When I first saw Resident Evil 7, announced back at E3 2016, it instantly piqued my interest. It came (and possibly cashed in) right on the back of the recently canceled PT, AKA Silent Hills, the PS4 exclusive being developed by Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame) and Guillermo del Toro and staring Norman Reedus (Daryl from The Walking Dead). Both PT and RE7 are survival horror games set in a creepy abandoned house with an air of mystery and huge suspense, with extremely realistic visuals. If you put two screenshots side by side it would be hard to tell which game was which. PT would have been a huge hit, so it’s no surprise that somebody would step in to try and take that slice of the cake. Capcom did just that.
As a fan of the first 4 or 5 Resident Evil games, the announcement and look of RE7 was, for me, a much needed breath of fresh air. The series had been going stale and in a progressively wrong direction since the success of RE4. It had become more about action and cut scenes than survival horror and suspense, and while I did play the later games, I enjoyed them less and less with each new release.
RE7 goes back to its roots for this reboot, in the sense that it’s slow paced, extremely tense (more so than the original games) and true survival horror. In it, you play the role of Ethan, who receives an unexpected email from his missing wife of 3 years, Mia, and goes to her aid at a strange house some distance away. It doesn’t take long before you meet the Baker family and things start getting messed up, and thus your adventure begins!
The title is officially Resident Evil 7 but cleverly named RESIDENT EVII, which keeps it in the series but also shows us that it’s something new, a fresh start. In my opinion it didn’t need to be a part of the RE series; it would work very well as a brand new IP. The game does reference the overall RE universe through Easter eggs and certain mentions during the story, but these things could have easily been un-included if they wanted to. Perhaps they kept it ‘Resi’ to sell more copies off the name of the brand. Personally, I’d have quite liked to see it under a new name, but to keep the references to the RE universe in there. It would have made for an awesome surprise to the spoiler avoiding gamers playing through the story.
Regardless of the name, if you like horror games, this one is essential. You don’t need to know a single thing about the RE history to understand and enjoy this addition. The game is in first person view, which immerses you even deeper into the story and environment, and it also has the standard RE inventory management system; no unlimited bullets for you, no regenerating health…you find items along your way but you better be sure to conserve them and use wisely! You can combine items you find to construct health potions, or stronger ammo and you still save your game progress manually using tape recorders (although on easy and normal mode, you do get auto save points as well). While these things are typically ‘Resi’ and fully expected, the game overall reminded me of the brilliant Alien: Isolation, which also took the same approach to planning your moves, and being scarce when using weapons.
The setting is genuinely creepy and terrifying with plenty of jump scares as you progress through the story. I wasn’t able to play this alone; I had to have my wife sitting next to me the whole way through! We both felt weirded out, and jumped many a time. Even when we EXPECTED something to happen, the game has an ingenious way of fooling you to deliver the jump at the exact moment you’re not ready. There are people online choosing to watch the game be played by others, rather than play it themselves, due to it being too scary…it’s that bad.
Controls are simple, solid and very easy to get used to, and the audio effects (there isn’t much music) are some of the best I’ve heard in a game. To add to the horror, you’ll frequently hear strange noises around the house you’re investigating; creaky floorboards from upstairs, items falling randomly from shelves, piano keys being stuck while nobody is around…huge amounts of ‘nope’ await!
I finished my first play through in around 10 hours, so it’s a short game but does offer value in encouraging multiple attempts, since you unlock harder difficulties on a new game plus mode (restarting but with all your items from the last game), where you can try to obtain all collectibles and see different endings. If you don’t like horror games, or are of a nervous disposition, that’s the only case I’d advise you to not get this. Otherwise, you have no excuses…buy it!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need some counter balance so I’m off to play some Pokemon or Rayman for the next couple of weeks.