Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PS4) - ReviewPatrick Day-Childs , posted on 23 January 2017 / 12,232 Views
When I first played Resident Evil 7: Biohazard I came into the experience with a number of preconceptions, and perhaps the foremost of these was that Capcom was switching to first person in this latest entry in order to piggy-back off the acclaim garnered by a number of first person survival horror PC games that have released in recent years, and secondly to cash in on the popularity and novelty of virtual reality.
Fortunately I was incredibly wrong.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard in many ways takes the series back to its roots - something fans have been clamouring for for the best part of a decade now - namely by refocusing on survival horror, and it does so beautifully. Fan bases are often notoriously scathing and sceptical, and one of the concerns expressed by fans regarding this latest entry in the Resident Evil series was its switch from a third person to a first person perspective. This, however, is not as jarring as you may expect. In fact, I found my experience to be quite the opposite; the controls are intuitive enough to quickly master, although I found aiming using the PSVR much easier, and the switch to first person is naturally more immersive.
By adopting the first person perspective championed by fledgling survival horror titles in recent years Capcom is able to immerse the player in the experience, doubly so thanks to the advent of virtual reality. In past titles, when you hear a noise behind your character, it's easy enough to tilt the camera slightly and get a good look at what you’re dealing with on all sides without making yourself too vulnerable to a frontal attack. In first person there is no such luxury - if you want to check behind you, or to your side, you have to sacrifice all of your vision, which is enough to keep you constantly on edge.
Playing with a virtual reality set-up (I used the PlayStation VR headset and headphones), you'll find that, because you're constantly pursued by the Baker family, you notice every foot-step, creak, and piano tap. A lot of development time and effort has clearly gone into making the game's derelict mansion feel like a realistic place too; it's filled with various paraphernalia, including collectibles and notes that offer snippets of insight into the game's characters.
This is one of the few games I've played in recent years that had me reading every note, not just because they help with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard's puzzles, but also because it's genuinely interesting to discover how this entry ties in with previous Resident Evil titles and to learn more about its back story. Some of these notes also lead to hidden objects scattered around the mansion.
As mentioned above, you're constantly pursued by heavy-hitting enemies, so you find yourself in a constant state of stress. There's a certain amount of relief to be had by creating distance between them and yourself, but you can never really guarantee that you're safe; even the nostalgic safe rooms feel unsettling. There’s a sense of pressure with every step you take that never lets up, such that the game ends as it begins, with you cautiously advancing all the while expecting something unpleasant to happen. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard constantly teases you with the possibility of a jump scare.
Tentatively running around a mansion, hiding behind doors and cupboards, waiting for the AI to wander past so that you can proceed makes Resident Evil 7: Biohazard feel in some ways very similar to the acclaimed Alien: Isolation. However, while I felt no fear (just tension) in Alien: Isolation, that was not the case here. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard had me on edge through; I felt like I was (metaphorically-speaking) on the brink of pissing myself a number of times. Why? Well one of the key differences is that in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard you never know whether an enemy is coming for you or not - there's no indicator besides potential sound hints to signify their advance.
Each member of the family hunts you down in a different way, forcing you to adapt to their tactics and to do so quickly before things turn from bad to worse. There are also several boss fights, and these can go south pretty quickly if you take too long to figure out what needs to be done.
One thing I found particularly clever about Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is how it manages to keep a relatively small playable area fresh throughout. This is achieved in a number of ways, including a Metroidvania-esque element of shortcuts and locked areas, close attention to detail with the mansion's interior, neat Easter eggs that give smart nods to other survival horror properties, and by the addition of a key story element that would unfortunately spoil some of the plot and so I won't detail it here.
The narrative in general is an integral part of the experience in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. It's easy to become interested in the backgrounds of key characters and to get sucked into the plot for the most part, although I wasn't particularly invested in the main plot-line of saving the main character's wife, Mia.
Finally a brief word on the PlayStation VR implementation. I would say PlayStation VR definitely enhances the overall experience and it helps it to become an even more immersive and terrifying creature. Unfortunately there is a very noticeable dip in graphical quality when using PlayStation VR, but it's worth it. If you're considering purchasing a PlayStation VR headset or already own one then I definitely recommend pairing it up with a copy of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
Overall, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard looks backwards in order to move forwards, not just by re-focussing on horror but also in a number of other less headline-grabbing ways. There’s the fear from the original Resident Evil, the sense of constant pursuit from Resident Evil 3, and, yes, the adoption of key elements that contributed to the acclaim garnered by the likes of Alien: Isolation and Amnesia. It's an almost-perfect blend of nostalgia and modern horror gaming advances, so go grab a copy and join the family.
This review is based on a digital copy of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard for the PS4, provided by the publisher.