Title: Resident Evil 7

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Steam

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: FPS, Survival Horror, Action

Players: Single player




Written by Whistler 4th February 2017
















I can vaguely remember a comment made by the late Lemmy Kilmister that went along the lines of “if someone steals our style, then let them, maybe they’ll do something better and we can steal it back”. I’m often reminded of horror in video gaming when I think back to that terribly butchered paraphrase. It’s often conceived that survival horror origins can be traced back to the early 90’s PC game Alone in the Dark and retrospectively Capcom’s Sweet Home for the NES. Then came the very first Resident Evil that solidified survival horror in history and from then on I feel the horror genre has always gone back and forth ‘swapping’ ideas. For quite some time now though Capcom’s baby has gone through a rather embarrassing midlife crisis and has certainly struggled to maintain it’s identity as the years have gone by.


Then all of a sudden Resident Evil 7 comes around, a first person shooter claiming to take the series back to it’s roots which was met with extreme skepticism. Ever since it was flung into the public eye coincidentally after Kojima and Konami’s divorce, every time I seen or heard of it's development I could feel my eyes roll and my hand make a little gun gesture. But here we are, Janurary 2017 and the results are in, so was the skepticism well met or have Capcom finally managed to pull a u-turn and save this arguably dying franchise?


























Set deep in the bayous of Louisiana, Ethan Winters’s (Generic Protagonist type #17B) search for his missing wife has brought him to the seemingly abandoned Baker’s home. With nothing to go on besides an email from Mia he delves deep into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired abode and must survive the nightmarish experience. While it has a strong opening the plot has a habit of moving at an inconsistent pace leaving it up to our protagonist’s goal and gameplay to carry it along.

Even when the game reaches it’s final stretch it must be said that the handful of revelations lack as much impact as intended, somewhat hampered by the clunky writing and average to subpar voice acting.


The Baker family themselves though are a disgustingly delightful bunch and to heighten the experience of the early portion of the game. While granted they fall into typical horror (or more appropriately slasher) genre tropes they do help bring some creative variety and compliment Resident Evil 7’s locales.

Clearly taking cues from the franchise’s flagship title, levels are put together with lavish amounts detail interwoven into every hallway, room and set dressing, invoking that eerie atmosphere of the Spencer Mansion.

While you’ll learn about the Baker family through documents littered around the locations themselves, there’s also an endearing amount of effort placed into the set dressing that helps ‘show’ you their story.


Thanks to this and several other elements, the exploration found in Resident Evil 7 is a highly enjoyable aspect of the overall experience. In grand ye old tradition, players will need to explore the unsettling abode while avoiding the family residents, scavenging for ammo and solving various puzzles. Exploring always feels tense as you dread wasting precious ammo or risking another run in with those who don’t understand personal. Puzzle solving feels rather shallow in comparison however, mostly boiling down to simply hunting down a key item or a incredibly easy to solve test of the mind.

Sadly it never quite hits that high note where you’ve finally lined up the puzzles and mastered an overarching riddle. It doesn’t harm the overall gameplay but would have been nice to have some real brain teasers every once in awhile instead of the overused light/shadow puzzles.


























Combat is likely the most polarizing aspect of Resident Evil.

While not the first in the franchise to change perspective nor even the first FPS (at least if we’re including the spin off titles) it still feels a little jarring between the original trio’s fixed camera angles and the later half’s over-the-shoulder perspective. Personally I don’t mind the shift as typically horror in first person is far more immersive but it does somewhat feel like Capcom’s attempt to stay relevant compared to the likes of Outlast, Soma and PT. Initially conflicts present an intense frantic splash of action, however should you play even a fraction as cautiously as you would in say RE:HD then they’ll quickly become dull routine or at best an annoyance. This is confounded further due to the rather sparse enemy variants and some of the blandest designs the franchise has seen.

Alas having frequently played the traditional entries in the franchise I was all too ready to save every bullet and herb and thusly reached RE7’s final stretch feeling like Rambo with how much firepower I was carrying.


By far though Resident Evil 7’s crowning achievement lies within it’s sound design, breathing life and truly visceral horror into the dark and decrepit atmosphere. While the soundtrack tends to lean on the more subtle end and I still find myself preferring the originals’, what were everyday mundane sounds have been amplified to a degree that always sets you on edge.

Every little footstep, creaking wood, breaking branch and open window assaulted by nature paints such a sickeningly vivid picture as you find yourself peeking around every corner and hope it really was “just the wind”.


























Overall there’s still plenty of inconsistencies that are readily present for longtime fans to see as Resident Evil struggles to decide if it would rather wear the face of the originals or one of the many layers of modern horror.

There are times you can feel it nudging you with B movie over-the-topness and then others it puts on a mask and you’d be forgiven for thinking you had mistakenly loaded a save from Soma.

While it feels like seeing Resident Evil through the lens of other horror games it’s nonetheless a fantastic title and a good Resident Evil at that.

As it stands should this be the direction the franchise takes then it’s the best outcome we could have realistically hoped for (hell the further away from any similarities with RE6 the better). It’ll be an interesting sight to see as the franchise boldly goes forth into the unknown and see how 7 plays into the overarching metanarrative, but only time will tell.



Pros:

Disgustingly good sound design,

Gameplay more akin to the classics of survival horror,

Great attention to detail in level design,

Genuinely great tension building and execution of scares.


Cons:

Combat falls off due to abundance in ammo,

Disappointing enemy designs,

Somewhat lacking puzzles,

Frequent framerate stutters at certain areas on PC,

Mediocre voice acting (excluding the Baker’s family cast).


Final verdict,

It doesn’t necessarily take Resident Evil “back to its roots” but Resident Evil 7 scores a solid 8/10.

 

Written by,

Whistler

 

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