After all the love and attention that I’ve given to Resident Evil 7, it was finally time for me to hop into the game myself. I’m absolutely terrified at horror games, jumping out of my skin at the smallest of scares. It was purchased for me as a birthday present, so I feel obliged to play it instead of hiding under my bed forever.
Let’s get into the review, shall we?
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release: January 24th
Over the past recent releases, Capcom had seemed to have forgotten what made Resident Evil such a great game in the first place. Resident Evil 6 is still, honestly, one of my most hated games in existence. Which is why I’m making Angie review it for our Review Vault series… In any case, the games have been getting much more action oriented and moving away from the survival horror genre that it used to once dominate. This could potentially be an aim to appeal to a broader fanbase but in reality, Capcom severely damaged the trust that their once loyal Resident Evil fans had in them. You’ll be more than happy to know that Resident Evil 7 brings back the survival and it definitely brings back the horror.
Spoilers ahead! If you wish to be free of these, skip the next two paragraphs. The first of the two will be a short rundown of the story and the second will be my impressions.
The story begins with Ethan receiving a mysterious email from his wife Mia, who went missing an entire three years ago. The email provided a simple address and a request to pick her up and once arriving, Ethan enters the mansion that will be familiar to players of the Beginning Hour demo. After some creeping, you’ll find Mia locked up inside a cell, freaking out of her mind that “Daddy” is going to find her. After this initial encounter, she’ll attack Ethan, cutting off his hand before he ‘kills’ her. The Baker family are finally introduced afterwards and the rest of the game requires you to head to different areas of the mansion, each part under control by one of the three infected members. Over time, players will learn the truth about what happened to Mia and the Bakers.
Push aside the regular zombie outbreak that the franchise started with and you have the base story for Resident Evil 7. It’s a successful attempt to explain the story of the virus that is still circulating around the world, after the events of Resident Evil 6. The Baker’s, before meeting Eveline, were a kind and thoughtful family, helping the wounded that got stranded from the crashed ship. You don’t necessarily need terrifying and towering monsters to show the effectiveness of a virus. Under the layers of horror, Resident Evil 7 is a sad story, showing how a once nice family has been completely destroyed, leaving behind remnants of a once great past as they now try to hunt you down to murder your face.
There is a total of seven guns to collect, not including the ones on the ending ship. You’ll start with the G17 pistol and later collect M37 shotgun after a bit of hunting. However, the rest of the weapons are either broken and need repairing, hidden in separate parts or unlockable. This allows a player to amass a sizeable arsenal by the end game but still requires them to go out to hunt down the means to be able to use these weapons. Nothing is simply just handed to you. You can play through the entire of the game with the starting pistol and shotgun perfectly fine, albeit it would be more difficult. Capcom has designed this system in such a great way so that players will never feel underpowered if they do not manage to find the ‘hidden’ guns but they are still there to reward exploration hunters.
So, how does the combat play compared to previous titles? It actually flows amazingly well. There’s nothing in Resident Evil 7 that feels too action oriented. Even the way Ethan holds his pistol makes the game feel extremely realistic at showing the fact that the man behind the trigger is not a professional. Each and every weapon that you could possibly find acts and sounds meaty, blasting holes into enemies; there are no BB guns in this here mansion. However, players won’t exactly be running into combat around every corner. The main enemy, not including the Baker’s, are the Molded, creatures created by Eveline and other bioweapons. There are four different variants of Molded, each being significantly different to the others, holding individual attacks and attributes. These creatures lurk around the mansion, using their abilities to spawn inside rooms where enough Mold has formed. A single Molded on its own shouldn’t pose too much of a threat but when multiple are coming at once, it’s time to let your flight instinct kick in.
Which leads onto the next part, survival. Some people believe that this entry into the series is not a thing like the originals. However, one thing that we all can agree on is the fact that the survival aspects are extremely reminiscent of the much earlier titles. Long gone have the days of having a huge supply of backup ammo to pump into your enemies. Now, you’ll have to carefully manage the ammo at your disposal, trying to hit as many headshots as possible. The storage crate has also seen a majestic return, allowing items to be placed inside and taken back out at any crate location. Tying this in, along with a limited inventory space, provides for some extremely difficult decisions. Should I use the chem fluid on the herb to make a first aid spray or use it on gunpowder to make handgun ammo? Resident Evil 7 constantly places you in the same position and asks the same question; which is more important to you, health or ammo? Having plenty of health and no ammo will render you useless, should you come across one of the boss fights. On the other hand, having plenty of health and no ammo could put your progress in complete jeopardy. This is what makes the game stand out so far from a simple horror game, having the ability to create huge tensions for the player when they’re just browsing their inventory screens.
Resident Evil 7 likes to throw out a lot of ambient noise around the mansion and it absolutely terrified me to the bone. Even though I knew nothing was going to jump out at me in the vicinity, the sounds are designed so perfectly that it feels like the Baker’s are walking around just behind or above you. The house moans and creaks around you, so if you believe your own house is in need of some repair work, hopefully seeing the mansion will put your mind at ease. A lot of the time, I ended up walking through long corridors, which lead to my defences being lowered significantly. Then, BAM! Horror ensues. Each member of the family watches over a certain part of the house, with them being a different setting to each other. Marguerite Baker isn’t a huge threat as she wanders the old house but ends up turning into a thing. Lukas Baker provides a Saw-style deathtrap, which is actually my favourite part of the game. However, he provides no boss fight and ends up scampering away. Jack, on the other hand, is easily the most daunting throughout the main time spent in his clutches. If you’re an old fan of the series, Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 should ring a bell. This is exactly how Jack works whilst he stalks Ethan around. After a certain amount of damage, Jack will fall down onto the floor in a bloody mess. However, it will not take long before he ends up getting up again to continue the chase. This will carry on until you defeat him in a proper boss fight. Now, this was honestly one of the scariest parts for me. In general, I cannot handle horror games at all but stick an invincible enemy in there that will constantly follow you and my body just cannot take it. I believe my current record is about 40 minutes of playtime in a single sitting before crying into my pillow. Every now and then, you’ll find a videotape in which you can use to play an older scene that provides some back story on certain events. The screenshot below is a tape that allows you to play as Mia as she has to escape from Marguerite. These alone are great to play, as they never try to intrude too far and take your interest away from the main story; they aren’t scattered around here, there and everywhere, but are strategically placed to pick up your emotions whilst there is a quiet moment. Another tape will allow Ethan to see the correct way of solving a puzzle set by Lukas, without dying.
Puzzles and secrets have been added back into Resident Evil 7 and they feel as authentic as they did in the very first game. You’ll encounter these rather early on as one of the main doors require three dog head statues before it will unlock. You’ll also see a shotgun on a statue that, once picked up, locks the door behind you; a weight mechanism that you’ll have to solve. Certain doors around the mansion will also require specific keys to unlock, such as the Scorpion and Crow keys. These are usually hidden away or acquired after a boss fight. Backtracking will be needed to be able to progress the story or just to earn extra supplies. Luckily, this feature never seems to overstay its welcome, keeping everyone on their toes as each room unlocks something new.
In terms of graphics, the game looks absolutely stunning. Even down to the smaller textures such as buttons on the telephones, everything is incredibly highly detailed. Bullets create holes on enemies that allow you to see the damage that you’ve inflicted. The beginning axe gets stuck into walls if swung wrong. All of this ends up to the point where I could say that this is one of the best looking games that I’ve played in a while. I’m currently running it in 4K at medium settings and average around 50FPS on a GTX 1070. This is under the optimal 60 but for me, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. For the slow careful pacing, it’s easy to forget about the frames since you’re not going to be wallrunning and doing backflips to kill enemies. The only issue I have had is syncing issues between audio. The easy workaround to this is to unlock your framerate and set it to variable; since doing this, I haven’t encountered a single issue.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of horror, Resident Evil 7 has managed to suck me into its detailed story and fantastic gameplay, offering some absolutely amazing moments. Under the layers of horror, Resident Evil 7 also tells a sad story, showing how a once nice family has been completely destroyed, leaving behind remnants of a once great past. The graphics are stunning, the combat is thrilling and the horror is terrifying. Old roots have returned, including items such as the storage crate, creating a blend of nostalgic gameplay that is also up to the modern standards of gaming. Overall, Capcom, thankfully, trusted their instinct, listened to fans and managed to create something that can be classed as a masterpiece.