It’s rare these days that we see a long-standing game franchise take big risks when it comes to new releases, but that’s exactly what we’ve seen with the latest instalment in the Resident Evil franchise – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
Biohazard is the first game in the series which uses a first-person view while still remembering that the game isn’t a shooter and, instead, it’s more of a survival-horror game. This means that the game creates some truly eery and tense moments, from fight scenes right through to exploring the environment and hunting for new and better items. If you’ve been playing Resident Evil from the moment the franchise first hit consoles, you’ll note that this is what made the previous iterations so darn memorable.
Personally, I began to lose interest in the Resident Evil franchise after number 4 as the game have moved away, in my opinion, from the creepy and downright pant-filling horror that made Resident Evils 1 and 2 some of the best games to hit consoles and also made Resident Evil a staple in the horror-game genre.
However, Biohazard goes back to the games original roots and puts you in one of the creepiest settings since the Spencer Mansion and sets you on a course of solving one of the most bizarre mysteries which is difficult, annoying and frustrating but at the same it’s the most fun I’ve had on a Resident Evil game in years.
The game begins with your character, Ethan, receiving a mysterious email from his missing wife. Once received, he then ventures to the creepy Dulvey Plantation to uncover the mystery and find his wife.
However, upon entering the plantation, you quickly find yourself submerged in a world that would make the Texas Chainsaw Massacre seem like an episode of One Tree Hill. Complete with grotesque imagery, dilapidated buildings and cannibalistic horror, the game quickly lets you know that you’re not going to be getting much sleep after playing it.
In fact, during the first 20 minutes of gameplay alone I think I jumped so much that I nearly broke the chair that I was sitting on.
Once you’ve reached the plantation, the game then lets you explore its history and find traces of the residents and how they descended into this hellish savagery and how it completely mutated their idea of “normal” life. Behind locked doors you find photographs, trophies and memorabilia to give you an insight into the past lives of the residents.
The Baker house sets itself apart from the cold, dungeon-like feeling of the Spencer Mansion in Resident Evil 1 and actually presents a warm(ish), lived-in home. This is another change that the game features – moving away from scenery which felt evil right from the off where you felt that evil and horror was lurking behind every door and it works well, as it gives more of a creepy feeling and provides a few jumps along the way.
However, don’t be fooled, despite the homely feeling, the Baker family are, simply put, disgusting, as you find out as you get through the game.
Much like classic horror films such as The Hills Have Eyes, the Baker family play into the rural, hillbilly family stereotype that we’ve seen oh so many times before, but don’t be put off just yet, the game does go on to explain their upbringing and avoids using classic clichés that we’ve seen over and over again in the horror genre.
For fans of the original, don’t fear.
The game still boasts secret underground lairs which force you to remember the original mansion and the secret, hidden laboratories which were hiding behind and underneath the creepy interior.
The graphics are good. They’re not the best you’ve ever seen but they are really good and you can begin to see the effort and detail that they’ve put into the game with the way that the characters speak and the way that your hand is brutally lobbed off at the wrist by a chainsaw-wielding psychopath.
As well as being a survival-horror game, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard also brings back puzzle solving which is largely hit and miss. Some puzzles you’ll find that the game is holding your hand through them and there are clues located which solve the puzzle for you before you’ve actually had a chance to begin trying to solve it.
Then, there are elements in the game, such as being trapped in a garage with a spade-wielding lunatic, where you’ll find yourself running around for a while with him chasing you (which is nerve-wracking in itself) and the game doesn’t make it obvious that grabbing the car keys and running the fool over is the best way out of your predicament.
Then, at times, the puzzles are hard, very hard in fact, and if you miss the clues of how to solve them, you’re stuck for a while or having to backtrack to try and figure it out.
It’s not only the puzzles that are hit and miss as the enemies can be the same as well.
The Baker family are among the first enemies that you encounter and they’re also the most interesting. Fighting them will have you scrambling for a way to try and defend yourself while at the same time laughing at how frantic and funny they can be. This makes them difficult to defeat and also highly memorable thus keeping the game interesting and the Baker family unpredictable.
For example, the way that Jack Baker patrols the mansion and bursts through walls makes him feel like a formidable threat which you’ll have to fight at a seconds notice. But even when you’re armed with more than a knife, the game prompts you to make a choice of fleeing or unloading 7 shades of hell into him from your gun – all the while making you aware that you decision may just come back to haunt you later on.
The game doesn’t try to be a stealth game. It’s a Resident Evil game in every sense. You need to kill enemies otherwise they’ll continue to roam around the same area waiting for you to pass by again so they can kill you. However, there are no loading door sequences to give you a moment’s rest-bite and protection from them which means that, when you’re low on health or ammo, it creates tense moments where you need to escape otherwise you’ll die.
Also, closing doors behind you will become your new best friends as no rooms are safe anymore – not even safe rooms.
While the Baker family do make great enemies, there are others in the game which sadly don’t live up to the hype.
The only other enemy I’ve encountered so far are creatures called The Molded and these come in a few different varieties: the standard Molded which have giant, warped arms similar to the classic tyrant designs, there are ones which crawl around and then there are the heavy ones which spew acid onto you.
While they are pretty horrific to look at and they are menacing and create tense moments of combat, they lose their ability to shock and scare easily. You encounter them in similar scenarios which makes it easy to know when you’re about to come face to face with one and, thus, they lose their ability to surprise you.
Cast your mind back to old Resident Evil games and you’ll remember moments such as the introduction of the Hunter in the original and this was entirely unpredicted, it was a surprise and something which threw a completely new element and a terrifying new enemy into the mix instead of fighting off the same old Zombies over and over.
Resident Evil doesn’t really create moments like this and when it does create something that could compare it signals the arrival way in advance and ruins the moment.
All of the Molded tear themselves from the walls with the same slimy sound and they only do so in areas which features mounds of black mould – think The Last of Us and seeing the spores in the air but without the fear that came with them.
This means that when there’s a chance to deliver a jump, you’ll be aware of its arrival and this will ruin the element of surprise.
The game finds its home in putting you in situations where you struggle to adapt. The game is a survival-horror and its about scavenging for items and giving you just enough health and ammo so you have to use them wisely.
There is also limited inventory space which means that you’ll be storing small amounts of handgun and shotgun ammo. You’ll be collecting the herbs to create health-regenerating potions much like the originals and its good to see them still featuring in Biohazard.
However, giving you different enemies and unpredictable situations where you have to change your style in order to survive would have make the experience scarier and more memorable.
Overall, the game is very good. It brings back memories of the original Resident Evil while also adding new elements to the game which do add to the experience while you’re playing. It delivers jumps and moments of horror and the scenery takes you right the way back to the start – something which I loved about it.
However, it has to be said that the game could have delivered more moments of epic gameplay, or enemies that really deliver in terms of horror and unpredictability, then it would have been closer to being as perfect as the original.
Saying that, following on from some fails in the Resident Evil series, Biohazard sees the franchise return to the right track.