Resident Evil 7 Video Game Review
Written by Ryan Noble
Developed and released by Capcom
2017, Rated 18 (UK), Mature (US)
Game released on 24 January 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (PSVR), Xbox One, Steam
I know what you're thinking... Resident Evil, really? Didn't Capcom already hit the final nail into that coffin with Umbrella Corps? Well, almost, but it looks like it didn't stick. With Resident Evil 7, Capcom has delivered a game that is deserving of your attention and returned to some of the series' best aspects; big houses, infectious narratives, and careful resource management. God, how I've missed the resource management – and no, that isn't sarcasm. Read on to find out why I think Resident Evil 7 deserves to be slotted into each and every gamer's horror inventory.
While there are elements of this game that bring about glorious memories from the classics, I'm going to begin by discussing the new aspects that are immediately obvious to anyone that has played previous games in the series – Resident Evil 7 is played entirely from a first-person perspective. It's a massive change, and one that not everyone is happy with, but it was necessary. It allows the game to reinvent itself in a way that brings the scares that much closer to the player, meaning, for the first time in quite a few years, some thought was actually given to making this sequel scary.
Personally, I think that Capcom had to make an incredibly drastic departure such as this to remain relevant, and it uses this change to full effect. For one thing, the game heaps on the tension and leaves you to squirm. As you explore the house of the “Baker” family, it creaks and groans around you, and you can't help but become paranoid that there's someone standing right behind you. It pays to check because sometimes there is. This is in complete contrast to the more recent games that tend to throw almost everything they have at you, breaking up the action with a cutscene of some kind, and then throwing more at you. Of course, you are always safe in the knowledge that you have enough guns and ammo to handle an entire outbreak by yourself.
Not this time. Opening a door in this game is probably scarier than the entirety of Resident Evil 6, as you're in control the whole time and can't truly see into a room until you're already inside it. And by then, it just might be too late. This is just one of the small ways that the game never really lets you get too comfortable, as is the case with the cast of multiple gruesome creatures and family members. Each member of the family, and each disturbing creature, all mutated in one way or another as is the series' charm, get sections of the narrative and tension dedicated to them.
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Jack, known as “Daddy” throughout the game is the first member of the family to track you through the house and into rather a few varied battles, and he comes hand-in-hand with the “Molded”. These inky, parasitic beings are the gory grunts of the game and can appear from walls and ceilings without warning. They aren't too dangerous if you're prepared, but face more than one, or a new variant that literally breaks the mould, and you could be in trouble. And this tends to be the case throughout. If you're prepared, and you know what's coming, then you'll probably be okay, but Resident Evil 7 enjoys the element of surprise – both in terms of gameplay, scares, and narrative. Oh, and there's a window scare. It got me good.
Although Resident Evil 7 is relatively linear in how the narrative plays out – for example, you need this key to open this room, in order to fight this boss and progress the story – the house and surrounding areas feel quite open in comparison to previous games. You can sneak, walk or run from one side of the house to the other to pick up an item that you didn't have room for earlier, or to open a locked drawer with a lock-pick you've just found, and it feels refreshing for the series to return to something that was possible in the very first game.
Another aspect that returns in full force is puzzles. They're really fun and really varied. One minute you'll be slotting pieces into an elaborate door – something that the series has always enjoyed – and the next you're trying to find the right angle for an object to cast a twisted shadow, or taking part in your very own Saw-inspired escape puzzle. The latter of which is incredibly interesting, and shows serious growth for the series. Rather than taking inspiration from the cash cows that are action games, Capcom has taken inspiration from other horror media. Who'd have ever thought of that?
There are a number of inspirations or comparisons that can be seen throughout the game; popular first-person horrors such as Outlast that likely inspired this game's changed point-of-view; Saw, which may have been the driving force behind the creative, and deadly, puzzle rooms; and the most obvious and well-delivered inspiration behind the game's characters, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This is, of course, because of “The Family”. They live in Louisiana, near a swamp, and they're clearly all pretty backwards from the moment you're forced into their gracious company and force-fed something nasty. It's wonderful.
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Before long you manage to escape their grasp, and it's a little while before you're given anything to defend yourself with. When you are, weapons feel weighty and impactful, from the handgun you start with, to the magnum you can collect later in the game, though that doesn't mean you'll always feel safe. Again, for the first time in a while, you feel anything but invincible. You feel weak. You feel alone. You feel panicked. Never invincible. I love that. And that's with a weapon and ammo – imagine how you'd feel if you didn't have room in your inventory to pick up either...
Item and storage management is once again an important aspect of Resident Evil's gameplay, whereby it can often be a trade-off between weapons, ammo, health and useful items such as chem fluid, which is combined with other items to create stronger meds or more ammo. Will you need to create a new item on the fly, or will it be more important to hold onto those extra few bullets for an unexpected houseguest? It's always a gamble, and although bigger inventories (read: rucksacks) can be found throughout the game, so can bigger guns, which means that managing your inventory is almost as crucial as, well, staying alive.
Another returning featuring is collectables, which never really left, but take a different form in Resident Evil 7. Known as Mr Everywheres, these are little bobble-heads that you must smash, similar to the blue plates that began in Resident Evil 4. They add an element of replayability that doesn't feel at all out of place. There are also antique coins that seem little more than a wasted space in your crowded inventory, but I'll give you a hint; hold onto them and thank me later.
Both of these are minor additions, yet two reasons to explore every nook-and-cranny despite the nagging fear it creates, and a great reason to replay the game if you want to collect all of the achievements/trophies. Even these seem addictive, with challenges to complete the game within four hours, only use the item storage box three times, or to take down two enemies in one shot. I plan to do all of the above and more, because I want to replay this game just as much as I want to collect that tasty platinum trophy.
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Having played the entire game through PlayStation VR, I can also say that Capcom has done an amazing job of creating an experience that is perfect both for TV and VR. Sure, the visual quality takes a hit when playing in PSVR, as first noticed during my playthrough of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, but the immersion and closeness of the horror unfolding before your eyes more than makes up for it.
As much as I want to be completely objective, and I do, despite being a long-time fan of Resident Evil, I'm at somewhat of a loss for negative points. Honestly. I love this game. I enjoyed the reinvention that the series sorely needed, was gripped by its disturbing, but layered characters, and actually enjoyed the narrative with all of its twists and turns. Perhaps the plot becomes a little explanatory towards the end, though I hadn't been able to guess the reasons behind the horror from start to finish, and none of the reveals felt scoff-worthy. I've got to be honest, I was thinking it would all just come back to Albert Wesker... It normally does.
Even if you'd completely given up on the Resident Evil franchise, as many had, or don't like the new first-person direction it has taken, I urge you to play this game. Not only does it revive a classic horror series, but it injects it with a touch of modern inspiration that makes the game an enjoyable horror in its own right. With its immediate first-person viewpoint, tension-soaked atmosphere, and a cast that could have been plucked straight out of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Capcom has finally returned to true horror. It is also a truly terrifying experience to behold within PSVR. It's time to join The Family.