Gaming

Some Key Changes Make ‘Resident Evil VII’ The Best Game In The Series’ History

The Resident Evil franchise never really been genuinely scary. It’s always been cheesy-scary, a Saturday night at the movies with some movie full of pretty young things getting picked off by low-budget special effects that slowly cranked up the budget and cheese until the sister film series was practically a model of restraint by comparison. Bar high watermarks like Resident Evil 4, the series was, one supposed, comfy, a carnival funhouse with guns.

Resident Evil VIII chucks all that out the window. And in the process, it makes a credible bid for the best entry in the series.

Resident Evil VII (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Artistic Achievement

Resident Evil VII often feels like a horror movie that gets every moment right, especially in its first half. It starts with the art direction, which is suitably unnerving in how gross and worn and moldy everything is. Even when nothing’s happening, a sense of something being wrong oozes out of every pixel. The largely quiet, restrained sound design is nearly perfect as well: Don’t play this game with headphones if you’ve got a strong startle response. The story even manages to tie its much more intimate and creepy setting and style, following normal guy Ethan tracking his wife to a creepy Louisiana plantation, to the wacky backstory of the other games without sacrificing tone.

Innovation

There are bits of other horror games in here, most notably Alien: Isolation in the first half of the game as you have an unkillable enemy slowly, patiently stalking you as you try to solve puzzles. This manages to add a nice mechanic at the same time with videotapes; finding tapes (the first one of which you can check out below) not only unlocks creepy little bonus levels you can play through, the tapes also lay out secrets and traps to avoid, including one spectacular sequence where you run through a hellish gauntlet on the tape and then sprint through it as Ethan. When this game sings, it’s thrilling and scary as hell.

Execution

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always sing. As you get further along, and Ethan finds more weapons and other tools to survive, it starts to feel more like a conventional Resident Evil game. In places that’s not a bad thing: Finding a nest of monsters, scrounging what you need, and then blowing them to hell is a lot of fun, and the game nails its combat. Aiming a weapon slows you down and can be complete agony when a monster is getting ready to charge you. And it does offer a change in tone, but it feels like the team could have pushed the innovation further.

And the boss fights are just annoying relics. Either you have to work out a poorly explained environmental trap of some sort, or just hope you’ve got enough ammo to get rid of these bullet sponges so you can get back to the good stuff.

That said, most of the game is a spine-tingling, unnerving experience. The tapes in particular stand out as a witty riff on “found footage,” as they’re literally just that, and often give you a little breather.

Staying Power

If you’re focused on the story and stay slick in the first half, you can probably get through this in about eight to nine hours. But the game does offer an increased difficulty that’ll challenge you for a while if you don’t want the horror to end.

DLC Factor

There is DLC available and on the way, but as it’s mostly in the form of “banned footage,” it’s not necessary to the core game. There will, however, be a free-of-charge side story added to the game later on, which promises to be fun.

Final Thoughts

Games with a “seven” after their title are usually stale affairs. But Resident Evil VII is, if anything, a new beginning for a franchise that’s often felt less scary and more bombastic. Wittily mixing and matching horror tropes, while having enough to please hardcore fans, horror fanatics should look no further.

Verdict: Worth A Shot

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