Resident Evil 6 left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths, and besides a few ports and handheld spin-offs, the series had been quiet for a long time. That is until Capcom announced the next iteration in the iconic series with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. A Resident Evil they claimed was returning to its horror routes despite being the first Resident Evil to be first person.
Obviously, people had their doubts, myself included, but I can finally say (five years after the game was released) that this is everything that I want in not only a Resident Evil game but a horror game. Resident Evil is back at the top with the big boys now, and I’m so glad it is.
A Story to Turn Your Stomach
Biohazard has you playing as Ethan Winters as he searches for his lost girlfriend, Mia. He recently received a tape asking him to come to find her in some backwater spot in Louisiana. Upon finding the only house in the area and Mia’s ID, he knows he must be in the right spot. He searches the house in hopes of finding more evidence.
The home looks like it’s been abandoned for years with a fridge with broken windows, blown fuses, and some mysterious sludge pouring out of it. Ethan will eventually be knocked out and wake up at the table of the Baker family, who are having a “feast” composed of human body parts.
The family appears to have been infected with something that not only makes them incredibly strong and resilient but has caused them to lose their minds. From here on out, Ethan is trapped with the family and must do his best to not only escape but free Mia, who is still somewhere on the property.
Ethan manages to escape, but his newfound freedom around the house is no easygoing as he comes across the secret the Bakers are hiding. There are only a few different types of enemies in the game. The first are the members of the Baker family who are effectively the boss fights. Each one is a pain in the butt to keep down and will test your resource management skills, especially at higher difficulties.
For instance, during the fight with the mother, Marguerite, she will skitter around the greenhouse shed while you try to hit her enough in her weak point to drain her health sufficiently. Now there’s ammo lying around, but depending on your preparation, difficulty, and aim, it might not be enough to get her low enough.
The family may be tough, but you only fight members a handful of times while you fight these slimy humanoids called “Molded” that pour out of the walls and floors. Very similar to the zombies of past Resident Evil games, they can take quite a few hits, but their main weak points are their heads. Once they pop, the zombie flubber will be down for the count.
These things can be a challenge early on and wipe out a lot of your ammo, but once you get the hang of them, they are more just pests in between you and the next climactic encounter.
Classic Resident Evil Meets the Modern Day
Resident Evil has very core pieces to its DNA, from the safe houses in areas that don’t seem all that safe to finding keys or ways to progress through the environment in a twisting maze-like manner. There are pieces that are essential in making them feel like a Resident Evil game, and these elements lend themselves perfectly to survival horror as a whole. Resident Evil 7 sees many of these facets return and is all the better for them.
However, I do have to admit it always felt weird that Jack would be in the other room, and he practically watched me enter the safe room only to ignore me until I came back to the living room.
There are simple puzzles that feel right out of the original Resident Evil, like retrieving the shotgun from its trap. If you simply take the weapon, a door will close, and you will be trapped, but if you bring a substitute, you can sneak it out with no one the wiser.
There are treasure maps that give you hints as to where to find health and ammo reload upgrades. It might be a stone that needs to be moved in a fireplace that unlocks a secret passage or a crawlspace that you didn’t notice before.
These are the types of things that really encourage the player to go out and find everything that they possibly can. Well, that and the difficulty that the game can pose even on normal difficulty.
There were a few sections that made me more than a little frustrated, but that might have been because I was being so conservative with what ammo I was carrying around. I often would bring the bare necessities out with me, so when a boss fight began, I rarely had the supplies I would have wanted.
All except the last couple of boss fights which I felt were loudly broadcast that they were about to transpire. The developers seeming to yell across time and space, saying “Don’t even try it. Go grab your magnum and grenade launcher, you fool.”
However, the game was so much fun to learn the ins and outs of that I immediately restarted on madhouse difficulty, which isn’t unlocked until after you beat the game once. This is a bit of a disappointment, but I can sort of see why the developers did it.
If everyone came at it like a first-person shooter rather than a Resident Evil game, they might get frustrated and quit when Capcom wanted their new story to be heard and experienced. I’d like to say they should have more faith in the average player, but then again, maybe they are justified.
It’s Worth Braving the Darkest Corners of the Bayou
The Bakers’ home has been my favorite horror location to explore since the original Outlast. It’s not a huge map, but the different passageways and extensions to the property make it feel like you can explore it for hours on end and still be finding antique coins in the centipede-infested cushions. Everything here feels decrepit and gross and the home definitely fit for the location of a game centered around a “biohazard.”
There are several distinct locations that you will be popping in and out of as you progress and backtrack to ensure that you have everything that you need. It’s during these journeys that you will find notes and photos that begin to tell the story of Mia and the Baker’s secret.
I didn’t manage to collect all of the notes my first playthrough, so I’m not sure if you can find out the secret before it’s revealed directly to you, but there was enough that I felt like all the pieces fit together perfectly at the end.
The notes I did find had me so confused about the state of things I was finding. There were contradictions, and there was confusion, but it was all for the best reasons. Lucas was a young engineer with a nice little journal where he kept his notes and seemed to have the purity of a child.
What happened? Jack was a marine? Did the war ruin him? How come no one ever mentioned the woman in the wheelchair? The game perfectly rations out information about the family, so the player always feels like they are learning something but not nearly enough to spoil the final reveal.
My favorite things to find, though, had to be the videotapes. These tapes showcased the events of the different characters that became victims of the Bakers and allows the player to play through the recorded events themselves. The best one of them all had to be when you catch up with one of the film crew who came to investigate the home.
He is being toyed with by Lucas, who puts him through a game that seems like it’s straight out of Jigsaw. The best part, though, is that these tapes always have information that the player can then use when they are back in control of Ethan. They aren’t simple excursions but reconnaissance missions that will give them an edge later in the game.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard encourages players to explore the depths of the swamp despite the fear of being found and tortured. There is so much to see, and the risk-reward of many of the rooms is fine-tuned to perfection. I do wish I could have played on a higher difficulty right away and that the game was a little longer, but for what it is, Resident Evil 7 is one of the best survival horror games of the 2010s. 9/10