Review: Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (Xbox One)

Reviewed by Jordan Ryan, posted Jan 27, 2017, last updated Jan 28, 2017
Jan 27, 2017
  • Release Date (NA): January 24, 2017
  • Release Date (EU): January 24, 2017
  • Release Date (JP): January 26, 2017
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genres: Survival Horror
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Also For: Computer, PlayStation 4
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Resident Evil VII Lives Up to its Promise to Bring Fear Home
Jordan Ryan

Fear Comes Home: Returning to Roots

In 2016, the Resident Evil series celebrated a whopping 20 years of existence as a franchise, with the first game being released on March 22, 1996 for the original Playstation. Such a milestone is typically reserved for powerhouse franchises such as Mario, Zelda, Metal Gear, Pokémon and the like, which makes this a true honor for the series. In celebration of this, Capcom’s latest installment, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, brings the series back to its simpler roots in a great way.

The plot of the game is beautifully simple; you play as Ethan, a young man who’s travelled to Dulvey, Louisiana in search of his missing wife, Mia. Upon arrival in Dulvey, Ethan finds the abandoned farmhouse where Mia directed him via an email. It’s here that Ethan is captured by the home’s residents, the Baker family; Jack, Marguerite, and their son Lucas, who intend to assimilate him into their family as the latest in a long line of kidnapping victims. Escape is the name of the game as Ethan must survive this house of horrors, rescue Mia, and escape from the Bakers and their sadistic plans.

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The tagline of the game is Fear Comes Home, and it’s an incredibly accurate statement on the content you can expect. This game is downright terrifying. I haven’t felt this much fear and anxiety playing a video game since the first time I played the original Resident Evil in 2008. The majority of the game’s terror comes from the dark, disturbing atmosphere of this old, rotting farmhouse. It’s very reminiscent of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, right down to our introduction to the Bakers being around a dinner table amidst a feast of human flesh. As a huge fan of horror films, I loved the visual atmosphere, and had a blast exploring the old farmhouse.

There’s no music when wandering the property, meaning you get to hear every creak of the house, every bump in the hall, and every slight movement in the building. In my opinion this is the scariest the franchise has ever been. The lack of enemy hordes for a majority of the game lets the atmosphere do the work, and is scarier than any amount of zombies ever could be. The graphics are pretty good by modern standards, though there's nothing in particular to brag about. Capcom did a good job of shading the environment however, giving shadows to flying drapes, items in the vicinity, and even your own character, which adds a hand in helping deliver this horrific experience.

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This is a return to form from the last three instalments of the franchise, which’ve slowly made the transition from survival horror to direct action games. While each one does have some horror elements that keeps it grounded in the series, combat is the name of the game for Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6. While they still lead to quality games (though with RE6 that’s debatable), this departure from the core of what made the series popular led to many fans becoming progressively disheartened with the franchise, downright begging Capcom to bring the games back to what made them successful originally. It’s a pleasure to see Capcom responding to that request with a fervour, giving us more of what the series was founded on, but keeping it unique enough to give the players something new.

Groovy!: Gameplay and Combat

Changes in gameplay is nothing new for the Resident Evil series. In 2005 they went from a third person fixed camera to an over the shoulder shooter, forever revolutionizing how third person shooters would be made going forward. Resident Evil VII changes things up yet again, transitioning the franchise into a first person shooter. This isn’t anything new to the franchise; it was actually first done in the 2003 spinoff title for PS2, Resident Evil: Dead Aim. Dead Aim used the traditional third person movement in the overworld, but switched to a first person perspective when in combat, making use of a light gun accessory released by Capcom. First person was again used in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and The Darkside Chronicles, which were on rail shooters designed to give an abridged version of the events of previous entries into the series (RE:0, 1, and 3 for UC, RE2 and Code Veronica for DC) as well as some more background lore for the series as a whole. (EDIT: A reader has brought it to my attention that there was an FPS Resident Evil game even before Dead Aim; Resident Evil Survivor, a PS1 exclusive light gun shooter that was very poorly received due to the American release not actually being compatible with a light gun. For this oversight I do apologize, however because RES is utter garbage, I'll be maintaining my alternative facts as truth.) REVII marks the first time that first person has been integrated into the core series, however, and despite controversy surrounding this decision, I think it worked out very well.

Gameplay is nothing spectacular by FPS standards; if anything, it’s painfully average and does nothing to break the mold like they did with RE4. Instead it opts to use these average mechanics to its advantage; being in first person, your view is limited to what’s directly in front of you, which mixes well with the horrifying atmosphere, constantly making you turn and check behind you, and creeping around every corner to see what’s waiting around the next turn. And when you do come face to face with an enemy, you get a very personal look at them, seeing every disgusting detail rendered.

As I mentioned, the combat is nothing spectacular. You aim a gun with left trigger, and fire with right. Like all Resident Evil games, ammo is limited, and you must ration it. While the relatively low amount of enemies you fight may seem like it would make this easier, the amount of bullets each enemy can take before going down more than makes up for it, making rationing still a requirement, and leaving much of the combat up to every Resident Evil player’s oldest friend; the knife.

The knife is sort of a running theme in Resident Evil games, being an incredibly powerful weapon that never runs out of ammo, and is only limited by how fast you can mash your attack button. People have done entire playthroughs of games with just the knife, myself included, just as a testament to how useful this weapon is. Like with everything else though, the first person view adds something new to the knife mechanics; the requirement that you must be close to an enemy to use the knife on them puts you right in close proximity to them; they can attack you if you’re not quick enough, and you once again get a personal look at these grotesque enemies.

Enemies you’ll be facing are few and far between. Depending on the area you’re in, the majority of your time will be spent fighting the various forms of the Molded; disgusting, Regenerator-esque enemies that pop out of patches of black mold and attack you, using their incredible strength and weapon-like hands to deal massive damage. There are two ways to defeat the Molded; either dismembering them limb from limb until they can’t attack you anymore, or taking the age old Resident Evil approach to enemy disposal; shoot them in the head.

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The true enemies of the game are the Bakers themselves, however. No matter what area of the house you’re in, at least one of them is ever present, constantly wandering the home and attacking you on sight, right up until your big boss encounter at the end of the stage, where you need to use the weapons and skills you’ve picked up to finally dispose of them, one by one. They’re another major source of terror throughout the game, and quite reminiscent of Nemesis from RE3, where they cannot be defeated until the proper time; fighting them before a boss fight is a waste of time, and you will not be able to kill them until the game wants you to.

One more gameplay mechanic brought back into the game that’s been lost over the last few entries, is a major emphasis on the puzzles; much of your time in-game will be searching the property for various keys and puzzle pieces to advance further, making sure you think before you act. The interesting thing here is that like the original Resident Evil, a lot of the game is very open world, letting you get almost anywhere you want and pick up any puzzle piece as soon as you find it. This can lead to problems however, as this means you can advance too far without having everything you need, triggering events you’re drastically underprepared for. If you die because of this, it makes you rethink your strategy, and if you can make it through, it’s only made the game tougher on you than it needed to be. It’s unique in this day and age of straight forward progression in games, and a return from the series that I eagerly welcomed back.

You Ain’t Gettin’ Away: Post Game Content and Problems

As with all Resident Evil games, the fun isn’t over after a single playthrough. In addition to extra goodies such as more powerful guns and faster walking shoes that you get for beating the game at different difficulty levels/meeting specific criteria, there are hidden treasures and various modes of difficulty from Easy and Normal to this game’s professional version, Madhouse, that will leave you able to test your abilities as many times as you’d like. There’s also a fair amount of achievements unable to be earned on your first playthrough, leaving multiple ventures necessary to complete it to perfection. There’s even two different endings possible, meaning not every playthrough will necessarily be the same.

Littered throughout the game are three types of collectables; Mr. Everywhere statues that must be destroyed, Antique Coins which must be collected so you can buy upgrades in a safe area, and VHS tapes giving you a more in depth look at the story through the eyes of other characters, as well as giving you a bit of a preview of the area you found the tape in, letting you know where certain keys for progression are; at one point towards the end, viewing a specific VHS tape becomes essential to your survival if you’re trying not to die, showing you how someone before you failed a puzzle and died because of it. The tapes are a very unique addition to the game, and give more incentive outside of achievements and completion for finding these collectables.
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Those multiple runs aren't as daunting as in games past, however, because there’s one problem haunting this game worse than the Bakers, and it’s one I can’t overlook now matter how much I enjoy the game; This game is short. A very, very short campaign to the point where there’s a trophy/achievement to beat the game in a mere four hours. While this isn’t the par time for completion, it’s not that far from it if you know what you’re doing; it took me about 16 hours to complete the game, and I’ve seen some Redditers claim to have beaten the game in as short as 2 ½ hours. Personally this doesn’t bother me, as I felt satisfied with every second of gameplay and I know I’ll be revisiting the title to earn every single collectable. However, I know not every gamer is like that. And if that doesn’t describe you, I don’t think you’d be able to justify picking it up at full price.

One final issue that I had, while not major, does stand out; Ethan, as a protagonist, is boring. Unlike the heroes of past RE games, he’s no cop or special agent. He’s just a regular guy who was thrown into this outrageous situation. This helps the immersion necessary for an FPS title, and his infrequent speech makes immersion entirely possible. The issue here is that the Resident Evil series is packed full of memorable, iconic characters such as Jill Valentine and Leon S. Kennedy. While there’s nothing wrong with Ethan’s blandness, it unfortunately makes him forgettable when next to the likes of Jill, Leon, Wesker or Chris. Despite these complaints, I still had a ton of fun playing through Resident Evil VII. These complaints don't even come close to ruining the experience for me personally, and I don't see them ruining the experience for fans of the series.
+ Amazing Visuals
+ Terrifying Atmosphere
+ Returns the franchise to its survival horror roots while still adding new ideas to keep the series fresh after 20 years.
- The game is very short
- Repetitive post game caters primarily to completionists
- The protagonist is bland and forgettable next to the slew of iconic, memorable characters that populate the franchise.
10 Presentation
The game is downright terrifying, and it knows it. The graphics, while nothing spectacular, do well to add to the scare factor, and the sound design only amplifies your emotions throughout.
8 Gameplay
While bland by FPS standards, the gameplay combines itself well with the atmosphere to create a truly unique experience to the franchise. The combat runs smoothly enough, and getting up close and personal with your enemies is a terrifyingly welcome addition.
7 Lasting Appeal
While I think the game makes perfect use of every second it has, there’s no denying that it’s a short game. For those not interested in perfecting the game or finding each and every treasure, they’d be hard pressed to justify a $60 price tag.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
It's fitting that this game follows the series 20th anniversary, because it’s basically Capcom’s love letter to their series, and to horror in general. If you’re a fan of Resident Evil or horror movies, you’ll enjoy the game. If you’re a fan of both, as I am, you’ll love it.


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