'Resident Evil 7: Biohazard' Review: Back to Basics
The Resident Evil video game series is one with a storied and troubled history. It began as one of the greats of the survival horror genre in 1996, then peaked with “Resident Evil 4” in 2005. After RE4 redefined an entire era of gaming, subsequent entries fell into a steep downward spiral as the series devolved into pointless action with a confusing and convoluted story. After much fan outcry and introspection, Capcom returns to the series’ roots with “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.”
Unlike the previous two entries in the series, which focused almost entirely on over-the-top action with zombies on the side, RE7 is a much smaller and restrained game. No longer are you the boulder-punching super soldier Chris Redfield fighting a teleporting martial artists in a volcano. You are Ethan Winter, a completely regular man on a three-year-long search for his wife Mia. The search has led him to a decay manor isolate in the Louisiana bayou. If the giant circular totem of horse corpses wasn’t enough to indicate that things are bad, then the undead cannibal Baker family should be more than sufficient.
RE7 is both a return to form for Resident Evil and a reinvention. Like the original titles, the setting of RE7 is almost completely contained within the decaying Baker manor. Filled with tight corridors, long shadows and signs of death, the manor is a perfectly haunted setting for RE7. It’s a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere that hides creatures and dangers, but mostly just eats away at your nerves with silence and the occasional creak or distant noise. It’s clear that RE7 has also taken notes from modern horror games with its emphasis on eluding dangers and its new first person view, which replaces the series’ over-the-shoulder perspective which had previously replaced the fixed camera angles from the first games.
Ethan is an ordinary man in a terrifying scenario and the game never fails to remind you of that. Survival is back in a big way and RE7 will make you question every decision to use an item or walk in a certain way. Weapons are scarce and they’re mostly there as a defensive tool rather than killing tools. Safety is a luxury and any lull in your awareness could spell doom at the hands of the Baker family.
The Baker family is a wonderful group of psychopathic antagonists (relatively speaking), that never fail to terrorize as well as induce laughter. Resident Evil has always had a B-movie flavor to its characters and story and the Bakers are equal parts hammy over-the-top madness and disgusting monsters.
“Resident Evil 7” ditches the unnecessary action bloat that had infected the series since “Resident Evil 5” (“Resident Evil 4” gets a pass by being a genuinely great game, overall) and returns the series to its horror roots. The doors are locked with arcane puzzles, ammunition is a scarce commodity and your inventory needs to be carefully managed if you hope to survive. For a series that was suffering from an identity crisis flailed between genres, this is an entry that exudes confidence in design and signals that Capcom may have finally heard the fans’ desires. Resident Evil is back.