The closing hours of Resident Evil 7 make for one of the most disheartening final acts in any game I’ve played recently. It meant that my lasting impression before I sat down to write this review was pretty negative. But, looking back on the experience as a whole, this was still a satisfying reboot of the Resident Evil series – one that showed it still has potential to tell a mostly compelling story. Moreover; the gameplay was arguably the best it’s ever been, delivering a tight survival horror experience that melded old and new genre philosophies.
Venturing into the realm of first person horror, which has massively come into vogue since Resident Evil 6, RE7 takes a number of cues from its genre peers. The gorgeously rendered, meticulously detailed household hallways feel akin to P.T. The emphasis on running and hiding in some sections is reminiscent of Outlast and Amnesia.
However, most importantly, this game’s biggest influence is its own history. Gameplay involves intensive inventory management, lots of scares as you duck and weave through tight corridors, picking your battles wisely due to tough ammo restrictions, and simple yet rewarding puzzles. It’s the classic Resident Evil formula, with the insane plot reigned back and all the modern bells, whistles and quality of life improvements you’d expect from a big release in 2017.
The plot is set in the same universe as all previous RE games, but largely unrelated bar some late game teases and nods. Wandering around a creepy mansion (see? Classic Resident Evil!), protagonist Ethan must find his girlfriend, rescue her from the monstrous Baker family, and escape in one piece. It’s refreshingly small-scale and focused – especially early on. No grander conspiracy, no world-endagering evil – it’s a claustrophobic horror with elements of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, The Blair Witch Project and other horror staples.
Where it goes off the rails is the aforementioned final act. Things get, well, a little too Resident Evil-y for me. While certain elements of RE’s past are welcomed back, some aren’t. The creepy, small-scale plot is sacrificed for goofy boss battles and set pieces that feel like the exact type of thing the first half of the game was successfully getting away from. The plot peaks far too soon, limping across the finish line with a needless final hour and boss battles that wouldn’t be out of place in a forgotten PS2 era spinoff in this long running series.
Setbacks aside, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is still a reassuring return to form for the series. The locations are beautifully realized in their disgusting details, the gameplay is tight and satisfying, and the plot at least has signs of getting away from the series’ bloated past, even if it lazily falls back on tired tropes on the home stretch. Resident Evil 7 is a must own for survival horror fans, and one of the most enjoyable games of 2017 so far.