Please note: This review was played on a 4K TV and in HDR using a PS4 Pro.
Resident Evil has veered so far off the road that it ended up having more in common with Michael Bay movies than survival horror. What was once the grand-daddy of jump scares and suspense got sucked into a black hole of missteps. It took Capcom close to a decade to retrace where it went wrong and here in 2017 they’ve finally nailed it. It? Oh yes, they’ll nail your head to a wall if they could in Resident Evil VII.
The Baker’s man can… haunt you
With a new approach comes a new protagonist, Ethan Winters. He has received an email from his wife, Mia, who has been missing for three years. In it she tells him not to come looking for her, and as any moron in a survival horror would, he goes in search of his love. Ethan arrives at his destination – an old mansion. Things go horribly wrong and before he knows it he has to fight off the demented Baker family that consists of Jack (dad), Marguerite (mom), Lucas (son) and some elderly woman in a wheelchair. The family is as cooked as it seems, and things spiral out of control very quickly.
[pullquote_right]A quick bit of frantic dodging and on-the-fly puzzle-solving and you’ll find yourself in your first safe room[/pullquote_right]To avoid any spoilers I won’t be touching on the various family members and exactly what they’re capable of, but be aware that this is a return to form for the series in a very big way and that each member brings his or her own unique challenge. The Baker Family reminded me very much of the Las Plagas infected people in Resident Evil 4. You know that they’re still human, but they’re definitely infected by something. Once the game really gets going it starts off in classic survival horror fashion with Ethan having nothing but his gut instincts to avoid the Baker family. A quick bit of frantic dodging and on-the-fly puzzle-solving and you’ll find yourself in your first safe room. It’s at this point that you realise that the developers somehow retained everything you loved about the original Resident Evil outings.
Filled with classic Resident Evil DNA
Gone are the pre-rendered backdrops or third-person point of view and in its place you will be playing the entire game in first-person. Your initial thought is that this is a brand new take on the Resident Evil formula, and it certainly is, but there are particular elements that fans of old will be glad have returned. The first thing you’ll notice is Ethan’s slow walking pace. Each and every movement catches your eye, and every creak and random noise scares the hell out of you. Some areas come with spooky music, while others excel on the atmosphere created by isolated silence. Opening doors to each room fills your head with memories of the original Resident Evil as you wait in anticipation to see what the next room has in store.
Every room is its own little adventure as you search every nook and cranny to find notes (that provide insight into the story or puzzle clues), hidden treasures, much-needed ammo, herbs and various other items to progress in the game. Before you know it you’ll return to the safe room to deposit a bunch of items into the storage crate, and you’ll use the tapedeck to save your progress. You’ll revisit it often to retrieve an item required to solve a puzzle, and because of this it’s a good idea to get a grasp on your map early on. Besides missing those signature rare ink ribbons this is right on point with what we’ve been wanting for years.
BRAINS!… ERR… HUH?
You will come face-to-face with a new enemy called the ‘Molded’. They’re some form of biochemical mishap and are in essence a replacement for zombies. They move slowly as a result of their gooey structure, but because of that they can extend their arms by quite some distance, which makes each battle quite complicated – especially when there is more than one attacking you at a time. Should you get damaged a quick press of the triangle button will cause Ethan to look at his watch, giving you an indication of his health status. It also follows the tried and tested Resi method of using the green, yellow, orange and red indications to gauge the severity. If it’s red you best take a First Aid Med to heal yourself (by tapping R1). That said, you have quite the armoury at your disposal.
[pullquote_left]You could say that P.T. might have sparked this change in direction, but the team at Capcom brought their own Resi flavour and it tastes horrifically good[/pullquote_left]Ethan has access to the classic 9MM pistol, Shotgun and a few other surprises I’ll leave for you to discover. You’ll find that ammunition is scarce, so aiming for the head and landing your shots is of great importance. You’ll also learn to combine items more than in any previous Resident Evil game. Find a chemical fluid pack and gunpowder and you can create your own bullets and other various items to help you battle the nightmare you find yourself in. Also be sure to keep an eye open for boxes that need to be smashed using your knife and a few hidden secrets that aid you in your hunt for more items and ammunition.
From a graphical point of view Resident Evil VII takes it to a new level for the franchise. Keep in mind that I was playing it in HDR on a 4K television, but I often had family members passing by and then sitting down to watch me play because it looked so damn good. All the little details really drove the feeling of dread home, along with the story that was gripping from start to finish. Oh, and you can of course prepare yourself for a good few jump scare moments.
Some parasites that need attention next time
Resident Evil VII does so much right, but there is room for improvement. It’s a treat to have the traditional puzzles returning to Resident Evil, but unfortunately some of these puzzles are too easy and far too familiar. Most the puzzles will be solved in seconds, though there is one particular puzzle midway into game that’ll have you scratching your noggin for a good while – I’d like more of that. Another letdown comes in the form of the enemies you face. The Molded are fun to encounter early on, but there is a real lack of enemy variety that could have spiced up the pace a bit. Don’t let that take away from everything else as it’s been a long time since the franchise created anywhere near as much atmosphere as it did with this outing.
It was a bold move by Capcom to return to the roots of the series while moving it to a first-person experience. By doing that they provided a game fans have been asking for, and included elements we never knew we needed. You could say that P.T. might have sparked this change in direction, but the team at Capcom brought their own Resi flavour and it tastes horrifically good.