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Resident Evil 7 biohazard
Score: 96%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:
Oh my beloved Resident Evil. You kick-started the survival horror genre. You gave us cheese lines like "You were almost a Jill Sandwich!" You were crazy, but you never apologized for it. On the heels of the sixth game in the series, Resident Evil 7 biohazard is yet another change for the series. From tank controls to fixed camera angles, to the scrapping of the traditional zombie, the game has been undergoing a lot of changes. Now, with RE 7, the game takes its first steps into first-person horror. Thereís lots to talk about, but first, how does this game look?

The RE engine is new, and specifically designed for this game. Photo-realistic is the main buzzword used to describe the graphics this engine powers, and itís well deserved. I actually felt a little homesick for Louisiana when the bayous and marshes gleam by, as your car drives down a dirt road in the beginning. Of course, RE 7 wastes no time walking you through a traditional Louisiana cloud of mosquitoes as well. It really is the full experience; I can almost feel the humidity sticking to my skin!

RE 7 will send you through a few different locations ranging from a rundown house, to a stable, to a rusted-out ship, and many muddy, overgrown, and otherwise "worst day at summer camp" areas. Not to spoil too much, but RE 7 doesnít have a whole lot of enemy variety. Youíre not going to use up an entire hand counting the enemy types. These few enemies, however, are perfectly, grotesquely rendered, and will get under your skin just as any good horror monster should do. The few people you can interact with are also great looking, though they do retain that slight glassy-eyed look that reminds me of pre-rendered scenes from previous RE games. Still, the realism is the best weíve seen in the series. From the peeling wallpaper to the subtle pushing of someone's eyelids up as they smile, it all looks amazing.

The realism also helps with the horror aspect of the game. You're often thrown into dark hallways with only the scant light from a flashlight. The house creaks, wind whips by the windows. You'll jump at your own shadow after a while, and that's before you even pick up a knife to defend yourself.

Unfortunately for those who played the demo (titled Beginning Hour), you might get the wrong idea about the main game. One main frustration was the sickening effect of the camera wobble. Thankfully, the camera wobble can be turned off in the actual game (I couldnít find the option in the demo). I have never felt motion sickness during games, so I was a little shocked that playing with this setting on made me nauseous several times. With the wobble off, all that discomfort was eliminated. There's even a warning about this before the game begins, so someone in development clearly got the message.

As for the voice acting, RE 7 deserves some praise, even though this isnít a dialogue-filled game. My praise is for the realism of the dialogue. What would you do in (the main character) Ethanís situation? Mull over the reasons for the strange severed animal-part art? Make a showy speech about saving your loved ones? Nah, youíd drop enough f-bombs to fill your swear jar with a down payment for a car. It may not win any awards, but the writing and dialogue in RE 7 is some of the best so far, just for this reason.


Gameplay:
We can break down Resident Evil 7 biohazard into some pretty simple gameplay: gather items and weapons, fight or avoid monsters, solve puzzles to open up new areas. Thatís all pretty common to the traditional RE experience. However, with dramatic changes such as the new first-person perspective, the overall feel of how the game plays is important. Is this a Resident Evil game? Or have (as the the demo suggested) the developers decided to just make their own version of Silent Hill?

I keep going back to that demo, but I feel that it's important, since it felt so misleading. The demo is basically a grab-basket of elements from the main game. However, these elements are put together in such a way that for a while, I was thinking RE 7 was a complete departure from the series. With "spooky" elements such as doors closing by themselves, mannequins moving, and ghostly pianos playing, this game was looking like Silent Hill. Without giving too much away, Iíll say again, "Do not trust the demo." This is a real, back to the basics, Resident Evil.

The game begins as Ethan follows a mysterious message from his wife, Mia. It leads him to a dilapidated house in a marshland in Louisiana. Nothing is right about this place. Just to get into the house, Ethan has to duck under some disturbing animal-part "art." The nightmare only gets worse from there, as you discover evidence of the disturbing circumstances that turned the house into what it is today. There is so much I canít spoil, but I also want to say, I love the inclusion of the traditional heartbeat health monitor as a "fitbit" style watch. Though, I really, really would rather save up for one than obtain it the way Ethan does.

Things get intense quickly, and youíll find yourself pursued throughout the house. Youíll have to scramble to pick up weapons, keys, and other items. This is a pretty true RE experience, as you try to survive with limited information and resources. You canít always be sure if fighting is the correct choice.

As per tradition, there are moments of relief. It may not seem like it in the beginning, but you will get a break from the relentless pursuit of the Baker family (and other adversaries) at some point. There are puzzles and secrets, and exploration is rewarded. The RE tradition of journaling while under extreme levels of stress continues, as you will find clues in notes left by other unfortunate victims of the family.

Itís kind of brilliant how little things are set up here and there as you progress through the game. Youíll catch a strange comment here or there, or a cop treats you very strangely, or well, literally everything your wife does or says; If you pay attention to those things, theyíll all mean something more later on in the game. Story wise, this makes for good replay value. And if itís done right, it provides some perfect entry points for DLC later.

Even though this is first person, the combat feels like traditional Resident Evil in many ways. Thereís no dodge, which is your first clue on how you should build your fighting strategies. The fight, run, fight mechanics will feel very familiar to RE purists. And sometimes, the best option is to avoid a fight altogether.

Thereís no co-op, no online play. Of course, thatís going back to the roots of RE as well. Nothing is quite as scary when you have a friend along to help. This is, however, the kind of game that is entertaining to watch someone else play, so you can still make a social experience out of scaring off pants as a family - if thatís the kind of family you are.


Difficulty:
I will humbly confess that I played Resident Evil 7 biohazard mostly on Easy, and I found that to be more than enough for now. Easy vs Normal is not a dramatic difference - at first. In Normal Mode, enemies seem to deal with you in a similar manner, but damage is increased and, of course, helpful healing items and ammo are less plentiful. As you get further into the game, you're more likely to have to retry an area due to wasting bullets or resources on Normal than you are on Easy. Iím happy to have a few more bullets on hand for when a monster freaks me out, or for enemies that regenerate and keep following you. My heart was pounding more than enough without having to ration my bullets, thank you.

However, if you need that extra challenge, Normal is available, and Madhouse difficulty is unlockable (even if you beat the game only on Easy) as well. In perhaps a strange twist, there are helpful items you can use on a second playthrough, but you will only unlock if you beat the game on Normal, or under certain, difficult to achieve, conditions. Seems strange to only get special help if you can prove you can beat the game without help, but thatís the way Capcom rolls.


Game Mechanics:
Hereís the thing about a good Resident Evil: the mechanics may frustrate you at first, but after you get over the learning curve, youíll appreciate how rock-solid they are. Resident Evil 7 biohazard, again, is going back to its roots with some difficult, but fair game mechanics. Yes, you will probably get wiped out by an enemy if youíre not used to the controls. RE wonít throw you a bone, even if you have superior firepower. But take those first few deaths in stride, and youíll start to appreciate how well the game is built.

Letís go back to that lack of a dodge, for example. You can sidestep, but not quite quickly enough to avoid many attacks. Learn to work with the limits and read your enemies, however, and youíll be developing solid strategies in no time. The lack of the stereotypical video game superhuman speed, dodging, rolling, etc. only serves to make RE 7 feel like a more realistic horror experience. And although I was not able to try it, this also probably serves to make the VR experience work more intuitively as well.

Though now I need some purring kitten videos and a glass of warm milk to be able to ever sleep again, RE 7 is a great comeback game for the series. It has everything a good RE needs: mysterious characters, nightmarish monsters, and the pulse-raising tension of being alone and trying to survive. Despite the lack of variety in the enemies, and the relative shortness of the game, it feels like a full experience. Even if the RE 7 demo turned you off with its style, even if some of the RE games caused you to lose faith in the series, if you are a fan of anything about Resident Evil, you need to play Resident Evil 7 biohazard.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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