Sometimes the decision to go back to the roots is the only one possible. And it’s really surprising to observe how well it served the Resident Evil IP.
Let’s be straight: I wasn’t okay with the shape of Resident Evil 6 and probably many of you weren’t as well. It was revealed that RE7 was originally prototyped as an action game as well. But then someone wise decided that it was worth taking a risk. And it might have been the best move not only to save the series, but to give it back a long-lost feeling.
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, as it is fully titled, is a success – I won’t keep you in the state of uncertainty. And this time it is more about horror and survival rather than action. You participate in the story from the first person perspective, and that single creative direction serves the atmosphere really well. Our main character, Ethan, is a faceless protagonist – that increases the immersion from the beginning.
Ethan’s wife is missing for the last three years. And when all hope seems lost, he receives a message. She’s alive! And the only problem is the fact that you have to go to a previously unknown place and get her back. No worries here! While any normal person would inform someone, our hero embarks on a rescue mission.
And let’s leave this that way for all your own judgement. We quickly end up in front of a house. Or the house, I should say, as the place we visit is creatively used to build the atmosphere of the whole Resident Evil VII (well, most of it, but shhh, spoilers). If you remember the first game in the series, a return to a mansion-like setting is an interesting recall.
It’s hard to talk about this game without sharing too much about the plot or the surprises that wait for you early on. The house, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, seems bigger inside. There are jump scares outside and inside, hefty and multiplicitous. Many of those twists might seem predictable, but fear not… you will be scared a lot. There are some well written scenes, especially in the first half of the game. Even when you get a gun and some ammo, you don’t feel too powerful for too long, and definitely not too strong.
The latest Resident Evil is heavily inspired by other modern horror games and even some movies. While for the most of your gameplay the title feels almost like a spin-off, it connects nicely to the main plot of the series. Just not on the level you would think off. The Baker family, when analysed gameplay-wise, serves here as a genre mix. You’ll have to be careful when facing Lucas and his Saw-like traps. Jack represents unceasing melee danger. And there’s also Margaret… Better be quiet. I very much like the voice work done by the actors, especially because you’ll find some means to discover what happened with the house in the past.
There’s some backtracking involved, but it seems justified. Almost every time you have a single objective and although there are numerous corridors and rooms to discover, you won’t get lost. It’s a pity that almost all puzzles are easy to solve and by far too rare. During your exploration you will search for any items that might help you survive. And there’s more weapons than I’ve expected. Thankfully, almost always you’re on a short supply of ammo and you have to try to conserve your precious equipment.
Later in the game one type of enemies (spoiler?) becomes too common (spoiler?!). I won’t name it, but all encounters are similar and while the first few are pumping some adrenaline, after a while they stop being scary and even get a bit boring. That influences the pacing.
I won’t write much about the graphics, as you can see those abominable (in a creatively positive way) designs on gameplay videos. The art team did a marvelous job here and it’s worth adding that it’s one of the rare titles I liked on PlayStation VR. Unfortunately, I had only a brief chance to experience it that way, but from what I have heard, it’s an even more immersive way to experience the game.
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard becomes more of a shooter and less a horror title in the final hours of the story, but all in all it’s refreshing to see such a radical shift in the developer’s approach. It’s a totally different title than its predecessor and hopefully the next game will take that road once again.