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Resident Evil 7

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: Jan. 24, 2017


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Xbox One Review - 'Resident Evil 7: Biohazard'

by Redmond Carolipio on Feb. 6, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Resident Evil 7 is the latest game in the series, and is focused on immersive horror with the main concept building upon the series' roots of fear, exploration and tense atmosphere.

Buy Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is terrifying for roughly the first 40 minutes. In the 10 to 12 hours that follow, you become a little less scared and more energized as you're reminded of what made this series so enjoyable when it crawled onto screens 20 years ago. It doesn't feel like a reboot. It's more like a homecoming.

First, some history. I think it's significant to touch on the game's roots because understanding what it did back in 1996 makes what RE7 does in 2017 that much more impactful. In 1995, the term "survival horror" didn't exist for me. After March of 1996, when Resident Evil was released, it appeared. It was willed into being. It might not have been the pure invention of what we knew as survival horror, but it gave it a name and forced the concept into the light.

It took the basic "haunted-house" dynamic and stacked a deep story and gameplay ideas on top of it. You had to learn tactical thinking, mostly because your resources were so limited. If you were used to grabbing clips of ammo with 30 rounds at a time scattered all over the place, you were probably disheartened as I was to find like, five bullets after searching this creepy house for an hour. One of the great fears in a Resident Evil/survival horror game is the fear of not having enough stuff.

Let's not forget about the monsters. You saw gruesome zombie-like creatures doing terrible things and absorbing your hard-earned bullets if you aimed for the center mass. There were perfectly timed jump scares, like the famed dogs-through-the-window sequence. Part of the brilliance was how the game seemed to organically grow into "action terror" while layering story elements onto the experience through cinematics, dialogue and notes. Instead of a story about survival, you uncovered a dimension of dark science, where chemical engineering went horribly wrong under the watch of a fictional super-corporation. It was awesome.

As more games in the series were released, the more it strayed from its original essence. It was about action and destroying a global empire, where super-powered creatures were commonplace, and it culminated in Resident Evil 6, which felt like a fantastical action game that couldn't have cared less if the player was scared or not. It left a sour taste in the mouths of fans.

Resident Evil 7 changes all of that, and it starts with a completely different perspective. It begins with you watching a couple of video messages from Mia, the wife of the protagonist, Ethan. The first one is happy, with Mia telling Ethan how she can't wait to see him. In the second one, a clearly distressed Mia basically tells Ethan that if "he's seeing this, stay away." We learn that Mia disappeared for three years before resurfacing with an e-mail telling Ethan to get her at the Baker farm in Dulvey, Louisiana (which I couldn't find on Google Maps).

Once you, as Ethan, reach the Baker farm, you'll get a taste of the series' new first-person perspective. No matter the genre, the one thing you can count on when it comes to first-person is that it boosts the tension by heightening your senses. That's cool if you're a ninja or Daredevil, but it can mess with your sense of calm in a horror game.

For instance, you become more attuned to what your eyes see, and poor Ethan gets to see things like the words "Accept her gift" written in blood outside of a dilapidated gate as well as a dripping, gooey archway made out of what I assumed were dead animal parts. Then there was the flash of seeing someone walking out of the corner of Ethan's vision, only to find nothing there when I tried to follow.

Exploring the Baker house for the first time (or second, if you played the demo) was a brilliant exercise in how the game plays on your growing sense of sensory awareness. You'll notice how the game uses light to emphasize the house's chillingly dank nature. Sometimes, light pours through the boarded-up windows to illuminate the hallways, while other times, you have to use your flashlight, which only lights up a small area in front of your face. I didn't find too many spots on the Baker farm that weren't caked in grime, plastered with black stuff or just plain dirty. The décor of the home makes the Bakers look somewhat trapped in the past. If that wasn't enough, the game tinkers with audio, tossing in the sounds of something banging against the wall or a shuffle here and there just to rattle you. It works.

Without giving away too much, Ethan eventually runs into Mia, and it goes as well as you'd expect in a game like this. He gets punched out by the patriarch of the Baker family and wakes up to find himself chained to a chair at the dinner table, face-to-face with the entire Baker clan. This is where the game truly begins.

Remember when I said the game was terrifying for like, 40 minutes? I stand by that. It is, however, freaky as f—k the whole time.

In vintage Japanese design fashion, the Bakers are a pack of characters with varying special abilities and characteristics. Jack, the patriarch, is the powerhouse and can smash through things; he also stalks you through the home like a farmer Terminator as you try to piece together what's happening. Marguerite, the mom, is always surrounded by nasty bugs. There's also Lucas, who comes across like the idiot son but has an aptitude for engineering, which he puts to effective use as Ethan's foe.

Then there's Grandma, who never moves but always seems to appear in random places. You also learn about Eveline, an enigmatic and possibly evil little girl, and Zoe, the seemingly sane Baker who offers aid and tips via landline phones scattered throughout the house. With every confrontation and boss battle, I found this family to be compelling, even with the over-the-top theatrics. The Resident Evil series is known for extreme characters, and RE7 hasn't forgotten that.

I've heard this game compared to Alien: Isolation, and I can't get on board with that. Isolation's unforgiving nature had a tendency to paralyze players for long periods of time. For all its brilliant tension, it only scared you in one way: Don't let the Alien see you. Do it, and die.

By comparison, RE7 is a shapeshifting horror amoeba, seemingly morphing and altering to tap into various kinds of possible fears. Do crazy people scare you? How about cannibalism? Escape rooms? What about gory creatures and monsters who talk? Don't forget the fear of chemicals, since it's called Biohazard, after all.

Also, unlike Isolation, you have more than a reasonable chance to defend yourself. You can block attacks and take less damage, and effective weapons are available if you can get to them. RE veterans also have to get used to rationing supplies and ammo. Aside from the members of the Baker family, you'll have to deal with the Molded, who basically look like twisted versions of the Swamp Thing if it were made of black bio-puke.

Even with all the chaos, I enjoyed the game's scaled-down, almost claustrophobic atmosphere. Instead of elaborate labs and world travel from the previous title, you're on a farm. It seems bigger than it is because of the mini-worlds within: a morgue, main house, "old" house, pier and trailer. Other familiar and welcome gameplay elements from past Resident Evil games include the ability to "buy" goods. The save system consists of finding certain "safe" rooms with tape recorders in them. There's also a universal big box system where you can stash your goods.

Also, since this is Resident Evil, you're going to explore the house to find special keys to open specific doors, search for items like fuses for the power box on the other side of the map, statuettes and other items to solve some of the puzzles, like how to fix an elevator or open a secret passage.

One genius gameplay element is the usage of found videotapes, which Ethan can pop into VCRs around the house. You don't just watch them; you actually play through them. By doing so, you advance the story and can pick up hints of what to do next or where to go. The best example is how I "watched" a tape of someone escaping a trap-room puzzle and dying. When I found myself in the same situation, I tweaked the strategy and escaped. You have the option of skipping the tapes, but you shouldn't. They enrich the story, which I mostly found to be well-paced and expertly built.

If I'm torn about anything with RE7, it's how it turns into a celebration of monster-killing at the end. It was extremely satisfying to be able to mow down creatures that caused me to run away and worry for hours, but it felt like the game was rewarding me with a sense of relief and violent catharsis after spending so much time trying to scare me.

Resident Evil 7 is a welcome return to form and an excellent change of pace from a lot of the gaming fare that's either out or coming out. I'd recommend it to anyone, whether they like horror or not. There's a lot of good work in here, and if it takes getting frightened once in a while to see it, I say it's worth opening that door.

Score: 9.0/10

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