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‘Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’ review

'Resident Evil 7’ returns to its gory, bone-chilling roots

Resident Evil VII
‘Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’
MSRP $59.99
“Resident Evil 7 is a scary return to form. It brings out the best qualities of the series.”
  • Tense and frightening
  • Beautifully detailed, uber-creepy haunted house
  • Liberal save and checkpoint system
  • Combat feels harrowing and intense
  • Extra spooky in PlayStation VR
  • Slow movement speed
  • Boss fights can go from intense to irritating

I’m stumbling through the main hall of the Baker House, two shotgun shells to my name, my vision red and pulsing with each step. Once again, I’ve survived — but just barely. And I’m sure I don’t have much longer to live.

It’s a perfect Resident Evil moment, and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is full of them.

Resident Evil 7 is a return to the series’ horror roots, in presentation, setting and gameplay. If you played the original Resident Evil while looking through the eyes of protagonist characters Jill or Chris, it would feel like RE7. It’s slow and methodical, tense and frightening. Every battle is a fight-or-flight decision for your life; every missed shot is a small-scale disaster has the potential to cost you later on (if it doesn’t get you killed). Every time you escape by the skin of your teeth, you’ll wonder if you’ll be able to find a crucial item or ammo in time to deal with whatever will come next.

Despite its radical shift in form and tone — in addition to cutting down on the action, the series moves to first-person perspective for the first time — RE7 feels more like the original Resident Evil than any game in the series has in years. Resident Evil 7 is frightening, dark, gory, and unapologetically weird. It is everything that long-time fans of the “survival horror” series could ever ask for.

Reanimated remix

To explain too much about the story or setting of Resident Evil 7 would absolutely ruin it. In broad strokes, however, think of it as a first-person reimagining of the original Resident Evil. It’s about the exploration of a haunted house that sports its share of disgusting, deadly creatures. You’ll find weapons — series staples like the handgun, shotgun, and grenade launcher — with which to dispatch them, but ammo is scarce. Scavenging is as essential as it is dangerous.

Mechanically, Resident Evil 7 feels exactly like the early entries in the Resident Evil series, but better in just about every way. The house is also full of weird, esoteric puzzles, and most of your time is spent trying to find ways to open new areas to explore. You’ll find a door with a three-headed dog in relief on its face, for example, and need to scour the house for the heads in order to open it. You’ll also keep a small inventory of items, including first aid, weird keys and ammo, and visit item boxes where you can store gear you don’t need. You’ll save your game manually, although the game has an awesome, liberal automatic checkpoint system as well.

RE7 feels more like the original Resident Evil than any game in the series has in years.

Combat, too, feels like a revival of what the early series gave players. Enemies are slow but resilient and extremely deadly on the normal difficulty, and every shot has to count. Though you’ll be blasting monsters and fleeing battles, the emphasis is on providing just enough action to let you advance, while keeping you just vulnerable enough that every encounter is potentially lethal.

Before RE7 was released, Series Producer Masachika Kawata explained that Capcom drew a lot from a variety of horror films while divising the game’s new direction. Those influences are everywhere in the game experience: It feels like The Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Saw mashed together. RE7 has a horrific absurdity, an unstoppable dread, and a shocking sensibility at all times. The Baker Estate, the game’s new haunted house, makes the whole combination work — it’s a character unto itself, lavishly detailed and beautifully created in all its decrepit, desolate glory.

But Resident Evil 7 also obviously comes with video game inspirations too, to its benefit. You can feel the how modern horror games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Outlast, and Alien: Isolation have made their mark on the game. Capcom has been paying close attention to what works in horror games in the past five years, and the result is a horror game that’s varied in its creepiness. You’ll sneak past enemies you can’t fight. You’ll run from monsters before they can overwhelm you. You’ll use your environment to keep you alive as much as your gun. You’ll face overwhelming forces.

(Bio)Hazardous balance

Early Resident Evil titles were always slow games, about moving carefully through darkened rooms and hallways you couldn’t always see well in. RE7 is also slow — almost plodding — in a way that sells its sense of constant dread. You move slowly, even at a run, and most of the time you’ll appreciate the deliberate pace as you check room after darkened room for things that want to rip you apart.

Resident Evil VII
Image used with permission by copyright holder

But there are times when the movement speed undercuts the game’s pacing. Most of the time, Resident Evil 7 feels perfectly balanced, giving you just enough of a chance to save yourself. You might not be able to reliably dodge enemies, but you can block their blows to take much less damage, and you can almost always make a run for it.

Resident Evil 7 is frightening and dark, gory and, unapologetically weird.

That tightrope act — making each fight just hard enough that you only barely make it through — can make the game frustrating, though. It often means dying at least a few times. And while no fight in RE7 took us more than three or four tries to get through, the game can be bad about telegraphing things like whether that thing you’re doing to try to kill a boss is actually, uh, working. Couple that with your slow movement, your dwindling supplies, and your struggle to avoid getting attacked, and there are times when the boss fights might drag players down.

The best and worst aspects of the game are most pronounced during the game’s fraught, frightening boss fights. To say more about what they entail would ruin them, but they’re reminiscent of old-school Resident Evil bosses that involve a closed room and a lot of running and firing and trying not to die. They can be a real test — which is great. They’re tough, lengthy fights that take a lot out of you; like battling Michael Myers of Halloween or Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th. Every boss fight left us battered and broken, resources expended, barely clinging to life. Every single one is a desperate fight for survival, and that’s exactly what they should be. At the same time, RE7’s slow pace and tough maneuverability doesn’t compensate for the confined spaces and seemingly unstoppable enemies. In these more action-heavy moments, the game’s atmosphere can begin to feel like a liability.

Virtual evil

The elements of RE7 that can weaken it, like slow pacing and inability to really move well, seem like they’re specifically meant support the game the PlayStation VR version of the game. In VR, the game restrains your ability to move, which keeps your pace down and helps protect against getting simulation sickness.

In VR, RE7 is altogether spookier. Much of Resident Evil 7 feels like it was designed specifically with virtual reality in mind. PSVR adds to the immediacy of RE7 significantly, upping the realism of those moments of scavenging for supplies as you check under a table or lean around a cabinet. Of course, having the screen mashed up to your face only heightens the scares when RE7 plays off the tight perspective and inherent claustrophobia of wearing the headset.

While designing for two types of gameplay seems like a recipe for disaster, Capcom has successfully worked in the necessities of VR, like the slow movement speed, into both versions of the game. The tech isn’t for everyone, but Capcom’s tiny tweaks to the RE formula often work beautifully in VR, and players who don’t have access to it will still get a well-polished, well-designed survival-horror experience.

Our Take

It’s tough not to gush excessively about Resident Evil 7. It updates a classic formula in a way that works beautifully throughout. Tense, gory, hilarious, and scary in all the right ways, Resident Evil 7 feels like something completely new, but fits right in with the RE games you’ve known for the last 20 years.

Is there a better alternative?

Not if you want something that feels distinctly Resident Evil. The horror field for games has expanded quite a bit in the last few years, especially within the indie game space, so there are plenty of options. Layers of Fear, Outlast, Alien: Isolation, and SOMA all feel share some DNA with what with Resident Evil 7, but none marry so many great ideas together so well.

How long will it last?

Our first playthrough of Resident Evil 7 took about 12 hours. Finishing the game unlocks a tougher difficulty — called “Madhouse” — as well as additional weapons. There are also lots of Easter eggs and secrets to go back and discover, making RE7 good for at least a couple of playthroughs.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Horror fans, Resident Evil fans, and anyone looking for a tense and scary gaming experience should absolutely pick up Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

Editors' Recommendations

Phil Hornshaw
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Phil Hornshaw is an author, freelance writer and journalist living in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of The Space Hero's…
Resident Evil 4: All Yellow Herb locations
Yellow herb in Resident Evil 4.

Despite being sent all the way to Europe to rescue the president's daughter, Leon arrives vastly underpowered for the job presented to him in the Resident Evil 4 remake. Not only was he sent in alone, but with just a single handgun (with 10 bullets) and a knife. If you want any hope of completing this mission, you will need to get every advantage you can. Aside from expanding and upgrading your arsenal, collecting as many of the game's Yellow Herbs will be your top priority. Of the three types of Herbs -- Green, Red, and Yellow -- these are the rarest of them all. In total, you can only grab 17 of them in a single playthrough. You will want as many of them as possible to give Leon a much-needed buff, so here's what Yellow Herbs do and where you can collect them all in the Resident Evil 4 remake.
What Yellow Herbs do

Each of the three Herb types in Resident Evil 4 serves a different function. Green Herbs are for healing, Red Herbs enhance the effect of whatever Herb they're combined with, and Yellow Herbs actually increase Leon's maximum health. That makes them by far the most valuable of the three since, with enough of them, you can essentially double the amount of damage you can take once you max out his health.

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Resident Evil 4 locked drawers guide: all Small Key locations
Infected villager from Resident Evil 4 remake.

Keys and Resident Evil games are like peanut butter and jelly. If you're not fighting zombies, you're looking for a key to get you to the next room -- where you will fight more zombies. While there are plenty of mandatory keys in the Resident Evil 4 remake, there are also a set of extra keys that you can completely miss. These Small Keys are used to unlock locked drawers you come across, as opposed to doors, and hold some very valuable treasures. Considering how precious money is in this game, the more treasures you can find and sell to your Merchant friend, the better off you'll be. Small keys aren't in your direct path often, and once you leave an area, you can't go back to collect them later in most cases. We'll help you become the master of unlocking by showing you where to snag all the Small Keys in Resident Evil 4, as well as where to use them.
Where to find all Small Keys
Before getting into the locations of Small Keys, note that these keys are not exclusive to a single drawer. Any Small Key can be used to open any drawer, so feel free to spend them as soon as you find a drawer with a key in hand. However, once you leave an area in Resident Evil 4, there's no going back. That means if you left any keys or drawers behind, you won't be able to open them unless you start another playthrough or wait until you begin a new game. There are eight Small Keys to get, and they are all found within the first two zones of the game, but won't show up on your map. Locked drawers won't either by default, but if you buy the Treasure Map from the Merchant, the drawers will be put on your map. Here's how to track all the keys down, and where the nearest locked drawer is in the order you can first encounter them.

The first key you can get is in Chapter 2 in the Valley. After meeting the Merchant, you will be sent into the Valley to find a key to open the gate opposite the Merchant. After clearing out the enemies, drop down to the lowest level on the south end and enter the shack. Inside, take a right and look for a case on the shelf. Loot it, and pick up the first Small Key. The nearest locked drawer is back in the Factory past the Merchant. Go into the room where you retrieved Leon's equipment after it was taken from him and use the key on the desk drawer.

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The best weapons in Resident Evil 4
Leon holding a gun in Resident Evil 4.

Leon clearly wasn't prepared for what he would encounter in the Resident Evil 4 remake or he would have come with more than a middling handgun and a knife. While those basic tools can get you through the opening stages of the game, it won't be long before you will need to call upon some much stronger firepower in order to survive the tougher -- and more grotesque -- monsters that stand in your way. The Resident Evil 4 remake offers a ton of weapons you can collect, such as pistols, SMGs, rifles, and more. However, most will cost a lot of cash -- and even more if you want to invest in their upgrades. You will have to make some tough choices about what weapons you want to stick with, and picking a dud can make your playthrough much more difficult. Instead of investing all your cash in a pea-shooter, check out the best weapons you can get in the Resident Evil 4 remake to blast your way through Ganados and Las Plagas alike.
The best weapons in Resident Evil 4

Where else could we start but with the Red9? Almost certainly the most popular handgun -- or gun in general -- from the original Resident Evil 4 has returned in the remake and is just as potent as ever. Not only can you grab this gun as early as Chapter 3, making it a great choice for investing your upgrades in, but it can be altered and has essentially no drawbacks. By default, the Red9's recoil is the primary point of criticism you could levy at it, but if you spend a few Spinels to give it the stock, you'll be able to basically snipe with this pistol. By the time you unlock the Exclusive upgrade, which multiplies the gun's power by 1.5x, you'll hardly ever find a situation where this handgun can't do the job.
Bolt Thrower
The Bolt Thrower isn't on this list for its high power, accuracy, or anything that you would traditionally look for in a gun. The reason it has to be here is due to the simple fact that you can recover the bolts it shoots into enemies after they're dead to massively cut down on your ammo expenditure. Ammo for it is also crafted using knives, but it even has a secondary firing method where it launches mines, giving it a lot more utility. The Exclusive upgrade isn't game-changing -- it doubles the ammo capacity -- but the less you have to reload, the less often you'll be caught in a sticky situation.
In the rifle category, the Stingray is never going to let you down. This is a semiautomatic rifle, so the firing rate is mostly up to you, plus it has a great clip size by default. If you're hitting those weak points, this baby will also deal 3x damage, and can be outfitted with almost any scope. The Exclusive upgrade boosts your final firing rate by an additional 2x, which shouldn't be too necessary if you're trying to be precise, though can help in a pinch.
LE 5
The LE 5 is a weapon you can easily miss that is kind of like a good version of the Punisher in that it has amazing penetration power. Being an SMG, it also boasts a far greater firing rate and clip size, as well as more power. This is the perfect weapon to rip through any shield-wielding enemies. Again like the Punisher, the Exclusive upgrade allows the LE 5 to pierce up to five targets at once.
Broken Butterfly
Another returning favorite, the Broken Butterfly magnum is not just the best-looking hand cannon in the game, but also the most deadly. If you don't count a special weapon like the Rocket Launcher, the Broken Butterfly (after upgrades) deals the most damage of any gun in the Resident Evil 4 remake. The Exclusive upgrade plays a major part in this by boosting its final damage by 1.5x, again just like the Red9, but magnum upgrades are among the most expensive in the game, so this power won't come easy.
What's the worst part of a shotgun? The firing rate. Well, that is if you're not using the Striker. This semiautomatic shotgun spits out damage like nobody's business. It has power on par with any other shotgun, but way better firing speed, plus a massive clip size so you don't have to worry about running dry out an enemy in your face. If you get the Exclusive upgrade, you can even double the already huge clip size.
Rocket Launcher
This is a big investment both in terms of cash and space, but the Rocket Launcher is too iconic to the series not to be amazing. Yes, this has a one-hit kill on just about everything and will cost more or less depending on what difficulty level you're playing on. It has no upgrades because, well, what is there to make better? Unless you're playing with the infinite ammo for it enabled, you do only get one shot, so make it count.
Primal Knife
While technically not a gun, the knife is so good in the Resident Evil 4 remake that it has to be mentioned. This tool will save your skin more often than you think thanks to the new ability to parry and finish downed enemies, but the obvious drawback is durability. The Primal Knife has to be unlocked by finding and destroying all 16 of the Clockwork Castellans in the game. What makes it the clear frontrunner of all knives is the Exclusive upgrade that makes it completely unbreakable, no matter how much you use it.

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