Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review.
Resident Evil 7 is remarkable in it's highs and lows. I have significant problems with the game. Significant issues with some of the characters, story developments, and gameplay mechanics. That said, Resident Evil 7 also unquestionably serves up a terrifying, atmospheric, and darkly brilliantly tale that is a masterclass in how to make a "scary" game in 2017.
What makes Resident Evil 7 so special is it's simple ability to make every task, large or small, terrifying. The atmosphere of this game is quite simply like nothing else I've ever experienced. There have been scary game before, there have been moments that chill the blood and make you stop everything, but the way that RE7 keeps that pace going for nearly all of the 11 hours I played is an astounding triumph.
This carries over to the true star of the game, the world. The Baker home, guest house, and surrounding area are a delight in how feverishly diabolical they are. Every footstep produced profound and at times near overwhelming feelings of dread, of the fear of the unknown. Particularly in the first act and the games closing sections this is true. There has simply never been as sustained a period of tension and fear in a video game that I've played before.
All of which makes the games tiresome and lackluster dip into cliche scary monster tropes the more disappointing. The black mold baddies you'll encounter along the way, suck much of the terror and fear out of the proceedings and instead turn things into a slog, slowing everything down and turning the game far more into a action game than it should have been.
And speaking of tired, action-packed let-downs, lets discuss the games boss fights. Rough around the edges is perhaps a nice way to describe most of them. Unoriginal, not the least bit fun, and featuring brutal difficulty spikes at times, RE7's boss fights are a textbook example of boss fights serving no purpose for the actual game and instead detracting from the larger excellent experience.
Indeed, one of the boss battles will ultimately go down as one of the worst and most mind-breakingly difficult I've ever played. Frustrating to play and nearly always filling me up with the wrong kind of dread, the one positive I can say is that the boss fights were few and far between and that they did over time get better.
Yet oddly, none of these issues really do much damage to the fantastic experience that Resident Evil 7 provides. The first third of this game may very well be the best horror and survival game I've ever played. Expertly crafted, with a stunning and fleshed out world, and featuring an instant classic of a horror villain in the Baker family, RE7 jettisons the baggage of the prior games instantly and proceeds to astound with it's psychological, unnerved, visceral, and truly terrifying opening third. I said it before, every single step deeper and deeper into the Baker household was a horrifying one.
The game slumps quite a bit in the middle though, home of the worst boss fights, the boring mold people, and story beats that have you leave the sterling Baker family. Yet, when you get to the games final third it comes alive again in wondrous fashion. Suddenly the story roars to life, characters are fleshed out, emotional depth and currency is added to every beat, and the fear and apprehension from the games beginning comes back in terrific fashion. The final moments of the game, as you walk back through familiar places from before, while slowly unraveling a plot twist that shakes how you viewed everything, was a testament to the cleverness and subtly of RE7.
The game isn't flawless, indeed it's got more than it's fair of problems. From bad boss fights, to a terrible monster enemy, to confusing decisions by the protagonist, the game suffers from a number of missteps. None of that really changes what it does so well though and what it did was become the year's best game thus far in 2017 and reinvent one of gaming's most important series. What it did was strike terror inside of me from that primal fear humans have of things that go bump in the night. This is how you do a thoughtful, clever, and great horror game, developers take note.