Resident Evil 7 was undoubtedly a triumphant comeback for one of the most prolific survival horror franchises ever made. After a slew of middling online titles and mainline games that drifted further away from the franchise’s horror roots, Capcom gave the series a seriously needed shot in the arm. With the creation of the innovative RE engine, Resident Evil was rebooted with the purely horror-focused, truly visceral Biohazard.
Capcom also made the wise decision to break away from the deep franchise lore. Instead, they decided to tell a story that stands on its own. They made sure to include many references and easter eggs for hardcore fans to equally appreciate! Biohazard is not only still a must-play as an essential precursor to Village, but also for horror fans at large. Here’s why you should pick this up and let yourself become enveloped in nightmare-inducing, immersive horror.
Navigating the Nightmare
Resident Evil has gone through many core gameplay changes as the franchise has progressed. The first three mainline games utilised a static camera to deliver filmic shots of each area your character navigates. This allowed for an unconventional type of third-person in which the camera is positioned away from the player character. Moving into the 2000s, the later games in the series modernised the control scheme. The franchise began falling in line with more traditional shooters and making use of the ‘over the shoulder’ method of third-person. Now, with the two most recent entries, Resident Evil has evolved into first-person survival horror. This evolution enables maximum immersion and the ability to see every painstakingly rendered monster directly through the character’s eyes.
Returning to survival horror and deviating from the action-heavy setpieces and gunplay of previous games has seen a complete overhaul in various aspects of gameplay. Ammo is scarce, healing items are coveted and rare. You’ll be scrounging every corner for antique coins to upgrade your guns. That’s not to say that this stripped-back approach to gunplay is any less effective. In fact, it is more so. You learn early on in the game that every resource is precious. It becomes part of the quickly scaling horror to realise how frugal you have to be in order to survive.
The selection of weapons at your disposal also strikes the perfect balance between allowing for diverse gameplay and making sure you never feel too powerful. Whilst you'll be making frequent use of your handgun and knife, you'll have to work for the more intimidating weapons. And even once you've got them, there's still ammo to worry about. Biohazard plays brilliantly. It's a constant struggle for survival that never feels unfair. Yet it also never lets you feel safe.
A Revamped Storyline
Before Biohazard, Resident Evil's timeline became steeped in layer upon layer of lore. Along with a plethora of returning characters. The plots for the most recent games strayed into the territory of ridiculous. They abandoned the series' atmospheric horror routes in favour of schlocky, gory and melodramatic action. Biohazard represents a hard reset for the series. Aside from one returning character and the presence of the mysterious pharmaceutical corporation Umbrella, everything in this game is brand new. It is extremely welcoming to newcomers to the series.
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard follows Ethan Winters, a man whose wife went missing three years prior while away for work. Arriving in Louisiana, Ethan finds himself embroiled in a web of lies and at the mercy of the hideous Baker family. The Baker's are a not-so-wholesome family who are seriously into murdering. As Ethan traverses the decrepit estate, he faces each of the monstrous family one by one. Along with the creatures they created and discovers why and how the family ended up this way.
For the most part, the main bulk of the horror is presented via the Baker family. Daddy dearest, Jack Baker, chases you down and breaks down walls with massive rusty shovels and chainsaws. Jack's lovely wife Marguerite keeps the company of aggressive insects. She and her nasty gaggle of creatures pursue you relentlessly. They creep through walls and atop ceilings with an eerie silence to ensure you never quite know where she is. And finally, there is Jack and Marg's maladjusted progeny, Lucas. He does his best hillbilly Jigsaw impression and sets up a host of sadistic traps for you to navigate.
But not everything is as it seems. Who is the strange old woman who keeps appearing around the farm to unnerve you? And who is that little girl running around and taunting you? It's going to be a long night for poor Ethan.
Not Quite Prime Real Estate
Where Resident Evil 7 Biohazard truly shines is in its setting, not so beautifully rendered thanks to the excellent RE engine. The Baker farm is truly a sight to behold. It will leave a pit in your stomach from the moment you step foot on the grounds.
The Baker Estate is falling apart after years of disrepair. The once wholesome farm is becoming a disgusting, tepid den for the family's brutal and homicidal experiments. Wood rots, walls are littered with holes and nearly every inch of the property is caked in mud and insects. This is a truly gruesome style of horror that Resident Evil had not strayed into before this point. Inspired is drawn from outback American horror movies of old such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance. Biohazard lives to disgust you as well as scare you. You definitely don't need to be an outright germaphobe to appreciate how unsanitary this place is.
However, the game does usher you away from the farm in the final act. Replacing the dark, sprawling estate with the tight and claustrophobic corridors of an abandoned tanker. This does prove to be a far less effectively scary locale than the game's main setting. This is something of a shame, but it's definitely not enough to strip Biohazard of being one of the scariest games in recent memory.
Sights and Sounds
Aside from the horrific environments rendered in painstaking detail, a lot of care and effort has gone into creating an atmosphere that fits this style of horror perfectly. The soundtrack is subtle, yet extremely effective. Music is relatively absent throughout. When it's used, it's here for the sole purpose of making you feel even more unsettled. Creepy, distorted notes score each safe room. This has the lovely effect of never letting you feel quite out of danger. Despite the fact that nothing can attack you. In boss fights, the soundtrack ramps up and screeching violins play over your frantic running and gunning.
Aside from the soundtrack, a nod also has to be given to the quality of the voice acting, especially for the Baker family. Jack's gleeful, sadistic anger alongside Marguerite's erratic screaming and odd moaning are absolutely chilling when heard around the Baker Farm. And Lucas, of course, is having an unhealthy amount of fun tormenting Ethan. He strikes the perfect balance between creating an intimidating villain and an extremely annoying voice that you're rather eager to put an abrupt stop to.
In short, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is a near perfectly realised visual and auditory nightmare. It offers unforgettable imagery and an elevated horror gaming experience that will unnerve even the most seasoned gore fanatic.
Overall, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is a triumphant return to form for the series. It maintains the ideal balance between being extremely accessible to newcomers and being packed with new ideas. As well as being familiar enough to fans to feel a part of the same beloved franchise. It is clear that Capcom is unabashedly embracing the series' horror roots once again. It is glorious.
Every second you spend in this adrenaline-fuelled nightmare is immersive to the extreme. Whether you're taking in a particularly unsettling view, solving an intricate puzzle or taking the business end of a shotgun to some mould creatures. While not perfect, Biohazard is close to the pinnacle of the horror gaming genre. It's extremely exciting to think about which areas of horror that may be explored in future games.