It has been quite a while since a game has made me jump out of my chair screaming “OH SHIT!” It delights me to say that Resident Evil 7 somehow managed to make that happen on multiple occasions. It is an awesome yet terrifying feeling that is reminiscent of the series’ original titles. In Resident Evil 7, Capcom attempts to return the iconic franchise back to its roots. Is this the true survival horror revival the fans have been waiting for or just another dud? Keep reading to find out!
“Welcome to the family son!”
It should be noted that Resident Evil 7 is an entirely first-person experience that has been optimized for the PlayStation VR. I did not play the game in VR mode and will go over my thoughts on that later in the review.
Barring the exception of the game’s first-person perspective, the gameplay feels like a classic RE. (Classic referring to RE 1-3, not 4-6). The majority of your time is spent exploring a number of creepy residential areas with several locked doors and items to collect. The items you collect will be used to solve puzzles that allow you to move forward and advance the story. A number of classic items return such as: emblematic keys, cranks, and good old green herbs. While collecting items and solving puzzles is fun, the experience wouldn’t be nearly as intense if it weren’t for the game’s main antagonists, The Bakers. The Bakers train you from the very beginning of the game to take caution around every corner. One minute you’re at max health and loaded with ammo, and the next you’re taking a shovel to face and unloading every bullet you have. It’s this exact kind of dynamic tension that made the original Resident Evil games great. It satisfies me that Capcom has returned to the classic formula. Despite being intense, the game never really leaves you in any impossible situations. There is always just enough ammo to keep you alive, and if that fails you can rely on your knife (good luck with that).
I completed my first playthrough of the game in around 12 hours. I was being very thorough in exploring every area and trying to find all the files. The game is on the shorter side, but then again most Resident Evil games run about the same amount of time.
Overall, I wholeheartedly enjoyed Resident Evil’s gameplay with the exception of 2 minor gripes.
1.) The controls: The controls for the most part are fine. However, the assignment of run to the L3 button and duck to the R3 button was (literally) killing me. It’s both too easy duck while aiming and to stop running while moving forward. I found myself dying in a number of situations where I was simply trying to aim and shoot but ended up ducking instead. I don’t see any reason why duck couldn’t have been mapped to one of the face buttons. The X button does nothing in this game, why couldn’t we use that to duck? The controls were frustrating and took a while to get used to, but they were manageable in the end.
Side note: It has occurred to me that this L3 and R3 control set up may have been intentionally implemented to create tension. Nothing is more frustrating than losing control in a tense situation. When you accidentally stop running or start ducking while you’re low on health (and ammo) but still manage to escape, you feel relieved. Relief soon turns into terror because you know there are even more horrors waiting around the next corner. I could be looking too far into this, but if that was Capcom’s intention I get it.
2.) The difficulty: Towards the end of the game everything seems to become much, much, easier. As you gain access to more powerful weapons you also gain access to more ammo. At the end of the game not much can stop you when you’re running around with a grenade launcher, shotgun, machine gun, and a flamethrower… In short, the game starts off hard and becomes progressively easier. It’s just a shame that the game lets up on all the tension it builds up in the beginning. In my opinion, having too much power in a survival horror game kind of defeats the purpose of the genre. Beating a survival horror game should be like a breath of fresh air, a satisfactory release of tension. Instead the game offers you way too much security in the end. A harder difficulty is unlocked upon your first completion of the game, but I feel the starting Normal difficulty should have continued to remain a challenge.
Side note: It has come to my attention that many people are having a very hard time with this game on Normal. Taking into consideration that I have played all of the previous numbered titles in the series, I personally thought RE7 was easy on Normal mode. I am convinced that the game provides you with more than enough ammo to kill every single enemy you encounter and then some. However, if you are new to the series I can see how this may prove challenging for some.
Graphics, Sound, and Presentation:
Puzzles are back! Yes!
The graphics in the game are excellent. However, I don’t think they are the best the system has to offer. The character models look a bit rubbery and the enemies have a somewhat polished, waxy look to them. This is a just a minor complaint because the characters and enemies do look amazingly smooth in action. The game’s environments are stunning. There is one moment early on in the game that results in the destruction of one of the game’s environments. This moment was so seamless it blew me away (it also scared me shitless). I can’t even imagine how intense this moment must have been for those playing in VR. That also leads to my next concern…
My biggest problem with the game’s presentation is that it feels like it was meant to be experienced entirely in VR. This is made highly evident during cinematic sequences when enemies grab you at eye level or when anything is thrown at your face. During my time with the game, I had a nagging suspicion that I was missing out on a really awesome experience due to my lack of the VR headset. The game is perfectly playable without it, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out. It was similar to watching the 2D version of a movie that is intended to be viewed in 3D (see: Avatar, Beowulf, Gravity).
The music and sound effects are on point. The soundtrack is atmospheric and does what it needs to match the action on the screen. The sound effects are appropriately disgusting; the voice acting is great and at times can be a bit goofy. I really enjoyed how the main character’s sentiments often mirror the player’s. In actuality, some of the best segments of the game are silent. Nothing is more unsettling than being alone in a completely silent room, left to wonder what’s outside. They really nailed the balance between silence and the use of music in this game.
(No Major Spoilers here, but some of my comments may spoil how you look at the game – just a forewarning.)
When compared to its predecessors, RE7’s story moves at a much slower pace. According to the producers RE7 takes place after the events of RE6. Although it is a sequel, the game does not rely much on the series’ lore at all. If you are new to the series, you don’t need to play any of the previous games in order to jump into RE7. This installment puts players in the shoes of Ethan Winters. Unfortunately, Ethan isn’t the most exciting character to grace the Resident Evil series. All we ever learn about Ethan is that he’s looking for his wife, and that’s it. Ethan is pretty much an avatar for the player that we don’t get to name or customize. Beyond Ethan, it is the Bakers who really steal the show in this game. The Bakers – Jack, Marguerite, and Lucas all have interesting interactions with Ethan and each other. Jack in particular somehow manages to be funny, annoying, and terrifying all at once. The Bakers also have some backstory that you learn about by reading the scattered files throughout their home. While I enjoyed the various character interactions, the overall story left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. I understand that this game was a sort of reboot made to appeal to a newer audience, but the story just felt like it was missing something. I want to say it’s simply an emotional connection to the characters within the story. I cared about Jill, Chris, Claire, Leon, and even Carlos in the original games. I can’t say I care much about Ethan or his wife… I had more of a connection to poor Clancy from the demo (That guy had it rough…).
Will you make it out alive?
In the end, I believe Resident Evil 7 is a successful return to form for the franchise. The first half of the game was everything I ever wanted from a survival horror game: tension, fast-paced gameplay, a spooky soundtrack, item management, and jump scares that will make you scream. The second half of the game kinda fizzled off on tension, but it was never boring at any point. Despite a few minor complaints, I think that Resident Evil 7 is a very good game. I enjoyed my time playing it and I will surely play it again in the future. It’s a short experience, but I still recommend Resident Evil 7 to longtime fans and newcomers alike. Don’t forget to the turn of the lights.
I give Resident Evil 7:
A solid 4 Crunch Tacos out of 5!
If any of you readers have experienced the game with the PlayStation VR please let me know your thoughts! I really want to know if the VR Headset is worth the purchase price. Regardless, VR or not, I really want to hear what you guys have to say! Drop a comment below or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Later Guys!