A new Evil has finally come to the next-generation. Let’s…try to get this one right.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the 7th game in the core Resident Evil franchise and the 27th game in the franchise as a whole. As the games have gone, more did not always equal better, but RE 7 looked to be the de-facto return to the survival-horror genre the series is crowned as the creator of. This new entry serves as a revitalization of the franchise, with a new perspective and a new game graphic engine, the self-titled “RE Engine”. In this game, you play as Ethan, a normal man looking for his wife, Mia. His search takes him to the creepy Baker’s family mansion, where the creepy Baker family resides. From there, the game gets crazy. And then crazier. And then we have ourselves the first true Resident Evil game in a long time.
Where to start with how great this game is? The atmosphere of Resident Evil 7 is so claustrophobic and creepy that it puts the past Resident Evil games to shame. The game is littered with dark and narrow hallways. The scenery is barely lit up as you venture deeper into the madhouse that is the Baker residence, which builds to the fear that the game is very effective at portraying. This was honestly the scariest Resident Evil game since the original Resident Evil. There are jump scares, but the jump scares are more effective in this game than in Five Nights at Freddy’s and another game that I praised – The Evil Within – for a couple of reasons. Comparing to FNaF, this game is much more dynamic with its gameplay style and the characters are closely defined and disturbing. And what makes Resident Evil 7 better than The Evil Within is the new perspective change. Unlike Evil Within, which was primarily a third-person survival horror game with a tense environment, Resident Evil 7 is entirely in the first person. That perspective change completely warps the style of the 8-9 hour experience, as once you step into the neatly tied shoes of Ethan, it becomes much scarier and more intense than most of the newer attempts at modern survival-horror games. Ammo is scarce, but not super scarce. The game still forces you to manage what you carry and how much you should be carrying at all times, but it doesn’t leave you completely helpless. They added a crafting mechanic that allowed you to use materials you find to create items. It’s not like in games like The Last of Us or Fallout, where there’s a place you have to go to and create your materials. It’s very quick and can be done with a few buttons at any time during the game. The bosses in Resident Evil 7 are very creative and inventive, unlike a lot of the other games that had you fight something 200 stories tall with a rocket launcher or some sort of super weapon. The bosses – the members of the Baker family primarily – are creative enough to really utilize the environments to their fullest potential. Granted, there is a downside to the lead-up to the bosses, but the actual bosses are creative and intense. To give you a taste, one of the bosses you really fight forces you, at one point, to grab a chainsaw and fight the scissor/chainsaw-wielding Jack Baker in metal mosh pit surrounded by body bags that can be hit towards him to stun him. Creativity like that goes a long way in a survival-horror game to make it a unique experience, and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard does that in spades.
The story in Resident Evil 7 is much simpler than in the other Resident Evil games. It was very simple up to a point at the tail end of the game. Once you get to the hour 6 of the game, it gets its RE level of confusing, but not super confusing. It’s not like it’s preceding 6th game, where there were 4 different stories that intertwine with each other in very unnecessary and confusing ways. The story does begin to get crowded when they begin to introduce these video cassette tapes that are required to watch for story purposes. Some of them offer welcome challenges and hints – one of them is used as sort of a cheat to a puzzle later in the game – but others are not so lucky. In fact, some of them take some of the intensity that has been building and sort of flushes it away, in some cases ruining surprises that would have been better if it wasn’t already spoiled through one of those extremely long video cassette playthrough segments. The tapes are sparse, but they don’t take away from the fact that it does ruin some of the tension.
Also, if you’re looking at the negatives of the game, it starts with the voice acting. It’s almost as if Resident Evil doubles up on the suspense, tension and scares at the sacrifice of the voice acting. It’s still as hokey as ever, with bits of over-the-top screaming and hollering. Granted, in total there are just about 7 or 8 characters with speaking lines in the game. Jack Baker – the father of the Baker family – is the most entertaining and charismatic of all the characters in the game, but his charisma ends when he goes away. Also, and this is a personal complaint of mine, but the lead up to the boss fights are poor. One of my big pet peeves about survival-horror games is that when the player is coming up to a boss, the game lays out loads of ammunition. In the gaming world, we call it the “boss fountain”, which telegraphs when a boss fight is coming. It completely destroys any and all tension that was previously built before the lead-up to the boss. Resident Evil 7 is no different. With a game riddled with intense encounter after tense encounter, the boss fights – I felt – should have come at random times, where the tension is at its highest. It also would then force the player to conserve all the ammo they can in case another boss or really tough enemy happens to appear. But that’s a personal thing that bothers me.
I’m so happy to say this: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the best Resident Evil game that has been made in a very long time. The environments were dirty, the intensity was off-the-charts, and the gameplay felt smooth and crisp. The game looked great, it played better, and it delivered a horror experience unlike any other survival-horror game out there. I’m so glad Resident Evil 7 was as great as it was. Capcom should learn from this going forward: quality over quantity. And Resident Evil 7 is gold quality.