Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Copy obtained via GameFly
Resident Evil 7 is a bold new take on the franchise, but it’s also a strong return to form. While recent entries have begun to trade in the survival horror elements of the earlier games for a more action-oriented experience, Resident Evil 7 gives players the best of both worlds. The new first-person perspective adds a more dynamic and engaging way for you to interact with the environment, while the return of tight inventory management and survival aspects is sure to please longtime fans.
The game opens by introducing you to Ethan Winters, a young man who receives a strange message from his wife, Mia. She’s been missing and presumed dead for three years, so when Ethan learns she’s contacting him from deep in the swamps of Louisiana, he immediately sets out to find her. Where has she been for the past three years? Is she okay? Why is she only now reaching out to him? Unfortunately, Ethan quickly discovers that some questions are better left unanswered.
His journey leads him to an old and seemingly abandoned plantation house. The walls are cracked and crumbling, the windows are all boarded up, and you can practically feel the wave of intimidation and dread engulfing the property. As you take your first steps inside the tattered home, it becomes clear that there’s evil afoot. Whether it’s the blood stains on the floor, a dead crow in the microwave, or garbage bags full of unspecified remains, you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve just trespassed into the wrong home.
After an opening act that teaches you some of the basic mechanics of the game (primarily how to navigate and defend yourself), you’re introduced to the residents of this nightmarish home: the Baker family. The Bakers are a dysfunctional hodgepodge of crazy personalities, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re a bunch of stereotypical rednecks. The Bakers are psychotic and don’t take well to uninvited guests.
Each of the Bakers has a very distinct personality, making your encounters with them highly memorable. The father is an aggressive lumbering brute, patrolling the halls of the plantation while calling out violent threats and taunts. The mother is foulmouthed and neurotic, making encounters with her extremely uncomfortable. Their son is a technological genius, but his skills in making advanced contraptions makes him feel superior to everyone around him. The grandmother also lives with the Bakers, but despite being mute and simply sitting in her wheelchair, she’s one of the must unsettling of the bunch.
The layout of Resident Evil 7 is broken up into a few different zones, with each member of the family residing in a different section. As you explore each new area and solve puzzles, look for keys to open doors, and stress over managing your inventory, you also get to learn more about the Bakers. Collecting notes, drawings, and video tapes helps shed light on the Baker clan and explore their personalities. Each section typically ends with you facing off against one of the family members and while I won’t get into any specifics, I will say that every single boss fight in this game is clever, grotesque, and unforgettable.
While certainly the most memorable of your enemy encounters, the Bakers aren’t the only sources of danger. Tall, strange, and made out of black mold, the aptly named Molded are terrifying beasts that stalk the dark corners of the Baker home. The Molded slowly shamble towards you (similar to traditional Resident Evil zombies), but their slow speed doesn’t mean they aren’t to be feared. The Molded can use their powerful arms to inflict great damage, bite you with their razor sharp teeth, or simply throw themselves at you in an attempt to knock you over.
There’s a few variations (such as a faster four-legged version) to contend with, but they can all be taken out with similar strategies. Although ammo is scarce, unloading pistol rounds or shotguns shells into their face is the fastest way to kill them. Their slow pace gives you plenty of time to line up headshots, but there’s actually a more efficient way to deal with them. You can easily outmaneuver the Molded, so if you’re low on ammo (or simply want to stockpile it for a boss fight) you’re best bet is too just run right past them. Unfortunately, this also takes away from their scare factor, making them more of a nuisance than something to be feared.
What’s really disappointing is that fighting them is actually pretty fun. The weapons in your arsenal are admittedly standard fare (pistol, shotgun, etc.), but there’s some really cool ways you can use these weapons to tip the scale in combat. You can shoot off their arms to eliminate their powerful slashes, shoot them in the legs to cripple them and line up headshots more easily, or even use stun grenades so you can have some time to distance yourself from them. Sadly, it’s far more convenient to just run past everything and save all of your ammo for when you really need it, which made me feel like I had an inventory full of things I could look at, but not touch.
Whether you find yourself running from the Bakers, or quickly passing by the Molded, you’re going to become very familiar with the plantation. Resident Evil 7 has a lot of backtracking, but it also gives you new objectives and motivations for revisiting parts of the home. Whether it’s opening up new rooms of the house (giving you new areas to search for ammo and medicine), or providing you access to puzzles that award you health and weapon upgrades, the backtracking never feels repetitive.
Some of my favorite parts of the game were when I would just explore the house and rummage through the Bakers belongings. Journals, statues, framed pictures and more help the house feel like a lived-in home. Exploring the house is also essential for finding the supplies to survive, since most of the healing items and ammo boxes are hidden away and require you to hunt them down if you really want them. However, this comes with a bit of a risk/reward scenario, since scavenging for supplies is also an easy way for the Bakers and the Molded to sneak up on you.
As you go through the house and the surrounding area outside, there’s a surprising amount of variety to the environments. There’s obviously the Baker home, but there’s also underground pathways, a giant greenhouse, and a few other diabolical locations. I thought the whole game was going to take place inside of the main house, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the game open up to new areas pretty much from the beginning. It’s not a giant open-world experience, but those concerned about the game taking place entirely in one location need not worry.
Resident Evil 7 is the return trip home that fans have been waiting for. It’s dark and unsettling, sees the return of the survival horror aspects, and is an all around bloody fun experience. It has a few issues with the exploitive nature of certain enemy types, but the constant threat of the psychotic Baker family and the incredible atmosphere of the game more than makes up for it.
– Zack Burrows