Resident Evil 7 - biohazard: PS4 Review
Released by Capcom
Fear comes home in the latest much anticipated iteration of the Resident Evil series.
And it's clear that developers want this game to feel both as intimate as it can be and as terrifying as any horror game should be.
Both the Beginning Hour and Kitchen demos gave clues as to what to expect in biohazard, but to be honest, going in with a clean slate is perhaps one of the best ways to experience the latest Resident Evil game.
Set 4 years after the events of Resident Evil 6 (in 2017 believe it or not), you play civilian Ethan, whose entrance into the Resident Evil canon is precipitated by the disappearance of his wife Mia. Three years after she's gone AWOL, Ethan's contacted by her and sets out to discover what's happened.
His road trip leads him to a plantation farm in the middle of nowhere (unsurprisingly) and into a meeting with the Baker family, a twisted bunch that make the mutants of The X-Files' banned episode episode Home look relatively normal by comparison.
Inadvertently trapped in the house by the family, Ethan has to escape....
And really, that's all that deserves to be said about the plot, because to be frank, Resident Evil 7 - biohazard is best experienced with a cleansed gaming palette. Granted, its first person perspective and some of the design of the inside of the house may invite comparisons to Konami's cancelled nightmare P.T, but this game is truly its own beast.
|Welcome home... Resident Evil 7 - Biohazard|
And beastly it is - as well as fiendish, devilish and occasionally heart-stopping.
Employing jump scares and an immersive first player POV adds many levels to biohazard, giving it the feeling that every moment's been lifted from what makes a truly great horror movie work. Within the opening sequence alone, there's one moment that plays to the best part of a horror experience - the suggestion of what you may have seen out of the corner of your eye. When put within the context of the game, these are the moments which work best, because you have all the elements of a horror genre within - house in the woods, creepy goings on, long corridors with long pauses as you wait for something to happen, someone on your tail - it all adds up to an at times, tensely claustrophobic feeling.
However, there are ways that the game stops you feeling fully immersed - and to be honest, these barriers were never easily going to be overcome. It also has to be said, these jump scares are never cheap and thrown in for simple thrills or "We got you" moments - they're there to heighten the sense of terror that gnaws away at you as you play.
The fixed reliance on what objects you can interact with and which can be used frustrates. A truly open and immersive game would allow any object to be used in the quest to escape, but much like The Order did before it, only certain ones can be utilised, leading to a lack of logic and a nagging sense of irritation (and desperation when someone - or something - is on your tail).
Again, it leads to the perception that to a large degree, the path is chosen for you and how you get there is largely mapped out by the mechanics of the new RE Engine (hence why the statement, these barriers were always going to be difficult to overcome).
Despite that minor niggle, Resident Evil 7 - biohazard is a punishing game, and an abjectly terrifying experience that preys on your feeling of suspense and revels in the tension it creates.
Unlike previous Resident Evils, there's no reliance on blasting your way through mutants and simply shooting to survive. The adoption of the tenets of the survival horror genre though are truly welcome. Much like The Last Of Us, supplies are to be savoured and not wasted and the game doesn't reward you with an excess of materials to make your life easier, for which it duly deserves plenty of praise as it adds to a heightened sense of reality.
Equally, the sense of detail which has gone into the Bakers' home is visually incredible. The game's HD creaks with nuances and comes alive in the most visceral of ways. You can almost feel the dust on your face as you head through the house's hidden areas; there's certainly something deeply atmospheric about Resident Evil - Biohazard and it works brilliantly well. Like any true house in the woods, the sense of isolation is palpable and as a result, the game's desire to suck you in is evident from the start.
And praise should go to the execution of the family and other human characters within - they look creepy as hell and there's a veritable stench of decay that leaps out of the screen at you as you play.
What works best about Resident Evil - biohazard is its tone. From its freaky atmospherics to its mystery and the terror with which it plays out, this is a horror game that gets it truly right. While some may protest the adoption of the POV player, this is a genius stroke from the developers that really gets to the heart of what makes the game the success. It throws you directly into the world of Ethan and gives you a simple yet very human reason to survive - to find your missing wife and escape. It's an embracing of the primal fears that lie within and the playing on this very basic of human tenets that helps it to achieve greatness.
One of 2017's essential gaming purchases is here.
To scare the living daylights out of you - and it's a great experience to kick off the new gaming year with and simply put, you're best off playing this in the dark. Both figuratively and literally.
NB -Resident Evil VII - Biohazard also has a VR component too for the entire game, which will be reviewed at a later stage.