Resident Evil returns to its roots by terrifying you in different horrific ways in this latest iteration.
They often say ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and this apparently applies to the Resident Evil franchise. In the last many years Capcom have unfortunately lost their way with Resident Evil, drifting slowly but surely away from the survival horror feel of the series. The slide started with Resident Evil 5 which maintained a decent amount of survival elements and by the time Resident Evil 6 came out, the series had lost all its senses from a gameplay perspective resulting into what was essentially a comedy of errors. Of course, we can debate all day whether the direction in Resident Evil 6 was justified back then but with Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, the change in the series’ direction can in no way questioned or even doubted.
The first obvious change is the camera angle. Resident Evil 7 Biohazard employs a first person perspective which immediately draws comparison with the likes of Amnesia and Outlast. Fortunately that is the only feature that is similar to those kinds of games as the core of Resident Evil 7 is indeed what made the series so much popular in the late nineties. In many ways Resident Evil 7 borrows several elements from the first four main games in the series (including Resident Evil Code Veronica) and other franchises such as the brilliant F.E.A.R. Instead of simply copy –pasting gameplay elements from those games, Capcom have ensured that these features are implemented in such a way that they feel similar but non-alien in the Resident Evil universe.
"The Bakers are perhaps the best cast of enemies in the entire Resident Evil series and that alone speaks a lot considering the fact that the franchise is known for some excellent villains such as Albert Wesker."
The story in Resident Evil 7 is pretty much straight forward. You take on the role of Ethan Winters, a civilian, whose wife has been missing for a long time. Under mysterious circumstances he is led to an abandoned house where he begins his search. What follows is one intriguing tale that feels disconnected with the already complex narrative of the Resident Evil franchise. Credit must be given where it’s due and Capcom deserves all the appreciation for isolating the game’s plot from the non-sense we have been fed with in Resident Evil 6. But ultimately it all ties into the franchise’s main story albeit in a way that will probably blow your mind when you reach that point in the story.
What sells this story further is the excellent voice acting and an impressive score that will tickle with your nostalgia nerves. Do you remember the moment when you first got into the save room in Resident Evil 1 and that soothing music running in the background? Resident Evil 7 rekindles that memory whenever you enter a save room which is complete with an item box…one of the elements that makes a return from the original games.
The Bakers are perhaps the best cast of enemies in the entire Resident Evil series and that alone speaks a lot considering the fact that the franchise is known for some excellent villains such as Albert Wesker. The ‘Family’ reek of a volatile combination of madness and craziness and when you come across you can be sure of two things happening to you. Either you will feel disgusted with the amount of gore or violence these people carry out or you will be jumping off your chair in shock and awe as the game takes you to an unforgettable ride of chaos and a never ending nightmare.
Needless to say the several boss fights and encounters with the ‘Family’, especially the old man, is going to leave you exhausted and mentally drained. The only sore thumb in the entire cast of characters is unfortunately Ethan himself. Granted he does not have the personality trait of someone like Leon Kennedy; I mean he is a civilian after all…but what about feeling confused and lost? How about adding more emotions to your words? Ethan’s characterization falls flat at times and it’s all down to his cheesy dialogue and awful voice acting.
"Like the older games you will have to brush up your skills in inventory management and combining different elements to develop ammunition and first AID bottles."
In true Resident Evil fashion, Resident Evil 7 starts off really slow but it’s during these first few hours that you feel completely helpless as the various member of the Baker Family hunt you down. You don’t have access to some of the powerful weapons that you will pick up in the later in the game and neither will you have the guts nor the right mental state to even stand up against the ‘Family’. So it goes without saying that the game’s best moments, the unbelievable scares and chills are found in the first half of the game. It’s only after investing several hours into the game that Resident Evil 7 starts to feel much like a first person shooter but that isn’t a bad thing at all. In all of the older games the main character starts out in a helpless manner and by the time you are deep into the game you have built upon your arsenal of weapons and items. So the game getting less scary in the second half is a design choice and as such does not become liable to criticism.
Talking about weapons, initially you will have access to your trusty hand gun which itself has various variants. Next up is a powerful shotgun, flamethrower and the series’ favorite grenade launcher. More powerful weapons can be unlocked by collecting antique coins however in our playthrough we were only able to unlock the Magnum. There were also a few character upgrades available such as the ability to reload faster and increasing the maximum health via steroids. Overall there is a decent amount of items and weapons on offer but we really missed the Merchant from Resident Evil 4. Given that the game has so many nostalgic moments and references to the older games the inclusion of the Merchant or a similar character would have added more to the experience.
Like the older games you will have to brush up your skills in inventory management and combining different elements to develop ammunition and first AID bottles. It goes without saying that Resident Evil 7’s combat places heavy emphasis on how you manage your inventory and the several useful items you will come across during your playthrough, which is once again, similar to the older games in the series.
"Resident Evil 7 Biohazard marks a return to form for the series and it may bring back the once “dead” series to a place where it rightly belongs…a place where it first sowed the seeds of a rich and taxing survival horror game."
We also tried out Resident Evil 7 on the PlayStation VR and it may very well be the device’s first killer app. The in-game menu provides a number of options that can be tweaked for a better VR experience and it almost feels like a totally different game. However, running in VR mode is a matter of compromise as the game takes several hits to its various graphical parameters resulting into slightly blurry image. Overall, the experience transitions to an all together different level…the chills and scares manage to create much more impact than the base game. Motion sickness is still an issue with the PlayStation VR and I was not able to play the game in VR mode for more than one hour at a time but this could vary from player to player.
In the end, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is the accumulation of the series’ best elements. I will be honest…I was not sure how Resident Evil 7 will pan out but throughout my 12 hour long journey the game made sure to capture me with its many jump scare moments, good old gameplay mechanics and an excellent plotline.
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard marks a return to form for the series and it may bring back the once “dead” series to a place where it rightly belongs…a place where it first sowed the seeds of a rich and taxing survival horror game.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Eerie atmosphere backed up by exceptional sound effects and score, great voice acting (except the main protagonist who sounds bland), traditional Resident Evil gameplay elements return and they never feel dated, intriguing puzzles, plenty of scares and chills specially in the first half, a well told story.
Ethan’s voice acting is pathetic, disappointing ending.
Much has been said about Resident Evil 6 and how it single handedly destroyed the series’ reputation but with Resident Evil 7, Capcom have bought the franchise right back to its roots. Capcom may possibly never top the experience provided by the first four games (and Code Veronica) in the series but they have come really very close with Resident Evil 7 Biohazard.