Title: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Genre: Horror Survival
Official Site: Resident Evil 7
Release Date: Jan 24th, 2017
Where To Buy: Xbox Live, PSN Store, Steam, Local Retailer
Resident Evil is one of the oldest and most beloved series within the gaming world. The first instalment which launched on the original PlayStation in 1996, has spawned close to thirty sequels, remasters or spin-offs. In recent years the franchise has struggled to live up to it’s own legacy with Resident Evil 5 and 6 being critically disappointing. As a response to this, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard has embraced its horror roots lineage whilst simultaneously revolutionising the series by changing the perspective to first person. The result is a terrific, terrifying experience worthy of the Resident Evil mantle.
Resident Evil was the true zombie horror, survival game inspiring other titles such as Silent Hills and The Evil Within. The trouble with being a trendsetter is that you have a responsibility. Your fan-base have expectations while at the same time want innovation. It is fair to say that although the team at Capcom have attempted this, it failed with Resident Evil 6. Resident Evil 7 embraces the magic of the originals but does not wholly depend on the nostalgia; in fact, Resident Evil 7 tries something entirely brand new by embracing the new age technology of VR (Virtual Reality), which in my opinion, is the definitive experience for Resident Evil 7.
When the now deceased playable teaser of Silent Hills, lead by industry visionary Hideo Kojima appeared in 2014; the appetite for a new perspective on the horror genre grew. Resident Evil 7, although it would have been in production at this point, certainly took advantage of this new yearning and for anyone who played the infamous teaser which find that Resident Evil 7 plays in similar fashion.
Resident Evil 7 begins rather earnestly with a simple video message left to our protagonist, Ethan. His wife Mia, who seemingly deserted Ethan for three years, reaches out with a ambiguous message asking for help. Ethan, who considers Mia as ‘the one who got away’ packs his car and heads to a desolate area of Louisiana.
The game begins uncomplicated which not only welcomes new comers, but puts fans such as myself who struggle to understand the lore at ease. As Ethan drives to the manor, there is no chaos on the roads or zombie hordes decimating the country, this is a more refined and personal narrative. This ethos remains throughout Resident Evil 7 and although many bizarre and uncomfortable events will occur over the next ten or more hours, the plot is easy to grasp.
As Ethan arrives at the manor and begins to infiltrate the barren, derelict mansion, you immediately feel uneasy. Resident Evil 7 is far more subtle that its predecessors being more akin to films such as The Blair Witch. With the front door being locked, Ethan explores the grounds where we see cult symbols hanging from the trees and crows feasting on animal carcasses. It is a while before you encounter anyone and this is a credit to the direction the developers aimed for as the series succeeds far more with its ominous tone than an action based one.
Ethan inevitably enters the seemingly abandoned house and after seeing the dismal interior, the environment is the greatest element of Resident Evil 7. With strange details such as chain locks binding a fridge and rotten food on the kitchen table, the house becomes a character and when combined with the actual inhabitants, makes for a perfect horror game backdrop.
When you finally find Mia and things are not quite what they seem, the casual pacing quickly gains momentum. Events unfold and you are soon, forcibly, having dinner with the dreaded Baker family. Throughout the franchise, I have slayed hundreds of zombies however they were never anything more than a undead piece of walking flesh. The Baker family each have their own charm and temperament. They all possess different characteristic but each are as menacing as the next. This not only builds the fear factor as these degenerates prey on you around their home, but also allows for some inventive boss battles.
As you can imagine, dinner does not go to plan and the patriarch of the family Jack, having dismembered his son Lucas’s arm for disobedience, instructs Ethan to remain at the table with the comatose, wheelchair bound old woman. Seizing the opportunity to escape, the core gameplay of Resident Evil 7 begins. As you explore the manor, members of the Baker’s will pursue you and it can be terrifying, especially in VR. This mechanic allows you time to explore this interestingly creepy home whilst never allowing you to truly feel at ease. The Baker’s, unlike the walking dead, can open doors and even at times break down walls.
Although the perspective feels significantly different now being first person, many of the classic Resident Evil traits remain. Exploration and gathering resources are essential and with limited space in your inventory, safe rooms can be utilized to prevent over encumbrance. These rooms, much like the original act as save points too and a much needed rest bite from the inhabitants of the manor. Odd yet convenient shaped keys will complete puzzles and open new areas, it all feels very familiar but that is not a bad thing.
As you spend more time and delve deeper into the secrets of the Baker house, issues do become more apparent. Ethan, considering he is surrounded by the undead has little to no life in him. His reactions to events, such as the removal of his own limb are nonchalant. Never does he question what is happening around him but he does as he is told, fortunately stumbling through the campaign. It is a shame to see the Baker family brimming with unique personality whilst the only ‘sane’ person in the house acts so mundane. Similarly, as the story progresses and the cause of the Baker families issues becomes known, the plot becomes more perplexing. Resident Evil 7 is at its best when the story is personal and the fear factor is high.
Although at times you feel like the prey in the manor, Ethan will acquire a number of weapons to bring the turn the tides. Pistols, shotgun and even a flamethrower can be equipped to combat the undead forces and the first person perspective is well adapted for this. If you played the remaster of the original Resident Evil, you may have felt it seemed less intimidating and claustrophobic. I feel this is party due to the emission of tank controls, making you less vulnerable than you used to. Obviously there are no tank controls in Resident Evil 7 but the first person perspective absolutely makes you feel defenceless as you must turn and run from your pursuers. This is where VR can become the definitive experience when playing Resident Evil 7.
I played the entirety of Resident Evil 7 and as a gamer who rarely feels scared when playing games, can wholeheartedly say that my heart raced and beads of sweat lined my brow. Dying Light was the last game to evoke the emotion of fear within me as I ran for my life in the night-time sections but even then, the disconnect of looking at a TV eased my stress levels. With Resident Evil 7 in VR, there is no such luxury. As you are hiding behind a corner, praying Jack Baker doesn’t take notice, you can hear your heart beating. As you hear his footsteps grow louder, you dare not look. Nothing feels as relieving as the steps echo into the distance but occasionally, when you are not so fortunate, a member of the family will scream into your face in a terrifying manner. As Ethan turns to run for his life, a part of you is running with him. Although Ethan may have little personality, virtual reality puts you in his shoes and everything seems more personal.
Resident Evil 7 could be the game to demonstrate how revolutionary VR is. Not only does it enhance the entire experience, it helps with other mechanics too. Shooting is incredibly precise with the headset and achieving deadly head shots are incredibly easy. It would be interesting to know how easy it was to incorporate VR into the experience. If it was not too taxing, hopefully other big titles can follow suit. Resident Evil 7 does demonstrate the PSVR’s shortcomings though. Resident Evil 7 is a beautifully grotesque game, particularity the environments. Sadly the resolution of the PSVR cannot truly capture this with some landscapes looking bland and blurry. It never took away from the immersion but graphically, the PSVR looks considerably worse than the TV image.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, much like a zombie, has reinvigorated life into a dead franchise. Capcom has found a way to keep an ageing franchise feel relevant again. It does this by embracing the foundations of the titular franchise and adopting new ideas, much like the original did over twenty years ago. There are still character and story elements that need more care but if Resident Evil is aiming to be the most terrifying horror experience available, it frighteningly succeeds.
- Gameplay: Exploration Horror
- Graphics: Beautifully Grotesque
- Sound: Sound Effects Fully Immerse You
- Presentation: A Must Play In VR
- Wonderful Antagonists
- Interesting Environments
- Great In VR
- Dumb Protagonist
- Last Third Becomes Convoluted