Review: Resident Evil VII biohazard
Over a year since its release, does Capcom's foray into VR still stand up to scrutiny?
Its been a while since I picked up a Resident Evil game. Back in ye olden days of the original grey PlayStation, I, like many, played the original two Resident Evil games and enjoyed them, despite the stiff control scheme, and hilariously ropey dialogue. As the series moved away from survival horror and towards action-adventure, threaded through with an increasingly absurd plotline, there was little to convince me to head back to the series… until now.
In Resident Evil VII biohazard you take the role of Ethan Winters, an ordinary bloke who finds himself caught up in the weirdness after receiving a note from his missing wife, Mia. A set-up that will sound suspiciously familiar to fans of Silent Hill. You arrive at a dilapidated Louisiana plantation, which despite its abandoned appearance is indeed inhabited by a twisted and malevolent clan called the Bakers.
The plantation manor is a masterpiece of design – a clear throwback to earlier entries in the Resident Evil series, but it successfully takes the best elements of those old games and brings in enough detail, story and innovation, as well as ideas taken from other games, to make it feel like a real – and terrifying place.
In true survival horror tradition, at first you have only a short knife to defend yourself with, meaning that running like hell is your best defence through the early part of the game. You can scrounge around and pick up other weaponry, and though weapons and ammo are not quite a thin on the ground as in some other survival horror titles, its scarce enough to give you cause for concern.
The pacing is all but flawless. The tension ramps up steadily, as you learn more about the plantation, the family that have trapped you and the history of both, it slowly becoming clear that this is not just a bunch of mad inbreds you are dealing with… there is something more sinister at work.
Gameplay involves just as much puzzle-solving as it does fighting. There are some great callbacks, such as finding themed keys to open specific doors. Some of them are simple and straightforward, some are multi-layered escape room puzzles that take logic and persistence to solve – all the while looking over your shoulder, frightened of what is coming up the corridor after you.
The use of VR takes it to a different level. Though Resident Evil has traditionally been third-person, the use of first-person in this setting feels natural. You start to feel a real connection with Ethan as you both pant with terror, hiding from whichever member of the demented Baker family you are currently hiding from. You can also use VR to hunt down hidden secrets by peeking around walls, or in shadowed corners. In immediacy of VR also means that the horrors that leap out at you are entirely enough to make you jump out of your skin.
Unlike many more modern VR titles, Resident Evil VII biohazard handles entirely using the dual shock 4 controller. Full locomotion is the only way to move – no teleporting here. Though Capcom have been kind enough to include a range of comfort options, such as rotation speed, FOV dimming and a few others. For those who suffer from motion sickness, it might be a bit much, especially in some of the faster-paced sections. For those like me who are lucky enough to not suffer from motion sickness, it is great and adds to the immersion.
Its the atmosphere that is the truly impressive part. Though the colour palette is heavily weighted towards green and brown, emphasising its gloomy, diseased and rotting nature, the manor nonetheless feels like a real place. There are places where mild graphical glitches can spoil the effect somewhat, but it isn’t enough to ruin it.
Resident Evil VII biohazard is a definite return to form for the Resident Evil series, and still holds up extremely well despite being one of the earlier titles on the PSVR. Those who get motion sick might face some trouble, but for fans of survival horror, it is an absolute must.