No spoilers here! Read with confidence!
But it’s not Resident Evil! It’s in first person! It’s not about zombies! Where’s Umbrella? etc. I know, I’m a couple of months late to the party, but I’m glad I finally turned up because this is the most Resident Evil Resident Evil since Resident Evil. Yes, that was a real sentence that I wrote. This is the latest game in the venerated series, and whilst its perspective may be different when compared to most of the games in the series, this is without a doubt a Resident Evil game. The atmosphere, environment and puzzles call back to the classic and tries to shake off the bad taste left by the more recent entries (I’m looking at you 6!) You’re running around a mansion and it’s grounds, fighting monsters whilst conserving ammo and searching for keys to bizarre locks. That’s pretty Resident Evil if you ask me.
You are Ethan, a man who’s wife, Mia, disappeared 3 years ago. Ethan receives a video message from Mia hinting at her whereabouts and he sets off to find her in a mysterious old manor house on a plantation in the middle of nowhere. If you’ve played the demos released during the (well put together) marketing campaign, you’ll recognise some of the early locations you travel through before you gain access to the house proper. Before long you find yourself stalked by the seemingly psychotic members of the family that live there and the “molded” – black slime monsters that grow from the walls and ceiling and seek to pull your limbs off.
You means of defence are severely limited at first, with a knife and handgun being pretty much all you have for a while, along with some healing items that have some interesting properties. Other weapons can be collected along the way, expanding your defensive options and giving the occasional nod to previous games in the series (particularly the first entry). Most of the combat is against the molded and tends to be rather slow paced and methodical as you try to keep them a safe distance whilst you chip away, minimising you use of ammunition (or maybe running away from them altogether). In this regard, the game is very much like the first Resident Evil, with resource conservation and avoiding conflict being essential early on. The family also stalk the corridors, ready to pursue and attack you if spotted. They can be fended off for a time, but only if you’re willing to spend your resources to do so; better to avoid them or make a heart-pounding escape through the corridors in most cases.
Boss encounters are great exclamation marks to the growing tension in each area with each one becoming more grotesque. Compared to being swarmed by regular enemies though, they tend not to be all that challenging. The only exception was the first proper boss (the second one you confront), and that’s more due to the control scheme not being all that suited to the combat style you end up forced into. Most bosses requite plenty of ammo and a good few healing items (at least they did for me) and good inventory organisation helps in ensuring you have what you need at any point in time. Whilst not entirely challenging, they are entertaining and varied with the exception of the final battle which was big in scale but small on interaction. It was a little disappointing when compared to some of the other encounters.
The only other thing I found really irritating was something that also annoyed me about The Evil Within: traps. Whilst only in the game occasionally and not as obnoxious, I find tripwire based traps and exploding item boxes an annoyance rather than an increase in challenge. They make sense being there in the context of the character who places them, but that doesn’t make them any more fun to trip over. I understand that this is meant to be a slow game (the controls make that obvious fairly early on), but the exploding item boxes are especially aggravating.
I have not sampled the VR mode of this (hey, I’m not made of money) so I can’t really comment on its implementation. It’s fairly clear when playing where the VR is meant to have its greatest impact though. There are a number of times involving characters and items being right in front of your character and I imagine it would be quite effective when wearing a headset. Playing on a TV is fine though, and those moments don’t stand out unless you’re looking for them. The visuals on the whole are excellent throughout and I noticed very little that wasn’t extremely well polished.
Most importantly though, Resident Evil 7 is fun to play. It’s not terrifying by any stretch, but the atmosphere works very well and creates an unsettling feeling throughout. It doesn’t rely on jump-scares but gives a feeling of unease through vulnerability and a lack of preparedness for what may come walking around the next corner. I loved that sense of threat , and found the level of challenge spot on when playing on normal. I’m not going near any higher difficulty though.
Resident Evil 7 was developed and published by Capcom (using an excellent in house engine I should add). I played the games on Xbox One and would recommend it to anyone who likes the classic games in the series or someone looking for a solid, well made horror game. Now here’s hoping Capcom can capitalise and rescue the series long term!