Resident Evil 7 has been a long time coming.
After being promised a return to form following the OTT madness of Resident Evil 6, we’ve all watched the new game’s gradual unveiling with bated breath. From the start, Capcom have whetted appetites by stressing that Resident Evil 7 will take the series back to basics, putting more emphasis on atmosphere and scares than on simply shooting things..
So, now that the game’s finally here, was it worth the wait?
A Fresh Start
To start with, Capcom have wisely decided to make Resident Evil 7 accessible to fans who might be unfamiliar with the series’ convoluted storylines. Instead, the game shifts the action from Raccoon City to Dulvey, Louisiana. As in the first-ever game in the series, you’re dropped into a big, creepy house, though it’s a far cry from the plush carpets and spacious hallways of the mansion we all know and love.
This house, home to the Baker family, is beautifully grotesque, filled with unsettling sounds and creeping darkness, constantly making you feel under threat. This is survival horror at its best, powerful enough to take you back to the earliest days of Resident Evil, when much of the thrill lay in building tension rather than bombarding you with enemies.
The biggest shift in the game, though, is the new perspective. This is the first ‘proper’ Resident Evil FPS game – it’s a bold move on Capcom’s part, but it absolutely pays off. Rather than feeling as if you’re wandering behind Leon or watching Jill from the ceiling, you’re now thrown directly into the horror yourself, with enemies coming towards YOU instead of an avatar.
This perspective also restricts your view more than you may realise, as you can no longer see what’s behind you. Even with the series’ more recent over-the-shoulder perspective, you could see an enemy lurking at your back before they attacked. Now, though, you’re never sure if something has crept into a room after you until you turn to check.
This only serves to make controlling your hero, Ethan, more immersive – and terrifying. Unlike the former S.T.A.R.S crew we got to know over the years, Ethan has no kick-ass combat training to see him through the nightmare. In fact, at times, the better option is to make a run for your life rather than fighting for it.
Still, the more familiar you become with the Baker house, the better you’ll be able to hide and make swift escapes. Memorizing layouts and vulnerable spots is key to your survival.
Guns ‘n’ Ammo
You do have guns to help you out, of course, and Capcom has done a great job making these feel different to each other. However, this isn’t a game for trigger-happy players: ammo isn’t as common as you might like, so you have to make each bullet count as best you can. You’ll find yourself going for a good old head-shot whenever you can (though you’ll kick yourself if you miss).
Shotguns, grenade launchers, chainsaws – there’s some real toys to play with here, but there’s less action overall than in previous Resident Evil games. If you preferred the explosive, high-octane feel of certain previous entries, this might not be for you (though we can’t imagine many people falling into that camp).
Boss battles are present and correct, all of which demand specific tactics to overcome. In a game that takes such huge strides to break new ground (for the series, at least), the bosses are a familiar touch that bump the excitement up a notch.
Capcom have managed to create an impressive balance in Resident Evil 7, mixing slower, stealth-based gameplay with visceral combat to great effect, so things never feel dull or stale. You’ll also find the game is fair, offering save points and checkpoints surprisingly often, keeping frustration to a minimum. (Speaking of which, the quick-time events are no more, which is unlikely to upset too many of us.)
The game’s plot is nicely written and structured, pitting Ethan against the deranged Baker family as well as more horrific threats. It’s the kind of set-up you’ve seen before, with an isolated family left to their own devices too long. While Resident Evil 6’s urban setting struggled to inspire much dread, you tend to feel truly alone at times, as you guide Ethan through the Baker estate with no idea what’s happening.
Of course, the PS4 version of Resident Evil 7 also includes a VR mode, allowing you to dive right into the action using Sony’s headset. For anyone who feels uncomfortable or uncertain with VR, Capcom allow you to pick and choose when you use it. You’re free to just switch it on or off, playing the game your way. Luckily, there are plenty of slower, steadier moments in the game to experiment and see if VR mode’s for you.
If not, you’ll still feel deeply immersed in the game.
So, is Resident Evil 7: Biohazard the kick up the proverbial behind the series so badly needed?
Yes. In every way, it takes the franchise back to its roots while still innovating. With Capcom taking the games in a bold new direction, fingers crossed subsequent releases build on this, and make the most of their potential.
For fans who fell out of love with Resident Evil somewhere in the past decade, this is definitely one for you.
What do you think of Resident Evil 7? Is it the return to form you hoped for? Let us know!