Quick Take: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard brings the beloved series back to its frightening roots, and creates a whole new level of fear by going to first person mode.
Let’s face it: the Resident Evil series (at least the numbered games) has traded scares and fear in for gunfights and action. With Resident Evil 6, any semblance of what made the series so great and so beloved was gone, replaced with an action-shooter clone that failed to excite the fan base. And Capcom took notice. When Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was shockingly announced at Sony’s press conference at E3 last June, it took the gaming world by surprise. A free demo, which highlighted the series’ new direction — going to first person, returning to a set location, and putting more emphasis on survival and puzzle solving, than shooting huge monsters and blowing stuff up — was released as well, and gamers everywhere realized that Resident Evil was back to its roots.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard doesn’t just take the series back to its roots, it rewrites them. Going to first person was the greatest thing to happen to the franchise since the introduction of the Tyrant constantly hunting Jill in RE3: Nemesis. Capcom has been able to recapture the thrill and anxiety of pure fear as the player explores a plantation and surrounding areas in the swamps of Louisiana. In fact, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard doesn’t just bring the fear back, it is, by far, the scariest Resident Evil game I have ever played. And I’ve played them all.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the story of Ethan Winters, a man whose wife, Mia, disappeared three years ago without a trace. One day, he gets a clue to her whereabouts: somewhere deep in the swamps of Louisiana, and Ethan sets out to investigate her disappearance and hopefully find her. Instead, he meets the Baker family, a sadistic tribe of enhanced loonies who eat human flesh and torture and kill unsuspecting souls on their run down estate. Ethan must find a way to escape the Bakers, solve the mystery of who — or what — they are, and get out alive. And trust me, none of that is an easy task.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard does an amazing job of creating a scary atmosphere, and it relies on the stress of anticipation to create scares. There are no cats jumping out of shadows, or zombie dogs bursting through windows in tight hallways. The scares here come what might be in the next room, or around the corner, as Ethan’s trip deeper and deeper into the estate unveils more of the madness at play, and the dark forces at work.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard still retains the important aspects of what makes a Resident Evil game so unique. Green herbs and the mixing of various components are both key elements of survival, as is some pretty intricate puzzle solving. Finding room keys to open up new sections of the estate, and the constant backtracking once new items are found are pretty commonplace in the RE series, and are still used here. This feels like a resident Evil game through and through, even if the first person perspective is new (relatively, as Resident Evil: Operation: Raccoon City, and the on-rail Chronicles shooting games, among a few others also used the first person).
The art direction and level design are some of the best of the franchise, and the use of HDR really makes the Baker estate come to life in horrific ways. The proprietary RE Engine powers this game, and the results are stunning. The lighting effects and the use of shadows also play huge parts here, and with each step, Ethan’s — and the player’s — sanity unravels. The sound effects and music also work to create a scary mood, and even something as opening a door causes the heart to beat a little faster, because you never know what’s on the other side.
Ethan, through the course of the adventure, finds weapons, and tools that can be used to advance deeper into into the estate. And it’s all explained why there are various weapons scattered around, as an in-game ally seeks to help Ethan. He can also find video tapes that shed light on the history of what is happening, and playing these tapes in scattered VCRs pull the player into a side-story-like mini game. These are interesting aspects of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard that add context while also keeping up the fear and anxiety. And more often than not, something experienced in a video tape comes into play in the present, so they are all worth seeking out and playing.
Capcom has a plan in place for extended DLC to further enhance the story and create more scary episodes that surround the Bakers, other spoilerish stuff I don’t want to mention, and their Louisiana estate. The first DLC, “Banned Footage, Vol. 1,” has already been released for the PS4, and a season pass is available for purchase. This is one game that I would love to see more of, as long as they can keep up the tension and the fright with each new episode.
Also, the game is enhanced for PS VR, which is good news for underwear manufacturers around the world, as sales are about to go up immensely.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard does something that many thought Capcom could never do again: scare the beejeebus out of us. Playing the game with the lights out and the surround sound cranked up was an experience I will never forget. And if you have a cat, make sure they are locked in another room, as if your cat likes to explore and bat stuff around in the dark, like mine, you just may land yourself a coronary episode. I have not been this scared playing a video game since Silent Hill 2, which was the scariest game I’ve ever played — until now.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is now the scariest game I have ever played, and this new direction and all the possible stories that can come from the events in this story should make gamers everywhere worried. Not because Capcom might screw it up again; worried that their hearts can’t take much more of this.
Welcome back, scary Resident Evil. You were sorely missed.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is available now for the PS4 and Xbox One. This review is based off a PS4 review code provided by the publisher.