The RESIDENT EVIL series by Capcom hasn’t been too stellar in recent years thanks to sequels like RESIDENT EVIL 5 and 6. You could say that it is thanks to RESIDENT EVIL 4, with its more action-oriented approach, that those sequels came to fruition. Both games took the action element to the max while neglecting the classic survival horror elements that made the series popular. However, with the release of RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD (RE7), the series has once again returned to its classic roots of mansion exploration, puzzle solving, and true RESIDENT EVIL survival horror.
The events of RESIDENT EVIL 7 unfold in 2017 at a haunted southern plantation home in Dulvey, Louisiana, owned by the Bakers. Ethan Winters, whom you mainly play as, arrives on the scene to investigate his wife Mia’s disappearance. Ethan last hears from her in an email requesting him to find her at the Dulvey haunted home. Mia is also one of the slew of missing people to have vanished in the area. Local news reports say that these disappearances may be related to alleged ghost sightings in the Baker residence. However, this is not going to stop Ethan from searching for Mia’s whereabouts. Not turning back, he ventures inside the residence.
There is much more to RE7’s plot than what seems to be a premise for a horror film story. Series veterans should have an idea of what the plot entails because it’s more than just paranormal sightings. If it’s any indication, the game’s title includes “biohazard” (Japanese name for the RE series) as its subtitle. For newcomers, RESIDENT EVIL’s storyline has always dealt with viruses and RE7 doesn’t stray far from it.
Let’s just say the alleged ghost sightings are related to a viral infection. I recommend newcomers to at least play the first three RESIDENT EVIL titles in case they get baffled by the story. However, they should have no trouble understanding RE7’s story as it only loosely follows previous titles, plus a few subtle references here and there.
Characters & Enemies
RESIDENT EVIL 7 is also the first in the series to not bring back any returning characters in the main story, though you may see at least one returning character in a future DLC mission titled “Not A Hero,” set to be released later this month. We don’t know much about our main player Ethan other than that he’s inexperienced in combat. Despite this, he seems to have a natural penchant for using firearms from the get go once he finds them and battles RE7’s enemies without trouble at all.
What I mainly love is that Ethan starts with no default weapons and he’s just an average guy. To me, this heightens the survival aspect of the game, but sort of has me perplexed. Who enters a haunted house unarmed? I ask this because we’re dealing with a missing wife. Ethan should at least have the decency to carry a knife for self-defense purposes.
The only other thing that annoys me is Ethan’s bland personality. This is indicative of his dialogue with the game’s other characters. He seems to have a calm demeanor, but his dialogue seems a bit boring during certain scenarios. If he ever returns, I hope Capcom gives him more personality.
In terms of enemies, players will mainly face off against “the Molded,” a new type of enemy introduced in RESIDENT EVIL 7, with designs reminiscent to RESIDENT EVIL 4’s Regenerador. They serve as the “zombies” of the game but are much more aggressive in nature. However, like their zombie brethren, they can be easily killed with a few pistol rounds or even a couple of knife swipes to the head. Beware, though, because shooting their head will result in the Molded aggressively lumbering towards you for an attack.
Besides the Molded, Ethan will also have to fight the Baker family. They serve as RE7’s main antagonists. The family members you have to face are Jack, Marguerite, and Lucas Baker. The Bakers are demented and only want to see Ethan perish. To them, Ethan is an obstruction to their goals in creating a “family.” You’ll mainly fight Jack and Marguerite Baker as bosses in the game.
Jack Baker, the head of the house and primary antagonist, may be a middle-aged man, but he’s tough to boot and pretty agile. Fans of RESIDENT EVIL 3’s Nemesis may be delighted by Jack’s character as he shares similarities. For one, good old Jack will chase you through certain mansion areas while taunting how hopeless Ethan is. During these scenarios, you can either avoid or incapacitate him, except for mandatory boss battles. From his boss fights to his lines, there’s nothing I really dislike about Jack.
Next up on RESIDENT EVIL 7’s main villain list is Marguerite Baker, Jack’s wife and second antagonist. Once again, looks are not everything as she has the uncanny ability to control insects and spiders. There will be moments where you’ll have to avoid her just like Jack. I’m not too fond of Marguerite because I was never a big fan of creepy crawlers. Speaking of such things, I found her boss battle to be a bit annoying, though I do love what she becomes. It’s pretty creepy. You’ll just have to see for yourself!
Lastly, we have Lucas Baker. He definitely deserves a spot on my RE7’s list of favorite characters (the others being Ethan and Jack). The first time you meet him, he seems like a playful individual, but underneath that “playfulness” is a clever and crafty individual. In short, he’s a sadist and an escape room artist. You won’t face him directly, but his deadly traps and contraptions are more than worthwhile. For this, he’s one of my favorites.
When it comes to combat, I’m quite happy the game isn’t as action-oriented as the previous titles, but you still need weapons. As I’ve mentioned, Ethan does not start with any default weapons. Instead, you have to find them in certain parts of the game. The game is actually kind enough to supply you with a handgun for your first boss fight. Other weapons you’ll wield are the classic knife, the handy pump-action shotgun, a flamethrower, explosive mines, the all-powerful magnum, and a few others.
Don’t expect much customization in this game as you’ll mainly be conserving ammo most of the time. You do get a super sweet upgrade for your handgun and shotgun. These upgrades are also a shoutout to the old school titles. In terms of unlockable weapons, sadly you won’t be getting an iconic rocket launcher. You do, however, unlock possibly the most powerful handgun, which is named after RESIDENT EVIL’s most iconic villain.
The game is also the first in the series to incorporate a block button. It’s a nifty addition when you’re trying to run away from pesky enemies. Just like previous games, weapons can be assigned to auto equip slots in your real-time inventory to simplify the cumbersome activity of manually equipping them through your main inventory.
RESIDENT EVIL 7 also sports returning features from recent and old school titles. Veteran players may feel at home once again with the return “safe rooms” or save rooms, a concept long gone from the series. It occurred to me that RE4 was the last game to feature such a concept complete with the iconic typewriter and a theme that supposedly makes you feel “safe.” At least enemies still can’t get inside!
RE7 not only brings this classic saving system back, but these rooms also feature the return of storage boxes in case you want to store unwanted items or save them for later use. Also, you’ll be saving with tape recorders rather than typewriters, but it’s still an iconic throwback. Other returning features include the 180-degree turn — a classic staple since the 2002 RE1 remake — and RE5 and 6’s real-time grid-based item inventory, which can be expanded to hold more items.
Healing items also return as herbs and incorporate a hotkey button very much like RESIDENT EVIL 6’s healing system. However, to use the hotkey, you must first combine herbs with a chemical fluid to make first aid meds. Chemical fluids can also be combined with certain items to create ammunition. What I really love about the health system is the return of the electrocardiogram (EKG) meter. You won’t notice it at first, but it’s actually on your character’s watch. Opening the real-time inventory will bring Ethan to look at his watch, through which you can see how much health you have left according to his EKG rating.
However, when it comes to gameplay, the biggest change is RESIDENT EVIL 7’s first-person perspective. It’s the first time ever that a main RESIDENT EVIL title is played in this perspective and it heightens the game’s fear element as you can’t help but fathom what will jump out as you explore the haunted Baker residence. It’s definitely designed with the PlayStation VR in mind to be as immersed in the fear as possible, but this I have yet to try.
Although I prefer third-person, RE7’s first-person works really well with the game’s surroundings and allows us to experience what Ethan experiences: a constant state of anxiety and fear. Earlier I mentioned that much of RE7’s gameplay focus is on exploration rather than on action, so you’ll definitely experience the nostalgic feeling of exploring an actual mansion once again. There are also puzzles to solve and numerous backtracking as you progress through the Baker residence. It’s like the RESIDENT EVIL 1 days!
Visuals & Sound
The visuals are nothing less than stunning as you traverse through beautifully designed hallways and rooms. I swear the mansion has to be built by the same architect of RE1’s mansion because I can’t help but gawk at how amazing the designs are on certain doors, namely the main hall of the Baker mansion.
Characters are photorealistic as can be. You won’t get many cut-scenes aside from the opening and possibly the ending, but I can’t say I don’t love the immersive feel of the game in conjunction with the first person perspective. Players also get the chance to view various VHS tapes that highlight the experiences of other characters. You also get to play as them too as it’ll reveal crucial plot information or the answer to a difficult puzzle. It totally feels like INCEPTION.
Although RESIDENT EVIL 7 does not feature much background music, the occasional creaking floor beds and banging sounds in combination with exploring dimly lit to perpetually dark rooms creates the perfect audio for the game. It also adds to an already immersive feel. Dialogue isn’t too much of a problem, but this game does feature a lot of swearing for a RESIDENT EVIL game. It isn’t as good as the cheesy dialogue of the previous games, but Jack Baker’s lines are still the best and contribute to him being my favorite player of the game.
There isn’t much I don’t like about RE7, but it’s not without flaws. There are moments in the game where it still feels action-packed as you have to fight off obvious waves of oncoming Molded. However, I feel the action doesn’t completely detract from the survival horror aspect of the game. To me, it feels like the perfect blend of horror and suspenseful survival action.
It does get frustrating at times (see Marguerite boss fight in character section) and I’d wish that they had more variety in terms of enemies. I do love the boss battles, but the final boss isn’t too menacing and feels like a joke. I’d say even the Marguerite Baker boss fight was more enlightening. My other gripe is that there is a mid-game decision involving Zoe Baker that decides the good or bad ending you’ll get once you’ve beaten the game. I feel like it’s quite unnecessary because of the circumstances around it.
RESIDENT EVIL 7 – The Final Verdict
I would definitely say RESIDENT EVIL 7 is a return back to its classical roots, but with a touch of the more recent titles in terms of story and certain mechanics. Players should expect to finish their first playthrough in less than ten hours, or six if you’re a speed-runner and don’t care for the story. I prefer the former as I love exploring every nook and cranny. I’m also the type to read every file and analyze items.
With this said, I really want to say that neither the Molded nor the Bakers are truly scary, though the latter can be quite interesting at times. What makes the game truly scary is the ongoing sense of dread in its first-person perspective.
RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD is out now for Windows (Steam), PlayStation 4 and XBox One. The game’s “Banned Footage” Vol. 1 and 2 DLC that reveals more plot information such as Baker backstory and other exciting game modes is out now, too. Coming later this month, “Not A Hero” DLC that will feature a veteran character’s return in his quest to chase down an enemy. Who could it be? Leave us a reply with your guess!