As I navigated the haunting halls of the Baker house, I found myself in a consistent state of dread and suspense; a feeling of welcoming nostalgia and troubling paranoia overwhelming me at every corner. I investigated the house looking for anything that could aid in my escape and I soon realized that nothing is as easy as it seems. I was never truly one to be able to survive an interactive horror experience—to this day, I have not finished Outlast, nor have I managed to stomach the demo for Outlast 2—but Resident Evil was different, and as terrified as I was for the first five hours of my experience, I managed to power through it and see the narrative unfold to its satisfying end.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard returns to the beloved roots of the Resident Evil series and respectfully bows away from the latest theme of Hollywood-styled action and cinematic gameplay. While Resident Evil 7 feels in no way dated, it is highly reminiscent to the classic days at the Spencer Mansion, including the sense of danger at every turn and a remarkable ability to test the spectrums of your guard. I found myself in a constant state of paranoia due to the fact that I would have my guard up at every moment and just when I thought nothing would happen…that’s when it did. Naturally, the one familiar feature missing is the claustrophobic camera angles as Resident Evil 7 is a first person experience, but it creates a much more immersive game world to the point where one would often forget they were actually playing a video game.
Within the narrative, we meet our new protagonist, Ethan Winters. Ethan receives a troubling communication from his wife, Mia, who’s been missing for three years. Ethan travels to a homestead in Dulvey, Louisiana at his wife’s behest and finds his way inside the house after exploring the grounds and finding some disturbing decor. Ethan explores the inner workings of the house and soon discovers that something strange is going on—Ethan finds himself trapped in the house with its homicidal occupants and must fight and do whatever it takes to survive, putting himself to the ultimate test of resolve.
It’s worth mentioning that the story behind Resident Evil 7 is truly a mystery to investigate and unfold—the more Ethan explores, the more he finds and understands. It initially seems straightforward, and then takes a turn for the interesting and disturbing, before finally coming full circle with a well thought out narrative and theme. Like the classic Resident Evil titles, exploration is key and will allow the player to further progress into the game and story—doing so, however, is not easy and will require a bit of detective work and problem solving. Players will find themselves immersed in constructive puzzles and creative visions to dive deeper into the Baker house, all while being stalked and hunted by the Baker family.
Resident Evil 7 is also highly reminiscent to the original games in the series by its gameplay mechanics that take a modernized approach to a classic and successful formula, and never once feels dated or out of place. Inventory management makes a return and is understandably restrictive, though gamers will receive some relief by way of storage boxes in safe rooms. Within the Baker house, there are specific rooms containing save points that are considered to be “safe rooms,” where the player is protected from harm. It’s an interesting offering and works in peculiar ways—even during pursuit, if the player runs into a save room, the player’s pursuer will give up the chase and resume stalking the nearby area as long as the player remains in the room. The storage boxes in the safe room allow players to store and retrieve excessive items, allowing for versatility within one’s inventory. On harder difficulties, like Madhouse, players will require cassette tapes in order to save their game, like classic Resident Evil, and yes, they do take up inventory space. You may also find backpacks hidden in key locations that allow for inventory expansion, to carry more items at one time, though I still found myself making frequent visits to the storage boxes to ensure that I had sufficient room for items I may stumble upon during my journey. One could never have too much chem fluid, gunpowder, and herbs.
Speaking of, there’s also a crafting element that comes by way of combining items, like usual. As players navigate the Baker house, you’ll find yourself coming across seeming disconnected items until they’re combined and before you know it, you’ll be creating health concoctions and ammunition. It was perhaps my good fortune of initially playing the game on the easiest difficulty setting so that I could become acclimated with the experience before attempting the infamous Madhouse mode, but I always found helpful items to be plentiful—though I still found myself being incredibly frugal with everything I came across. I couldn’t tell you how many times I made foolish mistakes and my inner me was screaming about horror stereotypes and why idiots never survive, so I needed all the help I could get.
It goes without saying that Resident Evil 7 is terrifying and don’t listen to anyone that says otherwise. I promise you, there were moments in the game where I literally screamed so loud, my dog had to come investigate what was going on…and they were frequent. I found myself petrified and unable to proceed until I managed to force myself to continue and eventually grow a pair and muscle through the Baker house. It wasn’t until a certain turning point at about five hours into my nine hour play through that I wasn’t afraid anymore and welcomed adversity and conflict. I dared creatures to “come at me, bro” and I was so irrevocably proud of myself as I am essentially a wet noodle when it comes to horror games. I’m an absolute lush for horror movies and HP Lovecraft, but when it comes to video games, it’s a whole different story. I literally have to force myself through and pray I don’t have a panic attack somewhere down the line. It’s for these reasons that I have not yet finished Resident Evil 7 in VR—it is absolutely ridiculous. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most immersive experience on the PS VR that I have seen to date and it terrifies me. I could barely play Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, but I simply cannot stomach Resident Evil 7 in VR—I will eventually force myself through it…during the day, in broad daylight…eventually.
Resident Evil 7 is an absolutely brilliant experience that takes players on a terrifying journey of survival horror through the Baker house and its territories. I think one of the best themes of the game is that once you think it’s over, you soon discover that you’re wrong and it pulls you right back into survival. It keeps you on your toes at all times and is truly a remarkable experience and one of my favorite games of all time. Resident Evil 7 is reminiscent of the original installments and reminds us what made Resident Evil so great in the first place, without ever once feeling outdated or out of place. With all honesty, in my opinion, it is the best Resident Evil experience since the original in 1996.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.