Ever since “Resident Evil 7 biohazard” had its initial reveal at E3 2016, people have been skeptical. And with good measure too. Its original demo didn’t feature any combat, it was slow and brooding and of course – it was in first person. And then there’s “Resident Evil 6,” a game that still gets a bad rap to this day. I’ve been singing “Resident Evil 7″’s praises since the demo came out, though and now that I’ve beaten the full experience I can say that not only is it my favorite “Resident Evil” game since “Resident Evil 4,” but also that it sets a new standard for what a first person survival horror game can be.
“Resident Evil 7” begins with Ethan Winters receiving a message from his deceased wife, Mia. It’s a simple message containing the line “Come get me.” and an address. Without thinking Ethan hops in his car and heads down to Louisiana. This setup works really well and sets the tone early on that “Resident Evil 7” is a smaller, more personal story. Even when things get bigger in the second half of the game, most of the more pressing questions are answered by the end and the tie-ins to the larger “Resident Evil” story are mostly small nods that point to a larger future for the series.
After Ethan arrives at the Baker’s estate, he’s quickly captured by them. The introduction is more or less a re-worked version of the house featured in the “Beginning Hour” demo. It’s a brief introduction, and it’s different enough that I couldn’t just breeze through it. I won’t spoil how, but Ethan is captured and tied to a chair at the dinner table by Jack, Marguerite, Lucas and Grandma Baker. After being spoon-fed what can only be assumed is human meat, Ethan breaks out of his bindings and is left to roam the house freely – well, unless Jack catches him.
For the first hour of the game you’re totally defenseless against Jack. During these moments, you’ll primarily be searching for puzzle pieces to unlock different parts of the house. He has a short range of vision, but if Jack catches you, you’re pretty much dead so your best bet is to run away and make him lose your trail. makes creeping around every corner praying that Jack isn’t there waiting for you a terrifying scenario.
Once you DO get a weapon, things really start to get interesting. For the first half of “Resident Evil 7,” there’s a really great rhythm at play. You creep around a part of the estate, hunting for different objects to help you advance and once you unlock the exit, there’s a boss fight with one of the Bakers who each have their own unique twist. Jack has brute strength, Marguerite can summon swarms of mutant bugs, etc.
In between fights you’ll be facing new enemies called Molded. I’ve talked about them before in previews, but they’re goopy humanoid monsters that can really pack a punch. Luckily, the guns in “Resident Evil 7” aren’t glorified BB-guns like they were in “Resident Evil 5” and “Resident Evil 6,” so if you time your shots carefully and make every bullet count, you can usually come out with just a few cuts and bruises.
The weapons themselves are all pretty standard, but they feel like real guns. One shot from a pistol is enough to stagger an enemy, and a shotgun will tear a Molded’s leg off in one well-placed blast.
This balance creates tension, especially with the new first person perspective. The Molded have a clear advantage, but taking a second to breathe and take them out smartly and quickly, and then being rewarded for it with more health and more bullets keeps encounters from ever feeling cheap.
A lot of care went into making “Resident Evil 7” feel like an evolution of the earlier games in the series rather than the more recent ones. You can only save at voicemail recorders, you really have to search for ammo but you’ll never be punished for exploring, and inventory management plays a big part in the campaign. Space will always be tight, but when things really start to get frustrating there’s usually a new backpack waiting for you just one room away that increases your inventory space.
There’s also an upgrade system in “Resident Evil 7” that allows you to purchase abilities like greater health, faster reload speed and even the series-classic Magnum. That’s really all there is, and while I think it would be nice to have a couple more of these upgrades, the ones that are there keep the game grounded and make it just easier enough to feel like the effort to get them is worth it.
About halfway through the game is where “Resident Evil 7” starts to connect itself to other games in the series. There’s a big choice that largely impacts how the second half of the story (ending included) plays out, and it’s a tough one to make. I played both paths, and they both change the story in ways that make it worth it to go back and see both endings for yourself (Hint: Make an extra save for yourself before fighting Lucas).
I won’t spoil how exactly the game connects to past entries, but it’s a nuanced connection that I could tell the devs worked very hard on to make sure it didn’t detract from Ethan’s story.
I do have a couple gripes with “Resident Evil 7,” though. First, a couple encounters are easily escapable just by running away. Having a bunch of Molded in a room causes them to trip over each other, and you can grab what you need and avoid them by taking minimal damage. It killed the tension a couple times and made the whole area feel a bit sloppy.
My next issue is related to how much content you get on the disk. The story took me about 10 hours to complete on normal, 15 if you count playing through the second half twice to see the other ending. And of course, once you beat the game a new difficulty and some silly new weapons are unlocked. There’s one glaring omission though – “Resident Evil 7” doesn’t feature any sort of Mercenaries or Raid mode.
I know it’s not fair to compare apples to oranges with all the changes made in this new entry, but when pretty much every game before it has had some sort of extra mode to unlock for beating the game, it brings out a little disappointment. Even an arcade mode that alters the campaign to give you points for creatively solving puzzles and killing enemies would be a welcome addition. The game does have a Season Pass though, so maybe something like that will get added in a patch or through DLC down the line.
At the end of the day, I loved nearly every second of my time with “Resident Evil 7”. Capcom clearly took their time and really honed in on what makes “Resident Evil,” well, “Resident Evil” and I think all of the major changes they made paid off. They paid respect to what came before where they had to, and the finished product is one of the scariest, most engaging survival horror stories out there. Resident Evil 7 should without a doubt set the standard for mainline games in the series going forward.