As I stepped through the trees and towards the mansion I had suddenly realised that this wasn’t Kansas or the land beyond the rainbow with munchkins and lollipops. Instead I was met with some ominous home-made sculpture work containing a dear head and blades for a buzz saw. As I progress through the bayou and the Baker residence this rapidly becomes the least crazy thing I am going to see on this trip and boy what a trip it was. Resident evil seven is the latest edition in what is arguably one of the most well-known franchises in gaming history alongside Halo, the legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. The series has seen a lengthy core saga with several spin-off games and films so coming to the table seven has big boots to fill, and it strides its size nine right into the top spot at the table. the game itself despite being a continuation of the main series is mechanically a complete reboot with a new first person perspective and an outlast styled focus on horror and action within the game. Along with a new perspective and a new game focus the game also enjoys a completely new setting from the last few entries in the series as the main character of this story stumbles his way through the Louisiana bayou in search of his estranged and missing wife Mia. The game starts shortly after the end of events in the last game where long standing heroes Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy battled to avert a worldwide destruction scheme, the new setting trades the big locations and environments for a quieter location that is the Baker Family mansion.
The premise for this latest entry to the series that you play a young man called Ethan who out of the blue has received a message from his estranged and missing wife Mia that she is somewhere in the grounds of the Baker family residence in Louisiana. Being the doting husband that you are you immediately rush to her last known location and begin your search for her, all alone .. because calling the cops at this stage would just ruin the fun and make you less manly I suppose. The Baker mansion will seem very familiar to long standing fans of the series as bearing close resemblance to the mansion that housed a large portion of the very first game in the series all those years ago, it does however have an entirely unique feel in the most parts as you explore the mansion and its grounds. Environments in the game have a way more enclosed and darker feel than in previous entries with the player often forced into narrow spaces, hallways and one way corridors giving a very claustrophobic feel at times. This new look and feel comes into its own during combat or when the player is in a dire situation such as low health or ammo. The feeling of being trapped when you’re already in a tough spot gives you that nervous twitch when you’re forced to go around a corner or open a door. You start to feel the hairs on your arms move and it’s a pretty refreshing experience for a resident evil game to leave me with that feeling since the last few entries abandoned the entire horror aspect completely. The overall look of these locations is rather impressive too with the new RE Engine providing some great improvements to lighting and shadows. Watching the walls as a faint shadow of Mr Baker stalks the hallway you’re about to go into adds very nicely to the games overall atmosphere. The level of detail in characters and textures is not skimped on in any way either with even the smallest things such as cockroaches and small photographs being given extraordinary detail.
To go with the overhauled look of the game core combat has also seen major changes to fit with the first-person perspective. Weapons now have more recoil and combat requires the player to be far more mobile than in previous games with enemies having increased speed and reach than before to punish you if you get stuck in a tight spot. The player does have a melee weapon in the form of a knife but I felt it was hard to be good with (personally I didn’t really like it and thought it felt sluggish but I have seen people be great with) to coincide with a semi large array of weaponry that the game will periodically add to. The game starts with the standard resi weapon which is the 9mm handgun that has seen its place as the starter weapon for almost every game in the series and you progress from there to shotguns, flamethrowers and even a grenade launcher to name a few. The variety in weapons is arguably more limited than previous games which saw players hiding enough firepower for a small army to around 7 or 8 weapons with the handgun seeing two notable upgrade options to a .45 and a Magnum hand canon (this will require the player to seek out some antique coin collectables scattered throughout the estate) which also has become something of a series regular upgrade for players. the weapons all feel great to use each feeling like it has weight and force when you use it. especially the shotgun which has a real kick when firing and a serious spread that in some instances allows for you to hit three large targets at once. the grenade launcher retrieved from later in the game can have a few ammo types too to give it diversity but i felt that flame rounds worked the best. to go with these new weapons the player is also given a new type of enemy to face in the form of the moulders. these creatures are heavily linked to the outbreak encountered at the Baker mansion and take the form of large goo like monsters that made me think of the monster from the black lagoon but with way more of a violent streak. the downside with these enemies is that they fit the profile for standard enemies in a resident evil game. sure they’re strong but aside from one type they are not the fastest of things and they are definitely not the smartest as i learned when closing doors on them they cant open them and later stages in the game when low on ammo just hauling ass straight past them altogether. the faster ones are a little more tricky and remind me a lot of the ‘lickers’ from previous instalments. these enemies can be a real pain if you’re low on ammo or health. the overall design for these monsters is very fitting to the games overall aesthetic but overall they just lack any real presence in the game. they aren’t really scary looking unless you’re in a tight spot and then they become real muscle tensers. combat comes into its own hugely though during the numerous encounters the player will have with the Baker family. the battles with these characters are extremely well done. they have great variation, locations and dialogue to go with them. the primary encounters are with the two heads of the Baker Family Mr and Mrs Baker. you encounter both of these characters several times throughout your journey and each time is something new. the methods for beating them, their attacks, everything seems to change with each new encounter and its refreshing each time you beat them and advance onward. my favourite encounter of the game is with Mrs Bakers final showdown. i really enjoyed the mechanics employed for her combat, having to use a completely different tactic from the Mr Baker and Mia battles ( might just be me but i felt a little salty after i came all this way to save my wife and she tries to waste me 😀 ). the only real gripes i have with the combat in the game are that as much as the game is more grounded than previous titles there is little in the way of weapon customisation. what you pick up is really all you’re getting and it doesn’t take away from the game to have it that way but after so many games of being able to have that option i just feel a little lost without it.
7 has seen advancements in the puzzle area of the game which has always been a fan favourite. new puzzles are summed up into two categories which are the shadow puzzles that involve moving an object to have its shadow match a desired shape seen on the wall or the videotapes. the shadow puzzles are usually a quick mess around to get the close enough shape and it will auto fill out for you which shamefully isnt all that enjoyable past the first couple, the really good stuff comes in the form of the games video tapes. aside from a few these are VHS tapes that allow the player to see things through the eyes of another character that has encountered the Baker family at some stage and they offer the player if used a chance to experience an encounter before Ethan reaches that stage. the Birthday Party Puzzle is a great example with the player running through the murder puzzle of the crazed Baker sons invention. this puzzle was fairly tricky for me to be honest as i struggle with puzzles but i felt it was really enjoyable and a pretty cool addition to the game.
all of this also accompanied by some great sound design for this new entry. everything in the game sounds just amazing. the way that doors and floorboards will creak when you move near them, lights swinging, smashing objects, weapon sounds and especially footsteps. the game puts a heavy focus on being aware of the sounds in your environment when enemies are around. as you move through the game you develop a kind of paranoia for certain noises. i stepped on glass at one point and honestly sprinted my ass all the way back through an area to escape it. the voice acting as well was a really notable point for me as fans of the series will know by this stage Resident evil has developed an name for its overly dramatic approach to voice lines in a lot of instances but the speech in this game seems far more natural than before with characters showing a more emotional state that emphasise their fear for example. this is prominent with Mia who spends a lot of the game in a very emotional state that i feel would have been totally wasted with the kind of voice acting that previous titles have seen. another great example is the anger in Mr Baker. it comes through as very raw and hate filled when he talks and i find that brilliant for the atmosphere of his encounters. it makes him seem more driven to catch you. the only issues i really encountered with the sound were a few audio glitches that happened during some of the smaller encounters with the lip syncing not quite matching up which thankfully is not par for the course with this game having its characters speech look beautifully natural and flowing.
as i played this game i felt myself falling back in love with a series that frankly had left me a little disappointed with the last few games but coming into this game i felt right from the start that this would be different and it was, the overall experience is easily one of the best that I’ve had in a game in years with Capcom showing that they still have great things planned for this franchise. the only sticking point and real issue i have with his game is its end. now this is a personal note as a i know that a lot of people really enjoyed the end of the game and that character (potential link to previous games) and while it was technically without fault i cant shake the feeling that it was really out of the place. when comparing the feeling, tone and play style of the game as a whole before that point it just doesn’t seem to fit. it shifts gear from this heavy atmosphere based game to the kind of outlandish encounter we have witnessed in previous games and for me it spoils what i felt to be a very interesting villain for the game and wastes her real potential. couple that with the occasional bit of backtracking through environments and the semi weak collectables that the game has to offer and the game is not entirely without fault. there is also the issue for me that VR is locked to the PS4? i mean given the power of the Rift and Vive setups i can’t really get my head around the lack of VR PC support but this also doesn’t really take much away from the overall experience.
in summary this game despite its ending and the very few technical faults i did find with it is a sure fire winner for any gamer. its got the story, the gameplay and definitely the wow factor all nailed down for me in a neat 10-12 hour package. the game does have some replay ability with various difficulty settings and the new game + option for the unlocks to be used once you’ve beaten the game the first time but i feel it lacks any real drive to replay the game if you haven’t got one of the DLC banned footage packs but even with that this game is a definite recommendation and easily worth the asking price for it.