To me, the Resident Evil franchise is pretty much like a life long friend I grew up with as a child and just like any normal friendship the franchise had its ups and downs. Most recently in the form of the terrible Resident Evil 5/6 and Racoon City, the franchise has been suffering from an identity crisis of late not knowing if it was a straight-up action title or a survival horror game. So when Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was announced I was pretty skeptical knowing that the series was suffering from “franchise fatigue” coupled with the change of gameplay perspective from the traditional third person perspective to the first person view I was not completely sold. But boy was I wrong, completely and utterly wrong. With Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Capcom has decided to go back to the original roots of the franchise by using the original three games in the series as a template.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard takes place in the current year (2017), you play as Ethan Winters and unlike the other Resident Evil games, you play as a civilian and a totally new character in the franchise. Ethan is a widower and former husband to Mia who receives a mysterious message from his wife Mia who he thought to be dead for almost three years. The story kicks off with Ethan traveling to Louisiana after having received a request from Mia to find her there. When Ethan arrives, he finds a seemingly abandoned farmhouse that was owned by the Baker family who has seemingly vanished without a trace, and which has been the site of many “ghost” sightings and missing person’s reports around the bayou of the town, Dulvey. Beyond that, I won’t give much else away as the story is plot heavy and I want to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.
I will address the elephant in the room first, the choice that Capcom made to go from the series mainstay which was third person mode and go for a more traditional first person perspective. And while many hardcore fans bemoaned that choice and somehow viewed this change as a sacrilegious move by Capcom I can only say it was a brilliant and welcome change on behalf of the people at Capcom, as it definitely is a breath of fresh air in a franchise that needed some innovation. Any sane person would think that making such a massive change in perspective would not work for a franchise known to be a traditional third person game. But it works, it works oh so well! Do you remember the slow creak of opening doors found in the Spencer Mansion and the original games? Well, they are back and even more terrifying in first-person.
Each door cracks open ominously in first person view, and you never quite knew what to expect on the other side of the door. And this really harps back to the classic era of the original games, where the doors served as loading screens. It was intense back in the 90’s and just as intense now almost a decade later. And like the classic games of the 90’s, Resident Evil 7 is not afraid to leave you to work yourself up into a state of fear and panic. When exploring the Bakers house I was always filled with a feeling of dread and expecting the worst to happen at any given moment. There are jump and cheap scares by the handful in this game, but Resident Evil 7 is always aware that the anticipation of the scare is always worse than the actual reveal, and the game uses that to full effect. Leaving you to creep around the house and jump at the slightest movement or sounds in the game.
And honestly, I have had maybe a dozen places in the game where it’s scared me so badly that I needed a coffee break. I had a situation where I loaded the game, walked out of a door into the main hallway, heard all kinds of weird noises and movements and was like: “Nope you know what, not today” and switched off my Playstation 4. I found Resident Evil 7 to be mentally draining when I was playing, so I could not play it for more than a single hour at a time. This is only amplified by the fact that Resident Evil 7 is one of the most atmospheric horror games I have played in recent memory. No matter where you are in the house, there is always some kind of sound and or lighting effects making you think anything could pop out at you at any moment during the course of the game.
The in-game lighting and sound is amazing and compliments each other extremely well, not to mention a graphically solid game that at no point slows down or feels sluggish, making Ethan’s ordeal feel all the more real. All of the classic elements that made the original games such a cult classic makes a return to Resident Evil 7. This includes the safe rooms with a portal tape player used as a save point, a foot locker for storing all of your items and most importantly the icon green herb makes a return. And yes like the original games you can still craft your own health and ammunition so original fans of the franchise will feel right at home when it comes to the gameplay mechanic and the various items. But unlike other Resident Evil games, there is a very small and limited amount of weapons and ammunition in the game itself.
Weapons include a pistol, shotgun, a small knife for basic defense and some makeshift weapons including a flamethrower and a rocket launcher that you will acquire later on in the game. And unlike other games in the franchise, you play a civilian with almost no combat experience trapped in a house. So you won’t be finding loads of guns and ammunition throughout the Baker house. And in my experience playing the game your best course of action whenever possible is to run away. Health and ammo items are incredibly scarces in the game, which only adds to the tension and survival horror aspects of the game. Capcom did a really good job of hiding items throughout the house, as I spent a good amount of time searching through every inch of the house looking for any usable items when I was running low on health or ammunition.
Which brings me to the boss fights in the game, which there are four major ones found throughout the game. And honestly, they are the most terrifying and fun fights I have had in a very long time, every fight had me on the edge my seat due to the lack of health and ammunition during these fights. The Bakers can’t be “killed” per se but they can be defeated. Doing so, however, is extremely difficult as they are all bullet sponges. I barely walked out alive with any ammunition left after each encounter forcing me to go explore more of the Baker’s family house. I finished Resident Evil 7 in a little over 12 hours and that included all of the boss fights. And while I see some reviewers complaining that it is too short I think it was just the perfect length, as the game did drag out a bit during the final parts of the story.
I won’t spoil anything about the ending but it does end somewhat abruptly and leaves the door wide open for another game in this new series in the franchise. Resident Evil 7 was an absolutely incredible and terrifying experience especially for a horror fan like myself, and a horror survival game I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. And honestly, I think the last time I was this terrified of a game was Silent Hill 2 or the original Resident Evil game. The Resident Evil franchise has finally returned to its true survival/psychological roots, Resident Evil 7 perfectly captures what it would feel like to be put into the same situation as Ethan. And just like Resident Evil 4 reinvented the franchise, Resident Evil 7 has done the some once again. And all I can say at this point in my review is welcome back Resident Evil, you have been missed!