There is no denying that the Resident Evil franchise has had a tumultuous journey. The first couple of titles released to much fanfare, while it became embroiled in more and more drama and controversy as the series matured. One of the most notable controversies being that of Resident Evil 5 (2009) and its African setting. In this regard, both Capcom and the game received heavy criticism for making it seem like the white protagonists were shooting up black zombie hordes. I am of the opinion that a game’s setting should also reflect in its population, but I digress.
When Resident Evil 6 (2012) released, it ended up concocting just as much drama. This time, however, it was because the game tried to move in a much more action-adventure direction. Most of the gameplay ended up feeling very linear, with only one of the playable protagonists featuring the classic gameplay that made everyone fall in love with the series in the first place. After Resident Evil 6, a lot of time passed, and people started to think that the series may have met its match. Until, of course, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard came out.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was a surprise to gamers all around the world. With the advent of Virtual Reality, and current-generation consoles capable of delivering stupendous graphical fidelity, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard managed to find some footing. It was promised to be a return to the original roots of the series, an experience with proper horror and survival elements whilst also being a sequel worthy of the franchise.
Now, less than a year after its release, the ‘Gold Edition’ of the game has arrived. Like most ‘game of the year’ editions, it includes all of the downloadable content (DLC) made available since launch. Full disclosure, up until this review I did not have the opportunity to play the game. So the moment I spotted it on Hans‘ desk, I knew I simply had to delve into the latest nerve-wracking adventure in the Resident Evil series.
Nothing like some sweet home-made grub [Story]
Resident Evil 7 has a totally new control scheme, a new story and a fresh new protagonist. As such, you can expect to see loads of new characters that have nothing to do with the previous instalments. In my opinion, this is a huge strength for the title.
In the game you play as Ethan Winters, a man who has been left heartbroken after his wife went missing three years prior. Ethan is a nice guy. A very curious man who likes to take matters into his own hands. As you might expect, that is exactly what happens at the start of the game: Ethan receives an email with an attachment from Mia, his missing wife, who tells him not to come after her, yet provides an address to the contrary. Queue protagonist shenanigans, and the adventure begins!
Ethan arrives at his destination, which looks like an old mansion straight out of a Stephen King novel. Heck, it even has Amityville Horror vibes if that is more your thing. Regardless of what it looks like, however, it still has inhabitants. As you might expect, things go awry and Ethan gets stuck inside the property, which is owned by the Baker family. Leading the family is the father, Jack, his wife, Marguerite, and their son, Lucas. There is also a creepy old lady that looks like she should have passed from this world many years before. Let us call her grandma, for the sake of this spoiler-free review, alright?
Since no one likes spoilers, I will not be delving deeper into the specifics of the characters, beyond what we already know:
they evil AF they are scary and not to be trifled with. Very soon into the game, Ethan finds Mia alive and well, locked up in a little room. They escape, or so they think, and end up in the main house where even more goes awry, and Ethan gets caught. Here, we meet another member of the Baker family, Zoe. She starts out as “the mysterious phone lady” that keeps on calling with information and direction. Anyone who can put two-and-two together, however, will know that this is the fourth member of the family. A notion made even more obvious with all the photos and letters scattered about the mansion. Around a table, Ethan is treated to a wholesome Baker family dinner: rotten flesh and ghastly food well-beyond the best-before dates. It is here, right after the first bit with Mia, and your first combat encounter, that the gameplay comes to the forefront.
Just like a fixer-upper [Gameplay]
Right after Ethan regains consciousness, he realises he is at the Baker family dinner table mentioned above. Lucas throws a thumb, or something, at him and Jack tries his best to make you feel welcome. That is until you — as Ethan — refuse to eat Marguerite’s food. Here, we are treated to the exact craziness the family has succumbed to. From here, you have to learn how to sneak around the Baker-family house. This is where the survival horror aspect of the game is presented in full force, and it is a wonderful return to form for the series.
Sneaking around while avoiding the family members is a real treat. A real, nerve-wrecking treat. Since Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a first-person game, it lends a certain vulnerability to the character. Couple that with extremely overpowering enemies, and the instinct to run and hide, rather than fight, becomes prominent. It is a nice experience to go through the game and have that Outlast experience right at the core of a Resident Evil title.
Unlike in previous games, Ethan is quite slow. His sprint is more of a fast walk. Naturally, this adds a lot of tension to the game, but it also means that you, as the player, will get to notice everything around Ethan. This comes in handy because as you explore the house, you will find healing items, bullets, and various others objects. Most of these can be combined using the intuitive and clearly made-for-console user interface (UI). Healing herbs are scattered throughout the house too, and keys are placed behind puzzles (more on those in a paragraph or two); while lockpicks and bullets — as scarce as they are — can be found here and there.
As you collect lockpicks, it is up to you to decide which locks take priority, and find out whether they harbour something good or not. You see, the game does not just reward you for simply exploring. Rather, it all feels real and lived in. As such, one or two pickable drawers may contain nothing but clothing or documentation. Most of the time, however, you will find some healing items or maybe a bullet or two.
That leads me to guns and keys. Both of these can be found throughout the entire house. The game kind of relies on you having to find these items — the keys in particular. This is where the game hearkens back to its roots: classic puzzle-solving fun, and it really is good fun! Here is an example of how the game marries tension with reward and puzzle solving: imagine being all knackered after having just escaped Jack’s grasp. As you hide out in one of the many rooms of the house, you notice a shotgun locked behind a contraption. The contraption can only be unlocked by a very specific action, using a very specific key. Finding out where this key is, or what you should do to solve the puzzle, is honestly one of the best aspects of the game.
Puzzles involve keys and moving objects. Some of which may be totally random, like turning a cup infant of a lamp. In retrospect, there are not that many different kinds of puzzles, but the game never lets you feel like that is the case. Especially as you stress about who is coming, and anticipate where to go next in order to be safe.
Then there are the other inhabitants of the house. Weird, tar-like enemies called the Molded. These guys are generally found in the deepest, darkest, and dankest spots of the property. When you go into the basement, you can no doubt expect one or two of these to sneak up on you and scare you into the next dimension. Molded die easily with the correct weapons, and the correct number of bullets, but should not be taken lightly. The few weapons Ethan gets in the game are enough to keep you safe, so long as you shoot properly and conserve ammunition. Aiming for the head is always key. Remember that.
They all float down in the bayou [Gold Edition]
The Resident Evil 7: Biohazard DLC introduced various game modes and gameplay mechanics not present in the base game. The Gold Edition condenses it all into a neat, and easily accessible package. It includes Not A Hero story DLC, and End of Zoe story DLC. It also includes the various extra gameplay modes, including 21, Daughters, Jack’s Birthday, and Bedroom.
There are certain spoilers ahead as a lot of the DLC takes place after the main game’s story. As such, please feel free to skip to the next section.
In Not A Hero, you play as series staple Chris Redfield. Chris teams up with a “reformed” Umbrella Corporation to apprehend Lucas Baker and find out more about Eveline — the small girl who Mia watched before she went missing. This is a very action-oriented content update that will have you breathe a sigh of relief as you shoot bad guys in the face. Over and over again.
End of Zoe is a branching path of the story. Spoilers ensue for the rest of this paragraph, so only read on if you have already played the game. Otherwise, please skip ahead! Still here? Okay good. Nearing the end of the game, Ethan must choose to cure either Mia or Zoe. If the player chooses Mia, Zoe wanders into the swamp where she is apparently killed by the “big bad” Eveline. Zoe, seemingly dead, is found by two Umbrella Corp. Soldiers, who are then attacked by Joe Baker, a man we find out to be Jack’s brother and Zoe’s uncle. This DLC follows the same kind of gameplay as the game, but also lends a lot from the Not A Hero DLC. Joe is a badass, and he just wants to save Zoe.
The rest of the DLC consists of short experiences with isolated narratives. Most of them involve Clancy, the cameraman featured in the Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demo, and in a videotape found in the game. In 21, Clancy must play a modified game of blackjack, which Lucas has rigged to cause major harm — and death — if he loses. It is literally just a mode where the player sits, stationary, and tallies cards and special trump cards against an unknown guy who has also been captured by Lucas. Nightmare and Daughters are once again a lot like the game proper, except with a lot of emphasis on puzzle-solving; while Bedroom is a neat little game mode where Clancy is stuck in a — you guessed it — bedroom. Here, Clancy must solve the puzzles around the room to unlock a door, unlock the cage holding the key, and escape through a hatch below the bed. It is a very nice little game mode that pulls a lot from Escape Room.
Perhaps my only nitpick about the various Resident Evil 7: Biohazard DLC, is that most of them have nothing to do with the story. 21, for instance, just involves Clancy in a room, playing card games with an equally-as-dead man; while Jack’s Birthday is literally just a mode where you have to appease Jack, on his birthday. Regardless, the content did keep me busy for a good few hours on top of the base game.
As smooth as Chris Redfield’s hairline [Performance & Visuals]
With all of that out-of-the-way, what is left is the simple fact that the game looks absolutely stunning. From the very start the graphics impress. One the pre-rendered cutscenes transition into gameplay, you can hardly tell the difference. To be fair, there are certain things that the cutscenes just do so much better than the game itself, but the fact of the matter is that the game rivals the likes of Ryse and The Order 1886.
I constantly praise games for their visual fidelity, but Resident Evil 7 is the first game that I had a good and proper in-depth look at. So many of the game’s aspects looked ridiculously photorealistic. Injustice 2, for instance, has outstanding facial animation and textures, but Resident Evil 7: Biohazard puts that detail into everything. While I understand that the term “photorealism” is very much an “eye of the beholder” issue, no one can argue that Capcom tried their damnedest to get the game to look real. As real as a biohazardous bog, and a mould-infested property can look. That feeling extends to everything, including the surrounding areas where Ethan will never, ever tread.
As pretty as it is, in all of its gross glory, it must also be commended that the game runs very smoothly. While loading tends to take a tad longer than I would like, the game’s close corridors and tiny rooms, all split by automatically closing doors, all help to make it run at a smooth and set frame rate. The game runs at 60 frames-per-second regardless of whether it runs on a PlayStation 4 (2013), or PlayStation 4 Pro (2016), and it runs like a champ. As for resolution, you can expect 1080p on the PlayStation 4, and 4K with high-dynamic range (HDR) capabilities on the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Beautifully Biohazardous [Conclusion]
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is well worth owning, regardless of the edition. It is a proper horror game with solid-as-rock survival elements that contend properly with the likes of Outlast. It also features proper callbacks to previous Resident Evil titles, without locking it into the same traps that previous titles suffered from.
The game is beautifully rendered, and even with its beauty, runs at a rock-solid frame rate on the original PlayStation 4. The Baker family lend a wonderful horror to the experience while the added Molded enemies keep things fresh. Enough to keep you playing through to the end.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a fantastic game that is worth owning. The Gold Edition, however, is ideal for anyone who has not yet played or bought the game before. It adds all of the downloadable content previously released and includes a variety of bug fixes. It is the quintessential way to experience Ethan’s delightful horror.
|Time to Complete||20 Hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of Ster-Kinekor Interactive|