seamlessly, you know the house like the back of your hand. You can interact and inspect items, you have a watch on your hand that changes color due to your health, some of the puzzles are direct callbacks to ones in the first game; this is deliberate and so very effective. A new difficulty called Madhouse unlocks after clearing the game, which rearranges items, gives the player limited saves and health, makes enemies much stronger and more unpredictable; it’s almost like playing an entirely different game. There are super cool secrets you unlock by beating the game with both endings, under a certain time limit, etc. It’s unbelievably beautiful to look at.

But out of all the things I love about RE7, there is one thing that stands above all else. One thing that is the greatest praise I can give it. One thing that I will tell people if they ask me what I liked the most about it. And it’s very simple: It made Resident Evil scary again.

 

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