Resident Evil 7 does not fall victim to it’s redundant use of action in a franchise built on survival horror but instead owns up to it by giving us one of the most bone chilling horror games that I’ve ever played. It has all of the traits you’d want from a game in this series and even offers more, especially if you are playing in virtual reality.
Your name is Ethan Winters and one day out of the blue you are sent an email from your wife, Mia Winters, who has been missing for three years. Upon receiving this email you decide to go to the address she left inside the message and travel to one of the most disturbing looking piece of property and when you arrive at this place, it is most definitely not all hunky-dory. The first hour or so does a superb job in engaging and drawing you into the story and sparking your interest. It opens a bunch of questions at the start and answers a lot of them throughout the game. Whether it is told through cut scenes, dialogue, or files left throughout all the rooms and hallways there is a usual sense of curiosity. The first half of the story is much more intriguing than the latter half. What I mean by this is that the game suffers from what most forms of horror media suffers from. The story ramps up and goes in directions that aren’t all that scary and shows a ton of what made you feel anxious and tense. There is also more action in the second half as well, which is probably Resident Evil’s least fun aspect. Upon completing the story you can restart the campaign to find all the collectibles and beat all the endings.
The piece of land you are on spans to a whole bunch of different areas that you go through as the story progresses and when you find items to unlock it. The overall feel that is generated by every crevice of every room is quite frightening. And similar to the first few games, you need to backtrack to old areas a whole lot. The scarcity of herbs, weapons, ammunition, and cassette tapes to save (if you’re playing on a harder difficulty) are surprisingly refreshing. Combining items also makes a return to form and is a key mechanic to keeping yourself alive. All of your inventory management is done in real time so this can add a huge sense of anxiety when you are running from enemies and have to switch to a different weapon or use a herb. Scattered across this game are antique coins, in which you use to unlock upgrades and there are also bobble heads you can collect as well.
If there is one aspect that is Resident Evil 7’s downside, it is in fact it’s action. At times aiming can feel really clunky. Melee weapons don’t feel as powerful as they should be. When there are multiple enemies on screen, the game is simply not at all fun. The parts in which you are prowling through the house trying to figure out what to do or where to go is really where the game shines because it is the most thrilling and exciting. The main enemies are extremely dull and uninspiring, they are literally just a blob of mold.
Virtual Reality is the ideal way to play horror games. There is no experience like it, you can’t look away from the screen because you are in this wretched world. You can of course close your eyes but when you open your eyes you will still be inside of this nightmare. And even when you take off your headset, your heart a is still beating just little bit faster and the feeling you get is different than anything else I’ve felt while playing video games. Hiding behind objects to not get seen by the enemies is amplified because you can hear their footsteps, you can see their shadow getting closer and closer and all you can do is hope they don’t spot you. Going up to walls so you can peek around corners is even intense to because you may see someone waiting for you at the end of the hall. Or if you are walking down a hallway and hear something behind you, turning around is also a task. Virtual reality is the only way to play this game if you want the best experience.
After a few stumbles in the last couple of predecessors, Resident Evil 7 is a giant leap in the right direction. It puts aside the overuse of action that was it’s issue in previous games and brings the survival horror back introduced in it’s early games. The story is an interesting enough to keep you curious throughout and although it is nothing mind blowing or re-inventive, it is a nice little story in the Resident Evil universe. Whether you are an old fan or a new, Resident Evil 7 is a great game to jump into and enjoy. If you play in virtual reality the experience is enhanced vastly and it really adds a new dimension for horror games. Scarcity of guns, ammo and other essential items mixed with backtracking, puzzle solving, and inventory management – it makes for a great return to what made Resident Evil great.