“Resident Evil VII: Biohazard” Review

RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD REVIEW

Released: 24/01/17

Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Platform reviewed on: PS4

I’m low on health. There’s no healing items in my inventory. I’m low on ammo. I hesitantly make my way down a hallway. Suddenly Jack Baker (one of the game’s four main antagonists) rounds the corner in front of me, his weapon in hand and a wicked smile on his face as he says “How’re you doing, boy? It’s been a while.” And it certainly has. Not only have I been playing a prolonged but deadlier game of hide and seek with Jack for much of the last hour, it’s also been a long while since Resident Evil felt this scary; succeeding in making me feel completely powerless in a way that hasn’t been done since the earliest entries in the series.

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Because there’s no denying the Resident Evil series had lost its way. In 2004, the series attempted a new direction away from pure horror with Resident Evil 4 which favoured a more action and gunplay oriented approach from the start. This worked as it created a whole new sense of fear – the opening village battle in that game is one of the tensest and pulse racing moments in the entire series. After the success of this approach, Capcom kept it for the next two entries; Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. However these games began to sacrifice the horror in favour of the action. In 6, the monstrous Ustanak, who was hyped up as the new Nemesis (a monster always chasing after the player) was simply the source of highly scripted explosive set pieces. This was just one of 5 and 6’s many shortcomings including muddled plots, repetitive gameplay, incredibly campy dialogue and scenes and ultimately just not feeling like Resident Evil anymore. Thankfully, Capcom decided to return to the series roots for this new instalment, but with a fresh twist; Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the first game in the main series (not counting spin-off titles) to have a first person perspective, putting players in the literal shoes of new protagonist Ethan Winters who is just an average guy, a far cry away from the Hollywood action hero types of Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy.

Picking up four years after the events of Resident Evil 6 (which are thankfully not brought up), Resident Evil 7: Biohazard sees Ethan arrive at the seemingly abandoned Baker plantation in Dulvey Louisiana in search of Mia, his wife who’s been missing and presumed dead for three years. A mysterious email has led Ethan and his search for Mia here, but not all is as it seems. This large and complex house has secrets. Soon Ethan finds himself trapped in the Baker mansion as the Baker family themselves; father Jack, mother Marguerite and son Lucas patrol its halls ready to make Ethan their next victim. Guided over the phone by a mysterious woman named Zoe, Ethan must find a way to escape from the Baker estate and find Mia before it’s too late. But is it love waiting in the darkness? Or something else?

The plot of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is one of its strongest points. So much is kept vague and hidden from the player until the final parts of the game that it makes you want to keep playing just to determine what the hell is going on. Ethan is an easy to root for protagonist and his search for Mia is a fairly easy one for us to get invested in. However, the story does take some surprising twists and turns which I will not spoil here and ends with something that is bound to shock fans and leave them ravenous for the next instalment.

But the true appeal of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard lies in its antagonists; the Bakers. All three members of the family have distinct personalities and each one favours a different approach. Jack, for example, patrols the halls of the mansion and is easily the quickest of the Bakers. If he sees you, your best bet is to run and put as much distance between you and him as possible. Marguerite must be either sneaked past or tricked and led to another part of the house giving you time to head back to where she was patrolling to do what you need to do. Lucas must be outsmarted, as he favours complex death traps and games over physical confrontation. Fighting is an option but is only recommended when you’re cornered and have nowhere to run, because even if you do manage to kill them, none of the Bakers will stay down for long. It’s amazing how distinct the three Bakers are and each one comes with their own challenges and approaches and each of the Bakers has enough great moments that could see them become iconic villains for the series; be it a chainsaw duel with Jack (which is every bit as awesome as it sounds), to Marguerite appearing out of nowhere and sending hordes of insects after you to the complexity of Lucas’s games and traps, with the “Happy Birthday” trap being a particular stand out due to its creepiness.

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But don’t worry, the Bakers are not the only problem you have to deal with; for the Baker mansion is also home to creatures known only as the Moulded. These monstrous creatures are more typical Resident Evil enemies and are who you’ll most of your time fighting. Conserving ammo and going for headshots is a must here as, like classic Resident Evil games, ammo is in short supply so you don’t want to be wasting all your bullets taking down a few Moulded only to be short for a boss fight later. In fact, the trick is knowing when to fight and when to run. The Moulded will often only stick to specific areas and will not venture beyond them (at least at the start of the game) so it’s wise to know when to pick a fight. The Moulded come in several varieties and each one requires a slightly different tactic, especially since later in the game the Moulded will come to infest previously safe areas and will begin to swarm you in cramped areas so you’ll have to think quick to survive. However, while the Moulded are scary the first few times you fight them towards the end they become a bit of an annoyance and you can’t help but wish for a bit more enemy variety. There’s only so many times you can fight a different type of Moulded before it becomes old.

Speaking of combat, it’s fluid, quick and easy to pick up. While your aim may be terrible at first, very soon you’ll be scoring headshots in no time. And most importantly, the combat is fun. It’s not difficult or tiring. The bonus “Nightmare” game mode (available in the Banned Footage, Vol.1 DLC pack) is an excellent place to hone your skills against increasingly difficult waves of Moulded and with the variety of weapons available in the game, combat is at the best it’s ever been in Resident Evil.

But perhaps where the game truly excels is in its call-backs to classic Resident Evil. The Baker mansion seems to have been built by the same architects behind the Spencer Estate from the original game because the mansion is filled with complex locks and puzzles that would be right at home in the original games. Doors require obscure items to unlock, strange keys must be found to open doors and more. Capcom promised this game would be a return to the series roots and they were telling the truth. And most importantly, the game is actually scary. Nothing comes close to the sense of fear created in this game, be it avoiding the Bakers, being swarmed by Moulded or just being terrified of what might happen around the next corner. It may be a different perspective, but this is the first time Resident Evil has felt like Resident Evil in a long, long time.

Perhaps the game’s only major flaw is its length. Skilled players can beat the game in 6 hours or less (there’s even a trophy for beating it in less than four) and with only two endings available, replay value is slim. This is where the Madhouse mode comes in. Madhouse amps up the difficulty of the game, adds more enemies, makes them tougher, mixes up locations of items and removes checkpoints, requiring manual saves (but only if you have a cassette tape in your inventory). Madhouse is an extreme challenge and can easily add several more hours onto the game. After this however there is very little. At the moment. The DLC, Banned Footage (out now) adds more gameplay in the form of six extra modes (Bedroom, Nightmare, Ethan Must Die, Daughters, 21, Jack’s 55th Birthday) that add a lot of replayability. Nightmare and Jack’s 55th Birthday in particular are reminiscent of the Mercenaries mode from 4, 5 and 6. With two story add-ons on the way, it seems Capcom is trying to keep players coming back to the game with a steady drip feed of content that really should have been in the game to begin with.

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But overall, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a massive return to form for the once floundering Horror series. Excellent gameplay, excellent scares, a great story, great antagonists and more make Resident Evil 7: Biohazard one of 2017’s must play games already. My only problem is that I wish my stay with the Bakers was just a bit longer. But ultimately, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a triumph for both the series and the survival horror genre as well. Hopefully this will send a message to other publishers with popular horror franchises languishing (Silent Hill and Alien: Isolation in particular). Welcome home, Resident Evil. We’ve missed you.

8.5/10

  • Great gameplay
  • Great story
  • Frightening antagonists
  • Series is back on form
  • Lack of replayability without DLC
  • Poor enemy variety.
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