By: Erik Deaton
It’s hard enough for a movie to create an atmosphere of fear and futility, let alone a video game. Enter: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. I seldom come across a game that legitimately makes me uneasy and elevates my heart rate, and yet this game achieved that from the moment I jumped in. Coming off the heels of what some may call the worst Resident Evil game in the entire franchise (seriously, don’t play RE6); Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is everything that is good about the Resident Evil series and horror games in general.
Resident Evil 7 follows the story of Ethan Winters; a desperate man in search of answers regarding his missing wife, Mia. After 3 years of searching, wondering and ultimately accepting the fact that she was gone, Ethan receives a mysterious email and sets off for Dulvey, Louisiana. Here, he comes across the Baker mansion; a formidable structure that looks neither inviting nor habitable. From the moment Ethan enters the disheveled mess of a home, he is met by suffocating darkness and unthinkable evil. After discovering a fraction of the horrible events that took place in the home, Ethan meets its tenants; the Bakers.
The Baker family is made up of Jack (the father), Marguerite (the mother), Lucas (the son), and a wheelchair-bound grandmother. Jack is a hulking, invincible psychopath that chases Ethan around the mansion. Marguerite travels with an army of insects that sting and bite if you get too close, and Lucas is a devious master of puzzles who taunts and berates Ethan the entire way. Fighting each member of the Baker family presents a new set of challenges that Ethan must figure out if he wants to survive. To top it all off, Ethan must also try to fend off the Molded; grotesque black sludge monsters that come out of the walls. It’s important to aim true, otherwise Ethan will find himself surrounded and overwhelmed with just a knife to defend himself. Simply put, just assume everything in the Baker house wants to kill you. The moment you let up, you will end up dead.
There are a few things that truly set this game apart from some of the others in this series. For one, exploring the dark home, fighting the disgusting enemies and navigating puzzles is infinitely more frightening in first-person. Whether it’s sprinting away from Jack and gunning down the Molded, or scouring the home for ammo, keys, and clues, and searching for a way out, the player truly feels like they are trapped in this mess with Ethan. Any move you make produces a sound, down to the wind whipping outside and the floors creaking underfoot. In my opinion, the sound design is where most horror games can fall a little flat, yet Capcom has managed to give their world life with RE7. This immersion is truly where RE7 succeeds. This game is also playable in VR, but I didn’t have the fortune (or misfortune depending on how you look at it) of trying that out.
With all the praise I have given so far, I feel like there is one main area where RE7 could improve. I wish the puzzles were a little more difficult, and took longer to solve. Though they are equally as dark and twisted as the rest or the game (just wait until you attend the birthday from HELL), I felt like most were over before I truly got to enjoy them. Capcom counters this by adding mini-puzzles to the boss fights. No fight is as simple as “point, shoot, repeat,” but rather they require calculated shots and the utilization of the entire arena to ensure survival. This balances out with the other puzzles, which can boil down to “Go to point A, then go to point B,” or “Find the 3 keys”. It is important to note that in no way, shape, or form is this small blip enough to derail the true success that is RE7.
Resident Evil 7 is a must-play. It takes the best parts of a horror game, and mixes in just enough combat and puzzle-solving to keep the player engaged from start to finish. The result is a pulse-pounding, physically draining excursion through some of the most frightening locations I have ever witnessed. Stressful as it may be, Resident Evil 7 is extremely fun and will keep you on your toes from start to finish. You will encounter many twists and turns along the way, yet it will all be worth it in the end. As long as you remain focused and brave, you will make it through the hellish mansion alive, yet I doubt Ethan will get invited back for supper any time soon.