I was a bit apprehensive about Resident Evil VII: biohazard because I wasn’t really feeling the demo or its change to first-person, but the finished product respects and relishes in what Resident Evil is and it’s a tense, frightening journey.
Resident Evil VII is a departure from the game’s on-going story and instead introduces fresh faces, enemies and a new area but don’t worry, it ties into the series’ lore in amazing ways and I’m eager to see what Capcom are going to do next with the series. You play as Ethan who gets a lead on his missing wife’s location, and so he travels to the Dulvey house in Louisiana and is quickly trapped as the insane and cannibalistic Baker’s want to make him part of the family — clearly, Ethan does not want to be part of the family and just wishes to find Mia and escape. What follows is a story wrought with twists and turns and as you learn more about the character’s and their situations, the more emotions you’ll feel other than fear. It tells a story that resonated with me far more than I expected and although I do yearn to return to the characters we know and love, I’m very happy with how Resident Evil VII expands the series’ rich lore and breathes new life into the series.
Those who were worried that Resident Evil VII was chasing the coat-tails of P.T., Outlast, Amnesia and the like can rest easy this is a Resident Evil game through and through. Unsettling and daunting, the Dulvey house is grand and is begging to be explored and explore it you will! It’s reminiscent of the Spencer Mansion from the first Resident Evil game, and it’s got just as many secrets to boot. The Baker’s will constantly follow you about their home as you solve puzzles to escape (yes, finding emblems and keys, weight puzzles and more are prevalent here), and their explosive, unique personalities are enough alone to put you on edge as you’ll never know what they’ll say or do next.
One of the coolest additions to Resident Evil VII comes in the form of video tapes. There are only a small handful of them available but you’ll come across video tapes that reveal how other victims met their demise or how they managed to escape an area that you’ll come across not too long after. Because the characters in these tapes are expendable, anything can happen to them and they’re usually quite uncomfortable to play through. Whilst viewing these is entirely optional, I recommend searching them out as they’re a great help for later in the game and they’re some of the best experiences that Resident Evil VII has to offer.
The Baker’s aren’t the only things out to kill you as there are the slimy, elongated Molded too. As the name might give away, these enemies don’t seem particularly hygienic and the Molded are the most frequent enemy in the game — they come in variants too with some Molded having more power, more speed and, well, you can find out what else they get up to yourself. Resident Evil VII doesn’t have great enemy variation but I like how the Molded are explained in the story and feel that they never quite overstay their welcome, even if sometimes I did grow a little tired of battling them when they start appearing more often and in bigger numbers. The Molded are disgusting and violent, and they fit perfectly in the world of Resident Evil.
The series’ item management system is back and like in the earlier games, management is vital and can make all the difference between survival and dying. You can collect bags to increase your inventory but even then you’ll find yourself distressed over what items you need to throw away or place in a supply box. Being able to use shortcuts for up to four items (not including healing, which is attributed to R1) means that you won’t be fiddling about with the menus during a battle, and you can quickly switch between four weapons to despatch your foes. The gunplay is slow and weighty and it fits the atmosphere of the game, but combat isn’t the game’s strongest point and being forced to fight so many Molded at certain parts of the game became a bit dull — I’d have liked to have searched rooms without Molded clearly spawning out of thin air at times.
Resident Evil VII looks great and Capcom have clearly gone for photo-realistic visuals and have achieved this for the most part. The character models can sometimes seem a little iffy but they’re still highly detailed, and they don’t take me out of the game whatsoever. The Dulvey house and other areas all look incredible though and the research that must have gone into making it look like a truly abandoned house, other than all of the vile stuff laying about, is awe-worthy. The areas and atmosphere keep you on your toes as you slowly make progress, and the field of view isn’t too narrow or constricting — you obviously can’t see all corners of a room, but it is a convincing mechanic that does well in immersing you into the role of Ethan. It’s worth noting that there’s some visceral gore and that Resident Evil VIIreally is a violent and bloody game and whilst the series has always been rather gruesome, this installment goes a step further.
There’s close to no music in the game – although the ‘Go Tell Aunt Rhody’ song is catchy and creepy – but the noises only enhance the atmosphere and do a lot to help you avoid the Bakers. The creaking of the doors, the shuffling of footsteps and breathing and moans of enemies is enough to make you think twice about opening the door you’re standing in front of, and to maybe wait a little while longer. Resident Evil VII manages to be frightening throughout the course of the game, although the bigger emphasis on combat at some points is less scary and more ‘I just want to get on with the game’, but otherwise it’s a terrifying adventure and one that I couldn’t go through a second time so quickly. Fortunately, it does bed to be replayed due to its trophy list and collectables. The voice-acting is brimming with convincing Southern-drawls and the dialogue is understandably crazy, giving plenty of personality to the characters although nobody gets much in the way of development — the development that is there is exciting for Resident Evil fans, though!
I’ve enjoyed the more action-orientated Resident Evil games with the 5th one possibly being my favourite, but Resident Evil VII certainly feels a lot more like the original trilogy of games than the latter installments. I won’t say it’s a return to form as I’ve enjoyed all of the mainline Resident Evil games, plus a few spin-offs, but those looking for a return to gameplay that’s akin to the original game should be satisfied with what Resident Evil VII delivers. I clocked in around 8-9 hours and I’m uninterested in playing through it on Madhouse mode, but I’d go through it again on Easy/Normal because I enjoyed the game’s story and gameplay, and I’m eager to see which direction Resident Evil VIII will go — there’s plenty being set up, and Resident Evil is still king of the survival horror genre.