Capcom made a shocking change when it came to the direction of a franchise long heralded as the one that made the survival horror genre more than just a niche experience when announcing the seventh officially numbered “Resident Evil”. Rather than embrace the more action oriented style seen in latter “Resident Evil” games, the developers at Capcom decided to strip the player of feeling empowered by not taking control of a military trained combat specialist, but a simple everyman from his world view (a.k.a., first-person view). Playing the free demo after the game’s original announcement, I found myself excited to play this new take on the “Resident Evil” formula. But I wondered if Capcom could keep the atmosphere and spookiness of a twenty-minute demo strong throughout at least a ten to twelve-hour long experience Capcom promised for first-time players.
Did I Complete “Resident Evil 7 biohazard”
Based on the demo alone it was obvious “Resident Evil 7 biohazard” is meant to change the formula long associated with the series by not only switching the player’s viewpoint from third person to first, but also change the type of main character the player controls. Enter Ethan Winters – a run-of-the-mill everyman on a search for his wife whose distress video suddenly arrives at their home after she disappeared three years prior. Without the combat experience of former “RE” leads such as Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, Ethan is utterly useless without a firearm as his only offense early on is defense in the form of blocking.
As promised, Capcom did deliver a product that, on my first playthrough, lasted over ten hours (though some of my playtime was padded by being away from the controller and simply not wanting to leave the safety of save point rooms during the game’s early hours where it felt like my nerves just couldn’t take the sheer insanity poor Winters haphazardly walked into to simply find his wife). But after those initial hours of frightening moments I got my mental state in order and finished the game to get the more common ending before loading a save point made before an important decision to witness the second ending about an hour later. My second full playthrough allowed for me to gain a trophy for completing the game in less than four hours. Though there is another trophy for finishing it under the confines of its hardest difficulty (a level unlocked after finishing the game once or given to pre-order purchasers), my attempted third playthrough fell short of completion as I started getting the itch to move on and dedicate my gaming time to something else (though a full “Madhouse” playthrough isn’t out of the question in the near future).
Did “Resident Evil 7 biohazard” Live Up to the Hype?
Following the game’s initial demo (and subsequent updates) giving gamers glimpses into what Capcom was planning with its latest journey into the world of survival horror, “Resident Evil 7 biohazard” officially entered the world without changing too much of what got people initially interested by thrusting the player into the invisible shoes of Ethan while he explores a mold infested plantation housing three psychotic hillbillies and, potentially, his wife. But there’s more to Ethan’s journey than search & rescue as the player quickly discovers some of the intricacies that essentially make the game what it is – exploration, puzzle solving & combat. Though one would think combat is at the top of the list of important factors in “RE 7”, exploration is what allows Ethan to survive. Harkening back to the days of “Resident Evil” being a Playstation exclusive, Ethan isn’t able to carry a suitcase’s worth of items initially (be it guns, herbs, chemicals that can mix with things such as the aforementioned herbs to make first aid medicine or ammo when combined with gunpowder, and even stimulants that make finding items easier); thus making inventory management a key feature during the game’s early hours. To explore is to survive in “RE 7” because if the player does thorough sweeps of the available sections, Ethan will have just enough to survive whatever comes his way (and maybe even open up more inventory slots). Thanks to safe rooms where the player can save, Ethan can drop off unnecessary items and make more room for his quest.
Unfortunately for Ethan, searching through the Baker estate isn’t an easy task as he’s hunted down constantly throughout the various, yet closely-placed locations by not only the Baker family (be it patriarch Jack and his oversized weapons, mother Marguerite and her horde of insets, or son Lucas who has watched way too many “Saw” movies during his adolescence), but also tar-like creatures known as “Molded” that actually prove challenging thanks to the nature of their movements, be it the staggering drunk style of the initial creature introduced, the pouncing action of another Molded variation, or the lumbering acidic vomit spewers seen late in the game. The majority of Ethan’s adversaries are also the definition of “bullet sponges”. Unfortunately that’s it when it comes to the enemies seen throughout “RE 7” – no regenerators, infected dogs, or even mutant babies. The initial boss battles are incredibly memorable by being both challenging and disgusting – with a pair of back-to-back fights having optional ways of completion, though not on the same level as say “Metal Gear Solid 3’s” boss fights. Sadly the momentum of incredible, innovative boss fights doesn’t last throughout the game as it soon devolves into a shooting gallery without the genuine creepiness of seeing a woman embrace her inner spider.
Combat is also somewhat disappointing. Ethan, apparently not having been trained in any form of hand-to-hand combat (or even been in an actual fight) can’t throw punches or kicks when unarmed. Ethan’s philosophy of defense being the best offense is seen when the game prompts the player to use the “guard” button (L1 on the PS4) so Winters can throw his hands up and block incoming attacks. Guard is surprisingly effective against anything enemies dish out be it the Molded’s exasperated haymakers or even a giant axe to the head swung by a shirtless farmhand. Though Ethan can’t throw a strike to literally save his life, the randomly wisecracking husband can wield a variety of firearms be it pistols or even a flamethrower (though the more powerful weapons have to be either repaired or hunted down courtesy of backtracking when Ethan attains certain keys). While these weapons certainly help destroy the feeling of helplessness in regards to Ethan’s survival, a player who doesn’t explore will usually find certain weapons almost as useless as Ethan himself. Aiming, though, is not as impressive as blocking. Aiming, especially with the right analog stick, feels a bit too loose and can make headshots even harder to pull off during hectic moments when confronted by this game’s version of an enemy horde.
The land & environment itself is incredibly memorable for all the right reasons. Sticking Ethan inside a relatively small area for hours on end, the player gets the chance to learn the plantation – where the safe rooms are, various locations locked behind doors that are only opened by specific keys obtained throughout the game, and important shortcuts that can be utilized to avoid an enemy that randomly spawns near Ethan. Searching through these areas can provide VHS tapes that turn into short playable segments that nicely give a glimpse into Ethan’s near future while showcasing solutions for upcoming puzzles. Sadly, the puzzles are mostly unremarkable and relatively easy with or without VHS tape playthroughs. Most puzzles are exaggerated fetch quests completed when the player places an attained item in front of a light hilariously placed & powered in certain areas of the house as if the Bakers want their guests to test their luck (Ethan is apparently not the only person to end up in this house). There’s a lack of music – giving the player a chance to hear every odd noise such as obvious house “breathing” and lone conversations/warnings from the Bakers when they’re looking for Ethan that further emphasizes why the player should stay moving if Winters is not inside a safe room. The environments prove to be the player’s greatest foe and benefactor at the same time.
Similar to the puzzles, the plot itself leaves something to be desired especially during the game’s last third where information is thrown at the player en masse through walls of text. While one could condemn Capcom for going “RE” troupe heavy route during the game’s final few hours, the real knock against the story is plot holes that come from either poor writing or, more than likely, planned DLC that could answer some obvious lingering questions featuring characters both main and minor (and that’s not mentioning the DLC came out soon after the game’s release that could’ve easily been apart of the overall initial package that would’ve added more longevity to the game without players putting down another thirty dollars).
As mentioned earlier there are two endings the player can attain depending on a single decision, yet only one ending feels fitting and, most importantly, satisfying. The second ending (which doesn’t need a full playthrough to obtain if the player saves smartly) comes across as a copout that’s terribly executed. Before the ending is a change in pace where the game gets slower, yet less tense & interesting before everything devolves into Ethan shooting his way out of situations because running in fear to the next area is nearly impossible as it was compared to the action seen earlier in the game. One of the more positive decisions regarding playthroughs is “Madhouse” difficulty. Rather than just making ammo & health items and auto-save points scarce and enemies stronger, there are fundamental changes to the environments including different enemy spawn points, key items being moved or even locked, and added collectibles both in number and location. Instead of sticking to the usual “hardest” difficulty troupes seen in other games, “RE 7” does something that, hopefully, other developers employ when deciding to make things tougher for gamers.
For all of its flaws “RE 7” attains a level of greatness that seemed almost impossible in a world where first-person survival horror games have not only flooded the market, but also diluted the genre. The want to genuinely scare the player while potentially resetting the entire “Resident Evil” universe saw Capcom definitely succeed in their endeavors for the game’s majority.
Should You Play “Resident Evil 7 biohazard”
“Resident Evil 7 biohazard” represents an obvious change to the style while trying to regain the sheer feeling of fear not presented in the last two-in-a-half numbered games (even “RE 4” lost that horrified luster halfway through when it essentially became “Evil Dead 3”). The first two-thirds of “7” accomplishes that goal as the player will feel uneasy, claustrophobic and downright scared thanks to a mixture of simple, yet unavoidable puzzles that can prove to be nice distractions while opening up a small world of visceral monsters (both human and non), and set pieces both pre-rendered & dynamic that’ll leave any player mentally, emotionally, and maybe even physically exhausted. Then comes the game’s final third where the player is locked in closed, mostly dull environments with the character being a lot less vulnerable thanks to the amount of powerful weapons being introduced without the enemies getting any stronger (just more in number) outside of boss battles – which too get easier with each subsequent one – and presented with information dumps through notes that can be missed and are lengthy in nature that might unintentionally convince the player to skip through the pages to continue the action.
“Resident Evil 7 biohazard” is in no way a perfect “Resident Evil”, let alone a perfect game thanks to overall flaws in the gunplay, obvious plot holes, and Ethan’s awkward voice acting when it comes to reacting to certain intense moments (he’s not the only one, mind you, but he’s the character the player is around the most and should connect with). But the game’s problems feel minor in comparison to its positives including an undeniable sense of dread that somehow stays with the player throughout even when the scenery changes, memorable lead antagonists (including the house itself) and multiple “wow” moments that’ll make anyone’s first playthrough a harrowing experience. It’s hard to figure out where Capcom will take the series next considering this game is such a drastic change compared to its predecessors (thus dividing its audience), but “Resident Evil 7 biohazard” left me excited for the future while delivering a highly memorable present.