Review in Progress, score may ultimately be changed.
WARNING: This review contains some disturbing images that are NSFW and are inappropriate for children.
Three years after the disappearance of your wife, you receive a haunting video message confirming that she’s still alive and being holed up at some institution in Louisiana. Making your way into the isolated and, well, creepy backwoods of the south, you come across a large mansion that once belonged to the Baker family. This is where your horrific adventure begins as you make your way through the mansion to rescue your wife and uncover the troubling mysteries within.
I seriously don’t know what’s gotten into me. First Death Parade, then Chaos;Child, now I’m playing my way through a first-person horror/action game. I think I’m a glutton for punishment at this point. That being said: it hurts so good.
Resident Evil 7 makes a departure from its predecessors in a number of ways. First, the exclusively first-person view. While fans of the series may be a bit put off considering it has historically been a third-person franchise, the first-person view does wonders for heightening the tension and horror of the game. When you’re pressed up against the corner of the wall, peering anxiously around the corner to see if a psychopath is coming to kill you, your heartbeat racing, only to be grabbed and turned from behind with a scream…yeah…you begin to appreciate the immersion that view provides.
Another difference with Resident Evil 7 is that the protagonist isn’t a military guy. Hell, he’s not even athletic. He’s just a normal guy looking to rescue his wife from some maniacs, and gets in way over his head. The lack of martial expertise definitely lends itself to the horror aspect, as you can’t just badass your way out of any given situation, and are often hopelessly outclassed without relying on your wits and a steady stream of ammo.
There are other unique traits to call out, but the biggest change with Resident Evil 7 is in fact how it returns to its roots. This is a survival horror game just like the original, of that much you can be confident within the opening minutes. Obviously the graphics have seen quite a jump since the original Resident Evil, so instead of this
You get this:
Resident Evil 7 has been described as a “visceral” experience, which I have to say is an apt description. Having spent the better part of 8 hours today fleeing from homicidal maniacs and hiding behind debris while praying they couldn’t hear me breathing, I am literally exhausted. The entire game is a symphony of terror: from the haunting soundtrack and detailed sound effects to the lighting, voice acting, movements speeds…even the purposefulness of opening and closing doors. It’s an engaging experience to say the least, not to mention gory as hell.
Seriously, I have a pretty tough stomach when it comes to video games. I’ve seen some pretty messed up $*#@ in my years as a gamer, but Resident Evil 7 has tested my iron stomach on a few occasions thus far. There is no shortage of blood or gratuitous violence; the opening 2-3 hours features an amputated hand, a bisected skull, an impaled arm, a broken arm, chainsaw injuries, running someone over with a car, and completely disemboweling someone else with a chainsaw until their upper half essentially explodes into a jelly of flesh, muscle and blood that oozes, quite realistically, across the floor. Again, I’ve not yet finished this game and this is just a small sampling of what you have in store.
Which brings me to my next (brief) point: Parents. This game is messed up. Sometimes M ratings are for content that may not be easily accessible or required, but this is not one of those times. Please take this into consideration. I am typically at the forefront of “Video games won’t mess kids up so let them play what they want” – but there is some seriously disturbing content in this game that sets it apart and compels me to call it out. Ultimately you’ll make the decision for your own kid, but don’t let them tell you it’s “Not that bad.” It is that bad.
So, Resident Evil 7 returns to the survival horror genre, and you can definitely feel it in the gameplay. While the more recent games (4-6 specifically) leaned more towards 3rd person action titles with ample ammunition and continuous action, this game keeps things moving at a slower pace, but also is more intentional with every encounter. Ammo is a precious commodity that is not to be wasted – you will lament every missed shot, because that bullet you just put in the wall could be the bullet that saves your life when you go into the next room. This also causes you some emotional anxiety and stress, as you wonder what your fate will be when you wander into a room full of monsters with two handgun bullets, a shotgun shell, and your handy knife.
In traditional Resident Evil fashion there is a healthy item and combination system that allows you to collect materials and create useful items including handgun ammo, health kits, stimulants and more.
Managing your items is a game within a game, as you’re limited to 12 item slots. It doesn’t sound too terrible when you consider that herbs or healing items take one slot and can stack, but toss in the other items, larger weapons and materials for recipes and all of the sudden you find yourself organizing your inventory while being chased down by monsters.
Rather than a constant stream of enemies, Resident Evil 7 keeps the action going with the looming threat of “The Family” – invulnerable psychos who wander the grounds in different stages. Much of the tension relies on you staying out of their sight, and when they do see you, having a good understanding of the map to get away and be able to hide until they leave and you can make your way to your next objective. You can temporarily incapacitate your pursuers, but it wastes valuable ammo and resources, so you discover early on it’s best not to be seen so you can save your supplies for the necessary fights.
While the fear is real, the gameplay can get a bit predictable after a while, and the big confrontations aren’t particularly engaging. Sure, they might require some environmental interaction, but if you’ve got a good grip of shotgun shells and can pace yourself, you won’t encounter too much difficulty.
The story so far is compelling – a well told horror story by any means. What still remains to be seen is how it will tie itself into the larger franchise, and how seamless the integration will be. What role does Umbrella corp have in all this? How and when will they reveal themselves? I’ll be diving back in to find out, but in the meantime I would offer the following take on Resident Evil 7: it’s a refreshing return to survival horror that is currently providing one of the most involved experiences I’ve had on PS4 in a while. My thoughts are with those brave enough to venture into the VR version of the game – I tip my hat to you.
Once more unto the breach!