Did you absolutely love the previous installment of the Resident Evil franchise? Were you taken in by the massive size and scope of the storyline? Could you spend all day emptying clip after clip into the ravenous hordes of infected and building-sized abominations? Well, first of all, settle down, your eyes are starting to bug out and you’re getting all red and sweaty.
Second of all, go play something else, this one’s probably not for you. Long-time fans of the series and critics didn’t seem to respond too well to the action-packed, third-person shooter direction that the games were beginning to go in. So after taking a good, long look in the mirror and probably crying bitter tears of shame in their shower, Capcom decided to perform a post-mortem and see what went wrong and what they did right.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the product of all of this deep contemplation and soul-searching, and the team behind it should pat themselves on the back for listening to some of the valid criticism aimed at them rather than plugging their ears and trudging forward. The story is creepy and engaging and the gameplay has made a shift back to the survival-horror mechanics that drew so many people into the series in the first place.
This time around, developers have exercised some restraint and kept the story small and focused. No more convoluted plots involving shadow organizations infecting entire continents in a bid for world domination. Or at least, not as the focus of the plot. No Resident Evil game would be complete without some sort of shady entity pulling strings from behind the scenes, but this subplot is largely peripheral.
The putrid, maggot infested meat of the story is a rescue mission gone terribly wrong, staged by the game’s protagonist, Ethan Winters. When his wife Mia disappears under mysterious circumstances, he heads to the Baker farm in Dulvey, Louisiana to track her down. Now, either Mia is a real catch or Ethan lacks any semblance of a survival instinct, because the Bakers have a tendency to brutally dismember their house guests and paint the walls with their viscera. Despite constant attacks from the deeply disturbed and heavily mutated family, Ethan ventures deeper into the property, searching for his wife and a way out, and uncovering some of Dulvey’s deep, dark secrets along the way.
Resident Evil 7’s story is grotesque and interesting. There are some similarities to horror staples like Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but the Bakers are an entirely original creation. Each family member has their own unique personality and they’re interesting enough that you’ll look forward to being chased down a narrow hallway and gutted with a shovel.
Violence often isn’t the answer in Resident Evil 7. I know, it’s a pretty weird stance for a team who had no qualms designing severed-horse-leg sculptures to take, but trust me, it works. Ammo is very limited, and by hiding and moving about strategically, you’ll ensure that you’re not waving a flimsy box cutter around when you’d rather have a gun. Puzzles have also made a comeback in this entry in the series. You’ll have to solve them to get through doors and unlock safes, and the entire map is a puzzle itself, as you’ll have to use the environment and objects you find laying around in creative ways to get around. In contrast to the rest of the series, players will be wandering the gore-splattered hallways of the Baker home from a first-person perspective. This seemingly minor change makes a huge difference.
No third-person perspective means no seeing the environment around you, which means you won’t see all of the things that are trying to kill you until they’re close enough to do it. Oh, and remember when I said ammo was limited? Well, so is everything else. This is all thanks to the inventory system, which forces you to make some very tough choices about what to keep and what to leave behind. As the game progresses, you’ll find yourself questioning your sanity as you toss out bottles of Med Fluid to make room for more ammo, or swapping out weapons for keys. Seriously? Keys?! But that’s part of what makes the game so great, you’re always running low on supplies, which means that making the wrong choices about what to bring along will mean that the next time you turn a corner, some biological nightmare will be picking pieces of you out of its teeth.
For the most part, the graphics are pretty much on the higher end of what you’d expect from a current-gen console game. The textures are impressive, and shadows are realistically cast according to the shape of things and how they are lit. Environments are dark without being muddy or blending together and the look of the Baker property is consistent without becoming monotonous. The art style isn’t entirely dissimilar to that of previous games in the franchise, but there seems to be a noticeably more western influence in the game’s aesthetics, especially evident in the character design.
Resident Evil 7’s controls are relatively simple. The combat controls consist of aiming your weapon, firing, healing yourself, and blocking attacks. Besides the movement controls, everything else is pretty much dedicated to managing and cycling through your inventory. It all makes sense and feels natural, and no action is unnecessarily confusing or complicated to perform.>
The downside to a game that relies so heavily on the strength of its story is that once you know what that story is, its not as fun to watch it unfold again. Resident Evil does what it can to mitigate this problem by offering players a new, harder difficulty to play on and a cool new gun to use. Players who really enjoyed their first playthrough will probably decide to give it another go-round, but they’ll never be able to recapture the magic of the first time they sawed a grown man in half with an industrial chainsaw.
Written by Patrick Sanfiel
Born and raised in Miami, I’ve been shunning warm, sandy beaches to play video games from the day I picked up a Super Nintendo controller. I’m a sucker for good storylines and strange settings and the survival/horror genre has a special place in my necrotized little heart.