Welcome, one and all, to another MDM game review. This time around, I’m looking at Capcom’s 2017 survivor horror, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
First, a bit of personal history. Way back when I first got a PlayStation (before the One was added), the original Resident Evil was my first game on the system. It was unlike anything I’d played before, and genuinely creeped me out at several points (dogs jumping through the window … every time I play it). Resident Evil 2 was also a lot of fun, as was Resident Evil 3. However, by this time, I felt like the series was beginning to get less scary as it went along. This was a trend that continued for me, and Resident Evil 4 ended up being the last game that I bought in the series. You see, I enjoyed it, but it just didn’t feel like a Resident Evil game to me. Fast forward to 2017 and my partner bought me Resident Evil 7 for our Xbox One S for Christmas. I’d seen a lot of gameplay videos already, and had high hopes for it. The question is, did it live up to the hype that I’d created for it myself?
Let’s start with the absolute obvious here: the graphics are stunning. From the moment that I loaded it up, it became clear that this was the most realistic looking game that to appear in the series. The scenery was really nicely done, for one. The characters have come a really long way since the early days too; they move well, and the facial expressions are great. Even the monsters are more detailed than I expected. This works really well with the first-person viewpoint that the game is set in, and goes a long way towards creating a real sense of immersion. Honestly, this must be a terrifyingly real experience in VR.
Now, what about that old staple of the series, the poor voice acting? Well, Capcom has done a fine job in improving on this. The vast majority of the cast do a really good job for the most part, and I can only really think of one character (who thankfully doesn’t appear too much in the main game) who I felt seemed a little too hammy. Elsewhere, the sound effects are perfectly adequate, and the musical flourishes work with the tension rather than break it.
Putting aside aesthetics though, the real question is whether the game is actually any good. I’d like to start this by saying that this is the most Resident Evil-y feeling Resident Evil game in years. There are differences, of course: we’ve gone to a first-person view rather than the third-person of old, and the tank controls are nowhere to be seen, leading to a much smoother experience overall. Even with these though, there’s no denying how similar this feels to the earlier entries in the series. Perhaps most important in creating this feel is the ammo situation. While there aren’t the hordes of enemies that we saw in Resident Evil 2, there still feels like there are more than can be dealt with comfortably with the ammo that we’re given. Many times, I found myself running through areas, slashing my knife as I went in order to save on ammo for bigger battles.
There are a good number of weapons at your disposal though. Some of these are easily obtained, such as the standard handgun and shotgun. Others need to be forged, such as the homebrew flamethrower and enhanced shotgun. Then you have the chainsaw, which is usable specifically for one battle. There are more, of course, and with limited weapon spaces, you’ll sometimes find yourself not only running out of ammo, but picking up ammo for the things you left in one of the magical RE trunks. Frustrating? Yes. Makes the game tenser? Also yes.
The puzzles are interesting too, ranging from the classic medallion collection style romps, to having to rotate other items in front of a light to create the right shadow. This was another point where the game had a classic feel to it, even with the modernised presentation.
The storyline strikes a good balance between differing styles of horror too. We have the sympathetic lead, Ethan, hunting for his wife Mia, who has been missing presumed dead for three years. He travels to a derelict plantation in Louisiana, and soon finds Mia trapped in a cage in a seemingly abandoned house. From there, we move into an almost claustrophobic feeling situation when Ethan is kidnapped by the vicious hillbilly homeowners. This eventually transitions into body shocks and biological mutations, and even brings in a little bit of a ghostly vibe by the end. It’s creepy, gruesome, and well executed. Much as you’d expect, there are also multiple endings.
So, is there anything wrong with the game? Well, some of that will depend on your viewpoint. Monster wise, we face two family members in their human and mutated forms. There are the main globular beasts that come in regular, regular with a shield, running on all fours, and overweight bile spewing forms. They all feel pretty similar, with the basic method dealing with them being the same. There are some big wasps too, plus the final boss. While this is a decent number of enemies, I did feel like there could have been more. An infected dog would have been a nice call back to the older games, for example, or some oversized animals. This is a minor niggle though.
I’ve seen a few people bemoan the lack of real zombies. This, I’m not too bothered by. In much the same way that I believe Capcom’s switch in game styles with the series over the years was driven by a desire to move with trends, the decision to continue to keep zombies away is most likely one born of a want to keep things fresh.
While generally stunning, there are some moments where the graphics do some odd things. This mostly pertains to Mia’s hair, which doesn’t always seem to move in the realistic manner that the rest of her does. As it is, it’s not enough to take you out of the game, but it will certainly be off-putting if you’re quite focussed on these things.
All in all though, Resident Evil 7 is a game that I am happy to declare a modern classic. It takes the things that made the original games so good, and infuses them with modern sensibilities that enhance rather than disrupt the feelings that they evoke. Easily recommended for fans of survival horror.
Final Score: 5 out of 5