Summary: Fear and isolation seep through the walls of an abandoned southern farmhouse. "7" marks a new beginning for survival horror with the Isolated View of the visceral new first-person perspective. Powered by the RE Engine, horror reaches incredible heights of immersion as players enter a terrifyingly new world of fear as they fight to survive.
There was a lot riding on Capcom with Resident Evil 7. Proving time and time again that they simply didn’t understand why Resident Evil fans were so upset by their last few main series attempts, we were excited to see the publisher change up the formula once more after Resident Evil 6 confirmed to the masses that they simply didn’t have a clue. We were excited. Cautious, but excited. Thankfully, Resident Evil 7 wastes no time getting to the good stuff. Mia sent Ethan a message of her whereabouts after vanishing three years back, and Ethan deems this as good an excuse as any to go crawling back after the girl who walked out on their life together all those years ago. Vague at best, Ethan immediately walks out on his friends in a frantic mission to find her. Of course, that leads him to the Baker family home located off the beaten track on a farmyard in Dulvey, Louisianna. It’s always in the middle of nowhere. You know… except for Raccoon City.
We could say it’s not all that it seems - but that’d be going the easy route. Nothing about a creaky, wooden house in the middle of nowhere ever seems 100% open to the public for a casual meet n’ great, but the Bakers welcome their visitors with open arms; they just expect them to be grateful for what they offer - regardless of what they’re giving.
With over 20 people missing or unaccounted for across a 2 year span in the area, you’d have thought the Baker’s reign of terror would have been thwarted long ago. Judging from their reactions at the dinner table as the phone rang, the cops have certainly given it some thought. But they wouldn’t be able to handcuff what’s inside this house. Even if it’s hiding in plain sight. Thankfully, those phone lines act as somewhat of a saving grace for Ethan throughout the story. The girl on the other end offers him a sliver of hope when it comes to surviving the family’s wicked ways. You wouldn’t usually trust a mysterious voice on the other end of a phone line, but in this situation, anything can act as a reassuring safety blanket.
Throwing you straight into the thick of it, it isn’t long before you slide your way into the lives of the Bakers. Seemingly summoned to their estate, the front gate is locked. Strange. It’s as if they want you to go in through the back entrance. Some families are just picky about that. Maybe they’re ashamed of their front of house offering, or maybe they’re just trying to keep the cold-callers away not expecting them to rummage around the trees to slip them a deal for 20% off their next takeout. The Bakers aren’t interested in trivial foods. They have their hunt walking right into their living room.
Once you’re in, you’re in for a while. You’re in for a lot more than you bargained for, too. Welcome to the family, Son, indeed. It’s all they want for you. It’s all they want from you. Locating Mia right off the bat, even Ethan would have thought it was too good to be true. But with doors locking themselves behind you and walls being shockingly brittle, your world is about to get bigger, and smaller and bigger again. You’re never quite certain of your own safety in Resident Evil 7, and that’s just what we like to see.
User reports would suggest Resident Evil 7 is about as long as you can make it. With some having a first run of around 6 hours with others stretching closer to 12, it’s all about how you as an individual react to the stimuli on offer. Like any good Resident Evil title of the past, creeping around dark corridors, fearing your next footstep and mentally mapping out the environment so you know exactly how to escape a turn for the worse is how it delivers its most shocking surprises. You’ll die in the next 5 seconds or just live to die another minute. There are plenty of moments where your own mental bullet count will fail you leading to the dreaded sound of an empty magazine with a Molded monstrosity staring you dead in the eye.
If you go into this without any desire to be spooked, you can absolutely treat it like a close-quarters combat action game for the most part. Once you’ve been introduced to the whole family, you’ll slowly learn to deal with more hell-spawns of the house’s creation that either come at you ready to give you a good punching, or crawl along the walls with their heads on full show either gearing to take a chunk out your face or inviting your shotgun to make them a new one.
Sometimes killing them all just isn’t an option. Whether you’re out to conserve ammo or simply too scared to face them head on, Capcom has taken their time to recreate almost everything that made Resident Evil 1 a resounded success in the early horror game movement. The house is silent before the howling winds shake the thin windows from their frames. The floorboards creek, the paintings on the walls make us question whether an art connoisseur could make sense of their tastes, while the framed view of the Arkley Mountains back in ‘91 make us long-time fans question just how this whole mess ties in with rest of the franchise. Did the Bakers pay a visit to the Spencer mansion? Did the man of house go from joining the Marines to having a hand in the development of Umbrella’s early experiments? It’s never really made clear, but it sure does add to the mystery.
Long-time fans of the series will recognize some of the puzzles, too. Though some others are rather smart, there’s no pushing mundane objects aside for a gem to slot into a bird statue this time around - heck, there’s barely any pushing at all. But a plethora of switches and locked doors still threaten to keep the claustrophobic house wrapped tightly around your ankles just as you’d expect.
Sadly, the puzzles are not all too difficult. Maybe growing up with the series has created a mind relatively immune to Capcom’s trickery; or maybe they just lost the guy who we held accountable for our early struggles. It’s all about shapes, keywords and neatly placed notepads in this one, so your quiet walk-about the estate isn’t much of a struggle on that front. But Resident Evil always has something else hiding beneath its obvious external layer. Something buried deeper beneath the skin.
Coming from the days of being eaten alive by the shambling corpse of another man, Capcom has never been afraid to explore the utterly grotesque when it comes to their horror titles. Past games have included plenty of opportunities to watch your head be torn from your body in more ways than one, so you’d be naive to think you wouldn’t get another taste of that. Of course, with the game being in first person, it’d be difficult to show that exact method to its fullest - especially considering the fact that you don’t have a head to begin with. But between having your arm chopped off, reattached with staples and have it still function as the only limb in need of medical attention through the entire game, it’s up to the rest of the cast to demonstrate just how many pints of life juice can be spilled in one day.
Whether it boils down to frantically plowing an old man with a car around a tiny garage or kicking the remains of another to get someone to stop waving a chainsaw at you, the boss battles of Resident Evil 7 are some of the most intense moments I’ve come across in a video game in recent memory. Think Deus Ex mechanics mixed with the gore of a modern horror movie and you have the principle of its early brawls - until things take an obscene turn with the more occult stuff later on.
Sadly, however, the game never quite manages to emulate some of the finer points of the earlier Resident Evil games. Though notes are scattered all around its varied locations, the story pacing hits a turbulent stage early on. Within the first 20 minutes of the game, you’re already aware that the Baker’s aren’t simply your run-of-the-mill mental rednecks out in the boonies - but you don’t really get to delve into that side of things until quite a while after.
The notes scattered around the house paint a picture of a family struggling to keep their maniac son under control - a son who’s obvious knack at electronics are made apparent not only by the traps he lays in his little party-house out back, but by the various competition trophies lining his bedroom walls. It begs the question as to whether the invoices left around the house speak of the puzzle installations as a way to keep its visitors from escaping, or simply as a means for Jack to nurture his son’s promising gift in the hopes of containing his over-active imagination.
It isn’t until much later that you actually start to piece together just how the family managed to sink so low or why Mia was there in the first place. It gives you a sudden choice to make and uses that moment to force a switch of perspectives to have you play through most of its backstory in one go toward the very end of the game. It’s a pacing the original Resident Evil managed to spread evenly with its consistent notes hinting at something a little more out of the ordinary - but it did start with the shambling undead from the get-go.
Performance and Graphics
At times, the visuals still manage to feel a little dated with there being seemingly little difference between Medium and Very High quality textures; though with it being a generally dark and moody game, we can understand that you’re not supposed to be seeing every detail in the dimly lit environments. And for that reason alone, it’s enough to suggest you sacrifice the GPU memory in favor of some higher quality shadows and, if possible, a bump up in resolution.
Even on an aged 2GB GTX 770, I had no problems playing through the entire game at 2560 x 1440 - with full 4K being plausible the vast majority of the time. It’s worth noting, however, that most of my testing was spent playing the game at 30fps, as it really doesn’t matter with a slow-paced game like this if it means you can focus on higher visuals throughout.
RESIDENT EVIL 7 VERDICT
Capcom came amazingly close to upstaging Shinji Mikami’s original horror classic, but a few oversights keep this one from really standing out as the cream of the crop for the series. A marvel when it comes to its ability to shake you to your core, its clearly a love letter to both those who adored the claustrophobic nightmares of the original games and those introduced to horror with more recent Hollywood attempts like The Conjuring and Insidious. It’s hard to imagine the formula working in their favor in the long run, but if it’s a reason to trust that the series could still be in the right hands with Capcom after all, we’re interested to see how they’ll carry on torch into the future.