It was with some trepidation that I took on this review. I’m happy with a bit of horror action, but the thought of haplessly waltzing into the dilapidated Baker residence and exploring each dank corner all in first-person filled me with dread. I’ve played the teaser and had a taste of what to expect, and regardless of how damn great Resident Evil 7 biohazard looks, I really didn’t want to go back in there.
Upon receiving a video from his supposedly deceased wife, Ethan Winters can hardly ignore the remote possibility that Mia is still alive and travels to Louisiana to investigate the origin of the video, stumbling across the residence of the Baker family, who one day vanished into thin air… or so it seems.
The game begins similarly to the teaser and it’s just as tense, so much so that it’s exhausting to play. This persists for a good way into the game before it relaxes and the fear factor eases, only for it to ramp up again during the finale. As with most horror experiences, once the horror has been revealed and you begin to pick up more powerful weapons, your confidence grows, easing the feeling of dread. But don’t get too cocky; jump scares will still get you.
The slow, and often, linear paths of the game are like you’re on a haunted house ride, waiting for the actors to jump out and grab you. Even when you’re expecting a scare, it doesn’t make it any less of a surprise and Resident Evil will trick you time and time again – it’s a wonderfully horrifyingly experience. But jump scares are the least of your worries. There are plenty of thumps and bumps that it’s impossible not to get wound up by the excellent sound engineering as it constantly torments you while you explore the Baker residence.
As you explore, each of the family takes turns at tormenting you, either chasing you down and engaging you in a bit of Alien Isolation hide and seek, which strikes a similar chord of tension, or with arena-based boss battles, which are really tough. Trial and error is the key to victory, the staple ‘pour lead into their brains’ just won’t do and it’s mostly down to using the environment, or picking your shots in order to put them down. These sequences are a wonderful contrast to the somewhat limited ‘zombie’ types, who stumble about like a drunken person looking for a fistfight, clawing at you should they grab hold.
Unfortunately, ammo and health items are hardly scarce, although you have to look carefully to find them. As you get close to an item’s location it is highlighted. The hardest part wasn’t finding ammo or health but managing the inventory space. Those with a keen eye will rarely run out of ammo or health vials, which I found diminished the feeling of horror and hopelessness. I also found the numerous environmental puzzles somewhat of a disappointment, lacking in complexity. The most interesting puzzle was the birthday tape sequence, which had a wonderful but short narrative.
During the sequences where the family is hunting you, listen carefully and you can begin to piece together the bigger picture and make your own conclusions as to what is going on. Numerous files are also strewn about the Baker residence that bolsters the storyline. By the time the ending is revealed, all the pieces fit together neatly, but not everything is explained and while the finale wraps things up nicely, I had a few unanswered questions. Rather than call them plot holes, I believe Capcom have cleverly placed them there for those curious enough to question the story. Let’s hope some of these ‘holes’ are plugged with upcoming DLC, the first of which is dropping for free.
Aside from the various files, completionists will want to find the numerous collectables hidden throughout the game. There are statues, which make a springing noise when you’re nearby, and collectible coins that unlock valuable abilities and a new weapon. Capcom have also included two endings, which while similar in gameplay, it’s good to see the return of multiple endings. For those brave enough, a harder difficulty unlocks upon completion of the game on normal, which messes with the locations of items, increases enemy difficulty, limits saves and removes checkpoints.
I thoroughly enjoyed Resident Evil 7. The action is gory. It’s in your face, and most of all it’s unsettling. As Ethan, a simple guy desperately looking for the love of his life, I felt like I had more of a connection with him, rather than some of the other characters I’ve played as in the series – not all of us have a background in the military.
Over the years, the horror of the Resident Evil series has become rather diluted. Capcom has rewritten all of this with Resident Evil 7 biohazard. The game’s corridors are chilling and the enemies filled me with dread – and the puzzles… ok so they aren’t the most challenging, but they are steps towards the series’ former glory.
The game is extremely well-paced, punching somewhere between a (good) horror film and (decent) haunted house experience. It’s creepy from the offset and while the fear doesn’t last throughout the game, the tension ramps up and down perfectly, it’s one hell of a ride and one that I couldn’t wait to queue up and have another go on. Quite simply, Resident Evil 7 biohazard is the best in the series since the original trilogy.
Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX