A reader offers his review of the most recent entry in Capcom’s classic survival horror series, and gives it a perfect score.
Resident Evil 7 is a game that marks the start of a new era for the franchise. In Its opening hours, you will have no other choice than to run away from any sign of danger. By the final hours, you will have enough weaponry to take down anything in your way. It’s the expert pacing that runs throughout the game that makes this a fantastic game that delivers on every level and leaves you craving more once the final credits roll.
The setup of Resident Evil 7 is basic: Ethan receives a video from his wife Mia who has been missing for three years after taking a babysitting job. A new video from Mia gives him her location and a warning to stay away. Of course, Ethan doesn’t take the advice, or the game would have been an out-of-context, one minute long cut scene that cost you £50. All joking aside, you arrive at an unknown residence where you’re about to have a very long night.
The first immediate change from previous Resident Evil titles is the shift from the over the shoulder third person view to a first person perspective. This new way to experience a Resident Evil title is a brilliant change that increases the scare factor. From the very start, just walking up to the main house is a tense affair. Every sound effect is something to double guess, and only raises its paranoia-inducing level as you progress. The walk is a tense one, especially when you can see a figure just up ahead at points. Once in the house, the first person POV comes into its own. The corridors are narrow and claustrophobic, making you consciously aware you have nowhere to run should you end up meeting any people along the way.
In terms of gameplay, you will generally be given an area to explore and scavenge through without danger looming. These areas normally contain puzzles, like matching an object to fit an outline in a painting, or simply finding the next key to open a new area. It gives a purpose to each room, and little mini-games to play with. To explain properly, there are several old TVs about the place, each with a VHS player that can be used should you find a tape. It lets you take control of the person in the tape, drip-feeding you more story or simply a better knowledge of what lays ahead, with fear and intense moments galore.
When you aren’t exploring, you will be taking on the game’s several family members in intense boss fights, or finding the means to kill or get past the incredibly creepy slime creatures, all whilst finding the special animal-related keys to access doors within the family home. It’s a clever mixture with each family member linked with locations, and several puzzles made to give you, for instance, a shotgun. But whilst you can see it you must work to get it. Nothing is that easy to acquire, but neither should it be.
The excellent pacing I mentioned at the beginning is down to its subtle shift in mechanics. For the first few hours, you are defenceless against the Bakers, and it’s very much a case of hide and seek as you try to work out where to go and what to do whilst under threat – leading to some brown trouser situations should you be caught. This is also where the game shines, as all you can do is hide or run. Whilst all this is happening, you must figure out where to get to next. You eventually get to a space under the house, which you move through to find yourself in the laundry room and all is quiet. Here you find a save point, a green ammo box and a safe spot.
In any of the rooms with these items, you are safe from whatever should lurk beyond the closed door. The ammo box is made useful throughout the game to store items taking unnecessary space in your inventory, which comes in very handy in the later stages when you have plenty of ammo and weapons to carry. The game also introduces first aid meds that heal you with a press of R1 should you possess any, and the use of chem fluids you pick up throughout allows you to use the games crafting system.
Should you, for example, have chem fluids and a herb in your inventory, you can combine them to craft a first aid bottle. The same goes with handgun ammo crafted with gunpowder instead of herbs. This gives the game another layer and means that exploring every room is worth it should you come across any of these items. Just make sure you have enough space, or some backtracking is needed to transfer items to your ammo box to make space.
Story-wise, Ethan is likeable enough but remains silent the majority of the time. The Baker family are the best part about the game, as a meal with them around their table proves. Jack, the man of the family, is kind but creepy, his sly grin making your skin crawl. Marguerite, Jack’s partner, is a formidable presence, whilst son Lucas is a loose cannon ready to explode at any given moment. The different dynamics each family member possess elevates the boss fights ahead. Yet there is no sign of daughter Zoe, who you see on family photos around the house. Where is she?
The boss fights are well put together, and include a burning car, an epically gory chainsaw fight, and a nerve wracking fight in an old abandoned section of the Baker residence. They all live up to the promise the main story sets up, and are all memorable in their madness and stay with you afterwards. The story evolves after every boss fight, and the matter of Mia’s SOS call and her deceptive lying to Ethan is handled so well that you won’t know why until it hits you. The narrative is spot on and the added story you find within notes around the place only enhance the tragic revelations to come.
As this wouldn’t be a Resident Evil without monsters, the slime creatures are some of the weirdest and grotesque creatures I’ve come across since the clickers in The Last Of Us. They stand around seven foot tall, and are introduced in the claustrophobic corridors of the lower floor. You get a hint that something is coming as black mould infests the walls around you. They walk slow, but just the squelchy noise from them moving is enough to make you shudder in disgust. And trying to land a headshot can be tricky when they are constantly swaying their heads. This is made more intense should you be cornered and need to kill them with no space to move.
The combat manages to feel satisfying throughout, with each weapon feeling both real and unique. The pistol, for example, takes skill to line up headshots, and the urge to land every shot only ups the stakes. By the later stages, you will have access to a machine gun, flamethrower, and grenade launcher to name a few. All of these handle nicely and makes you feel safe even when there are plenty of enemies, yet you still must be accurate and not become complacent. You never feel totally in control.
Along the way, you also collect antique coins, which are used to unlock three items: a stabiliser, which when carried with you gives increased reload speed; steroids, which dramatically increases your health and lessens damage taken; and finally a .44 MAG revolver. I managed to unlock the steroids and stabiliser which gave me an extra edge in combat and boss fights, but never made me too invincible.
Resident Evil 7 is a brilliant game that is effortlessly paced throughout, utilising its (new) first person perspective to the maximum and proving that the franchise is far from finished. It has interesting and terrifying characters, a story that will keep you guessing and a harrowingly life-like setting backed up by great and often subtle gameplay mechanics, and enough tension to last you a lifetime. It’s definite proof that any franchise can revive itself, if it’s bold enough to take the risks. You no longer have to be sceptical of the series’ future as number seven is just the beginning.
Score: 10 out of 10
By reader Charlie Ridgewell
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