Game Review: Resident Evil 7

Resident Evil 7 (2017) Review

Resident Evil 7 is a survival horror game developed and published by Capcom (2017) for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

Entrance to The Baker Estate

Plot

Set deep in the heart of the Louisiana Bayou, Resident Evil 7 casts players in the role of Ethan Winters, a newcomer in the series who is searching for his wife Mia who has been missing and presumed dead for the past three years. On receiving a video recording from an obviously distraught Mia, Ethan heads out to a seemingly abandoned estate deep in the swamp in search for her. This leads him to the Baker estate, a sizeable property consisting of various houses and outdoor locations.

Turns out the Baker family estate isn’t so derelict as Ethan is quickly captured by Jack, the imposing patriarch of the Baker family, and forced to partake in a gruesome family dinner in which is arguably the most iconic scene in the game (and a tribute to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Most of the Baker family seem to be utterly insane, intent on murdering Ethan, and are infected with some sort of virus that allows their bodies to sustain injuries that would kill a normal human. It becomes evident early on that the Baker family have been abducting, experimenting on, and killing people for some time as Ethan finds journals alluding to kidnappings and bodies strewn about the Baker house.

Along with Jack, there is also Marguerite (my favourite character), his foul-mouthed wife with a fondness for creepy-crawlies, their son Lucas, a scheming ‘jigsaw’ type character who designs murderous traps and games for his victims, Granny Baker, who unnervingly shows up throughout the game despite being catatonic and confined to a wheelchair, and Zoe, Jack and Marguerite’s daughter who is unlike her insane family and works with Ethan throughout the game to find a means of escape.

Gameplay

You’ll spend time in part exploring, fighting, and hiding as you are chased by members of the deranged Baker family and the moulded monsters. In the early stages of the game you’ll discover that Jack and Marguerite cannot be outright killed, rather they can be stunned allowing you to escape to a hiding spot.

Available weapons for Ethan to utilize range from knives, handguns, shotguns, explosives, and a makeshift flamethrower, if you’ve played a Resident Evil game in the past you’ll be familiar with the arsenal. The weapons feel great to use, however you’ll have to conserve ammo wisely as it’s limited especially in the early game. Absent from this game is the weapon upgrading system that was present in Resident Evil 4 & 5, although there wouldn’t be much point in such a system as the majority of the game has you exploring rather than shooting, you can however craft enhanced ammo should you need the extra firepower.

Inventory management and resource crafting play a major part in the gameplay as Ethan has a limited number of storage spots available meaning you can’t just carry everything that isn’t nailed down with you. Throughout the game you’ll find chem fluid which can be combined with gunpowder, herbs, and other items to make bullets, first-aid kits, and various other consumables to help Ethan survive.

The series’ puzzles make a return in this instalment of the franchise, however they are rather simplistic and far and few between, with most taking the form of a ‘match the shape’ minigame.

One of the game’s shadow puzzles

Review

The graphics and general aesthetic of the game is phenomenal. The Baker house really feels ‘lived-in’ and has an interesting art-deco and rustic style combination to it. The house is littered with clutter from laundry to leftovers and you can spend a considerable amount of time just looking among all the nooks and crannies that are crammed full of intricate little details.

*I also recommend checking out the Horror Night Reshade preset by kyOuZz_- if you’re on PC, it gives the game a much better horror atmosphere by making it darker and more claustrophobic.

The Baker family make for an excellent supporting cast and are easily the stars of the show. They aren’t over-the-top villains with grand plans (here’s looking at the lovable Wesker) and there is just something about them being an otherwise normal family that plays very well into the immersion factor. Jack and Marguerite Baker are delightfully chaotic while Lucas provides a more methodical take on madness and the game has you spend adequate time dealing with each of them.

There is a permeating sense of disconnect between the events of the game and Ethan. Ethan himself is a pretty bland character whom we get no background on other than he’s Mia’s Husband and he undergoes no character development whatsoever throughout the duration of the game. This is especially noticeable in cutscenes and scripted events early in the game where he has little to no reaction to injury or events happening and ultimately works against the initial horror atmosphere it tries to portray.

In addition to the Baker family you’ll also have to deal with the moulded – giant fungal-like monsters covered with black tendrils and razor-sharp teeth and claws. The monster design here is pretty generic and kind of goofy at times as all the moulded are missing from being ridiculous is a giant pair of googly eyes.

The first 2/3rds of the game is pretty engaging. During this time you are constantly moving forward discovering the secrets of the Baker home and surrounding areas, often while being hunted by Jack or Marguerite. It is during this portion of the game where it’s at its best and most tense as you are introduced to the Baker family and struck by the amount of attention to detail the developers have put into the design of the Baker Estate.

Unfortunately the game really starts to fall apart around the time we get to the infamous tanker section. Here the game ditches any horror aspect it had going in favour of action as you mow down the moulded creatures with a machine gun and remote explosives as you make your way through a bland and uninspired boat level (which has been done quite a few times in the Resident Evil series at this point, Revelations handling it much better). The focus shifts much more towards the story at this point, which, when laid out bare, can be summed up in two or three sentences and really isn’t worth remembering, it also leaves some basic questions unanswered that I won’t spoil here.

Conclusion

Resident Evil 7 provides a welcome change to the series’ usual format (action-shooter at the time) while still keeping its survival-horror elements and atmosphere. The first half of the game alone is well worth the experience as you explore the insanely detailed Baker house and try to piece together the mystery of what has happened to the family and how you are going to escape. Unfortunately the grand reveal is underwhelming and introduces more questions than answers that you probably won’t bother with as the main characters, Ethan and Mia, are completely forgettable by the ending.

Despite the lack of an engaging story and some repetition towards the end, Resident Evil 7 offers a solid survival-horror experience and some beautifully creepy aesthetics to ogle. A thorough knowledge of the events of previous games in the series isn’t required to dive into this entry and as such I can easily recommend it for newcomers and survival-horror fans alike.

Verdict:

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

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