- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Players: 1
- Site: http://residentevil7.com/
- Game code shared from freelance work
If you’ve been waiting for a game that features invincible hillbillies, oddly-placed keys, and a very dirty house, Capcom have got you covered with Resident Evil 7.
The seventh game sees things shuffled around so much, it’s not really recognisable as a Resident Evil game. The difference between 7 and 6 is immeasurably larger than the difference between 4 and 3. There’s a brand new location (the lonely outreaches of the Louisiana bayou), a brand new main character (a chap named Ethan, who investigates the area after a video message from the wife he’d assumed dead), a brand new set of baddies (the insane-but-supernaturally-powerful Baker family, as well as some monsters), and a brand new perspective – first-person. If anybody in this game is aware of the existence of Umbrella, the T-virus, or any characters at all from any of the previous games, they’re all keeping shtum about it.
As for the type of game you’ll find here, it’s not quite like any previous Resident Evil, but is definitely closest to 4. Rather than the awkward and unsuccessful mish-mash forced upon 6, 7 consistently plays things creepy (with the occasional flash of deadpan dark humour). Unsurprisingly perhaps, after the opening you’ll constantly find yourself in poorly-lit interiors and dead-of-night exteriors. Plenty of opportunities for Ethan to automatically switch his torch on, we assure you. There’s not really any psychological horseplay, with the game generally relying on jump scares to put the frighteners on you. There’s a constant air of unease though, and the final result is that you can actually play through the game without fearing the onset of a heart attack.
There’s a good balance between exploration and combat, without it ever being made obvious when enemies are approaching. You’ll be kept on your virtual toes here. Bosses are flagged with the suspicious appearance of powerful ammo and a save room (there are autosaves too), but apart from that you’ll nervously step into each new area never quite sure where the next threat is coming from.
It’s not all combat; nowhere near the level of Resident Evil 4 onwards (we probably only killed about a hundred enemies across the entire game). There are keys placed with mystifying inconvenience, secret passages and alternate routes to dig out in order to progress, and a rotting handful of puzzles. We’re not convinced that the first proper puzzle is communicated to the player very well (if you have our trouble: hand and the last one, that’s all we’ll say), and another late-game puzzle is conversely hilariously simple, but apart from that they’re pleasant diversions.
Speaking of puzzles, one of the game’s most memorable sequences comes from one of the optional videotape sequences (“Happy Birthday”). In fact we urge you to play through this one as soon as you can after finding it, as it links in to an area you’ll soon find yourself in in a very clever way. Come to think of it, we’re not sure how you could successfully get through that sequence without playing the tape unless you Googled the solution…. well, it’s still clever, anyway.
Although Resident Evil 7 starts off quite scary, it quickly stops being so (jump scares don’t really count) and never really recovers. This is down to two fundamental horror mistakes. Firstly, nothing is left to the imagination in terms of what you’re up against. The Baker family and their nature are revealed almost immediately, and the creatures that you’ll come up against throughout your adventure are plonked right in front of you without any real build-up. Combine that with the fact that there are only a few different types of monster, and the game basically shows all its cards far too early. The final element thrown into the mix (MILD SPOILER: little girl with supernatural powers) is so tired and overdone, your reaction will almost certainly be little more than “come on, really?”.
Still, that’s not to take away from everything that the game does right, which is quite a lot. We’ve already gone over the atmosphere. Inventory space is limited, but not frustratingly so as the series historically has it; there are some events and plot twists that you won’t see coming; and it’s so very clear how much time and effort has gone into the game. Everything from the superb graphics and genius sound design to generous amount of new ideas spread across the game screams quality. Okay, so most of the bosses are pretty disappointing, but we can forgive that.
It’s encouraging to see that, after giving the series a major overhaul once, Capcom aren’t afraid to do it again. The result is a great game that’s well worth your money, and a much-needed shot in the proverbial arm for the Resident Evil name.