We didn’t know it at that time, but Resident Evil 4 was the start of the end. Though in lots of ways the series’ best game, in addition, it signaled the beginning of Resident Evil’s transformation from survival-horror into something far scarier: forgettable, derivative action. In comparison, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard has been heralded as a go back to form–a classic, uncompromising frightfest. And even, it is. Instead of blockbuster pandering, the overall game offers intimate horror with a tightly focused scope and all of the trappings you’d expect from a survival game. No superfluous skill trees or meaningless fetch quests, just the stomach-churning tension of guiding a comparatively helpless character out of a waking nightmare.
You do slowly but surely gather weapons as you progress, nevertheless, you could never mistake this for an action game. Each and every time you learn to feel powerful enough to kick some ass, the overall game finds ways to pull the rug out from under you. I’ll do my better to avoid spoilers, so let’s just say it respects series traditions and that there surely is far more to RE7 than what you’ve already seen. Even though the setting and characters haven’t any evident connections to any previous Resident Evil game, the series’ DNA could be felt in from the puzzles and keys to the subtle psychological tricks used to cultivate dread.
But RE7 evidently takes cues from modern horror games aswell, most notably by deciding on a first-person perspective. Fans of games like Outlast may recognize a whole lot of structural similarities in large portions of the campaign, which–outside of some optional backtracking to accumulate items–follows a linear and highly scripted group of events. Annoyingly, that sometimes means wasting ammo on enemies who aren’t scheduled to die until later fights, but at least those occasions reinforce the tense, oppressive atmosphere that persists from commence to finish. The results aren’t always explicitly terrifying, but I was pretty damn consumed with stress for the duration.
The knowledge starts to drag a lttle bit by the finish, though, as you wrap up performing similar tasks throughout the complete game. The campaign could have benefited from a slightly higher density of unique, memorable moments. But make no mistake: there are memorable moments, so when they hit, they hit hard. Despite its clarity of vision and prudent restraint in search of that vision, RE7 still requires a few bold chances to refresh the campaign and renew the horror as you progress.
A few of these chances stem from its story, which follows series newcomer and all-around average guy Ethan Winters. After obtaining a cryptic video from his wife Mia, who’s been missing for 3 years, Ethan results in a dilapidated manor deep in the Louisiana bayou, where he discovers a demented family and many more questions. Thankfully, the narrative never devolves into trite “damsel in distress” cliches. Actually, the story’s hardly ever really about Mia; it’s about escaping a nightmare.
In true survival-horror fashion, you will be totally defenseless for a surprisingly large part of the early game.
Overall, the narrative delivers. The twists are usually predictable, but it’s still exciting to see them unfold–and the overall game never lingers on a reveal for too much time. The writing remains thematically steady and drives towards a clear goal, making your position feel that a lot more dire. The same can said of the setting: every moldy floorboard, every oozing entrail, every flickering light feels unbearably real. The textures, details, and sounds are, without exception, utterly gross in the simplest way, and impressively, RE7 relies a lot more upon this atmosphere than cheap jump scares.
RE7 also smartly uses each relative to different effect. The daddy Jack provides in-your-face terror and drives a lot of the game’s early combat. The mother Marguerite demands a stealthier approach, which gives a number of the tensest occasions and arguably the game’s best boss fight. And the son Lucas sets elaborate, Saw-like traps that’ll keep you off balance and cause you to cautious with things you once took for granted. These different approaches add welcome variety in a manner that feels completely natural in the context of the world, boosting your immersion while mixing up the gameplay.
Beyond the family, collectible VHS tapes add a lot more variety. Each one contains a playable flashback from a different character’s perspective, which works beautifully as both a narrative device and ways to split up Ethan’s exhausting mission. You will also face puzzles, though unlike early Resident Evil games, these play only a role overall, & most are simple and simple to solve. It certainly could have been nice to visit a few more intricate, challenging tests, but just like the VHS tapes, the puzzles fit well within the world and do not impede the campaign’s momentum.
There are, of course, a couple of things that go bump in the night time as well, and for all those occasions, Ethan has usage of a little but different collection of weapons. The overall game contains more guns than I expected, but I never felt super-powered. Not close. Even the ultimate chapter mainly depends on horror and tension (with one big action sequence exception). More often than not, RE7 keeps it simple, prioritizing tone over action. Only 1 weapon feels truly outlandish, and you will struggle to find lots of rounds for this anyway–though in true survival game fashion, everything is an issue. You will have to manage your limited inventory and carefully scour areas for essential items, though if you are patient and vigilant, you will likely find the thing you need. RE7 makes item collection tense without teetering into “unduly punishing.”
Unfortunately, I came across most generic enemies to become a little less capable than I’d have liked. If indeed they catch you off guard or confront you in a bottleneck, they are often tough to place down. But I possibly could frequently see them coming, and they are neither fast nor smart enough to catch you when you just run the other direction. Knowing when to hightail it is arguably part of any horror game, but I still could have favored something more dangerous, especially since I was playing on the best difficulty available out of your box (you do unlock an increased difficulty after completing the overall game).