My first video game write up for So Wizard Podcast, and I can’t think of a better game to jump in on. Granted, Resident Evil 7 has been out for a bit now, but I wanted to really dive deep into the game and not just review it on nostalgia or because it didn’t suck hard like Resident Evil 6.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard doesn’t take place in Raccoon City. You don’t play as Leon, Chris, Jill, Claire, or any other Resident Evil mainstay. It’s a fresh start from a franchise that was in dire need of a fresh start. The protagonist is Ethan (Todd Soley) a man who goes to a creepy backwater house after getting a mysterious message from his wife, Mia (Katie O’Hagan), who has been missing for three years.
On arrival Ethan finds there is a lot more going on than a simple missing person case. He is thrown into a world turned upside down by a bioweapon in the form of a child. Dealing with infected and malicious people, sentient creatures born of hate, and other Resident Evil type monsters the game touches on almost every aspect of horror pop-culture. The twisted family, the stealth sections hiding from a freak controlling bugs, chainsaw fighting, creepy kids, haunting VHS tapes, and the tone.
The tone is everything. From beginning to end, even during the insane boss fights, the tone is spot on. The game is eerie. There is no two ways about it. The lighting, environments, and surround sound are exquisite. The game never slows to a crawl and the action never gets so out of hand it turns into more of a run and gun than survival horror.
Speaking of survival horror, this is another place where the Resident Evil franchise has returned to its roots. The game has two playing options when you first start Easy and Normal. Start on Normal. Normal is challenging enough without making you want to put your head through a wall. You’ll get the full effect of juggling your inventory, running out of ammo, and desperately swinging your knife to finish a fight and escape whatever hellish room you’re currently stuck in.
New to the franchise is the fact that this Resident Evil is done in the first person. There were a couple other FPS Resident Evil games a while ago, but those are better off forgotten. Unlike the styling of cardboard cut outs popping up on something only half a step above a rail shooter, this time the first person point of view adds a lot to the feel of the experience.
The first person point of view also improves the controls. The aiming and shooting isn’t so stiff. The exploration and navigating of environments feels a lot more natural. Part of the improved environmental navigation is also the doors. Doors are something big in the Resident Evil universe. No longer used as loading buffers the doors are a constant source of gaming anxiety. As Ethan slowly pushes the doors open anything could be lurking on the other side. The door also add a lot in the surround sound department as they creak open and closed and slam when you aren’t around.
Even on multiple playthroughs, which I highly recommend, the game holds onto a lot of the eerie settings. The multiple playthroughs also offer a ton of unlockables and new challenges. After completing the game the first time you get the Madhouse difficulty. This is where survival horror really takes off. The boss fights are changed up, enemies spawn in new locations and are FAR more aggressive. Many collectibles have moved around, and there is a huge emphasis on crafting to get by.
With just enough callbacks for long term fans Resident Evil 7 has found fresh life in the old ways.