+One of the best and most atmospheric titles in the franchise
+A genuine struggle for survival through limited resources such as ammo
+Enemies are challenging compared to previous enemy types in the franchise
+Characters feel a lot more fleshed out, each with their own background, identity, and sense of humanity
+One of the best designed games both audio and visual departments
-Puzzles are rather simply and some are rehashed variants of one another.
In previous years, it’d almost seemed that the Resident Evil franchise had finally begun to run out of horror-filled steam. For some companies, it’s hard to do things just right. For some its a rapidly rising and falling roller coaster of half-witted scares, while others are minor eye rolls causing fans to just merely shake their head. This was the problem with several of the franchises latest entries including Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6.
Both had seemingly forgotten their horror-filled roots. A upbringing filled with zombies, heart attack inducing moments and enemies that left fans reeling from a single encounter. But it seems that 2017 may just have been the year Capcom needed in order to get things right. Resident Evil VII: biohazard is scary, it’s violent, and it’s a brutal experience that delivers just what the series needed: a true horror survival game that rips your guts out with a chainsaw and its rusted blades.
This time around, the game does several things different within its core experience. First, you play the average Joe. Ethan Winters, is your everyday man. Except he’s on a quest to search for his missing wife Mia. Having only an inkling of an idea regarding her whereabouts, Ethan journeys down from his cozy home up North into Dulvey, Louisiana where he encounters the freakish and nightmare inducing Baker family.
Just like any situation in the Resident Evil franchise, its quickly realized that something isn’t right with this somehow immortal and Hellish family. Quickly they take to the actions of terming and terrorizing Ethan while on his quest to find his missing wife and even introduce him to sights that no man would dare consider to be real.
Unlike previous entries, Resident Evil VII never goes down the wayward path in becoming a Michael Bay film where explosions and the heroes of the day coming kicking in the doors. Instead, Resident Evil VII does away with that entire idea. The small-scale focus on the Louisiana swamps was a great idea, making combat in a dark, oppressive, and eerie atmospheres something to enjoy.
Among the many welcome changes to the series, we are ushered into the game within a first person perspective. An approach that deviates from the ever-so-popular over-the-shoulder view that fans had become acquainted with post-Resident Evil 4. Combined with this small change, this one stands out among the rest thanks to the teams astonishingly creepy art direction, design, and graphical engineering. Toss in an almost immaculate sound design and the Baker home is more than just a legitimately scary location. It’s absolutely horrific and its a place I’d have no want to ever visit. Every corner, every closed door and ever small groan of wood sent the hairs on my neck flying.
After all, what if something was waiting for me? What if that noise behind me was one of the bakers or one of these new bio-weapons waiting for their chance to strike? What if that rat in the corner triggered a bigger event than the last? Did I even remember to check my ammo? These were always legitimate questions that ran through my head in the fourteen hours it took me before I cleared the game and its DLC. Every. Single. Second was anxiety inducing. None of it was simple, none of it was easy, and none of it was going to let me breathe without almost wetting my britches.
But what’s more interesting is the fact that one such game could reinvent a series both front and back. It’s a game that could very well have set the new par for future titles. But I know you’re going to wonder why. Let me be clear, I’m a huge horror buff. I love horror films, I love horror games, but this game? This was something new altogether. I was playing an average Joe. Not some trained police officer, not some Umbrella agent. I was playing a guy who was merely looking for his missing wife.
I was playing a guy who was constantly being hunted by a family of deranged lunatics. Jack, Marguerite and even Lucas were legitimately the most terrifying enemies I’d ever faced since the days of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. They simply do not die. They can’t be killed. They are seemingly immortal for their respective narrative purposes. For fans of games such as Alien: Isolation, Slender or Amnesia, this game is right up your alley if you’re good at hide and sink. Some parts would induce true sensations of helpless and fear that one would feel in such a situation.
In truth, there were moments I would slink from one corner to another while Jack or his wife quietly went on their prowl for me. Some puzzles were easier said than done to these fearsome foes. Those adrenaline fueled moments were a delight to be apart of. The amount of immersion it caused wasn’t just intoxicating, it was joyous. This very experience was something the Resident Evil series had been struggling to achieve since the days of Code Veronica.
But this doesn’t mean Resident Evil VII: biohazard had somehow landed all the shots that needed to be made. Boss fights are scattered throughout the game. Many are cluttered arenas filled with hulking beasts, ones that don’t seem to shy away from Ethan even in the slightest. Toss in the fact players are starved of ammo, medical equipment and even backpack space, fights such as these can become quite tedious. Some enemies will cause you to unload countless clips of pistol ammo before the boss even staggers in any form.
Combined that with the fact you’ve burn through your flamethrowers reserves and a few shotgun rounds, you’ll quickly realize that your attempts at survival are futile. Mix that in with the fact some bosses require you to rely upon environmental advantages and special tools; you’ll soon begin yanking your hair out little by little. Sadly, bringing bosses to an equal playing field isn’t easily communicated by Capcom. Some of these bosses even contain special conditions for defeating them and could easily be missed were the player not quick enough to execute one of those conditions.
This leaves a very statement to be made: boss bottles could have been leveled out in some way or another. Whether it’s through quick time events, dialogue or even supplying the player with the proper documentation laying about within the previous room. But this doesn’t mean that combat is by any means a dissatisfying experience. In reality, combat is tense. It can appear in unexpected ways such as twisted creatures bubbling up from the ground before you, in the sinks behind you or even through that rusted air vent just ahead.
But the guns themselves don’t feel “light”. They have noticeable weight in how Ethan reacts to them. Some slow his movement, some are slower to draw and reload, others have recoil that sends Ethan’s aim towards the ceiling. Add in the impressive response from enemies and one could be almost convinced that the team behind the game had spent quite a bit of time behind a few of the guns themselves. This is even more-so represented with the fact that shotgun blasts are a thing of beauty. Land a proper headshot and one of those oozing creatures can be sent reeling backwards while its head splatters about in various directions.
But this approach resonates throughout the base game as well as its expansions. In Not a Hero, guns still feel slightly weaker than what one would expect. Sure, they send the infested creatures reeling in pain, but they aren’t going to just eat through one right after another. This only confirms the fact that this new strain of infection is still a force to be reckoned with. It’s still going to fight back and it’s going to give anyone that comes across it a fight for their life.
Toss that in with the fist fighting mechanics of The End of Zoe and your work is quite literally cut out for you. What’s more interesting in the amount of detail within the game, the team has ensured that combat is adrenaline inducing. Whether your ready for it or not, enemies aren’t scared to make you pull the trigger repeatedly. It’s not scared to make you eat through your valuable ammo reserves as quickly as possible. More often than not, retreating from combat is somethings a strategic choice rather than a cowardly one.
Thanks to this ebb and flow of combat, it offers a nice sense of catharsis when having finally beat a mini boss, a horde of enemies or obtain the missing item you’ve been hunting. To put it bluntly, every victory, even the smallest, feel well earned. Not a single one feels out of place or unimportant.
But even the games quieter moments stand out in their own unique way. At its best, the Baker house itself will recall memories of the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil. It’s huge, lavish, rich in detail and a delight to explore in order to uncover its secrets. Each room feels unique, rich with a unknown history, while each unlocked one offers a new risk and reward. Even on a PlayStation 4 Pro, it’s quite easy to take note of textures that loaded in slower than others, creaking floorboards that came in delayed, or even the rusty barrels that had their textures pop in randomly while sneaking about.
Despite these minor glitches, every detail is spot on. Ever detail pushes you to explore the labyrinthine halls of the Baker farm itself. Even with all the horrors that lurk in the darkest of shadows, Resident Evil VII: biohazard isn’t a game that will push players away. It has something or everyone, even those that prefer not to fight if they don’t have to. Toss in a few secret item caches, a few optional puzzles that offer further incentive to carry on, and players have their work cut out for them if they stay in for the long haul.
Unfortunately, some of the games puzzles feel like the weakest link out of the lot. Some lack variety compared to previous games. One o the puzzle types, which includes using shadows and shapes to match the ones on the walls, appears more than once, on an average of 3-4 times throughout the campaign. While puzzles within the franchise have never truly been daunting, the tasks here are remedial and could easily be completed by an elementary student.
Sadly, it seemed that these were a second thought that was added in at the very last minute and could have only been better had they been left out altogether. Instead, it seems that throughout the game, movie influences can heavily be spotted from one scene to the next. Toss in a small bit of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Green Inferno, and The Blair Witch Project, and you’re in for quite a treat if you can get past them.
But you may be wondering how this comes to be and how these influences permeate through the games entirety. To begin with the influences, it’s not hard to see where Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes into play. After all, the game screams this very influence. Toss in a family of psychotic cannibals that don’t hold back in killing their guests and you’re right at the entry level influence. Later within the game, players get to revisit found footage sequences, ones where they take over the missing victims, which indeed drops hints at what players must do next and you have The Blair Witch Project, which appears more than once throughout the game.
But what’s more impressive is the fact the game significantly shits its tone from previous entries. It’s brutal, it’s bloody, it’s filled to the brim with severed limbs, split skulls, and broken bones. It doesn’t hold back from pushing the envelope in any way shape or form. Toss in a small bit of The Saw and this game might as well be considered a horror fans love letter to those whom inspired them.
Resident Evil VII: Gold Edition – PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Release Date: Available Now
Toss in a few DLCs that expand the story, a mode that could quite easily be considered a survival mode, and you have a game that is quite literally a horror game at its core. As a series that lost its way a couple of entries before this one, and Resident Evil VII: biohazard can quite easily be considered the long overdue reclamation for the series. Whether it’s the suspense filled moments of exploration, the moments where Ethan is clearly shaken from what he had just seen, or even if its the excessive and frustratingly hard boss fights, Resident Evil VII doesn’t back down from what it’s here to do.
It’s scary, it’s violent, and its a survival horror experience that paints a bright future for the franchise and quite possibly the genre as a whole. Through its visceral experience, Resident Evil VII: Gold Edition is exactly what the franchise needed in order to be revitalized. It’s full of dread, it’s brimming with anxiety that might as well sign out with antagonist Jack Baker having said it best.
Welcome to the family boy. We missed you.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.