Prior to the release of Resident Evil 7, a demo called Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour had crept into the PlayStation Store (and eventually on Xbox and Steam) for those eager for a taste of gameplay. Really, it’s hard to believe that the gameplay and environment delivered in the demo was supposed to be Resident Evil. The short story, environment, and gameplay felt foreign to fans of the franchise, but it became clear that Capcom was capable of returning back to their roots by incorporating new gameplay elements into their central theme – survival horror. Now that the game is finally out, how does the game shape up to its predecessors?

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A pamphlet found in a nearby equipment van outside the gate of the Baker’s estate. If you look closely, all three men were from the Beginning Hour Demo. (PlayStation 4, Resident Evil 7)

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

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First glimpse of the Baker’s mansion. (PlayStation 4, Resident Evil 7)

This review is solely based on the impressions from the first 2 hours of gameplay and did not utilize PSVR. I imbibed a copious amount of caffeine in hope of stretching my first night with RE 7, but to no avail, my mind had succumbed to mental fatigue onset by the stress and horror of the game.

Quality of the Story

Usually, when you think of any Resident Evil game, you come to expect a campy storyline with a handful of cheesy dialogues. Resident Evil 7 may have returned to its roots in terms of survival horror, however, the story has ditched campiness altogether and has adopted a more serious tone. The story begins with the protagonist, Ethan, watching video clips of his missing wife, Mia. Her plea for Ethan to save her from captivity in Louisiana is the protagonist’s only motive to drive out to the Baker’s estate. After he finds her in the basement of the Baker’s guest house (the setting in the Beginning Hour Demo), she tries to understand why Ethan came to rescue her. The dialogue between the couple instantly hints that Mia is not entirely in control of her actions or thoughts. She eventually suggests that if they are to escape, then Ethan needs to follow her out of the house since she is familiar with the layout. At a certain point, Ethan loses sight of Mia and only hears sounds of a struggle. Ethan frantically searches for Mia, but instead in the game’s first intense moment, he finds her horribly discolored in the face and wielding a large knife. Ethan is horrified but forces himself to resist her attacks.

During this resistance, Mia stabs Ethan multiple times which becomes a literal bloody mess. Regardless of playing in first-person, most of the attacks Ethan receives are very graphic and at times unsettling. Eventually, Ethan finds an axe and strikes with a killing blow to Mia in the neck. With Mia lying motionless on the floor, Ethan panics and looks around the hallway. When he returns to Mia, her body is gone and all that is left is the axe. He picks it up and continues to make his way through the house. In another burst of intensity, Ethan is attacked by Mia who impales Ethan’s left hand to the staircase with a screwdriver. She leaves and returns wielding a chainsaw. At this point, we are all Ethan. Breathing heavily and clenching our teeth as Mia slices off Ethan’s left hand. This is only the beginning for the player and it is lovely! The story begins very slow and ambiguous and ramps up in pace with anxiety-filled, heavy breathing and terrifying dialogue. 

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Mia appearing to be either possessed or infected. (PlayStation 4, Resident Evil 7)

Quality of Gameplay

The first hour of Resident Evil 7 is undoubtedly linear, but this linearity gives you plenty of room to get acquainted with the game’s mechanics. Similar in pace with the story, the tutorial starts slowly with the basics, such as crouching or opening your inventory, and then once you first encounter Mia attacking you (the first time), then the tutorial ramps up with the pace of the action. Shortly after acquiring the axe, you will then need to learn and use how to use the handgun. Once you start finding ammo and then eventually the gun, there is an immense sense of dread for the next pending attack. It would appear that gameplay will revolve around understanding each weapon (melee or firing) and the delays involved with reloading or swinging.

Depending on if you get cornered, blocking will become almost a necessity in order to decrease damage taken as you try to escape your pursuer. There’s even the element of stealth involving hiding in the shadows or hiding behind objects to aid in throwing your pursuer off track. During stressful moments, you might think that opening your inventory will pause the game as you plan your next move and catch your breath, but instead, once the inventory window is open, the game does not pause. Only having played 2 hours so far has taught me to be on my toes and always keep your eyes peeled for any exits, ammo, first aid, or maps.

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Gameplay is a combination of scripted action and fight or flight from the player. In this case, Ethan will be defenseless and have to rely on resisting Mia when given the chance. (PlayStation 4, Resident Evil 7)

Does Resident Evil 7 Evoke Survival Horror?

Without a doubt! Capcom has learned that in order to evoke true horror in an individual is to place them behind the eyes of the protagonist. First-person has been used previously in several horror games because it works. Having a limited and realistic field of vision in an unfamiliar and terrifying situation is truly horrific. So where does survival come into play? Throughout my brief playthrough, I had died several times. There was one instance where Jack Baker decapitates Ethan’s right leg and places the limb a few feet away from you. There’s no other choice, but to crawl and reach for your limb. Once you get your leg back the game tells you to use your First Aid, which magically reattaches Ethan’s severed limb back to his body. Shortly after reattaching Ethan’s limb, I had died almost a minute later. I had a better idea of what I needed to do to avoid Jack as much as possible and escape the area. In doing so, I did not get dismembered or used a First Aid, which seems like a precious commodity so far (similar to ammo).

So basically, surviving and avoiding dangerous confrontations are a must in Resident Evil 7 in order to conserve consumable items. Sometimes trying to conserve ammo or first aids is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you are so anxious with Jack that you simply fire a few rounds without even hitting him. The best advice for those who become completely immersed in the game is to stay calm and be aware of their surroundings at all times! Shooting legs can actually give you time to plan your next attack or allow you to just keep shooting the enemy.

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Physical attacks are grotesque and gory. At this point, Ethan losing his hand is scripted, however, there are other moments of dismemberment that are not necessarily scripted so play smart! (PlayStation 4, Resident Evil 7)

Conclusion

With only 2 hours of gameplay, I’m barely breaking the surface of what Resident Evil 7 can offer, but am extremely pleased with the gameplay and story so far. I’m meticulously searching every nook and cranny for anything that would make this a Resident Evil title. So far I have encountered doors with emblems missing and doors with unique symbols on them requiring keys matching the symbols. This is clearly a nod to the franchise’s earlier games requiring players to solve puzzles within their environment to obtain the emblems or keys. It’s just a matter of time before the work Umbrella or parasite makes its way into a dialogue or piece of paper that will slowly tie in the Baker’s to the world of Resident Evil.

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Resident Evil games usually relied on some type of apparatus that would document one’s progress, such as a typewriter. The cassette tape player and recorder is an homage to the typewriter and fits in perfectly with the setting. At least, cassette tapes do not need to be found to save your game…(PlayStation 4, Resident Evil 7)

Stay tuned to The Noobist as I continue to progress through the story! A full review of Resident Evil 7 is still to come!

Resident Evil 7 is out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam! Pick it up and see for yourself why Resident Evil 7 is considered a revival the franchise needed! Watch the launch trailer below for more information.

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