Game Review

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017) [PS4]

Welcome to the family, son!
-Jack Baker

 

ava “The following is a contributor post by the Bizzaro Mage.”

The history of video games as a medium has seen a veritable swarm of ideas come and go. Many never stick, hanging around for one game before sinking into obscurity or, if they’re lucky, becoming cult classics. Others manage to grab the attention of the masses and make (usually obscene) amounts of money, thus guaranteeing sequels.

So it is, then, that games libraries have become full of series of games. Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Halo, Mario, Sonic… the list could go on for a good few pages yet. For the most part, these series all have a bit of a roller coaster ride in regards to the popularity of each game in their franchise: some start slowly but gain traction, whilst others burst onto the scene before fizzing out a few entries down the line.

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Today I am going back to the Resident Evil franchise, a survival horror series developed and published by Capcom that exploded onto the scene in 1996 on the PlayStation (which I speak to our very own ABXY Mage about in-depth in the Side Quests podcast) and has just released a remake of one of its most beloved entries, 1998’s Resident Evil 2 (the original of which I reviewed here). The remake has taken the horror gaming scene by storm, delivering a modernised version of the ‘98 sequel that is dripping with horror and looks gorgeous (the Mr X memes are also incredibly wholesome).

But it is not the “REmake” that brings me here today, for another, very talented Mage will be covering that. No, I’m going back to 2017, when Resident Evil’s reputation was dragged back into the light as the series once again dared to return to its horror roots. I am talking about Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

Originally this entry was going to be similar to its predecessor, the widely panned Resident Evil 6, in that it would be a bombastic action shooter. The series had first embraced an action focus with 2005’s Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo GameCube, though Capcom had been able to balance the action and traditional horror values a little better than it did with entries 5 and 6. Over time, however, the emphasis on horror dropped away entirely, and by the time 6 came around one could easily confuse it for a grittier take on Devil May Cry (which itself was originally going to be Resident Evil 4).

Thankfully, Capcom decided to return to survival horror once more for their next game, once again setting the game in one location and focusing the game around surviving with limited resources and solving puzzles. A demo was released in 2016 titled ‘Kitchen’, in which the player could explore the guest lodge of the Baker estate, solve a couple of puzzles and enjoy a little bit of story content. This also served to show off the PSVR compatibility.

So the question is, did Resident Evil 7 hold up? Did it succeed in convincing Capcom to drop all of the over the top action and give Albert bloody Wesker a break? Let’s find out!

Clear off, Albert…

 

8bitreview

visuals Visuals: 8/10

Resident Evil 7 is about as pretty as horror gets, albeit with one or two little drawbacks.

I suppose for this review I shall start by examining the Baker estate itself. If a game is to be set around one area, consisting of an outdoor zone with three or four buildings and a mine to explore, then Capcom would have had to really make the place look interesting, varied and believable. During my conversation with the ABXY Mage we discussed how the Spencer mansion from the 1996 original game is, once those nostalgia goggles have been removed, actually quite a bland looking place (something which the GameCube remake and subsequent HD remaster of that game improved on massively). Bland and uninteresting locales can really be a turn off for video games, especially in the case of games like these where one is forced to do plenty of backtracking.

So I am eternally thankful that Capcom succeeded in their mission with the Baker estate. At the game’s start, as protagonist Ethan Winters steps out of his car and wanders into the shadowed woods that leads to the estate’s guest house, one can almost feel the warmth of the Louisiana sun as its rays shine down between the leaves. The ground is glistening and muddy underfoot and, as Ethan gets close to the visually dilapidated lodgings, piles of junk and what appears to be rotten meat lie around in abundance. The level of detail here, as in the rest of the estate, is impressive. Once Ethan gets inside the mansion proper, one can really appreciate just how grotty the place has become, with peeling, mould covered walls, floors away with weird stains and the usually well-ordered bric-a-brac of family life cast aside by the family’s increasing violence as they descend into insanity.

In terms of variety, Resident Evil 7 does offer up a few different locales within the estate. The old, abandoned house just off from the main one is ramshackle, perilous and full of killer bugs, somehow looking even more unwelcoming than the main house, the mine looks sufficiently dark and dangerous, and Lucas’s unusual extension looks like what would happen if Tim “Tool Time” Taylor went on a murderous rampage, with blood covered tarpaulins and stacks of pallets aplenty. There’s even a secret laboratory (tick that off your Resident Evil bingo cards, everyone), though it’s not your classic Umbrella type I’m afraid, it’s merely cobbled together in an office down in the mines.

William Birkin’s Raccoon City lab is much more worth a visit…

Character models also hold up well to scrutiny: they look good and move smoothly and have some brilliant facial expressions. The look of anguish on Mia’s face early on could easily be mistaken for that of a real person. The main villains of this game, the grotesque Baker family, also look fantastic. Jack starts out looking normal enough but, after a couple of run-ins with him, he soon begins to look unnatural and not quite human any more, like something from John Carpenter’s The Thing. His skin becomes sallow and corpulent and his movements begin to look unnatural and stilted, seeing him storm down a hallway after you is a lesson in terror.

His wife, Marguerite, is perhaps more terrifying still to behold. Whilst looking like any other ordinary middle-aged woman to begin with, her later forms are all distended forms and elongated, spider-like limbs, like some awful Cronenbergian nightmare.

Nope…

Their son Lucas, whilst not suffering from any mutation forms, is still well acted and animated and comes across as a real unhinged psychopath, especially in the early dinner table scene.

He’s a nasty man…

Other characters do appear in the game, such as the mysterious, comatose old lady in a wheelchair, a concerned (and very unreasonable) police officer, and a mysterious woman who aids Ethan, at first from afar and then, later, in person. They also fit the bill well and have great animations and expressions, Capcom treating these less utilised characters with just as much love as they do the Bakers and Mia.

The final character models to consider are the Molded, this iteration’s take on the classic zombie. At first they’re pretty scary to behold, twisted creatures seemingly made from gristle and dipping with ichor, jagged teeth grinning out from eyeless heads. The Molded do look great, but being the only enemy type in the game other than the Bakers they do eventually get a little boring, despite having different variants.

What a winning smile…

In order to get through all of these Molded and Baker family members, Ethan gains access to a decent selection of guns, which look pretty good for the most part. The best weapon in the entire game is, sadly, only available for one boss encounter: a petrol chainsaw that gives off showers of sparks as Ethan goes head to head with that specific enemy. There isn’t really too much more to say about the weaponry in this game; they look detailed, Ethan handles them realistically, and they do their job admirably.

Now on to the area where Resident Evil 7’s visuals suffer a little: namely, the colour pallet. Do you like grey and brown, dear reader? One hopes so, because you’ll be seeing a lot of it. A lot of the colours in this game look very washed out and muted and, whilst I understand that this was most likely an artistic decision to make the locales seem more bleak and lifeless, it does tend to make the game look a little uninteresting at times when compared to earlier entries in the series.

 Audio: 9/10

The best horror movies, and indeed video games, know how to use their audio track to ramp up tension, shock and surprise the target audience, and let the tension deflate when the heroes reach a point of safety. Resident Evil 7 is no exception to this rule; indeed, composer Ariyuki Morimoto has achieved a strong soundtrack that, whilst never taking front and center stage, always provides a strong experience. Much like earlier titles in the series, it is used more to underline certain events or moments in the game than to provide a constant accomplice to the visuals. What do I mean by this? Well, for most of the game there is no music at all, allowing one to listen out for the sounds of approaching enemies (and playing plenty of tricks on you with that to boot) and otherwise soak in the oppressive atmosphere of the Baker estate.

The soundtrack only really comes into play when Ethan is under attack, something intense is occurring (being chased by Jack, for example), or when you’re going up against a boss. There is also a lighter, more relaxing track played whenever Ethan steps into a save room, just like the Resident Evils of old, that’s designed to temporarily release some of the tension and make the player feel safe, however temporary that feeling will be.

Magical item crates make a comeback…

Resident Evil’s use of music has, for the most part, been a minimal affair that plays well toward its horror theme, and the seventh instalment is no exception to that rule. The song played in the game’s intro movie is also pretty darn good, setting the mood nicely.

Those tense silences exist for a reason and that is to point one’s hearing toward the events going on around Ethan as he explores the Baker estate. To this end, Capcom has imbued Resident Evil 7 with a chilling, often gross, and always effective collection of sound effects. The early portion of the game, in which Ethan is unarmed and hiding from Jack Baker whilst attempting to solve a few puzzles, is a chilling experience, in no small part thanks to the sound of the maniac marauding around the rooms and corridors. I remember cowering in a corner for several minutes (in the game, not real life) just because I could hear Jack’s booted feet as he passed and re-passed the doorway. Even when there’s no immediate danger, the estate provides enough unnerving background noises to keep you on edge. Doors and shutters bang, the house itself creaks and settles and something can occasionally be heard moving around a long way away. Even if all of this sounds a little clinical on paper, a few techniques used to trick someone’s senses, it all comes together perfectly in execution.

It’s not just Mr Baker that provide plenty of nasty sound effects either. Marguerite screeches psychotically when she detects you and, when things go really sideways in her genetic makeup later, some of the hissing, inhuman noises that come from her are up there with my favourite horror sound effects. Even the Molded, those bullet sponge zombie stand ins, make a great collection of jittery, guttural noises that make them even more repulsive than first meets the eye. Each of the firearms that one collects during your adventure also sound pretty impressive; special mention goes to the double-barrelled shotgun, which has a very satisfying boom to it and really reflects the true power of such a weapon. The only letdown in Ethan’s arsenal is the submachine gun, which sounds a bit gutless for something that’s spitting out hundreds of rounds a minute, like somebody going crazy on a hole punch.

And now we get the real highlight of any Resident Evil game, the voice acting. As I mentioned in my review of Resident Evil 2 (1998) and ABXY Mage and myself discussed in Side Quests, early games in this series were plagued with some truly awful voice acting.

For Resident Evil 7, however, Capcom has opted to actually hire some voice talent, as opposed to kidnapping random tourists from outside their office or teaching dogs to speak. Main characters Ethan and Mia both sound great, with the former’s resigned, snarky comments often reflecting what I was thinking myself every time some new inconvenience reared its head. An often-voiced complaint about Ethan is that he’s a little detached, taking unimaginable horrors in his stride as if he were merely swatting at bugs instead of narrowly surviving engagement after engagement. I can certainly see where people are coming from with this, but it never troubled me personally; I just put it down to the fact that he will do whatever it takes to save his wife, even throwing aside his own personal safety to do so.

The Baker family are also well voiced, with special kudos going to Jack. His line of “welcome to the family, son!” became synonymous with Resident Evil 7’s promotional material early on, even making it into a few memes and online jokes. Hearing him calling out to you from a couple of rooms away in his thick Louisiana accent, threatening and mocking you, is a scary experience to be remembered. The rest of the family, Marguerite and Lucas, also sound great, their voice actors providing plenty of personality and showing off their complete insanity with gusto. Also worth mentioning is Ethan’s mysterious helper over the phone, Zoe, whose impatience and sense of urgency as she drives Ethan toward his next objective are palpable. I also enjoyed the prattle of the TV crew that feature in an early flashback video sequence (more on those later). They are clearly supposed to portray that stereotypical “millennial” archetype, self obsessed and disrespectful of their surroundings until things go south.

This game’s audioscape is a strong one and, apart from one or two tiny complaints, I feel that it’s one of the best in any horror game that I’ve played. Also, the inventory sounds and storage chests opening and closing is pure nostalgia.

gameplay.png Gameplay: 9/10

The general consensus on Resident Evil 7 is that it is something of a hybrid between a traditional game in the series and fellow horror property Outlast. Whilst this could be something of an over-simplification, I do admit that it is largely the case. Taking the guts of a classic, 32-bit Resident Evil title and allowing the player to freely explore it from a first person viewpoint really works, preserving the tried and tested exploration and puzzle elements whilst, at the same time, getting rid of the fixed camera angles, constant loading screens and tightening up the shooting mechanics considerably.

For whilst the series may be remembered for zombies, bad voice work and Albert bloody Wesker’s bloody sunglasses, many fans are more fond of the technically designed maps and puzzles that the baddies always seem to love installing. The Baker’s home is a ramshackle maze of a place which, unsurprisingly, is mostly inaccessible at first. In order to move things along, Ethan must find ways to open up different parts of the house, typically by solving some straightforward puzzles, treasure hunts, and beating the tar out of various bosses whilst aided by the trusty map screen.

The map screen is nicely detailed…

This entry in the series may not be jumping all over the globe (looking at you, Resident Evil 6) but by using these tactics it gets plenty of mileage out of the one location.

A lot of the early game horror comes from the members of the Baker family, to whom something deeply unpleasant has happened, granting them both regenerative powers and the gift of complete, homicidal insanity. As a result they are much like the antagonists from Outlast or the Xenomorph from Alien: Isolation, to all intents and purposes invulnerable and extremely able to kill Ethan should they get their hands on him. As a result, the first third of the game is pretty much hiding from Jack whilst trying to get some puzzles solved. The middle third sees one descend into the basement of the house following a tense boss fight, and now Ethan is armed with a handgun.

It is also at this point that we discover just who we’re supposed to be using the ammunition on: the Molded. As such, this subtly changes the nature of the game, going from being stalked by an implacable enemy to having to carve or dodge your way through a whole gang of lesser mooks whilst, in the finest tradition for this series, conserving bullets and healing items. To me, this was a more hardcore Resident Evil experience. The balancing act of getting through the Molded whilst, at the same time, conserving your ammunition has been a series mainstay from the beginning (and is indeed just as important in a certain recently released remake). Resident Evil 7 paces this portion of the game out well enough, culminating in a rather intense boss fight that will test one’s ability to keep cool under pressure and find useful items in the environment in order to fight back.

This puts an end to fighting through the Molded horders for a short while as the game returns to invulnerable stalker mode, Ethan now moving through the derelict old manor house whilst being stalked by Marguerite Baker.

This jump from run-and-hide gameplay to being able to fight back versus the Molded, and then see-sawing back to run and hide, does work in keeping gameplay fresh and varied, and I feel that if the game was solidly just one style or the other it would have outstayed its welcome come the end. After some puzzling and backtracking, not to mention a tense battle against another boss, we get to what is, to me at least, probably the most fun portion of the game as Ethan finally goes up against Lucas Baker. Instead of fighting you head on, he instead baits Ethan into his strange and deadly maze. Think Saw, only with an actual arena where one is challenged to fight off several waves of Molded for Lucas’s amusement.

After this segment is the final third of the game, which relies more on the Molded and drops the invulnerable hunter element altogether. Aside from one rather epic boss battle in a boathouse, a moral choice moment and an interesting flashback sequence, this whole final section is all about fighting through gangs of Molded toward the final boss which, sadly, turned out to be a little anticlimactic, relying on simple timing for its first stage and simply unloading everything you have into its face for the second.

It’s nigh on impossible to discuss any game in the Resident Evil series without also discussing its inventory system.

Like all the best Resident Evils, inventory management is a must…

Since 1996, Capcom have enjoyed torturing players by giving their protagonists a very limited carry capacity, forcing them to constantly revisit storage chests to swap out items and free up slots for story important odds and ends (like ridiculously themed keys). The seventh entry brings back this system, along with other classic Resident Evil hallmarks. First aid sprays, herbs of varying colours and effects and various weapons are all ripe for the picking, as well as a number of mysterious antique coins. These can be saved up and exchanged for some useful items at the estate’s central save point (inside Zoe’s trailer). Stat boosts can be gained this way, though I personally saved up my pennies for the powerhouse Magnum pistol, knowing from past games in the series that it was going to be one hell of a powerful weapon.

One can also discover chem fluid whilst exploring. These can be combined with various items to create new ones; for instance, combining a herb with chem fluid will create a first aid spray, or gunpowder with chem fluid may create handgun ammunition. This mechanic creates a little challenge in and of itself, challenging players to correctly balance their stocks of medicine and ammunition as the game goes on, for running short of either would be a disaster indeed.

Capcom have done an admirable job of taking the original, horror-based Resident Evil gameplay and throwing it into a blender with elements from more modern horror franchises. The new viewpoint makes this entry incredibly immersive and switching between challenges and styles helps to keep gameplay fresh, all whilst preserving the cornerstones of the series such as inventory management and boss fights.

narrative Narrative: 8/10

By the time Resident Evil 6 rolled around, the series plot had become unwieldy, with too many players, no more horror and a bizarre plot featuring yet more bloody Albert bloody Wesker (why couldn’t the Tyrant have finished him off properly?) and an insane story about someone making an evil clone of series regular Ada Wong. On top of that we also had über hench Chris Redfield and it took far too long to make Barry Burton a playable character.

Did he inject himself with the Absolute Unit Virus?

Something had to be done to the plot of 7, especially if it was to return to the series’ horror roots, and I was so happy that Capcom managed to deliver. This entry almost serves as a soft reboot, stripping out all but one familiar face (and it’s not even bloody Wesker!) and casting its story with all-new characters.

Our protagonist is Ethan Winters, an ordinary kind of guy who, one day, receives an email out of the blue from his long-missing wife. In it she begs him to come to her aid: she is at a place called the Baker Estate in Dulsey, Louisiana and needs his help. So, like any worried and dutiful husband, Ethan hops into his car and heads south.

Once at the estate, he enters the guest house to find the place in disarray. Decay festers in every corner and there are clear signs of something deeply unpleasant having happened there. After playing a VHS tape in which several members of a Most Haunted style documentary series are killed, he manages to find his wife, Mia, who is incredulous that he has come to the estate and begs him to run, as if she never sent the email at all.

Mia, wouldn’t wanna be ya…

The two reconcile and begin their escape, only for Mia to suddenly turn into a homicidal maniac and attack Ethan. He is forced to kill her and, in shock, he makes for the exit. What follows next is a fantastically grotesque series of events, which I shall not spoil for you, except to say that Mia is back alive and Ethan is now a captive of the estate’s owners, the deeply twisted and not quite right Baker family Jack, Marguerite, their son Lucas and an unnamed old lady in a wheelchair. It’s around this point that we learn that everyone present, including Ethan himself, has regenerative powers to some degree (helped along by first aid sprays, of course). Ethan manages to escape the psychotic family and sets out to rescue Mia once again, finding out the truth behind what’s going on as he does so.

Pass the ketchup, Lucas…

Ethan himself is, in some ways, the weakest link character-wise in this game. He’s pretty quiet overall and, as I stated earlier, received some flak for being a little blasé about the utter madness that’s going on around him. I do feel that this helped me to project my own character on Ethan; I tend to get really immersed into games like this and I was able to fill in the blanks in Ethan’s delivery with my own narrative (usually that Ethan was as terrified yet resolute as I was playing him). Mia is a pretty mysterious character for most of the game: the reason why she went missing in the first place isn’t really addressed until the third act, though this reveal also explains why she’s knocking around Dulsey as the Bakers’ prisoner.

The Baker family are pretty scary from the get go and, by exploring the estate, reading notes and files and, of course, progressing through the story, one is able to learn how they became what they are and what, exactly, is behind this change. That unknown force is also behind the strange regenerative powers on show and the existence of the Molded, a satisfying mystery that kept me wondering until the reveal toward the end of the game. Other characters in Resident Evil 7 include the doomed documentary crew, a particularly unreasonable police officer and, in a flashback sequence, a special agent. Come to think about it, they’re all doomed in the end. Most players in this game inevitably are.
The only other thing I can divulge, without ruining major story beats too badly, is that a familiar face appears right at the end that will please all but the most jaded Resident Evil fan. This actually surprised me, as until that point this entry in the series had seemed like a clean break from all of 6’s nonsense.

Resident Evil 7 presents a solid mystery which is played out by interesting, varied characters. The heroes are decently written, the villains are excellent all around and, when it finally happens, the reveal of the big bad isn’t half bad. My only gripe is that the final battle against this force of evil is a little weak compared to the events that led up to it.

scariness Scariness: 9/10

I can’t recall if I divulged this fact in my Resident Evil 2 (1998) review, but whilst I love horror games I am also absolutely terrified of them!

Resident Evil 7 was no let down on this front, as once again I fell into the old, unhealthy pattern from the PS1 era games, do a few useful things, save, do a few more useful things, rinse and repeat. I play these games slowly, edging forward into the unknown with trepidation and, when things get really terrifying, refusing to pick the game back up for a few days. But how does this game manage to affect me so?

I think the biggest factor in this is how Capcom has designed the Baker estate to exude a certain kind of atmosphere. As mentioned previously in the audio part of this review, Ethan never seems to be alone. Creaking floorboards and the sound of doors opening and closing in the distance always had me on edge, even in parts of the game where I knew, categorically, that Jack and his family were not currently stalking me.

The Baker estate is a grim and untidy crib…

The score also lends itself to this tactic, popping up every now and again, even if there is only a chance of something attacking out of the shadows. An example of this would be when Ethan first meets the Molded. He happens upon a room with strange, gloopy viscera covering one wall and, as he passes, the music suddenly increases in intensity as this new enemy type emerges from the sludge. Even after it has been dispatched, every time Ethan passes through that room that same little piece of music threatens to play and every time I aimed my gun toward that wall, just in case another Molded tried anything.
The buildings of the Baker estate are, along with the mines and cargo ship which you also visit, deliberately designed to be claustrophobic. Anything could be lurking around that next corner or past the next door, and the feeling when a room turns up empty of enemies is one of pure relief. The Baker family also make fantastic use of this tight space, chasing one down long corridors and stalking Ethan from room to room whilst calling his name. Your weapons won’t hurt them either, so fleeing is your only option and I often found myself planning routes in the map screen so as to not be cornered and beaten to death with a razor-sharp shovel.

The only, very slight letdown is the lack of variety in the enemy types. As stated earlier, you’ll either be facing off against the Bakers or the Molded, the latter only coming in regular “zombie” type shuffler, skittery, wall crawling “Licker” type, hulking “Hunter” types, and a huge, bloated model that explodes violently upon death (by no means unique, as similar enemies exist in Left 4 Dead and The Last of Us). Whilst they all look chilling enough, something of a cross between a scarecrow and a Xenomorph covered in tar, they do become a bit too commonly encountered, even if said encounters can be pretty hairy as one tries to pop their heads whilst using minimal ammunition and staying out of reach.

As for most terrifying enemy? It has to go to Marguerite Baker, whose second boss battle is a masterclass in edge of your seat, cat and mouse tension against an utterly vile-looking abomination.

Wanna bet?

Capcom ripped the guts out of Resident Evil with 5 and 6, focusing on bombastic action over frights. The seventh entry sets this balance right again, using a tighter point of view, brilliant level design and unstoppable, horrifying enemies, despite overusing a couple of them toward the end.

challenge Challenge: 7/10

The core experience of a Resident Evil title has always challenged me, to one degree or another. Be it the fine art of inventory management, hoarding supplies versus popping the head of every zombie you happen upon, or meeting my match against some of the series more glorious boss encounters (any Birkin encounter in the new RE2 remake gets a shout out here), there is always something to provide me with some adversity.

Resident Evil 7, having eschewed the shallow and over the top action of its immediate predecessors, once again seeks to challenge its players with these traditional, almost old school battles. Ammunition once again must be hoarded if one is to put up a fight against the Molded and Baker family later in the game, as too should healing items as the odds stack ever higher and Ethan becomes far more likely to be caught out. One Molded enemy can be dealt with fairly easily: a few shots to the head from the handgun will bring one down for good. However, should Ethan encounter more than one it may be wiser to dodge past them, though this can also be tough as their movements are jerky and spasmodic, making them hard to read and all too often landing you right into their arms. The crawling variety are hard to hit and evade, moving rapidly from surface to surface and closing the distance before you can get off too many shots. The bloated, exploding variety perhaps provide the greatest challenge, however, soaking up a lot of bullets and, even in death, still dealing plenty of damage.

Boss fights run the gamut of difficulty. The first two encounters with Jack weren’t too tough for me; they were more about figuring out your surroundings without letting him catch you, looking for an item or macguffin in the environment that was specifically placed there to give Ethan a fighting chance – a chainsaw, for instance. That said, Jack’s final encounter in the boathouse was a tense affair, forcing one to move between multiple floors and aim for very specific weak spots in order to bring him down. Whist these encounters pale in comparison to, say, Nemesis or Mr X from previous titles, they do still hold their own and I feel that they progress in difficulty nicely. The final thing to mention here is in relation to the invulnerable stalker sections of the game. Whilst being hunted by Jack and Marguerite is pretty terrifying, they can also be rather too easy to outrun, as if they’re just trying to see Ethan off instead of brutally murder him.

But it’s not all about enemies. This being a classic return to form for the series, our protagonist must also deal with puzzles. The Bakers clearly had plenty of spare time on their hands as they have converted their bayou mansion into a bizarre giant escape room, forcing Ethan to collect various puzzle parts, examine inventory items in detail for hidden elements, and even take part in a Saw-style gauntlet of death before his nightmare ends. Whilst these puzzles will never hold you up for hours (this isn’t Broken Sword by any stretch) they will occasionally get your mind firing on all cylinders as you try to progress. The Saw sequence is handled particularly cleverly, using a found video tape to provide the player with some clues in how to progress without dying horribly was a particularly clever design.

Items are always worth examining, even this creepy doll…

Resident Evil 7 is by no means the hardest game in the series on the intended normal setting, but it does provide some very tense moments and the odd fiendish puzzle. Those who want a true challenge: try it on the Madhouse difficulty setting. That’s where the real horror awaits.

replayability Replayability: 6/10

This was a difficult one for me to score, for it depends mostly on whether you are a fan of this game and its story or not. There are no A and B scenarios here, and no alternative character runs, unlike previous games. There is, however, a choice to be made at the end of the game’s second act concerning the fates of Mia and Zoe. Your decision here does affect what happens in the final act so that at least may warrant a replay for those who enjoyed Ethan’s story.

Completing the game once also unlocks a new weapon, the Albert (bloody Wesker) handgun, which has a very limited capacity but does a heckin’ load of damage, making dealing with Molded a tactical yet rewarding affair.

The Madhouse difficulty also offers replay value for masochists and the truly talented, though I am neither and therefore didn’t get very far at all under this difficulty mode.
Whilst there are a few interesting morsels warranting a second playthrough, it really does depend on whether you enjoyed the game on your first run through, as everything is exactly where you left it for your second. That said, the free ‘Not a Hero’ DLC, starring a series legend, makes for a fun, more action heavy epilogue to Ethan’s tale.

mypersonalgrade My Personal Grade: 9/10

I played Resident Evil 6 once. It broke my heart as it dashed the slow-paced, tactical, horror loving memories of its ancestors against a cold, unforgiving ground. I watched some gameplay footage of Operation Raccoon City on YouTube and sat, agape, at the scenes of over the top, cover based shootery as they stained the fine reputation of Resident Evil 2. I thought my love affair with this series had ended back with Code: Veronica.

Harrumph!

But I was wrong. In 2017 Capcom finally seemed to come to its senses, releasing a polished, atmospheric horror game that was both a loving tribute to its origin and an homage to modern chill fests like Outlast and Alien: Isolation. The first-person view works great, sucking one further into the atmosphere than ever before. The story is decent, the enemies pretty damned good, despite some visual limitations. Weapons feel good, the inventory works fine and you don’t need ink ribbons to save your game.

In all honesty, I was about to give this seventh entry in the Resident Evil series the honourable title of Best Resident Evil Game, but something came along in early 2019 that stole that trophy from its clammy, dead hands.

You may only be a pretender to that throne, Resident Evil 7, but no other horror game comes close to you. As for bringing an ailing series back to full health with all the power of a first aid spray… well, that’s a feat well done indeed.

Aggregated Score: 8.1

 

Stepping from the shadows into the light, The Bizzaro Mage somehow functions as an average human being most of the time, just one with a fair few retro games cluttering up his tiny house. Check out his rambling attempts at sense over at winst0lfportal.wordpress.com.

 

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8 replies »

  1. Resident Evil 7 is my least favorite in the series and is the only game in the series I couldn’t bring myself to complete, but I understand why people like this game so much. It just felt like Outlast with guns to me and shouldn’t have been called Resident Evil. It should have been a new IP in my opinion.

    That being said the Resident Evil 2 Remake overtook 5 as my favorite game in the series.

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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