by Aidan Kearney
Disclaimer: This playthrough was performed on a PC with a GTX Titan Hybrid
When first shown at E3 2016, Resident Evil VII swept everyone’s expectations from under their feet. For the last twenty years, the Resident Evil series has been mainly third-person, with each game building off the last. Cynics declared the switch to a first-person perspective would make it an Outlast clone, and skeptics – like me – worried it would result in generic gameplay. Having played Resident Evil Remake before beginning Capcom’s latest entry, fans of the series will be happy to know that Capcom did a fantastic job in translating the classic Resident Evil formula into a new perspective.
In the early parts of the game, the player character Ethan Winters will have to manage his resources between scarce health items and limited ammunition. With meager starting inventory Ethan must choose between what’s crucial and what’s stored in item boxes. While there is some degree of hiding from enemies, that ends very quickly once the player gets their hands on a decent amount of ammo. With its tight shooting, the game rewards placing your shots well and assists in conserving ammo. The new, grotesque ‘Molded’ enemies can be easily dispatched with headshots. Unfortunately, enemy variety is neither here nor there.
This is balanced out by the writing of the main antagonists: The Baker Family. The Bakers show Ethan the true meaning of “southern discomfort.” Jack Baker alone easily carries the first half of the game with tense boss fights and a personality that manages to be both entertaining and frightening.
Strange Yet Familiar
Moving away from the action-oriented cinematic sequences of the past two games, this new entry focuses more on exploration of the sprawling Baker residence, laid out all too familiarly to players of the original Resident Evil. The residence is littered with fairly simple puzzles, and Resident Evil VII keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek. It’s a madhouse, and Ethan outright wonders “who builds this stuff?” Each location in the residence is uniquely designed, and graphically impressive. A morgue in the main house basement is littered with rotting corpses. An old house on the bayou is filled with oozing insect nests wherever it’s not falling into the water. Between the locations, there’s sickly black ichor infesting everything it touches. Like the Resident Evil VII: Beginning Hour demo, the final version of the game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Go Tell Aunt Rhody This Needs Fixin’
For all it offers, Resident Evil VII is not without its faults. The first hour feels too scripted, and some jump-scares feel cheap. Ethan feels sluggish as his defensive options are guarding, crouching, and running as fast as a third grader with two left feet. Unfortunately it feels like more corners were cut the further on the game goes. The last two levels of the game don’t feel nearly as complex as earlier parts of the game. One play-through will last about ten hours; it’s rather short for a full-value game. Thankfully beating the game once unlocks “Madhouse mode.” Along with increasing damage taken, this gameplay mode switches around item locations and changes the dynamics of boss fights.
Resident Evil VII presents a refreshing new entry in the series that provides rewarding gameplay, entertaining characters, well-optimized and aesthetically pleasing graphics, and an ending that will certainly result in more Resident Evil to come. The season pass provides further gameplay modes on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but PC players will have to wait later on in February. If you’re just interested in playing through the game once, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to wait for a price drop especially since there’s more free content coming this spring.
Resident Evil VII
The Resident Evil series has proven that it can provide a horror experience for a new generation while staying true to its roots. If Resident Evil VII is the new direction for the series, then with just a little more polish it’ll truly shine.