Resident Evil 7: Biohazard – A huge departure in the right direction
I’ve never considered myself a huge fan of the Resident Evil franchise. I enjoyed RE1 and RE2 as much as any gamer, and I…tolerated…RE4 and RE5. That’s it though. 4 games. Up until early November, I hadn’t played any other entries or spin-offs that Capcom’s offered in the series’ 20+ year span, and I’ve been kinda disappointed in myself for that. Resident Evil VII’s demo came at a time where I was still reeling from the terror of the (still unrivaled) P.T. demo. It seemed like the next best thing after news of the cancellation. And despite my distaste for digital content (demos included), I played through it. It wasn’t P.T. Not even close. But damned if it wasn’t something I wanted to play!
After realizing that I have 2 months left to get through about a dozen “game of the year” candidates, I took an extended lunch break on a Monday and picked up Biohazard from a store I swore I’d never shop at again. Desperation forced my hand, but I’m glad it did. I kicked off the experience Monday afternoon, and by Tuesday evening, I had wrapped up a truly terrifying experience. One that’ll no doubt slither its way to the forefront of any survival-horror conversation for years to come.
“…this is easily the creepiest backdrop since The Spencer Mansion…”
Resident Evil 7 takes a drastic departure from its predecessors, and along with it, a hefty pile of risks. The game takes place in the fictional town of Dulvey, Louisiana; a backcountry bayou setting that had me uneasy right from the beginning. Something about Louisiana, guys… Creeped me out in True Detective. Had me unsettled in True Blood. And don’t even get me started on Duck Dynasty….*trembles. It was the perfect locale for this, genuinely disturbing, game. The eerie plantation takes you throughout the Baker family ranch, a series of dilapidated shacks strewn across a boggy swampland – and covers the course of 7 unofficial chapters, each with their own fair share of hillbilly horrors. I’ll say that this is easily the creepiest backdrop since The Spencer Mansion way back during the franchise’s beginnings.
“…it’s up to you to brave death, and unravel the mystery of your long-dead wife.”
You play as Ethan Winters, husband to Mia Winters who, 3 years earlier, was believed to be killed in a hurricane. Recently, however, Ethan received an email out of the blue, and in true James Sunderland fashion, sets off on a road trip to find her. Upon arriving, you quickly realize that things aren’t necessarily what they seem, and the abandoned home you’re exploring isn’t exactly as ‘abandoned’ as you once thought. Yet still, clinging to the surefire mentality that emails are the highest form of tangible evidence, it’s up to you to brave death, and unravel the mystery of your long-dead wife. Staying true to the survival horror tropes; a severely limited inventory, scarce ammo, and an obnoxious amount of hidden passageways for a glorified swamp-cabin await you. Couple this with some ‘intense’ encounters, with the only solace being a small handful of ‘safe-rooms’ littered across the bayou, and you’ve got yourself a full-blown, edge-of-your-seat, don’t turn the lights off, just stay down here with me a little bit longer, experience.
“That underlying acceptance of ‘I won’t survive if I’m caught‘ adds a severe level of anxiety”
Resident Evil 7 doesn’t focus heavily on the action element. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a healthy dose of action – but a lot of what you’ll be experiencing leans farther into the ‘stealth’ camp. The….inhabitants…aren’t your standard 2-headshot throwaways. In fact, despite putting my years of Metal Gear training to good use, I still found that, on Normal mode, my ammo count was too low to afford a shootout in most cases. And that underlying acceptance of ‘I won’t survive if I’m caught’ adds a severe level of anxiety that works in the game’s favor. Incorporating the first-person perspective that we haven’t yet seen in a numbered RE only amplifies this. No handy follow-cams giving you that convenient 360-degree view – just a single line of sight. It forces you to acknowledge the audible elements. The creaking floorboards. The scraping metal. The hoarse breathing. You may not ‘see’ her….but you know she’s there….right…around…the corner…
“…all of it comes together, culminating in a truly unsettling ambiance”
From an audio perspective, this game nails it. Sure, the voice-acting (and certainly the jarring facial animations) are sub-par at times, but the reliance on sound queues is spot-on. Every screech, every crackling whisper, every distorted moan…all of it comes together, culminating in a truly unsettling ambiance, and sets the tone from beginning to end. From “Kill or Be Killed” to “Into Madness” to “Tearing At The Flesh” – every track is disturbing in its own way – but for me, this Main Theme “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” gets me every time…
“Resident Evil 7 now stands as the ‘scariest’ game I’ve ever played.”
Resident Evil 7 is nothing like any of its predecessors, yet now stands as the ‘scariest’ game I’ve ever played. That’s not to say it’s my favorite title in the genre, nor has it breached the top slot for my game of the year; but there’s no denying that it’s an incredibly well-made experience that’s worth a playthrough if you have a few nights to spare. Have you guys played through this one yet? What’d you think? How does it rank with some of the other horror titles you’ve experienced? Be sure to head on over to the Cartridge Club forums to share your thoughts.