Resident Evil 7: biohazard

I’ve been a massive fan of Resident Evil for as long as it’s existed, but after Resident Evil 6, I was ready to turn my back.

Capcom had well and truly forgotten what made the series popular and why fans had been drawn to the originals. Let’s be frank; RE6 was a mess. The Resident Evil I knew and loved seemed lost forever and I’d resigned myself to replaying the originals (and never-ending re-releases) for the foreseeable future.

Cut to E3 2016 and the surprise reveal of Resident Evil 7 at Sony’s press conference. Played from a first-person perspective, set in a derelict, run-down mansion and featuring more scares than you could shake a stick at Resident Evil looked like it was back. Obviously, the switch to a first-person perspective was met with some trepidation. But the Beginning Hour demo quickly proved that Resident Evil 7 was classic Resident Evil; regardless of perspective.

The question remained though, could this new title, a drastic departure from what had come before, simultaneously reinvent, redefine and recapture the essence of Resident Evil?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Resident Evil is back! RE7 is a return to the series’ horror roots, while maintaining modern sensibilities. In my preview I wrote about how the shift in perspective allows RE7 to limit players’ perspective and slow the gameplay down, just like the original titles. The more time I’ve spend with RE7, the more this has proven to be true.

By not being able to see an entire room or area, RE7 creates a claustrophobic sense of danger. The dynamic sound design works in tandem to distract and terrify for the duration. Often you’ll be able to hear enemies long before you see them and the sense of impending doom has to be experienced.

For the longest time, Resident Evil has eschewed scares in favour of set-pieces, action and adrenaline. Not so in RE7. The adrenaline is still flowing, but it’s for very different reasons. Make no mistake, this is a really scary game designed to generate anxiety and gradually ramp up tension until it’s almost unbearable. The most unnerving moments are the quietest. When things seem calm and safe, RE7 teaches you that they aren’t and never will be. Not until the credits have rolled.

I kept a personal tally of all the times I jumped or flinched and all the times I screamed and swore. In the end I had flinched 31 times, yelled out “Fuck” 28 times, “Motherfucker” five times and “Shit!” three times. For an eight-hour game I averaged eight reactions per hour. That’s a hell of a lot of scaring. I’ve probably taken a few months off my life just by playing, but it was totally worth it.

Making a welcome return are Safe Rooms and Item Boxes. As in previous titles, Item Boxes magically connect to one another and allow players to store unneeded or unnecessary items until later. Players only have eight item slots to begin with, which can eventually be increased to 16, but like other Resident Evil titles, space is of a premium.

Safe Rooms are also where players will be saving their games. On lower difficulties RE7 has a pretty regular autosave function, but on the unlockable Madhouse difficulty, autosaves are all but turned off. Instead of the classic typewriter, RE7 uses a tape recorder, it is 2017 after all. On Madhouse, players will actually need to find and use blank tapes to saves, like with ink ribbons, though they’re plentiful. A player would only likely get into trouble if they were saving excessively. It’s these little touches and throwbacks that really help sell that this is Resident Evil. But there’s more.

While puzzles are scarce (sadly almost non existent) players will need to find specially shaped keys, use a crank, collect green herbs and conserve ammo. The former points are just a bit of window dressing and don’t fundamentally change the way the game plays, but the gunplay in RE7 certainly does.

From Resident Evil 4 onwards and especially in RE6, weapons felt weak and enemies felt like bullet sponges. Enemies in the series have always taken quite the beating before they dropped, but unless they were a Tyrant of the Nemesis, they didn’t simply shrug bullets off. RE7 returns to this system and while the Molded enemies don’t die easily, but they do react to your shots, which in turn makes them seem to have an impact.

When hit, enemies will flinch or recoil. If you get a headshot, some enemies will cover their face with their arm to protect themselves and do enough damage and they’ll even fall to the ground. Be careful though, they always get back up rather quickly and often even angrier. Enemies aren’t the only ones who can defend themselves though. A new addition in RE7 is the ability to block attacks and reduce some of the incoming damage.

By pressing L1/LB, the player will raise their hands in front of their face and stop an enemy from landing a direct hit. It’s integral to the experience and to staying alive. There’s nothing more satisfying than landing a few well placed headshots, having the Molded lunge at you, block it and then take its head off with a final shot. In those moments at least, you’ll feel like a badass.

Players start with a trusty knife, but eventually build up quite an arsenal, including shotguns, machine guns, grenade launchers and a Magnum. The stronger the weapon, the more rare ammo is with one exception; Enhanced Hangun Ammo.

Resident Evil 7 features a brand new crafting mode that allows players to craft ammo, First Aid, Grenades and more. Enhanced Handgun Ammo gives bullets a bit more oomph and is crafted by mixing Strong Chem Fluid (an amazingly nondescript Resident Evil item) with Gun Powder. Mixing regular Chem Fluid with Gun Powder will only result in regular Handgun Ammo. Same goes for herbs. Mix them with Strong Chem Fluid and you get Strong First Aid.

Crafting adds a layer of strategy to the game and often creates dilemmas about which item is more important or more required at any given moment. The fact that you’re not sure what’s coming up around the next corner makes these decisions even more agonising. In any case, Murphy’s Law proves that whatever item you do create, you’ll have needed the other.

You may have noticed that I’ve not made mention of the game’s plot and that’s been deliberate on my part. Resident Evil 7 is best played fresh and with as little knowledge as possible. I will say that the Louisiana swamp setting is perfect and the creepy Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe works incredibly well within the RE universe. After playing you may discover or make some connections to previous titles, but Resident Evil 7 is largely a standalone adventure.

Resident Evil 7 has pitch perfect pacing both in plot and gameplay and the overarching mystery is played out in a manner that keeps players engaged and guessing right up until the very end. It’s not quite as cheesy or B-Grade as it has been in the past, but it works in RE7’s favour. The tone is creepy and unsettling and while there are a few lighthearted moments here and there, for the most part players will be on tender hooks for the duration.

Resident Evil 7 takes the essence and the DNA of Resident Evil and makes something that feels both nostalgic and brand new. Fans of old school Resident Evil will be thrilled, but those who favoured the more action-oriented offerings probably won’t find much that appeals to them. Resident Evil 7 is a horror game for horror fans and it pulls no punches. I for one couldn’t be happier. Resident Evil has finally come home.

Welcome back Resident Evil and “Welcome to the family son.”

Resident Evil 7 was reviewed using a promotion copy on PS4 provided to PowerUp! by the publisher.

Resident Evil 7 is available now.

Check out our coverage!

Resident Evil 7 review
Resident Evil 7 Guides: Jack Baker Part I
Resident Evil 7 Guides: Jack Baker Part II
Resident Evil 7 Guides: Marguerite Baker
Resident Evil 7 Guides: Crafting
Resident Evil 7 Guides: Enemies
Resident Evil 7 Guides: Use Psychostimulants and never miss an item
Resident Evil 7 Guides: Finish the Happy Birthday tape in under 5-minutes
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Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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