Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a wonderful, intimate exploration into a family themed viral outbreak vs the corporate urban virus outbreaks, we are used to with past Resident Evil titles. I played Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and had a ton of fun navigating through creepy hallways and ghost ships while fighting crazy possessed humans to odd goo beasts. While the story didn’t impress me, the new approach to an old title did. This game has tons of unexplored potential, but gives you just enough of a taste to want more.
The element of horror is definitely obvious in this title. There is a constant sense of tension and fear while wandering through the scenery. The Baker family successfully torments you throughout the game. Each area has its own dangers and style. There is really only one type of monster in this game outside of the Bakers which is a little disappointing. The monsters present definitely fit the story as it’s revealed. As you access a freighter later on in the game I can’t help but feel like this title is a modern version of Game Boy Color game Resident Evil Gaiden where a viral outbreak infects a passenger ship. This title starred Leon S. Kennedy and Barry Burton together.
When you begin the game in the Baker Estate the entire story feels like a good old fashioned horror movie. Really, you can attribute different horror movies to different parts of Resident Evil 7. The first portion of the game feels very similar to Sam Raimi’s classic, The Evil Dead. Ed Gein is an obvious influence with the Baker Family as well. In a nutshell, you are Ethan, husband to the rescue of his three-year lost wife, Mia Winters. This is when you get swept up into the chaos going on with the Bakers. We have a hillbilly father, Jack Baker, who is deliberately and controlling, Marguerite Baker, who is the cook of the home and does NOT like it when you did her dishes and Lucas Baker, insane son who rather enjoys games and violence. Oh, and don’t forget about Grandma, she just kind of hangs around the house silently in her wheel chair. How she gets around is anyone’s guess.
As the story evolves there turns out to be a very good reason for the Bakers insanity revealed as the story progresses. The virus prominent in the series returns as the D and E virus and Jack at times reminds one of the Nemesis at times as he also found a love of breaking through walls. Another throwback I love is finding files and maps for areas you’re in. I do wish they had expanded on the story in terms of Umbrellas involvement. The main element Resident Evil 7 lacks is deepness of story. There is a basic idea, but the interconnectivity of the Resident Evil world is not as prominent in this title, which could have given it a deeper storyline than it ended up with. Another gripe I have is that Ethan and his wife just feel… distant. They remind me of siblings or just really good friends rather than husband and wife. There could have been a deeper, more developed relationship between these two big characters. I’m curious as to how Capcom will approach a follow up to this entry.
For gameplay, most of the game is spent wandering the property the Bakers Estate occupies which includes swamplands, a dilapidated house with many places rotting away, a salt mine and a wrecked freighter. As far as variety there is not much variety and a few places that felt like they had potential to be much creepier. The first person point of view works perfectly with the environment and system that the RE Team created for this game. It’s a perfect balance between full out Survival Horror and Action oriented Survival Horror that Resident Evil is great at. There are plenty of collectibles to be had with Antique Coins and Mr. Everywhere Bubbleheads to find. In the game’s nightmare difficulty, Mad House, there are twice as many coins to find as well for those of you who love collectibles as I do.
The visuals in this game are amongst some of the best I’ve seen in the genre from murky swamplands with hordes of flies and insects you constantly swat away to boating through the bayou and finding a lost vessel in your midst. Seeing the mansion for the first time brought back fond memories of visiting the Spencer Mansion in the original Resident Evil. There are many elements around the environment in the game you can interact with and get a general feel of the Bakers life before this event. Trophies and football memorabilia litter the shelves and taxidermy animals stand as some of the house’s décor, something that is a bit of a classic element to Resident Evil games in general.
The mechanics of the game were fresh and simplified giving the menu and interface a very minimalist feel which allows one to focus more on the environment and atmosphere. I found the old Tetris style menus and arrow based button prompts to be both simple yet aesthetically pleasing. The doors opened and closed fluidly and thankfully shut fluidly as well to keep most monsters out behind you. One fun little retro mechanic is the use of Steroids and Backpacks for health and space upgrades respectively. The bird cage payment system for upgrades and special weapons has also been reminiscent of classic retro elements as well. These elements helped the game feel both classic and new at the same time. The cassette tape player that is the menu of Resident Evil is one of my favorite start menus for games in a while. It’s such a great throwback to the Ink Ribbon and Type Writers from the previous titles in the series. The sound of the cassette as you switch between menu items makes it feel as though you are actually pushing buttons on this player. This was just the beginning of the experience that is Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The title is fitting, considering this is the latest in the main series of Resident Evil and Biohazard is the title of the game overseas. Capcom is making a statement that this is not only the latest in their best- selling franchise, but they’re going back to their roots in horror that made the first release so beloved.
Another one of my favorite elements of the game is viewing memories or flashbacks through VHS tapes you can find lying around the mansion. I find it to be a genius way to show what happened to certain characters introduced in the RE7 Demo, The Beginning Hour. The VHS tapes allow you to take control of characters that you don’t know the fates of. This causes you to cautiously approach each tape as you know you can die any minute.
The DLC for Resident Evil, which is introduced through more of these VHS tapes, has the potential to continue as long as Capcom desires. Thus far, I have had the opportunity to play through the Banned Footage Vol 1 and it really introduces the most puzzles in RE7. The lack of quantity of puzzles elsewhere is a little disappointing. While I enjoyed the shadow puzzles I would have to say my favorite puzzle was one involving pictures controlling a safe. It was a welcome throwback to the older games.
In short; the mechanics and meus of the game are fresh and pleasing along with the graphics. Many throw backs and collectibles give the game replay value and are fun to live again and again. While atmospheric sounds are beautiful and well placed, there is a lack of music throughout the game that could have been filled a little better with either more atmospheric sounds or soft piano that RE is known for. DLC is cleverly implemented through VHS tapes, but the puzzles and monster variety is a bit lacking. The game had tons of tense moments and good replay value and I am more than just excited for where Capcom can go from here!