Three days ago I overcame the horrors Capcom has created with Resident Evil 7. When the credits first rolled I was ecstatic! I could not have been any happier with Resident Evil’s return! Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the experience I’m still just as high on the fact that the king
of survival horror is back and better than ever, baby!
The game’s extremely convincing atmosphere will keep you on your toes for the entire 8-10 hour experience. (All screenshots taken from PSVR mode)
First of all, let’s get one thing out in the open: this is not the Resident Evil of the last decade! Forget the run and gun action and massive biceps of Resident Evil 4,5 and 6. Capcom has said for years that Resident Evil would return to its horror roots and they have finally delivered on that promise despite what their shareholders may have desired.
Limited supplies? Check!
Inventory management? Check!
Obtuse puzzles? Check!
Ominous atmosphere? Check!
Grotesque enemies and inventive boss encounters? Check!
Ammo drops from fallen enemies? Hell no! There is only so much ammo located in the Baker residence so you’d better pick and choose your battles!
Capcom wastes no time in setting up the events that force you into the Louisiana Baker estate. The game kicks off with Ethan Winters receiving a message from his wife that has been missing for three years and he believes she’s dead. (Hints of Silent Hill 2) Minutes after stepping out of your car, you’re exploring a dark decrepit bayou house and soon after the fight for your life begins! Without spoiling the twists and turns that follow, I can tell you that it the story follows the classic Resident Evil formula: You’re placed in a seemingly grounded environment where something is amiss and eventually discover a darker world of genetic experiments and corporate greed. Also, this game being a numbered sequel to the franchise, it does not reboot the narrative. While I believe the game stands strongly as its own experience, it eventually reveals its connections to the series’ past installments in an exciting fashion that is approachable for newcomers and enticing to long-time fans.
The Bakers are watching every step you make along the way.
Visually, the game is stunning on the PS4 Pro. The environments ooze with atmosphere thanks to the superb lighting and intricate details peppered in every corner of the bayou. The characters you’ll meet along the way feature state of the art animation and effectively sell their madness and despair. I played the entirety of the game in PSVR and it is by far the most graphically impressive game available on the platform. There is a significant downgrade when playing through Sony’s headset but that is quickly overshadowed by the incredible sense of immersion the experience provides.
The presentational experience is rounded out by the excellent sound design. Every water drop, bump, thud, scream and groan in the night is expertly designed to send chills down your spine. You’ll fear what horror lurks just around the corner as you hear it oozing its way in your direction. The game’s cast of actors also convincingly portray their characters even when the writing may not be up to snuff and you’ll fear the Bakers’ insanity as it’s presented front and center right in your face.
Of course, since this is a videogame, gameplay is king and Resident Evil has it in spades. The shift to the first-person view reintroduces the vulnerability of the original Playstation installments while modernizing the controls to make controlling Ethan a frustration free experience. The game expertly combines exploration, puzzle solving, survival elements and combat to bring the series back to its terrifying roots. While I often find inventory management to be a chore in games such as Fallout 4, but in Resident Evil it has always complimented the feeling of dread that makes horror so effective. You’ll have to make the tough choice to whether to use combination ingredients to create healing items or precious ammunition and sometimes may have to leave something behind in order complete a necessary goal. Also, Item boxes are back in save rooms to provide you with access to all your treasures throughout the house.
Resident Evil 7 just may be the greatest horror experience of the generation but it is not without its faults. There is a noticeable lack of variety in the standard enemies you’ll encounter along the way. In fact, there is a greater number of unique boss encounters than different types of common enemies. This is a small issue for me as each time I encountered one of these creatures I felt I was battling for my life as my heart was trying to escape my chest! However, the enemies you encounter in the final act are identical to the second act so the fear of the unknown begins to dwindle just before the game’s epic climax.
While I was thrilled for the series to return to its puzzle solving past, I was slightly disappointed in the ease of the puzzles. I was never once stumped by a puzzle for more than a few minutes. There is a clever shadow puzzle that is used several times throughout the game that will either stimulate your thought processes or cause you to slam your controller down in frustration. Outside one midgame segment clearly inspired by the current real life escape room craze, most puzzles fall into the realm of the find the proper key formula.
These gripes are small however and I believe they can be alleviated in a stellar sequel.
The VR Experience
This is the killer app that PSVR fans have been waiting for! I played through the entire game in the dedicated VR mode and, despite its visual downgrade, I feel that this is the definitive way to experience Resident Evil 7. Much like the first entry felt like a revolution on the original Playstation, this feels like the first game to truly show PSVR users what the experience can be. Aiming your weapons is incredibly fluid and natural and you’ll find yourself physically peeking around corners to get a jump on what horrors may be waiting for you!
Capcom was wise to include a vast array of comfort options to accommodate the different sensitivity levels of users. Personally, I have strong “VR legs” and turn on full motion and removed and limitation on the field of view and I felt no sense of sickness in over nine hours of play time.
While the VR mode is currently exclusive to the PS4 version of the game, it is important to note that this is a time exclusive deal and it’s likely that the VR mode will find its way to at least PC headsets in 2018.
There is no shortage of creepy imagery to haunt you long after you turn the game off!
It’s Good to Be Back
After the overindulgence that was Resident Evil 6, Capcom has successfully rediscovered the identity that made the franchise so popular in the beginning. Despite the game’s few faults, Resident Evil borrows from several modern classics and mixes them with the old-school formula to create the most terrifying horror experience of this generation. It feels good to once again consider Resident Evil a horror game and I can’t wait to see where Capcom takes the franchise with the inevitable sequel. Thankfully, the wait won’t be too long as the game greets you with an advertisement for a free DLC chapter this spring that is rumored to answer one of the most widely debated questions revealed in the game’s conclusion.