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Review

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review

Swamp Things.

Adopting a first person view, a completely new setting, and being one of the first AAA games playable in virtual reality, there’s so much about Resident Evil 7 that feels fresh as Capcom have taken us back to the series’ roots. This comes after years of ambling between sequels and spin-offs, ranging from miserably mediocre to downright dreadful.

Fans will be happy to hear those dark days are over. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a genuine return to form for what was once considered the granddaddy of survival horror. For Capcom to wipe the slate clean in such a way is as bold as it was necessary. As important as they were to the ongoing saga, returning characters like Jill, Leon, and Wesker had long outstayed their welcome, drawing attention away from the things that made those original games so tense and terrifying.

Meanwhile, the past few years have seen somewhat of a horror renaissance, championed by games such as Amnesia, Outlast, and Slender. Hell, even Konami had a punt with P.T – it’s since trashed concept for a Silent Hill sequel. Resident Evil 7 is proof of Capcom finally stepping out of the echo chamber and listening, not only to fans but to the wealth of talented creators that have helped shape the genre. It’s clear to see where the development team have taken ideas from, yet there’s a sense of familiarity that has been knowingly created at the same time.

Ethan Winters is built up to be your regular sort of guy. Like the original Resident Evil there’s no elaborate lead-in; all we know is that his wife, Mia, has been missing for the past three years. His desperate search for answers leads him to the sweltering swamplands of Dulvey, Louisiana. Those who have watched HBO’s True Detective will spot plenty of similarities, the bogs, marshes, and bayous helping to hide a great many misdeeds.

In the middle of it all we have the Baker mansion – a rundown complex barely clinging to the pile of mud it’s built upon. The moment Ethan steps out of his car, alarm bells start ringing. It doesn’t take him long to stumble across the homeowners who are all too happy to bring him under their roof.

As the opening scenes play out, you’ll get hints of classic horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. It’s a decidedly nuanced setting compared to previous games and one that works well. In true Resident Evil style, there’s a deeper, more conspiratorial level that gradually unspools the more you progress.

What really works here are the Bakers themselves. There’s something clearly not right with them – something made all the more disturbing by otherwise normal personal effects found strewn about their home. As for the mansion, the way it’s structured is a clear throwback to the original Resident Evil. You’ll continue to explore its many wings and exterior areas, with keys and other items allowing you to access previously inaccessible rooms.

Thanks to the puzzles, it can sometimes feel as though you’re playing an adventure game. There are enemies to deal with as well, forcing you to sparingly use the limited supplies at your disposal. Picking up a Green Herb for the first time felt bizarrely nostalgic given how modernised other parts of the game feel.

The shooting, for one, is snappy, responsive, and doesn’t root players to the ground when aiming down the sights of their weapon. Aside from the occasional boss fight, you can opt to skip most battles by simply outrunning the horrors that lurk within the Baker mansion. In truth, they’re probably the weakest part of the game, and they each sport the same look with only the tiniest bit of variation.

Thankfully the bosses are there to pick up the slack. They’re good, even if a little vague. However, there’s a deliberate uneasiness that comes from not knowing whether you have the upper hand in a fight. With no health bars to gauge your progress, this creates a genuine sense of tension, especially as you grope around for the last fistful of bullets.

Either way, Resident Evil 7 handles its survival mechanics incredibly well. While having to manage limited inventory space can be a drag, simple features like item recipes and auto arranging weapons help to alleviate some of these niggling issues. The scarcity of items and ammunition is just enough to create tension without being unfair. Almost every room you walk into has at least one or two hiding spots where you’ll find bullets and other useful materials.

It’s the atmosphere that really sells the package as a whole. Everything has a decayed albeit menacing look to it while, at the same time, capturing that stereotypical southern swampland aesthetic. Although the voice acting and script can be hit and miss in places, the environmental sound work will keep you on edge as you tiptoe around every corner.

One alluring aspect of the sequel is Capcom’s commitment to virtual reality. Resi 7’s VR Mode isn’t just a throwaway extra or bolted-on side mission. By enabling this option, you can play the entire game using a PlayStation VR and DualShock 4 set up, ramping the tension up whenever tiptoeing through the Baker mansion, with the positional audio making you cringe every time you hear a creaky floorboard or open window shutter. It works incredibly well without dropping any features, also presenting players with a variety of aspects they can adjust to improve their comfort.

By default you can use the right analogue stick to turn the camera in 30º increments, though this angle can be tweaked. If you prefer a smoother motion, more akin to playing a non-VR first person game, you can do that too. It works well during more intense action moments, not really limiting your ability to run away and hide, while deciding to fight back uses head tracking to help you aim your gun.

For some, however, the dark colours, dim lighting, and limited range of vision may cause a bit of bother. As someone who scans every meticulous detail, looking at certain objects while moving would often cause headaches over time. It’s a problem I have with VR in general, though Resi 7’s grimy, shadowy aesthetic didn’t help.

It has to be said that there’s a discernible shift in tone upon reaching the final act and as Resident Evil 7 began filling in the blanks, I started caring less and less about the story. It falls into that all too common trap of wanting to put an explanation on everything instead of letting players run free in this nightmarish world it has created. Instead, Capcom’s writers pop this bubble for story reasons – something that will no doubt prove divisive among newcomers and returning fans.

What’s Good:

  • Feels new but with a distinct Resi twist
  • The first couple of hours are terrifying
  • Interesting boss battles
  • Fully playable in VR

What’s Bad:

  • Divisive final act
  • Regular enemies are kinda boring

For them to successfully steer one of their flagships back on track, Capcom has done what many thought was unthinkable. It was less than twelve months ago that the publisher released Umbrella Corps, at which point I – and no doubt many others – were ready to call time on the series. Resident Evil 7 definitely has a handful of weak points, but it’s by far the best AAA survival horror game we’ve seen in quite some time.

Score: 8/10

Version Tested: PS4, PSVR

20 Comments
  1. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    I’ve skimmed over the review a bit as I don’t want to know too much. How long did it take you to finish? Have heard mixed things about the game length

    Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 16:10.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      I’d say it took me eight or nine hours. I suspect it can be done in much less time though there’s an incentive to go back and revisit certain spots on the map.

      Comment posted on 24/01/2017 at 08:40.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Thanks Jim. I believe there is a speedrun trophy and some people have completed it in under 2.5 hours so was concerned it was a little short, but good to know if you’re playing at “regular” pace it’s a decent length. I’ll probably be closer to 15 hours due to prolonged periods of standing still, too scared to progress!

        Comment posted on 24/01/2017 at 11:10.
  2. kjkg
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Oh man I need this. I really want to play it all in VR mode, just not sure I am brave enough to do so!

    Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 16:16.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      I’m not, even the demo scared the shit out of me. I’m buying it as a “social” game to play with mates…..as I’m too scared to play it alone :p

      Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 16:33.
      • kjkg
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        I made a deal with my partner. She can sit and watch TV or whatever but has to have a part of her body, her foot or something, within grabbing distance to act as I kind of safe anchor for me. I’M A 30 YEAR OLD GROWN MAN!!!!

        Absolutely terrifying, VR just adds a whole new dimension to it.

        Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 16:37.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        Or something? *waggles eyebrows*

        Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 17:03.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Defo go for the boob.

        Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 17:16.
  3. Crazy_Del
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Cannot wait to play this first thing tomorrow morning when I collect my copy and be in VR mode all day/night!

    Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 17:15.
  4. Andrewww
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Sounds very good, I have to play this in VR…! :o)

    Comment posted on 23/01/2017 at 21:00.
  5. Dominic Leighton
    Member
    Since: Mar 2012

    Looks great. There’s not a chance I’m playing it in VR.

    Comment posted on 24/01/2017 at 09:25.
  6. Geffdof23
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    So will the Japanese title be Biohazard 7: Resident Evil?

    Comment posted on 24/01/2017 at 09:38.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      Yes it is

      Comment posted on 24/01/2017 at 11:37.
  7. Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Sounds great and exactly what the series has needed for some time. As someone who prefers 3rd person games over 1st person, it’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m just really pleased to hear the gamble has paid off :)

    Comment posted on 24/01/2017 at 11:53.
  8. Crazy_Del
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Brilliant game that will read the review after I complete my 2nd playthrough starting…… now lol

    Comment posted on 24/01/2017 at 19:59.
  9. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    i hope nobody tried buying the special edition, not in the uk at least.

    apparently, it had a number of, uhm, issues.
    it was too big for the box it came in so many of them came with broken chimneys; or the chimney was sticking through a rip in the top of the box.
    which would at least mean the chimney was still intact.

    and to top that off, in the uk at least, it didn’t even come with a copy of the game.
    there’s an art book, some pictures and a dlc code, for a game you don’t get, but basically you’re paying for a model of the house in the game, although, apparently it doesn’t even match the house in the game.

    so, a hundred quid for a crappy, smelly apparently, broken, inaccurate model.

    Game had to cancel the orders of people who bought it because so many of the models were damaged.

    a tale of greed and incompetence on the part of crapcom.

    a shame, because by most accounts the game actually seems to be good, so for them to pull this kind of shite.
    they see the game getting some positive reactions and the dollar signs light up in their eyes.

    Comment posted on 25/01/2017 at 09:57.
    • Crazy_Del
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Wow that is bad! Thankfully I cancelled mine only to find out the copy of the game is not included it happened to Gears 4 and I was mad as I barely had any money left and GAME told me the game is included they thought it was the code for the digital game. After 30mins with the manager he found out that they are separately. It was very well misleading. Also cancelled Mass Effect too expensive obviously but the game is not part of the deal either!
      That is ridiculous of what was happening with the House collectors edition.
      Ah well I’m loving the game itself in VR mode ^^

      Comment posted on 25/01/2017 at 11:41.
    • Avenger
      Member
      Since: Oct 2012

      It’s been happening far too much recently, lots of games releasing and the collectors edition has no copy of the game with it. Crazy when they ask a high price for all the collectors items, and even more crazy when they call it an ‘edition’. Yeah, the ‘no game to play’ edition, exactly what every gamer wants.

      Comment posted on 25/01/2017 at 11:54.
    • colmshan1990
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      That’s crazy.

      The guys at GameStop showed me the house yesterday, looked cool (and smelled nasty, in what I assume was a deliberate manner). I was tempted but too much to spend considering I have the Switch preordered too.

      I’m not a fan of collector’s editions without games either. Things just become too expensive that way.

      Comment posted on 25/01/2017 at 13:25.
      • Crazy_Del
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        I agree it is ridiculous but I’ll keep an eye out be suprised as a few of mine especially The Last of Us is worth over £500 on eBay ^^ there are a few rares aswell. Really did wanted the house I very much enjoyed the VR experience.

        Comment posted on 25/01/2017 at 20:12.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  • Developer:Capcom
  • Publisher:Capcom
  • Platforms:PS4, XBO, PC, PSVR
  • Release Date:24/01/17

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