Some of you guys grew up in the same decade as I did. Some of you saw the first Playstation’s release that was shortly followed up with the first Resident Evil. If you fit into this gap of time, you, like myself, had the crap scared out of you, when a overzealous-zombie doberman jumped through a window during a particularly quiet walk through a hallway. Over the years, I think between horror movies and horror games, I have become sort of jaded toward those scares and creep-outs. Things haven’t quite been the same. Titles like Outlast, Amnesia and Alien Isolation have kept the torch of true horror burning and it seems like the latest Resident Evil used that light as a beacon to sail its terrifying self upon our shores in order to make us afraid of gaming in the dark once again.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, reinvents itself in the same way Resident Evil 4 did. It changes perspective on literally everything, including well, your perspective. This game takes you from the classic third-person to a visceral first-person experience.
The new gameplay that that was revealed at E3 had fans in a tissy. Everyone was pissed that the game didn’t look like a typical RE game. Everyone was pissed there were no zombies. Well, this is a case in point that in some instances, we are in capable, fan friendly hands. Every change that was made is a welcome one, that helps to reinvent the evil wheel while also adding a shit load of scares along the way.
When Ethan receives a distress call for help from his wife Mia, he heads out to the swamps of Louisiana to find her. Ethan is lead to a dilapidated house in the bayou that houses a ton of secrets and things that are real horror-show. The house belongs to The Baker family and between them they have created a utopia for deranged psychotics and complete dark chaos.
My reviews usually come out a lot sooner, but I felt that I owed it to RE to go a full week. I managed to finish the game on normal and on “madhouse” difficulties and played a bit of it on VR. Right out of the gate, I have to say if you are able to play this game on VR, that is exactly how you should play it. If you can stand the motion sickness, VR is an entirely terrifying experience. The emersion level is through the roof, and at times is barely tolerable due to paralyzing fear. I enjoyed VR the most when I was exploring the house, once you enter combat the VR experience becomes cumbersome and the controls can become a little goofy. Overall, for the most scares go with the VR approach and god help ya.
Each “stage” in the game uniquely belongs to that member of the Baker family. Jack, Lucas and Marguerite each have their own horror movie inspired areas of terror. Jack’s plays out in the main house and has a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe, Marguerite largely plays out in the green house and is heavy on insects and Cronenbergian body horror. Lucas likes playing deadly games and has a level very much inspired by Saw. By doing this the game never feels old, it is constantly keeping things fresh by changing the way you play the game and almost entirely changing up the setting.
“It is like a Baskin Robin’s of scary shit”
On your journey you will also find old videocassettes. Once placed in a VCR, these allow you to play through as another character in order to give you some expositional bits. I know, exposition is usually the enemy of great storytelling. But here the it works. When these tapes are played you play as an unfortunate character who has already become all to familiar with the Bakers and their savagery.
The entirety of the story is satisfying on all cylinders. Even though at most points the game is an entirely new experience, it does have moments and tools that are undoubtably call backs to classic Resident Evil. This entry also gives a fantastic ending that feels more cinematically in tune than previous titles.
For those worried about this game not being connected to the others, you can rest easy. The game arrives at that connection with subtly and something that will give you a big “ah-ha” moment. I know it was a worry for a while that this game would entirely be its own reboot and ignore previous RE games. Well, I’m telling you hardcore RE fans, you can relax and enjoy.
“The emersion level is through the roof, and
at times is barely tolerable due to paralyzing fear”
On top of picking from different film inspirations, the game also hits you hard in the gut with a plethora of phobias. It is like a Baskin Robin’s of scary shit. Clowns, crazed hillbillies, isolation, creepy old ladies, creepy kids and more are all in place and waiting around each corner to scare the piss from you.
It’s hard to say negative things about this game but if I had to, it would be how once you acquire a weapon the game seems to change entirely. One minute, you are hiding scared to move due to being defenseless and then you are armed and taking headshots. Some of the fear and tension is removed. Sustaining the weaponless approach for a little longer would have done wonders for the slow driven horror.
I was able to play through multiple times on different difficulty levels with and without VR and I’m happy to say that each time not all enemies and scares were in the same place. Trying to finish the game under 4 hours to get a trophy was an totally different horror experience compared to my first time around.
Without a doubt this is my favorite Resident Evil game. It is hard to say that, considering the other titles are nostalgia fueled and also great. But this one achieves its terrifying greatness by almost completely scrapping a safe model and doing something balsy, horrifying and new. Everything from the level design to the characters are all fantastic and the fact that I was able to play through multiple times without getting bored is proof of that.