Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review
Platform Reviewed: Xbox One
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Acquired via: Purchase by Reviewer
I’m trying to catch up with all the responsibilities I have with the Digital Crack website. One of them is getting this review out. It’s taken me a bit, but I got it out.
Playing this game put me in a bit of an existential crisis. In less than three months, I have played a great Final Fantasy game that I am enjoying more and more as I keep playing it, followed by what I consider to be a Resident Evil game that is a return to form. So I played a really good Square Enix game, followed by a great Capcom game.
I swear before Christ, if Konami releases an awesome Castlevania game, I am stocking the cellar with canned goods and hollow-point rounds, because the Rapture is soon to follow! I am not holding my breath, though, because FUCK KONAMI!
When I saw the E3 trailer for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, followed by playing the preview, I was skeptical. Seeing Resident Evil switch to the first-person perspective gave me the same signals it gave many who were diehards of the series: “Oh, no! The series is going all Amnesia on us!”
Turns out, there was nothing to worry about. They really swung for the fences with this game. And they connected with a tape measure blast sure to evoke envy from Giancarlo Stanton.
In a departure from previous Resident Evil games, you do not play as a current or former member of S.T.A.R.S. You are Ethan Winters, and your motivation for running headlong into horror is straightforward. Your wife Mia, who went missing years ago, sends you a cryptic video warning you not to look for her. Of course, you ignore that warning and head down to the Louisiana bayou to look for her. Everything that happens from then on is tense, bordering on nerve-wracking. Before long, the quest stops being about Mia and more about just surviving.
The perspective and main protagonist are not the only things that depart from the main series. Notably absent is the campy dialogue most games in the Resident Evil series are known for. As much as I love Resident Evil 4 and my current guilty pleasure, Resident Evil: Code Veronica on the Dreamcast, there was no way on God’s green earth you could take either games’ dialogue seriously. They started at silly and rocketed north at ludicrous speed! Here, though, the scripted dialogue is dead serious. Even when you come across the Baker family, the game’s main foil and the owners of the house you are traipsing in, their goofy antics still carry a serious tone. There is no camp here.
Other Resident Evil hallmarks do make an appearance, but they do not detract from the experience. There is a bit of backtracking, but it’s more along the lines of the original and your travels in Spencer Mansion. Quite a bit of puzzle solving and door opening will keep you busy for those times where you are not horrified by a life-or-death situation. Safe rooms and the tape recorders where you can save your progress harken back to the typewriters of older games. For all the differences in the dialogue and perspective, there’s a lot for veterans of the series to feel at home. This is traditional survival horror…just ramped up to 11.
The first-person perspective draws unescapable comparisons to the aforementioned Amnesia: The Dark Descent, as well as games like Outlast. This game has its own take on the perspective, however. Unlike the other games, you are not defenseless here. Early on, you find a handgun to beat back your foes. It may not be entirely useful in some occasions, but at least you’re not just darting from shady spot to shady spat and trying to keep your sanity.
Even with the addition of the hand cannon, however, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard manages to deliver on the claustrophobic feeling of moving around in dark spaces, trying to get your bearings while dreading what is beyond. The tension is quite palpable in some areas. There is the occasional jump-scare, but it never gets overbearing. Most of the time, you just walk around dank corridors hoping nothing dangerous jumps out. It’s an unsettling feeling, one that I imagine is amplified if played on the PlayStation VR.
Of course, the game is not perfect. While the feeling of dread is real, quite a few things pull you out of that feeling. Your character is easily injured during up-close encounters. You can heal, of course, but the healing itself is a bit ridiculous. Applying a quick salve to a dismemberment seems quite a bit ludicrous. And the number of times Ethan was stabbed through the hand and recovered strained credulity no matter how much I tried to ignore it. When even copious amounts of vodka can’t make you look past the silliness, you know it’s bad!
For all the tenseness of exploring the Baker residence, the boss fights lost me on occasion. They have some imaginative mechanics, but I wasn’t as tense during the fights as I was just walking through the Baker residence. There are some dead spots in the narrative as well. The VHS tapes you find while exploring do a lot to flesh out the circumstances that led you there, but even then there are some lulls in the plot.
None of that matters in the moment, though. When I was deep in my exploration, I felt a real sense of dread with each step. I cannot say this enough: this is the first Resident Evil game that made me feel a sense of terror. Seeing an enemy persistently shambling after you, crashing through walls in the process, will put real fear in you. After a few hours, I was numb to it after a while, but those first tentative steps in the Baker household were nerve-wracking. Even the jump-scares, the bane of my existence, were well done. Very few of them felt cheap, and a couple of them were positively terrifying. Sitting alone in my man-cave, lights off and sound bar blaring, I felt an urge to defecate more than a couple of times.
That is high praise for a Resident Evil game. Before Resident Evil 7, I could count the number of times the series was pants-shittingly scary on one hand and have fingers left over. This gam may misstep a couple of times, but the survival horror is real.
If I had a PS VR and played it there, I may have shed my colon in one shot!
For those who love the survival horror genre, I cannot recommend Resident Evil 7: Biohazard enough. Despite its small missteps, I enjoyed the hell out of my playthrough. I may now move on from the normal difficulty and into Madhouse, where the cassette tapes for the recorders need to be found and take up space in inventory, plus there is no regenerative health. Now that I experienced the game, I need to ramp up the terror.