To say Resident Evil 7 was a phenomenal success for Capcom is a bit of an understatement. For such a maligned series, one that seemed to have reached the end of the road, it has been an incredible turnaround.
Out of the blue, Ethan Winters receives a message from his wife, Mia who has been missing, presumed dead, for three years. She urges him to come find her in Dulvey, Louisiana.
Ethan arrives at a derelict house deep within a Louisiana swamp and this where player control is given and instantly the first major change for the series is highlighted. Resident Evil 7 is played from a first-person perspective. It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff (Outlast) but is major shift for a series that seemed to be coasting for so long.
Once in control of Ethan players are taken on a liner path to the house, one that reveals early horrors. Who is that tall man in the distance? Why is Mia’s driving licence part of a bonfire? Is the house as abandoned as it seems?
Resident Evil 7’s early stages builds incredible atmosphere and stepping into the run-down house is terrifying. Once inside its walls you’ll not feel any safer.
Interestingly enough Ethan will find Mia within the first 30 minutes or so of gameplay but this is where Resident Evil 7 really starts. While trying to escape the house with Mia she refers to ‘the family’, ‘daddy’ and ‘her’ before turning violent and trying to kill her husband.
“Welcome to the family, son”
After being knocked out by the patriarch of the Baker family called Jack. Ethan is forced to endure a dinner scene straight out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This is also where the rest of the family is introduced and the new threat of the series comes to light.
Ethan manages to escape and comes into contact with Zoe, one of the Bakers who hasn’t succumbed to insanity. She reveals to him that the family and Mia are infected with a virus that came on a boat. A boat that washed up in the swamp nearby after heavy rain and floods. The virus can be cured with a special serum and it’s now up to Ethan to retrieve the ingredients all while fighting off the family and the twisted molded.
Ethan isn’t much of a fighter but he can wield weapons such as handguns, shotguns and during one boss battle, a chainsaw. With limited ammo though, players have to plan combat out appropriately making use of his block function and hoarding up healing items. Players also have limited inventory space, although this can be expanded on as the game goes on.
While many of the molded can be dispatched with ease, the Baker family are a different bunch all together. Sections of the game have you being pursed by either Jack or his wife, Marguerite. Fighting them will drain your health and ammo quickly and even if you put them down, it’s only temporary. These encounters are best tackled with stealth.
Combat is well thought-out. Weapons have kick & higher-powered ones feel solid and damaging. While it’s not the focus of the game, gun-play is fun. As are the puzzles you have to solve and the added bonus of playable video tapes. These put you in the perspective of other characters, playing out the events that befell them.
It should come as no surprise that Resident Evil 7 emphasises horror over action. A return to the early days of the series. The locations and environment, the characters, the story…it is a dark and twisted set of events, one that even has an emotional edge. This is particularly highlighted near the games finale.
Resident Evil 7 leaves you with a sense of dread constantly. You feel under threat even when carrying several guns and plenty of healing items. Many moments of the game are harrowing and it remains with you long after the credits have rolled.
It’s not without some faults though. While most of the time the visuals look fantastic (the early portions & the boat near the end of the game) there are times where textures don’t load properly. As well as that some characters faces just seem a bit off, more noticeable when they get close to you.
Once players leave the Baker house and arrive at the boat, the game noticeably dips in quality. It’s here that gunplay becomes more prevalent with the introduction of the machine gun and a swathe of enemies to gun down. It leads to a disappointing finale in a linear mine and a final boss that is surprisingly easy to beat.
Still, these issues aside it really is a return to form for the series as a whole. Resident Evil 7 manages to be entertaining, satisfying and scary. It’s great to see Capcom embrace the past while keeping one eye on the future.
Since it’s release Resident Evil 7 has seen a lot of downloadable content. The first coming very soon after the games initial release.
Banned Footage: Volume 1
Banned Footage: Volume 1 consists of two new ‘videotape’ events and one new game mode. The first of these events is called Bedroom and works in a similar way to the video tapes from the story campaign.
Here you’re put into the shoes of one of the TV crew from the start of the game (and the demo). Clancy has been caught by the Bakers and Marguerite has him locked up in a bedroom. She is trying to feed him some of her nasty food, something Clancy isn’t keen on. Once she leaves, it’s up to you to find a means of escape. Getting out of the shackles is the easy part but the door is locked.
Bedroom is basically an ‘escape room’ puzzle where you try to figure out how to get into the next room and work out the trick for getting the key. Keep quiet though or Marguerite will hear you and come back into the room. Should that happen you’ll have a limited amount of time to put everything back the way it was then get back into your shackles. Woe betide you though if she notices you’ve been up and about.
While Bedroom is brilliantly tense and there is a real sense of panic when you realise you’ve gotten the psychotic matriarch’s attention, it is very short. It ends abruptly and there is little replay value.
The second is called Nightmare and is an entirely action-based horde-like survival mode. One of the other TV crew members is in the basement and has to try and survive until morning.
Monsters are everywhere but there are also machines that produce a small but continuous supply of scrap metal. You use this scrap to create items and weapons as well as activate traps. Hardly original and while it is fun, it’s as basic as it comes.
Once you survive the mode ends and it’s only replay value comes in the form of an even harder variant called Night Terror.
The best, and most infuriating piece of extra gameplay comes in the new game mode called Ethan Must Die.
If you’re looking for a real test then this is the mode for you. Here players take control of Ethan again, dropped in a section of the game & tasked with finding a key and defeating Marguerite. The path is fairly linear with many sections of the house blocked off, however the challenge comes from the one-hit deaths and randomised item drops. The latter of the two make things maddeningly difficult. Some runs can see you get nothing but healing items at the start making it near impossible. While other runs can see you picking up several weapons within the first few minutes. That’s if you manage to avoid the exploding item boxes too.
Should you die and trust me, you will, you can retain some of your dropped items by getting back to the place where you died and smashing a statue. While fun, the randomised items means you’re reliant on luck, something that no game should do. You can watch our ‘no deaths’ run below.
Even the game admits that a lot of it is down to luck, but the remixed version of the Baker’s plantation you get to play through is a compelling backdrop to test yourself against.
Banned Footage: Volume 2
Banned Footage: Volume 2 also comes with two new tapes to play and an additional mode.
The first of the playable events sees Clancy of the TV crew in main games first videotape and star of Banned Footage: Volume 1’s Bedroom in the clutches of Lucas. Called 21 it sees you forced to play…21 or Blackjack.
It’s not as lazy or boring as it sounds as this is Blackjack with a difference. For starters you’re trapped in a Saw-style torture device playing against another prisoner. You start off with your fingers trapped in a machine that will slice them off if you lose and the penalties get worse from there.
It’s got some cool visuals and is fairly tense but it is just Blackjack. The introduction of added rules where you get given ‘trump’ cards that give special abilities adds much to the game. These can include discarding a card, upping your opponents bet or decimating his draw completely. However, your opponent also gets trump cards and will play them against you often. It’s not as simple as trying to get as close to 21 as possible, there is some real strategy needed especially on higher difficulties.
Unfortunately, the random nature of the trump cards results in some really drawn out games. On higher difficulties you have to beat a set number of opponents in a row to win and these can take ages. So much so that you’re likely to get bored before you’re even halfway through the list.
The second tape should have been the best of the banned footage bunch purely because of how it links into the main story. In Daughters you take on the role of Zoe Baker and it shows exactly what happened to her family. If you get the good ending you’ll also see how she managed to avoid them until Ethan showed up.
It answers questions that everyone who played the main game wanted to know. It is genuinely disturbing to see Zoe’s parents suddenly start turning into monsters after the arrival of Evie.
The crux of the gameplay sees Zoe having to avoid and escape from her parents similar to the main game. Just in a much smaller environment & with no way of defending yourself. Your first attempts will see you caught over and over again having to watch the same un-skippable cut-scene. It is all about trial and error but once you know what to do and where to go it can be finished within 10 minutes. That’s disappointing.
Great atmosphere and tense moments can’t gloss over the lack of satisfaction you’ll feel at the end though. It’s a really missed opportunity.
The final content from the pack is an additional game mode called Jack’s 55th Birthday. One of the best pieces of DLC for the game overall.
A tongue-in-cheek game that tasks you with feeding Jack food that is scattered about the house. With a timer, it’s your task to go out and get it before returning to feed the man. You can take weapons and ammo from the inventory box to deal with enemies but the more you do the less space you have to bring back food with you.
It’s silly, fun and challenging thanks to the time limit. The faster you can make Jack full, the higher your rank. Kill enemies to freeze the timer briefly and maximise what you’re feeding Jack to get a higher score. Add a surprising number of different maps culled from the main game and we have a pretty decent piece of content!
In fact, Jack’s 55th Birthday is so much fun with so much replay value that it makes Volume 2 worth the price alone!
Not A Hero
The final two pieces of DLC continue on from the main game with the first called Not A Hero and putting you in the shoes of Chris Redfield.
Chris is trying to track down Lucas and follows him into the mines where it’s revealed he has a secret base. Gameplay is exactly the same as the main game although Chris has a few more weapons to play with & in classic Redfield style, can punch enemies once they are staggered.
Not A Hero is all about tying up loose ends as Chris sets about finding Lucas and the soldiers he has kidnapped. With new areas to explore, new enemy types to battle and upgrades to unlock, Not A Hero isn’t lacking in content. It will take 2-3 hours to complete and ties up that part of the Resident Evil 7 story nicely.
End of Zoe
Then there is End of Zoe, the content that closes out her side of the story and the Resident Evil 7 package overall.
The name implies that she will be the main focus of the DLC but actually players are put into the shoes of her Uncle Joe. He discovers her calcified body and sets about trying to find a cure for her.
One of the major changes of the Resident Evil 7 gameplay here sees Joe favouring his fists instead of guns. He’s a brawler and able to take down enemies with punch combos, something that doesn’t sound like it should work but has solid results. If that’s not your thing though, stealth is also introduced here as Joe can sneak up on enemies & dispatch them in one hit.
The story is straight-forward enough even with the introduction of the ‘swamp-man’ boss villain. While this character ends in a challenging and fun final showdown, his origins when revealed, are a little bit of a head-scratcher.
End of Zoe is a mostly satisfying finish to a story that can certainly be called great. The entire Resident Evil 7 package is one of the best games of the last few years and the best Resident Evil game for a very long time.
Resident Evil 7 + All DLC