Resident Evil 7: A mediocre review
The dust has settled and Resident Evil 7 is a mixed-bag for me. My hype for this game was extremely high and I simply couldn’t wait to play it. I’ve been a huge Resident Evil fan for well over a decade now and I’ve loved every entry. But so far, RE7 is disappointing to the extent it’s made me appreciate Resident Evil 6 way more. Now, calling Resident Evil 7 a “bad game” is most certainly preposterous. But I’d be tempted to call it a bad Resident Evil game. It’s a combination of minor criticisms, along with the tremendous excitement I had for it, that just rubs me up the wrong way.
The plot involves around Ethan Winters, an all-round average guy searching for his wife Mia, who’s been missing for 3 years. His search leads him to an abandoned farmhouse located in Louisiana. Upon searching a basement, he finds her locked up in a cell, appearing to be in an absent-minded state. She turns out to be possessed in a very Evil Dead-reminiscent style and starts attacking Ethan, resulting in him losing his hand by Mia’s chainsaw – again, very Evil Dead inspired. He is forced to kill her and is then abducted. We’re introduced to the Baker family in somewhat a tribute to 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fashion. I don’t really want to spoil the plot any further, as with Resident Evil 7 I kind of got the feel of playing a favorite movie-based video game. The real fun revolves around the jump scares and overall puzzle aspect.
The gameplay is a comeback of the older Resident Evil games prior to Resident Evil 4. The satisfaction comes from solving numerous puzzles and hoarding ammo, which is a nice return to the old-school formula. However, it’s handicapped, almost ruined by having to repeat some of the puzzles multiple times, such as the projector puzzles that don’t really involve clever thinking as opposed to the great variety of the older games. They even dared to include these types of puzzles again in the paid DLC content, which adds up to a total of 5 times, and it’s really rather tedious. There are other riddle-solving minigames, even a nod to the classic shotgun puzzle in the original game, but I couldn’t help but want a more grand selection and scale of them.
The most noticeable change other than going back to its horror roots is the first person camera in the same vein as Fear, Alien Isolation, Outlast and P.T. I’ve always loved seeing my character in the main series of Resident Evil games, and unlocking different costumes – now, there simply isn’t the option to do so.
Ethan is very dull, characterless, almost lifeless. He doesn’t have a personality and overall doesn’t seem to care. For instance, in the beginning, when he finds his wife Mia, he doesn’t seem moved or happy at all, and his line “you’ve been gone for three years” is so emotionless it’s astonishing. I did really like Mia however, as even her voice acting was better than that of the main character’s, but the cake goes to Jack and Marguerite Baker. Being a big fan of horror movies it’s such a joy to watch them. On your first playthrough, you’re in constant fear of them, even if they are not the monsters. Other members of the Baker family are Aunt Rhody, Lucas Baker, Zoe Baker and a mysterious little girl named Eveline.
Lucas’s character is more that of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise: both characters are fascinated by, and skilled at creating traps. Zoe, who helps you throughout the game, is a strong addition, but I wish her voice could be more consistent: she seems to switch back and forth from a southern Louisana accent to a British one.
The overall setting is beautiful as is the attention to detail, but the scale of the map/game compared to Resident Evil 2, through Code Veronica, up until Resident Evil 6 had is all gone. It is more reminiscent of the 2002 Remake – beautiful but rather limited.
My biggest criticism has to go to the enemy variety. The diversity of monsters in Resident Evil 7 is appalling. Other than the occasional harassment from the Bakers, the main single type enemy is referred to as “the Molded”: a Regenerador type of creature reminiscent of what you’d find in Resident Evil 4 and the Revelations series. With the exception of different types of it such as the “fat molded”, or “four-legged Molded” – that’s it. The only other enemy I encountered was a few bugs in the Marguerite Baker encounter. This limited enemy variety is unacceptable as this has never been an issue in any Resident Evil game. Not to mention the game is set in Louisiana! Where are the swamp enemies? Alligators? Snakes? Coyotes? Trademark wildlife is absent. I can’t believe that the original now 21-year-old Resident Evil had way more of an enemy variety than its latest main installment.
The boss battles are extremely original and very fun. As for the weapon variety, it is strong.
The replay value isn’t strong enough for me. If you beat the game on easy or normal, you unlock the Madhouse mode, which cranks up everything, and that is where the only replay value is at. Less ammo, tougher bosses, also the cassette tapes reminiscent of ink ribbons (a trademark of the older Resident Evil games) that you need to collect in order to save your game are added. Overall, I got about 20 hours of gameplay, taking my time in the first playthrough and almost speedrunning the second and the third one. You do unlock different features – such as weapons and abilities – that makes Madhouse more tolerable. However, the first two DLC’s should have been simply included with the main game. Most Resident Evil games right up to 6 offer a lot of replay value, and it does seem it is the case for RE7 but it’s only given in a +DLC form. Without the DLC you don’t get any additional content for your efforts, with the exception of the upcoming FREE Not A Hero DLC.
My first playthrough of the game was entirely in VR and then for my replay’s, I played it in standard. With the VR It was so intense and aiming with the headset, is so natural you simply move your head and it’s very accurate – it also gives the player an immense advantage over analog stick aiming in my opinion. However, apart from the VR You’re limited to what most First Person Shooter games offer: stand, crouch, run and an 180° turn. No fancy martial art moves or in air shooting that the previous modern RE games implemented.
Resident Evil 7 is a solid survival horror game. But as a Resident Evil game, it simply falls flat compared to every other entry in the Resident Evil series to me. I could play every main series game over and over and not get bored. With Resident Evil 7, I just don’t really have the desire to sit through unskippable encounters, which I already know the outcome of. The game even lacks the trademark “RESIDENT EVIL” from the start menu. As Immortan Joe from Mad Max Road Fury would put it: “mediocre”.