Review: ‘Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’ demonstrates cost & compromise in survival.

Resident Evil 7 is an outgrowth. The series has always stuck to its roots while twisting them into the light anyway it can. In this regard the progression seems to be the standard deviation of one camera movement to be more in touch with the player. From the isometric security cameras of 1-3, to the third-person action suspense of 4-6, it seems inevitable that #7 synthesize the two styles for a first person found footage exercise that excises the bloated elements of series prior and adopts its Japanese namesake as its subtitle. The question is does this hybrid style payoff the fear you can’t forget?

The main criticism off the bat I levy against this game is the painfully slow movement, which while thankfully not as slow as “The Beginning Hour” demo, still registers protagonist Ethan Winters and others as you play as in videotape sections as senior citizens. Its understood that in step with hits like Slenderman, Outlast, and Amnesia this is an effective use of tension but it feels forced to me as the reality of playing a young able-bodied person of sound mind who proves quite capable. Although my ultimate frustrations with the game never stemmed from lack of movement, it still served as a nuisance.

Looking forward to the story as I do with every increasingly rare single-player only game nowadays, while successful in building the series mythology the plot doesn’t offer many answers to questions it is so good at provoking. You play as Ethan Winters, a uhhh guy from Texas(?) who comes to Louisiana to find his wife Mia who has been missing for 3 years. What does Ethan do and what was his life-like when he was with Mia or in the intervening years in which she was missing? Did they have a child who passed? Throughout the game I half-assumed they were separated considering the opening message in which she says not to come looking for her, or 20 minutes later when she reveals she had no expectations for Ethan to come for her “after what happened”. These frustratingly vague horror tropes of nonsensical withholding of crucial information passed a reasonable time is the second biggest weakness of the game that I forgot even by the fifth hour when you’ve completed two boss battles you still have no idea what you’re doing here despite some decent one on one time with Mia. Additionally any clearing up any history between the two main characters which might humanize them goes unresolved. Mia, who you also play as from time to time vows to explain the reason you’re here and everything that’s going on after you inevitably escape the life-threatening situation that occupies the entirety of the game which puts a chokehold on the narrative. And for his part you do not get to know Ethan any better from the end of the game than you did at the beginning. It isn’t explained who he was talking to on the phone in the opening or why he didn’t call the police to show up at a large abandoned property formerly occupied by other missing people to help him investigate a lead on a 3-year-old missing persons case. These video games can be stupidly contrived from time to time, especially when all the information you obtain comes through a local landline with a mysterious stranger on the other end you blindly decide to trust and follow on fetch quests.

I did get my hopes up about the story as I progressed through the game, but the most frustrating aspect is that it had so very little to do with the ongoing resident evil storyline that it felt like it should have been a spinoff rather than a mainline entry. RE4 was strong for answering most of its own questions and being self-contained, but the problem this game falls into that many recent movies have done is that it makes the mistake of saving answers for later sequels and offers next to no payoff beyond what I predicted in my own play through. It introduces its own queries and doesn’t solve them, there are some plot holes that although I was enjoying the gameplay and atmosphere enough that when the story finally fell short at the end it negatively affected my experience but not as devastatingly as I’d hoped.

To answer the question that began this review, the answer is ‘no’, with a lot of yes sinking in deep. The game works better if you think of it as a non-Resident Evil game. The story though excellent in its world building, like RE4 is too tangential to payoff the ongoing series. There are still common elements of; puzzles, herbs and awkward tension generating controls, the last bit trading in the tank movement for a design choice that wisely decides that your character shouldn’t be an expert at headshots, and the rest is presented in a new package that is totally unfamiliar to something with a 7 in the title. It’s the kind of thing that I as a fan of 5 and 4, with only playing with bits of the original, didn’t actually intend to play so soon but thanks to my local library I was surprised that it still was a worthy game, just not a worthy Resident Evil moniker as I understand it.

Rating: -2      -1      0      +1      +2     / B     / [75/100]

Spoiler Remarks:  —————————————————————-

  • I predicted the villainous twist
  • If Lucas emailed Ethan what was his plan exactly? Why does Lucas kidnap his sister if he’s not infected?  Why does Lucas’ family not kill him if they under the control of Evelyne, moreso how is he nor Zoey infected by her?
  • Why doesn’t Ethan carry a cellphone? I thought this would be a Final Destination 5 like twist where the Dulvey plantation turns out to be the old mansion outside Raccoon City and its a stealth prequel, but its present day.

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