This is it. This is the moment Resident Evil fans have been waiting for. For years, gamers and critics have begged Capcom to stop following irrelevant industry trends and focus on what made the series popular in the first place, and someone at Capcom finally listened. Whoever you are, brave soul (or souls), I commend you for not only keeping the franchise alive, but for catapulting RE back in the right direction.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is unquestionably the most immersive and most enjoyable Resident Evil entry since Resident Evil 4. It completely abandons the action-heavy approach that plagued the last few releases, and instead focuses on spine-tingling pacing and pure horror. RE7 is incomparably atmospheric and terrifying, and it absolutely deserves a place next to other genre greats like Amnesia, Outlast and Silent Hill 2.
When Capcom worked on Resident Evil 6, their goal was to create a horror-themed AAA blockbuster that felt vast in scope and appealed towards a more trigger happy audience. I’m not sure why Capcom thought it was a good idea to force the horror genre into the shooter realm, but as expected, Resident Evil 6 and the numerous subsequent spin-off efforts were tremendous failures. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, on the other hand, is the precise opposite of its predecessor. It’s a smaller, more focused adventure where atmosphere reigns and survival is depended on strategic item management and patience.
"Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is unquestionably the most immersive and most enjoyable Resident Evil entry since Resident Evil 4."
If you’ve played the RE7 demo a few months back, then you already know that this new entry is more of a reboot than a sequel. Capcom has scratched every character and storyline from previous games and only inherited the core elements to construct Resident Evil’s new universe. The Resident Evil of today is a combination of Outlast, Amityville Horror, the Chainsaw Massacre movies and a healthy dose of Sam Raimi goodness scattered throughout.
Players take role of Ethan Winters who begins following a cryptic message from his missing wife Mia. Ethan ends up in a derelict plantation in Dulvey where he finds Mia locked up in the basement. He soon realizes that Mia isn’t herself, and that there are other worldly things possessing the house. In an attempt to escape, Ethan finds himself captured by a demented family. It is in this moment that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard creates a distinct tonal separation from traditional RE lore.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard radiates with a new personality. You won’t find conventional zombies here. I suppose the hillbilly family is reminiscent of the villagers in Resident Evil 4, but there’s a grislier and more sinister ambiance that persists here. The first-person view is an excellent creative decision that intensifies the feeling of being chased by ominous creatures enveloped in darkness.
"Resident Evil 7: Biohazard radiates with a new personality. There’s a grislier and more sinister ambiance that persists here."
If you’re worried that the new entry strays too far from the franchise, I’d like to point out that, despite new characters and a new narrative shift, Resident Evil 7 brings back the essential pieces that have captivated so many players back in 1996: The labyrinthine levels, the sense of isolation, the suspenseful music cues and perilous sound effects, the strategically placed save points, the emphasis on item management and puzzle solving—it’s all back in Resident Evil 7. And frankly, I welcome a refreshing shift in direction after so many years of convoluted storytelling and nonsensical plot holes.
The found-footage quality works superbly thanks to brilliant art direction and impressive technical artistry. The earlier released demo was just teasing what the full game offers aesthetically. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard looks phenomenal. The game runs at a rock-solid 60fps with only minor performance dips during particularly hectic moments. Character models are convincingly rendered and their animations are eerily realistic. Texture work is a bit inconsistent in certain areas as you can find yourself looking at a high-quality wallpaper that’s positioned next to a low-res wood texture. Fortunately, it’s never immersion-breaking thanks to some of the finest lighting work I’ve ever seen in a video game. And if you’re lucky enough to have a TV with HDR capabilities, you’ll really appreciate the dynamic lighting and color depth that HDR adds to the graphical fidelity.
"The labyrinthine levels, the sense of isolation, the suspenseful music cues and perilous sound effects, the strategically placed save points, the emphasis on item management and puzzle solving—it’s all back in Resident Evil 7."
As much as I love Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the game isn’t perfect, and there are more than a handful of minor annoyances. For one, the new zombie-like creatures become repetitive after a while. Their menacing presence loses its impact once you identify their predictable movement patterns, and once you realize how easy they are to escape from. The puzzles, while unquestionably fun, are too easy and too far apart. It’s a similar mistake the first Tomb Raider reboot made, although not quite as extreme.
Conclusion: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a dream come true. Just when I was ready to completely write off the Resident Evil franchise after the horrendous Umbrella Corps, RE7 comes along and completely reignites my love for the series. Capcom really deserves kudos for listening to their audience, and I’m already hyped for the announced DLC that’s just around the corner. 2017 is off to a wonderful start!