Resident Evil 7 received many mixed reviews from fans before it even launched from the demo and trailers that were released. “Too much like PT“, “Too much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre“, “Too much of a departure from the traditional ‘Resident Evil’ formula”, the list goes on and on. Many people still went out and could not wait to play the latest installment of the Resident Evil franchise – which launched on Tuesday or Monday evening depending on your location. The burning question in everyone’s head is: were the original premonitions true? In part, I will say, yes but in many ways they took what was in the demo (the content from the trailers are in there as an homage to Tobe Hooper’s, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and enhanced it in a way. There are still many things that could have taken this entry way further into the depths of depravity (which is, honestly what we were all craving).
The story, while different for a Resident Evil game, did not bother me as much as it did many others (since – shock horror – I’m not a Resident Evil fan) and I kind of enjoyed it more when I thought of it as a, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fanfic turned video game. It is about Ethan (the protagonist) receiving an email from his long lost wife, Mia saying, “come get me!” after 3 years and an address. Ethan ventures out to the middle-of-no-where Louisiana to find her where her mysterious disappearance begins to reveal itself. I found myself more drawn to finding the well planted collectibles, and solve the mystery of the “turned”swamp dwellers than trying to actually find Mia.
Sad to say the lack of characters that you, quite frankly, cared about in this game was strange. The franchise has always been known for strong character design and development, yet Ethan and Mia lacked any sort of personality or flare that made me want to get Ethan from point A to point B. The antagonists played their part, bumming around and beating the stuffing out of Ethan. However the relationship between Ethan and the villains were more of a gory hide and seek than anything really menacing. It was a real shame because if they were going for a more, Outlast, PT, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, feel like everyone has been referencing then the creative team could have used the thing that the above mentioned titles did so well: psychological horror.
On a positive note, the game did manage to capture the spirit of a psychological, survival horror game in one respect: the music and sound effects are outstanding. Every creaking floor board, drip of water, rustle of a bush is captured in stunning HD sound and serves to further unsettle the player giving the feeling of, ‘is something around that bend’. The other aspect of a great survival horror game are the visuals, because with spooky sounds come scary sights. Now, here is where it could get tricky in the review process – I received a copy on the PS4 and could not wait to play on my Pro with HDR on full blast. While everything was dimly lit in shades of gray and abysmal my textures would not load all the time (or would come in and out during cutscenes). This took me out of my spooky feels (especially when Mia had a whole conversation with Ethan where her mouth did not move but her fully rendered hair moved gracefully around) and caused many more laughs than gasps for a horror game. Was it the most terrible looking survival horror game I’ve played as of yet? Absolutely not, because when the textures did load in sync with everything else it painted the perfect dreary, swampy bayou of a backwards Louisiana that I’m sure the creative team was going for.
Gameplay was a tricky mistress in this game: the controls were great (didn’t stray too far from a traditional first person shooter), the level layouts were fluid, and the load times were not unbearable. Flaws came with the predictability of the villains (walking point A to point B over and over again makes gory hide and seek no fun), easy puzzles, and the gimmicks. PSVR you say? Yes, I played in VR, it is a special treat as you get to experience the spookiness up close and personal and the texture problem wasn’t as big with it. I took issue with it since, at times, it seemed gimmicky a la early 3-D movies where they threw stuff at the screen just so you could go, “WOAH! IT’S TOTALLY 3-D”. Best example is when you go to the “Old House” and there are tons of bugs they just throw at your face. I have a dead fear of spiders and this didn’t scare me as much as I rolled my eyes and decided no more VR for me. The game also lacked replayability which is becoming more and more important in the gaming industry these days when you put out a 5 hour game (like this one). Trophies were easy to get and the only real reason to replay is if you want the other ending (there are 2 endings), you missed a collectible (trophy hunting purposes), or you want to beat it on the hardest difficulty (trophy hunting purposes). There will be additional DLC later, but at the time of writing this review, this is it.
Final word – 5/10: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard had forgettable characters with forgettable relationships, a touch-and-go story, pristine sound quality with amazing graphics (when they loaded), and touch-and-go gameplay mechanics with moderate (at best) replayability.