Resident Evil VII: Biohazard has been unleashed on the world! The highly-anticipated sequel was released earlier this week and I haven’t played anything else since. After the disappointment Resident Evil 6 left on the franchises name, I came into this experience with zero expectations. I am happy to say that I could not have been happier with what I got!
Ethan Winters receives a message from his wife Mia, who has been missing for three years. Determined to find out if his wife is still alive, Ethan sets out to Dulvey, Louisiana. Little does Ethan know he is about to step into the biggest nightmare of his life. Captured by the Bakers, a psychotic family that have strange strength and regenerative powers, Ethan must find a way out of their mansion alive. The Bakers, Jack, Marguerite and Lucas, each occupy a different section of the mansion. In the early game, Jack will stalk you through the main house shouting taunts as he searches for you and laughing at your attempts to subdue him. After escaping Jack, you will need to evade his wife Marguerite in the old house. Marguerite behaves like Jack calling out for your blood. Lucas on the other hand wants to run you around the entire estate like a rat in a maze letting the monstrous Molded, creatures created by the Bakers, do his fighting for him. Only after escaping the Bakers do you learn the horrifying truth of what is really happening in Dulvey, Louisiana.
Resident Evil VII is a callback to the classic Resident Evil trilogy from the PlayStation days. Aside from the perspective change, first person instead of third person with a fixed camera, and the newer graphics, this could be considered a continuation of the PS1 games. Ammo, health and inventory space are limited, even item boxes have returned to help you manage your meager space. Throughout the game, you will find backpacks that will help increase your item space. While Easy and Normal modes have unlimited saves and checkpoints, Madhouse will treat players to a full blown classic Resident Evil experience of needing to find cassette tapes to save. Even the setting being a derelict mansion is a callback to the Spencer estate from the original Resident Evil. Without a doubt, the biggest throwback is combat taking a back seat to puzzles and exploration.
Ethan is different than any other protagonist in the Resident Evil franchise. Ethan has had no formal combat training or experience with life threatening situations. These deficits come into play right from the first enemy encounter, featuring Ethan wielding a hatchet fighting for his life. Your swings are large and imprecise and the “creature” you face rushes through them attempting to kill you. Shortly after this encounter you find your first handgun; unfortunately, Ethan is not the best with a gun. Aiming is slow and can be imprecise at times. This all leads to an increased sense of tension knowing that, even with your weapons, you are still totally defenseless!
One of my favorite additions to Resident Evil VII is the inclusion of VHS tapes you find throughout the game. These tapes are playable flashbacks that help you fill in the backstory of what has happened at the mansion. Emblem hunting from Resident Evil 5 and 6 makes a return but this time in the form of bobble heads called Mr. Everywhere. Unfortunately, they serve as nothing but a collectible used to unlock achievements/trophies. For completionists, finding all the Mr. Everywhere will require a minimum of two playthroughs, one on easy or normal and one on the Madhouse difficulty. Capcom also plans to release several DLC episodes over the next few months to keep players coming back for more scares. With multiple endings and unlockable items, players should have no trouble sinking multiple playthroughs into Resident Evil VII in the meantime.
Being a first-person game I am glad there was not an obtrusive HUD during gameplay. Your current ammo count is displayed in the bottom right of your screen only while you aim. Your inventory pops up on the right side of your screen and doesn’t block your view. Combining items is also easier than ever with a tab in the inventory that shows you exactly what you can make with your supplies on hand.
Resident Evil VII has some amazing lighting effects! Light and dark are the major theme of the game and it is fantastic to see it pulled off so well. Light coming through the slats of a boarded window or the shadows made from projectors and other light sources look stunning. Each of the Bakers look creepy and authentic and the mansion is a grotesque shadow of its former glory. The way the screen is blurred and has scanlines applied during VHS tape sequences is also an amazing touch of detail. While the texturing may not always be the best it totally fits the tone of the game.
Resident Evil VII has a perfect audio set! The creaks of the house, thumping on walls, footsteps and call outs from the Baker family all serve to immerse you in your surroundings and music is a perfect accompaniment to the creepy sounds littered throughout the game. I don’t think I have been this creeped out by a games audio work since the original F.E.A.R. (2005)!
What could have been better
The constant pursuit by Jack and Marguerite start to lose their horror appeal after a few encounters and the game relies on jump scares to bring it back. While the jump scares are effective, I would have liked the encounter to remain frightful without them.
Resident Evil VII is exactly the entry the franchise needed to redeem the main numbered series after Resident Evil 6. The bar the series needs to beat has once again been set high. Aside from some minor annoyances with the Jack and Marguerite encounters, horror fans will be happy with what Resident Evil VII: Biohazard has to offer. Between the creepy setting the and the amazing lighting and sound I can’t recommend this game enough! Even if it did scare the living bajebus out of me!