When Resident Evil 7 was first announced, Capcom made a promise to the fans of the series that the franchise would see a return to its horror roots that originally brought the series its fame. Now, after playing through the game, I can say that Capcom did an admirable job of keeping that promise.
While Resident Evil 7 isn’t a perfect entry to the franchise, it has enough tension and atmosphere to make it easy to recommend to both newcomers and long-time fans of the series.
Resident Evil 7 starts off with protagonist Ethan Winters heading to Dulvey, Louisiana after an email from his wife, Mia Winters, arrives three years after her disappearance telling Ethan to come get her. This is where the story starts and it doesn’t take very long for things to go very bad. After a short walk, the players enter and begin exploring the Baker household. After finding Mia, who is quickly taken away, Ethan is captured by the Baker’s and the nightmare begins.
While it would have been easy to make the Baker’s one dimensional, they are far more than what they first appear. Slowly discovering more about them is all a part of the fun and there are more than a few surprises throughout the ten hour experience.
Resident Evil 7 truly does mark a return to the survival horror genre the franchise had left with 5 and 6, at least in the beginning. Ammo and first aid sprays, along with the items required to craft them, are difficult to come by. Players backtrack as they discover keys to open new areas of the house. Inventory management makes a welcome return as players will have to make runs to item boxes and choose if they want that extra pistol ammo or the first aid spray. It’s all great fun and truly puts the “survival,” back into survival horror. Players will have to make each shot count and always be on the lookout for ways to avoid encounters with the Baker family members as well as the numerous Molded creatures that walk the dirty halls of the Baker mansion. The Molded are exactly what they sound like, unnatural creatures formed by mold that poses unnatural strength. They make for a dangerous enemy, if a predictable one. The player always knows when there are going to be Molded because a black mold will cover the area. This takes away a lot of the unpredictability and makes the enemies far less frightening than they could have been. Still, they work well enough, and can certainly lead to plenty of tense fights as your ammo count is running low and you have to decide if killing this Molded is worth not having enough ammo for the challenges ahead.
Thankfully, the Molded have one giant weakness, a complete inability to open doors. Of course, racing through a room to escape the Molded by running through a nearby door isn’t always a good idea. You never know what is waiting around the next corner, and it could be far worse than the Molded.
I am talking about the Baker family themselves. Jack, Lucas, and Marguerite are a far more difficult challenge to overcome. They won’t be stopped by such measly defenses such as doors and bullets, no, your best bet when any of these guys have their eyes on you is to run to the nearest safe room and hope you can lose them. Players will have to play the stealth game when being hunted by these guys and it makes for a horrifyingly thrilling experience. Especially Jack, since he is always talking to you, letting you know you won’t be getting away. The chatter along with dark and gritty household filled with little knick-knacks creates an incredible atmosphere that allows the player to learn more and more about the Baker family. It helps make them feel more human and less like mindless animals whose only goal is to kill you. Of course, I didn’t feel bad about fighting any of them in the game’s boss fights.
The best thing to say about the boss fights is that they are functional. I feel the game would have certainly benefited without them as they pull the player away from the horror elements to shoot bad guys with guns. That is about all the boss fights consist of, shoot the bad guy with guns before he kills you. Sometimes you have to shoot them in specific areas but it rarely poses a challenge and gets rid of the horror elements of the game because you know what you’re fighting. Leaving the Baker family as an enigma would have made them far more terrifying.
Unfortunately, another weak point of the game comes at the end. Once the secrets of the Baker family and Mia are revealed, the game just throws all the horror elements that have been so great and tosses them out the window. At the end of the game, I had a grenade launcher, flame thrower, shotgun, and the pistol all with plentiful ammo. The game becomes a linear run through as you shoot and blast your way through the Molded. It gets rid of the backtracking and slow exploration and replaces it with a more Resident Evil 5 style gameplay. It was at this point the lack of variety when it came to enemies became painfully obvious. Shooting the same enemy over and over again is only fun for so long and quickly becomes a slog to get through.
Resident Evil 7 certainly isn’t the prettiest game I have ever seen, but it holds its own very well. The aesthetic is perfectly dark and spooky and helps create a phenomenal atmosphere that constantly had me on edge as I slowly made my way through the mansion.
While the graphics are certainly nice Capcom knocked it out of the park with the sound design. There isn’t much music in the game, and it is terrifying. The quiet makes every bump, every scratch that much more noticeable. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, terrified that with every bump I heard something was sneaking up behind me or trying to get at me from somewhere. While this was rarely the case, the fact that it could happen had me at the edge of my seat. This is definitely some of the best sound design found in a horror game. The sound design made it so the game didn’t need a lot of cheap jump scares to keep the player off guard, the uncertainty of every sound was more than enough.
Resident Evil 7 isn’t perfect. It falters in its boss fights and the ending. However, the story as a whole holds itself up nicely and makes a perfect entry point for those new to the series while offering a deeper connection to the overall Resident Evil story. Thankfully, the identity crisis at the end where Resident Evil 7 forgets that it is a survival horror game is easy to overlook by how fantastic everything else is. Slowly making my way through the Baker mansion was a tense and terrifying experience that makes the game easy to recommend. Not to mention the numerous unlockables, such as infinite ammo and glasses that reveal items in a room make for great incentives to play through the game multiple times. This is a great step in the right direction for the franchise and I can’t wait to see the series improve even further.
This copy of Resident Evil 7 was purchased by the reviewer.