Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a paradox of a game. It’s a Resident Evil game but also not a Resident Evil game. It’s a survival horror game but also an action game. It’s terrifying but also silly. It’s fantastic but also terrible. It’s a game I want to love but I also feel disdain towards. It gets so much right but just as much wrong.
You play a man who goes looking for his missing wife in some creepy home in the bayous of Louisiana. Once there, he’s kidnapped by the crazy Baker family who are seemingly indestructible as their bodies continue to regenerate. You just want to get the your wife, get out, but things go south fast.
After becoming more and more action heavy, the opening act of Resident Evil 7 is a nail-biting scramble to avoid enemies and gain precious ammo in the hopes of staving off that enemy for long enough to scamper into the next room. It puts the survival horror back into the series and creates for a depowering experience.
But as the game continues, the guns and action ramp up more and more. By the final act, the game is reduced to a shooting gallery, heaping on the ammo and enemies until you reach one large, epic finale. It’s as if a different team came in to make the last act as it is desperately out of touch with what makes the first act excellent.
The change of perspective is an interesting shift for the series. Going from third person to first person certainly does add to the sense of claustrophobia. Add in the sluggish controls and it’s a tense experience. It’s likely that this shift was a response to the growing indie scene of horror games which use the first person perspective most of the time.
Thrown into the mix are these home videos that the player experiences. While a couple of these are good, it quickly becomes a bit odd to imagine someone recording these events and its use as an exposition device becomes readily apparent.
The classic Resident Evil style level structure returns with absurd keys and lots of backtracking through places you’ve been to unlock that one room in the hopes it’ll be the way forward. The initial house is a fantastic bit of design, but as the game goes on, the levels become less interweaved and connected and a lot more controlled.
This fresh take on the series returns to the design ideas of the old games but it lacks the conviction and gumption to stick to those survival horror roots. By the last act, the goodwill the game builds is squandered for dumb action set pieces and stereotypical jump scares. It’s a step in the right direction, but it still can’t shake that bad action game tendencies it picked up in recent years.
© James Blake Ewing 2017