Game: Resident Evil VII: Biohazard
Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4/PSVR, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
It’s 2017, That is a fact. It just feels important to remind myself that I’ve finished a Resident Evil game in 2017 and don’t want to gouge my own eyes out. Capcoms horror franchise has a lengthy and rather fascinating history. The first game is fantastic, the second equally so, the third sound in its own right, the fourth is one of the greatest games ever made. It’s the fifth and sixth outing that feel a bit out of place. Five takes the formula of four and adds Cooperative play. While it isn’t a terrible experience, it loses something that I can’t quite put my finger on that made four so fantastic. Six is a metaphorical dumpster fire, I couldn’t even bring myself to complete it. All of this said I was apprehensive about the seventh installment in the series. It’s still early in the year so it may be premature to say, but Resident Evil VII might be the biggest surprise of the year, Capcom knocked it out of the park.
In Resident Evil VII you play as Ethan Winters who, for once is no cop or soldier but your average Joe in a shitty situation. Ethan’s wife, Mia went missing three years ago under mysterious circumstances when Ethan receives an Email from Mia claiming she is alive and in Louisiana Ethan sets off for the Baker residence down in the Bayou to find his wife.
When you first jump into Resident Evil VII, you’ll immediately notice some big differences from past games in the series. For one the first person perspective allows for the feeling of larger immersion(especially in VR) and tighter shooting. It’s the first hour or so of the game that feels very diffrent than the standard for Resident Evil, though. You’re alone in a dark house and unarmed. Not even a knife to make you feel like you stand a shot at fighting back.
Combat can feel a bit clunky at times but works overall it works well enough, aiming is tight enough, and you’ll never encounter large hordes of enemies, encountering even three or four at a time is rare and usually an indicator of a time to flee. Unless of course, it’s a boss encounter. Good rule, if the door is locked, you’re probably in a boss fight so good luck.
Control wise anyone familiar with a first person shooter could pick up and start playing right away. Connecting item boxes make a return, like Resident Evil games of the past inventory management, plays a huge role. As you progress, you’ll find bigger backpacks upgrading your inventory size. You can have up to four weapons equipped for quick access on the D-pad. Gone are the days of jumping to the inventory menu to equip a new weapon. You’ll save at Cassette players instead of typewriters( the future is now?). In “Madhouse mode” a difficulty unlocked upon completing the game you’ll need to carry cassette tapes with you to save.
Combining item is a useful tool, not only for inventory management but for staying alive. Green herbs are present while yellow and red have been canned. The item creation formula is simple. Chem fluids plus green herb equals healing ointment, chem fluids plus gunpowder equals ammunition. You’ll even be able to pick up separating agents to reverse the process.
You’re constantly hunted in Resident Evil VII. Jack Baker, the patriarch of the Baker Clan, will hunt you throughout the main house sort of like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3. You’ll have to deal with other members of the Baker family depending on what building you’re in, but Jack made me the most uneasy, always wondering whether or not he’d come crashing through the next door was nerve racking.
Resident Evil VII has collectibles as you’d expect. Aside from documents that shed more light on the story you’ll be able to find 18 antique coins that you can use to unlock things like health upgrades and a special Magnum for that extra punch.
Resident Evil VII is at times unsettlingly beautiful. I was playing on a PS4 pro and on a TV those darks are dark, HDR is an amazing technology. Character models looking amazingly realistic to the point that you occasionally get that uncanny valley effect. If you play on VR you’ll be trading some visual fidelity but I assure you the immersion is worth it.
I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the fantastic sound direction in Resident Evil VII. PSVR is the best way to play(we’ll get into that below), but I can’t stress enough play with headphones regardless of whether you can play in virtual reality. The sound of footsteps in the distance, the creaks of an old house and even the wind blowing through an open window are enough to keep you on edge.
“Resident Evil VII will sell you on VR”
As the majority of people playing the newest Resident Evil will not have the pleasure of playing with a PlayStation VR headset, I thought it would be best to talk about VR in its own section as it does feel like a different game.I can’t stress this enough, Resident Evil VII is VR’s killer app. Resident Evil VII will sell you on VR.
Of all the games in this long-standing series, most would say they remember the layout of the Spencer Mansion, the setting of the original Resident Evil the most. For me I can now say I remember the Baker residence in a much higher detail because I didn’t just look at it on a screen, I was in that house. If you took me to a physical representation, I could tell you exactly where Grandma’s room on the second floor is, after you’ve somehow tricked into going into that building of nightmares that is.For anyone with doubts about the legs of VR technology, Resident Evil VII is the proof that it isn’t going anywhere. It proves a handful of things, a first person shooter in VR can work and feel great, the sense of immersion VR can bring is the next big thing in games, and finally, first person horror in virtual reality is scary as hell.
Controls in VR are simple enough since the game doesn’t support the PlayStation Move controllers it works mostly the same. To aim you’ll use your head movements rather than the thumbstick which feels great, It’s honestly more natural thank a typical aiming mechanic. To move your field of view you can flick the right stick to turn thirty degrees at a time( it’s possible to turn this off in favor of natural smooth scrolling, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you enjoy vomiting) although strange you’ll adjust quickly, and it feels natural in no time. You can also adjust how much you jump per flick in the settings. The standard thirty worked well for me personally. Making movement comfortable is the most important part of a good VR experience, and Capcom nails it here so much so that my time remaining in VR has gone up dramatically. My longest consistent session of Resident Evil in VR was about five hours, prior to this I’d never been able to stay much longer than an hour.
It took me around ten hours to beat Resident Evil VII, had I done my original playthrough in the standard TV mode it would probably be closer to eight. The tension and fear Capcom manages to build for VR players is unparalleled. I’ve found myself playing a horror game in a way I’d never played any other. Walking down halls slowly, gun drawn, pushing open doors slowly, feeling a slight sense of relief whenever I stumbled upon a safe room or some ammo. I’m by no means a coward, but this game had me on edge constantly.
If you asked me back a few months ago When Resident Evil VII was first revealed what my thoughts were on it I’d tell you I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. Resident Evil 4 was my favorite game in the series, and it’s been all downhill from there. Much like Resident Evil 4, VII shakes up the formula, and it’s the step in the right direction both for Capcoms series and future of virtual reality.
Score: 9 out of 10