Think about the worst dinner party you have ever had to attend. One where you sit down at the table and people start to make those politically charged comments that make you start to shift in your seat. You think to yourself, “Wow, I wish I could be anywhere but here.” Now imagine a similar dinner where you wake up from a thorough ass-kicking tied to a chair and sitting in front of a family of deranged cannibals that prepares meals from the corpses of people that are unlucky enough to wander onto their property.
For Ethan Winters, the protagonist of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, this is only the start of the nightmarish and purely demented adventure that he faces in his quest to find his missing wife. However, the developer Capcom makes it clear from the beginning that Biohazard is a fresh take on the beloved series with more emphasis on horror elements, resource management and puzzle solving. In fact, through skillfully implementing these new ideas, they manage to create a triumph in horror gaming with a captivating story that will have players scouring the Baker mansion into the early hours of the morning.
It’s pretty obvious to fans of the series that the terrible creatures that crawl out of your nightmares have always been staples to Resident Evil. They have also been the main source of the horror elements that many of the games rely on for scares. In Biohazard there are still some creepy-crawlies, but what makes the game scary is the vulnerability of its main protagonist as well as the members of the Baker family. For example, the first time you play as Ethan inside of the Baker estate it becomes apparent that his movements feel clumsy and his footsteps are noisy as you trudge about the house. He is not a character like Chris Redfield or Leon S. Kennedy that is trained in combat and has achieved the title of ultimate badass. In fact, Ethan’s inexperienced qualities make routine encounters with monsters feel a bit more unsettling than when playing as a genuine special agent. Run-ins with the members of the Baker family also offer some genuine scares and a couple difficult boss battles that will leave your palms sweating. Even though the first few sequences with Jack start to feel similar, each of the Bakers do not remain predictable for long. In fact, they evolve as the story progresses from relatively scary presences into the gruesome and grotesque. I would share more, but the most successful moments of Biohazard happen unexpectedly in a series of sudden twists and entirely unpleasant surprises.
The game’s resource management and puzzle solving are also intriguing additions to the gameplay. First, the added mechanic of finding components to create useful objects is an interesting layer in Biohazard because relying heavily on the items you find causes a feeling of vulnerability that only adds to the game’s overall horror. At the same time, despite the fact that ammo and crafting materials are fairly frequent you will quickly realize that backpack space and the overall toughness of enemies causes you to burn through resources. This creates situations where you may have to choose between making a health pack or bullets more frequently than you would like. Biohazard’s puzzles are also an engaging addition. Within the main story these may seem relatively simple, but it still feels rewarding to find that final key to open up the next area or beat a sequence to get to a boss encounter. However, if you are somebody that likes to go off the beaten track there are plenty of other secret puzzles that are littered across the massive property of the Baker mansion that you only scratch the surface of in the main story. Additionally, the first installment of the game’s DLC that has already arrived on PlayStation and is coming to other platforms on February 21st is sure to have just as much hidden content to explore.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is one of the most intriguing games I have encountered in the genre of horror gaming since the release of Outlast and Alien: Isolation. The main story as well as the emphasis on horror elements, resource management and puzzle solving really adds up to a uniquely terrifying experience with a touch of mystery. So if you are feeling brave get ready to switch on your flashlight and start searching the dark corners of the Baker mansion. You may not like what you find but this twisted adventure is entirely worth experiencing.
BUY, BORROW, or PASS?
VERDICT: This game is a must BUY.