Deceased crows in microwaves, overflowing toilets that are in a desperate need of a cleaning and dead carcasses lying around in every room. This is what Resident Evil 7 builds itself with.
As far as reboots go, it isn’t often that gaming companies can pull something like this off after establishing themselves years ago in the industry. After the disappointing reception from Resident Evil 6, Capcom has in many ways reinvented their look and takes on the world of horror with Resident Evil 7: biohazard (RE7). Except for some noticeable issues that pop-up throughout the game, it manages to show gamers that Capcom still knows what it takes to make a mark in the survival horror genre.
Resident Evil 7 draws its inspiration from games like Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, honing in on that uncertainty and anxiety players get from playing these games. RE7 at times does away with some annoying tropes that you can find in the horror genre. An abrupt, ear piercing noise works once or twice, but ends up being annoying after a time or two. The game would have been more powerful if it had played around using auditory queues and suspension to draw out the feeling of insecurity.
Apart from the lazy, traditional mechanics that are constantly used, what RE7 does best is create an unsettling environment around the player that is accomplished with fine detail. Exploring the environment in RE7 will always have you feel like you’re in some sort of danger, watched at every corner by the Baker family. As you play through the game, you start to loosen up ignoring the loud noises, but instead will grow uneasy from the scenery of the house you spend most of the game in. The horror in RE7 is done remarkably well in its strongest moments and can be genuinely scary harkening back to the oldest Resident Evil titles.
Straying away from the third-person perspectives of previous Resident Evil games, RE7 valiantly goes for the first-person experience (perhaps catering to the PlayStation VR user) putting you face to face with the horrors of the game. With the Umbrella Corporation largely absent, the game takes place in the swamp and wet parts of Dulvey, Louisiana, where the main focus is on mysterious disappearances being reported in the local area. Ethan, our protagonist and character you play for most of the game, is on the hunt to find his girlfriend Mia, who has disappeared, and hasn’t been seen for the past few years. Mia has recently left behind clues that hint to her whereabouts at the Baker house. With only his clothes on his back, Ethan heads to Louisiana to track her down, quickly being pulled into the larger conspiracy.
Off the bat, RE7 brings in an introductory chapter that does a good job and introduces how first-person in Resident Evil works. Minimum resources and hidden items scattered across the game give it a stressful feel, and a creepy vibe settles in as soon as you step onto the Baker property full of swampy areas, underground passageways and mines. Texas chainsaw Massacre comes to mind when you encounter the Baker family, Jack, Marguerite, Lucas and Zoe Baker, who have all fallen to some unknown infection that gives them extraordinary powers. With a unique cast and engaging antagonists, the inhabitants of RE7 will have you running and fighting at every possible moment. When the family members attack and retaliate, it’s hard not to see an abusive father, the cries of a malicious mother and the rebelliousness of a sibling that does not want to leave home. This fact is driven home by Zoe, who wants to help Ethan and save Mia, Zoe is a character who is still loyal but knows her family’s flaws.
Thankfully much of the game is oriented around the horror that the Baker family brings upon Ethan, but the last quarter of the game disregards and takes away the spotlight from the family. If more time was spent with the family towards the end of the game, the emotional impact from dealing with them would have been powerful, but instead the game introduces to the elements of a shooter as you near the end of the game.
Finding yourself immersed in the world of RE7 won’t come hard to many, but this immersion can sometimes be easily broken. The inclusion of a universal chest that you can store items in and have them magically teleport to other supply chests across the game, pulls from the tension. Getting rid of items on a full inventory (which happens more than it should,) becomes another problem in the game. You are only able to deposit items into the supply chest, dropping a key crafting ingredient or ammo permanently discards them from your inventory.
Even though the last quarter of the game revolves around weaker shooter elements, the combat in the game is done really well. Supplies and ammo are scarcely put into the environment, and the mechanics of gunplay adds a layer of fear into the game, failure is absolutely an option. Unloading a magazine clip into an enemy thanks to a jump scare will happen a lot if you are scared easily, so be careful how you use your limited supply of ammo. Firing at a rapid rate with a pistol or automatic weapon will cause bullets to scatter everywhere, so pacing and allowing your aim to recover from recoil will help you in the long run. The melee combat is somewhat impotent when it comes to up-close combat, it will defeat the enemy eventually but by no means quickly. A block mechanic is introduced into the game to help you from getting hurt, but the time and effort spent on perfecting the block move is mundane and players are better off just going offensive towards enemies.
Overall, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is a huge step in the right direction in the series. It is not a game full of ghosts and psychological horror, it’s nice to see monster horror surfacing the modern experience.