By Ashley Ring / February 13th, 2017
The story itself is rather sparse, being told from Ethan’s perspective in first person. Instead of relying on many cinematic cutscenes, most of it is told through playing the game and reading notes scattered around areas. I really liked this approach, as it was the exact opposite of what Resident Evil 6 attempted, and really created a much more memorable horror experience for me. The only downside I could really think of is that since everything is told during gameplay instead of cutscenes, if you get a game over near an area with some dialogue or an event, you’ll have to sit through that again. The dialogue and events are never too long, so it’s not that big of a deal, but it is a minor annoyance if you’re having trouble on a boss fight or a specific part of the game. The story, overall, is an enjoyable ride, and its strong emphasis on developing the Baker family really pays off in creating a very memorable story and set of characters.
Much to my surprise, when Capcom said they were bringing Resident Evil 7 back to its roots, they really were serious. At its core, almost everything about this game’s design is very classic Resident Evil, except that now it’s in a first-person perspective. You have limited inventory space, few weapons and an economy of ammo and healing as well. However, you’ll likely rarely be in a situation where you completely run out of ammo, as it gives you just enough to take out the enemies you’ll face. Probably the biggest surprise for me was that the safe rooms and item crates from the older games have also made a return, complete with that eerie but also soothing melody reminding you that you’re safe, but not for long. In each safe room, you can save your game, deposit and withdraw items, and are safe from harm as enemies cannot enter safe rooms.
Probably the most fantastic return to form for the series, however, is the renewed focus on exploration and finding items. The environments, especially the Baker house, are full of creative hiding places for items, strange sights to see, and thankfully, puzzles are back as well! Unfortunately, most of the puzzles are fairly simple and often reused throughout the adventure. However, very late in the game there is a series of extremely clever puzzles that really stumped me and made me think outside of the box a little. I really don’t want to spoil this one as its fairly late in the game, and it’s so well done that it’s well worth going in blind.
While exploring the very creepy and realistic looking areas you’ll want to look in every single nook and cranny for items. There are many different objects that can be examined in each room that don’t look out of the ordinary at all, but if you press X on them you may just find that you can rotate the object around and find an item hidden inside of it. There is so much to see, find and read in Resident Evil 7 that exploring just felt really fun and rewarding.
The exploration wouldn’t feel as good and rewarding as it does if it didn’t have great atmosphere to back it up. Thankfully, the atmosphere in the game is fantastic and foreboding. There are plenty of small cluttered rooms, narrow hallways and some really eerie areas covered in a black mold substance that sometimes has bumps that are suspiciously shaped like a human body. Constantly while walking around the house I, would hear noises like banging in the distance, doors closing and many other things. It helped create a tense atmosphere that didn’t feel safe, as I never knew what would be coming at me next. This is amplified by the fact that the very first enemy that isn’t part of the Baker family has absolutely no introduction or build up; it just happens. That’s something that I really appreciated as some horror games like to make a cutscene and a big deal out of the first enemy encounter, while Resident Evil 7 took a much subtler approach and just threw it right at me. Additionally, the game does not hold your hand. It gives you a vague objective point and lets you explore at your leisure. There are some occasions where it tells you where to go, but thankfully it doesn’t tell you how to get there and leaves it up to you to make that discovery yourself.
When it comes to combat in Resident Evil 7, you have your franchise staples like a combat knife, handgun, shotgun, and a few others that fans of the series will be happy to see make their return. The knife in Resident Evil 7 is definitely better than it was in some of the older titles, but I still didn’t find myself using it that often. Taking down enemies does feel pretty good, with some nice sound emphasis and the satisfying feeling of a headshot doing much more damage. The main thing with the gun play, however, is that Ethan is a normal person without any kind of combat training, so aiming can feel a little sluggish and awkward, but it never fully hinders the experience of combat. Enemies also walk very fast, and thankfully Capcom has included the quick turn from older Resident Evil games to make turning around a much fastedr process then manually turning your character around to run away. It’s really important to get adjusted to using the quick turn too, as you’ll quickly find out that enemies take quite a few shots to go down, and they’re almost always moving towards you.
Admittedly, when the game was first announced, I foolishly wrote it off as Capcom attempting to ride on the success of the unfortunately canceled P.T/Silent Hills. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Resident Evil 7 is a fantastic return to form for the series while also being a superb game on its own merit. My first playthrough took me just shy of 10 hours, and it was excellent from start to finish, never missing a beat with me. Resident Evil 7 is absolutely worth its full price of $59.99 in my opinion, especially if you’re a fan whose faith in the series was waning. This is the Resident Evil game I’ve wanted for a long time, and it’s hard to go wrong if you miss the design aspects of classic survival horror.
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