Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review – Family Values

Welcome to the family, son.

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Format: PS4
Released: January 24, 2017
Copy provided by publisher

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is not how it’s different from the other entries in the series, but how it’s similar.

Despite the first-person perspective and heavy borrowing of ideas from such games as Outlast and Alien: Isolation, Capcom’s latest attempt to revitalize Resident Evil feels truer to the series’ roots than anything since before Resident Evil 4.

This seventh main entry into the Resident Evil series takes its structure and pacing from series’ classic survival horror debut, placing players in a filth-ridden Louisiana homestead that, despite its decrepitness, has taken more than a handful of architectural cues from the Spencer Mansion.

From themed keys that open up multiple doors to precious safe rooms containing save points, inventory boxes, and other resourses, Biohazard‘s environment goes out of its way to emulate everything that made the original game’s setting so memorable. Most importantly, it does so to an impressive degree.

Resident Evil 7 takes players to the deep south, home of the horrifying Baker family, and proceeds to put them through some deeply unpleasant misery.

Protagonist Ethan follows a clue that leads him to believe his maybe-ex-girlfriend is still alive after she maybe-faked her own death (I’m being facetious, but the game really breezes past the backstory). However, he finds she’s not altogether “herself” when sprung from a curious cell beneath a rundown house.

In scenes reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Ethan must not only find out what happened to Mia but avoid a clan of violently unhinged bayou residents who seem unable to die.

Resident Evil 7‘s plot is one of the more straightforward in the series, though it still finds ways in which to be convoluted and it suffers somewhat from poorly explained background information. More intel on Ethan and Mia, as well as further details on the Bakers and associated antagonists would have been great, too. The ending also feels rushed, which makes one raise an eyebrow when they learn how much story-based downloadable content is already planned.

Although some elements need fleshing out, the basic narrative is tons of fun, borrowing heavily from mid-2000s horror movies to create a game that’s not so much scary as unnerving.

Crucially, the presence of the Bakers sees a return to the kind of exaggerated camp that made Resident Evil 4 such a delight. While not quite as out-there as Leon Kennedy’s influential adventure, it’s definitely unafraid to get silly when it needs to, and that’s a fantastic attitude to see resurface.

As well as traditional puzzles and eccentric humor, Resident Evil 7 brings back a more methodical and tense form of combat. Ethan gets access to multiple handguns, shotguns, and a series of heavy weapons, though ammo is severely limited and the enemies that surface are more than happy to soak all the bullets they can before dropping.

Enemies – not just the Bakers but the mutant “Molded” creatures that turn up to add some extra hindrance – can be surprisingly swift while player movement can only barely outpace them. This movement slows down to a crawl when aiming, requiring a constant need to create distance before opening fire.

There are shades of Resident Evil 4 in this sort of “keepaway” action, and it’s fundamentally sound, but I feel like the protagonist should be just a touch faster to compensate for the assaults that sometimes fly his way. With only a weak block maneuver to defend himself, Ethan lacks the capability to dodge and sometimes can’t even maintain an effective gap between he and his pursuer.

The tight corridors lead to some enemies forcibly roadblocking players, which can be exasperating in a game where ammo conservation is a prominent concern.

It may pain some series fans to hear this, but Resident Evil 7 is at its best when it’s more shamelessly chomping Outlast‘s flavor, placing players in cat-and-mouse situations against the implacable predation of Jack or Marguerite Baker. As they howl threats and babble inanely, they prove both entertaining and intimidating in their hunt for Ethan.

Biohazard lacks suitable hiding places, relying on careful movement and the odd pile of debris for cover, but firearms balance out the limited stealth by providing a measure of stopping power and it’s simple enough to run away from danger, even if you’ll get a shovel in the back of the head while fleeing.

While it’s clear that modern first-person horror has informed Capcom’s work, it’s hard not to think of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis while being chased off by increasingly warped monstrosities. One at least can’t say Capcom hasn’t got at least a little credibility in this particular brand of horror.

More than that, accusations of cynicism are deftly avoided thanks to the skill in which the perspective shift has been employed. RE7 utilizes the restricted visual scope of first-person to tremendous effect. Looking away is something done at one’s peril, and there’s always the sense that something could be creeping up behind you.

That said, it’s also quite obvious just how hard the game’s riding the virtual reality train, with several in-your-face jump scares intended solely for those wearing a bulky headset. These sequences – though not so regular as to overwhelm the experience – come off as a bit too staged and obvious to have much of the desired effect, at least when not indulging in VR.

The Molded are a disappointing foe, another attempt by Capcom to move away from zombies while trying to retain exact same threat. These generic humanoid lumps of tar just aren’t visually compelling or varied enough to hold a candle to the series’ classic creatures, which seems to be a running problem for the Resident Evil since it abandoned the Ganado introduced in Resident Evil 4.

Fortunately, boss fights hold up their end pleasingly enough, with a number of memorable fights and sequences that liberally help themselves to all the horror tropes under the Sun. Jack, Marguerite, and Lucas Baker each tackle Ethan in unique ways, all with a supervillain-level extravagance that I can’t help adoring.

Though Ethan is the main playable character, VHS tapes containing side stories can be uncovered and played on regularly appearing television sets. These tapes are fully playable and shed further light on the backstory, as well as potentially provide clues that may make Ethan’s life easier.

One such tape requires a SAW-like trap to be navigated that, when later encountered again as Ethan, can be overcome with minimal harm due to the player having seen how all the nasty tricks work. Little touches like these help make Resident Evil 7 so much more evocative.

There are some light upgrades to keep players hunting for secrets and treasures. Steroids can be taken to permanently upgrade health, while antique coins are found and spent to unlock a handful of extra benefits, including a powerful MAG handgun. Photographs of hidden treasure locations provide an amusing distraction, even if they’re a little bit obvious.

At around ten hours, RE7 doesn’t outstay its welcome even if it could have stood to present a more involved finale. Some might find that a little short, but for a horror game it’s a perfectly sufficient length and I feel much more would have dragged the whole thing out far too much.

Resident Evil 7 is gorgeous in the most disgusting of ways. Taking advantage of UHD resolutions while maintaining a smooth 60fps even on console, this is definitely worth playing on the biggest and best television you can find. What truly impresses me is just how filthy everything looks.

Disturbingly indistinct goop shines with a sickening slickness as maggots writhe amongst invariably rotten food. Everything feels unhygienic and long-since abandoned to decay. I’ve not seen a world so committed to highly detailed bleakness outside of the Souls series.

Level design deserves a lot of praise, too. Space is used efficiently and the winding corridors often loop back on themselves to create shortcuts and open up previously limited areas. A lot gets done with relatively small environments, which is a trick so many peddlers of open world games would do well to take note of.

Music is used sparingly but always has gravitas when it appears, voice acting is superb for the most part, and sound effects are just as grisly as the nasty accompanying graphics. Unsurprisingly, Capcom well and truly nailed it on all aesthetic fronts.

Well… almost all. The game’s health feedback system could use work, in that it should be nearly totally removed. Ethan has a watch with which he can check his health, and that should be enough until he’s literally a swipe or two away from death. Instead, even taking light damage causes a blood effect to appear onscreen which lingers until it’s healed. It’s a distracting annoyance that display options do little to solve, and it only gets worse as more damage is taken.

Player communication would benefit from an overhaul as well. A number of objectives are vaguely expressed, and at least one boss fight doesn’t let you know it’s a boss fight right away – I thought I was supposed to run until I checked my inventory and caught a little note in the corner telling me to fight.

Fix that, improve the look of the Molded (their behavior is fine, they’re just dull to look at), maybe add at least a little dodging capability, and I think this could have been a damn near perfect horror experience.

In its current form, Resident Evil 7 is a damn fine game. Damn, damn fine. Although it initially looks like a desperate chase for Outlast‘s credibility, it slowly reveals itself to be more of a traditional Resident Evil adventure than one might believe, while taking successful elements from contemporary horror games and utilizing them effectively.

After Resident Evil 6, this is exactly what the series needed. Both a change of pace and a return to long-neglected roots, it thrills me to say that, for the first time in a long time, Capcom is on the right track.

8.5/10
Great

Kaye Faye
Guest
Kaye Faye

I am glad to hear that this games experiment succeeded. Like Doom, it should help prove that blending the old with the new can be a very good thing in the right hands.

Benj
Guest
Benj

I’m guessing that, similar to Resident Evil 4, some fans of the original RE games are going to be really obnoxious when criticising this because it’s good but not in exactly the way they want.

Looking forward to metabombed article soon. “This isn’t a Resident Evil game!” is liable to be a running theme.

TruthySpreaderer
Guest
TruthySpreaderer

Count me as one of the people not buying this day one for PC. Overpriced especially when considering the DLC.
I heard the VR won’t be on PC for a year? Pft… 8.5? No, no, no.. Sometimes it seems like Jim drinks the koolaid. Could it be a rushed review? I guess we’ll see in a few years.

Appretaur
Guest
Appretaur

Can we hope for upcoming DLC to turn the Baker family into the Berenstain Bears? Or did the Angry Video Game Nerd already lay claim to the idea of using them as horror fixtures…

Hunter Lee Triche
Guest
Hunter Lee Triche

I don’t think it should have dodging. A wimpy push would be better.

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000
So we’ve got a capable everyman protagonist trapped in a derelict manor containing hideous experiments, who’s routinely huntend/hounded by creepy (yet fun and fleshed out) antagonists, and actually has to manage his inventory/ammo carefully through slower, tense encounters? All coated with a thin layer of cheese? Well welcome back Resident Evil. Good to see you’re done with that whole Michael Bay phase you went through. Sure RE5 and 6 weren’t bad (especially with a friend), but man did I find them tonally lacking. RE7, I will certainly be glad to see you in my console, probably next holiday season when… Read more »
Joao Oliveira
Guest
Joao Oliveira
NO SPOILERS, I PROMISE! I’ve beaten the game last night (7 hours playtime on Normal) and I will say that what I loved the most was how the scope of the game got from trapped inside a Louisiana colonial residence looking for your girlfriend while being hunted by cannibals to something MUCH bigger but totally deserving it by taking it slow and steady. The only thing that I was put off was by the absurd-looking DLC ad after the credits. I’m sure Capcom is trying to get the people who liked the action aspects of 5 and 6 on board… Read more »
Lies That Bind
Guest
Lies That Bind

So I should’ve gotten this instead of the new kingdom hearts game huh? I was enamored by the jimpressions video I saw on this.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

People seem determined to hate this entry since its’ reveal. I find it utterly baffling. Is this another fallout Bethesda debacle again? At least that had the excuse of the older games being more complicated or whatever. Resident evil has not. To metacritic, we go!! I wonder how many user reviews there are from people who haven’t even played the game.

Mārcis Jēkabsons
Guest
Mārcis Jēkabsons
I can’t help but feel disappointed with the direction RE7 has taken. Being hailed as a return to horror seems hollow to me as the only survival horror entry is the first game. And even that I find debatable, because I didn’t feel scared when playing that. Tension is what I would call it. And tension is not horrifying. I also think that the series gets too much flack for being too action’y, because, returning to my previous point, the series got a lot more action oriented with the second entry. If somebody missed that then 3 made that more… Read more »
SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

The gore feels silly. Oh hey, your hand was chopped off, but it doesn’t effect you and the very next scene its back on, no harm no foul.
I mean in the video Jim put up the dude gets stabbed in the hand like 9 times. After a point there isn’t enough of a hand left to stab.
So why both with all the violence and gore if its literally meaningless?

diamond
Guest
diamond
Resident Evil 6 is my personal favorite game in the series, I like this game OK, but the controls definitely feel like a step backward compared to that game, I think in many ways RE7 is just as guilty of bandwagon jumping as Re6 was, just in a different way, it’s attempts to appeal to the face-cam crowd by trying to be like Amnesia were a little too blatant for me at times, and while the boss fights were interesting, the not so good controls got in the way a bit too often. Going back to deliberately shitty controls after… Read more »
Gurphardt
Guest

Well. I’m certainly glad people seem to like Resident Evil again, but I’ll miss the ridiculous world of mutant monsters and conspiracies from the old canon.

Andy
Guest
Andy
This is not what I wanted personally. I don’t have the game but I watched a walkthrough on Youtube and as a long time RE fan I think the story is stupid and slapped together but that’s just my opinion. I think some parts are pretty cool from what I’ve seen and it’s really violent and gory but to me it doesn’t have any replay value at all. Beat it once and you’re done. But like I said the story and some parts bother me as a fan of the lore and the history of the series. But I also… Read more »
JP
Guest
JP
I am a little surprised that Jim didn’t note the value proposition here. $60 for a 10-12 hour game is not good, but it’s awful when you consider the amount of DLC that will drop in just a few weeks. The game itself seems designed for one play through, and I have not read about any alternate paths or story branches that would warrant a second play through. On the other hand, the DLC that has been announced (already!!) seems purposefully designed to add replay value, and should have been included in the main game. The first DLC pack comes… Read more »
Kevin Wilson
Guest
Kevin Wilson
I haven’t played this game yet but have watched the first 2 hours of the SGS crew and Worth a buy playing it. Couldn’t have been a bigger contrast in opinions between the two so I’m still unsure on this one. From what I have seen though, the game seems overly reliant on cutscenes and locked in animations, constantly taking control away from the player, I’ve not seen one review mention this so far. Everything seems linear and scripted as well “oh you can’t go into the garage yet because you haven’t got the knife to cut the sticky tape… Read more »
NT
Guest
NT

Jim, what did you think of that boss fight in the dissection room? Such delicious camp and Evil Dead references galore.

kimiyoribaka
Guest
kimiyoribaka

I’ve seen a few streamers play this. I think the best part so far was the implication that a certain character could use the bloody stump where his hand used to be to open doors. It may not show it, but it does show his other hand doing something else, so he was definitely using the stump.

Kain Klarden
Guest
Disagree on the health – I’m at about Lucas part, just had more Molders types introduced, and so far it feels like a very good item management thing. Also, blood splatters can be turned off in the options, I believe, at least on PC. My biggest gripe so far is that it focuses a bit too much on ways to tank damage, rather than avoiding it – like, maybe instead of Block there would be an evade with a little cooldown, so you could body some enemies and avoid them in tighter spaces. Since right now it’s actually easier and… Read more »
goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo
i personally think that this game was better off being a complete reboot of the series rather then a numbered sequel, imagine if there was a ninja gaiden iv on the nes, but instead was a puzzle game, you dont pretend that this is a sequel when its not even in the same category as the previous games,and before you say, the same could be said for RE4, yeah, but RE4 was ground breaking for its time, there is nothing original about this game, this, this is capcom merely following current horror trends that started off with games like slender… Read more »
Umar
Guest
Umar

That opening section though. I was legit shocked. Had to get up and drink some water lol Loving this game so so so much.

Lapti Nek
Guest
Lapti Nek

Maybe I’m get getting too cynical these days, but this just felt like it had ‘Resident Evil’ slapped on it for recognition. It’s a great looking game and has some good scares, but also feels like some group of executives demanded that all the current horror game tropes get checked off. Resident Evil definitely needed an update/revival, but making Silent Evil PT 7 feels like the most ‘boardroom’ way of doing it.

Anton
Guest
Anton

So, the mutated offspring of Outlast and classic RE games…. this year’s personal GOTY might have arrived early for me. Can’t wait to play.

Father
Guest
Father

Every time Jim reviews something I try to guess what score he’s going to give a title. my guess for this was either 8 or 9 so I’d say I called it spot it.

oshigoroshi
Guest
oshigoroshi

but Jim, isn’t this game basically Youtube Fodder?

1 2 3