Resident Evil 7 Biohazard (PS4/PSVR)
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £19.99 ($29.99)
Nausea: Some/Dependent on VR Experience
Controllers: DS4 Only
Game Length: 15 Hours (approx)
PS4 PRO Enhanced
Journey back into the horrific, heart-attack inducing world of Resident Evil with the franchise’s best entry in years.
Before I begin, I have several confessions to make. For starters, I haven’t played a Resident Evil game since Resident Evil 4. Unless you include spin-offs such as the on-the-rails Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles. And secondly, I’ve only ever finished Resident Evil 2. I’ve always enjoyed the franchise but have either wussed out or gotten stuck and moved on to something else. It is rather ironic then that I choose the most horrifying instalment in years to jump back into the franchise – and in VR no less.
There are a few things you’ll notice straight off the bat that are different from the most recent Resident Evil releases. Firstly the game is entirely in first-person. While some might say that this is a departure too far – for VR horror, it works perfectly. You are there. All of the traumatic events that follow the beautifully crafted opening cinematic are happening to you. Secondly, you’ll notice fairly quickly that this is the Resident Evil of your youth. The atmosphere is tense and the environments disturbing. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be faced with an overwhelming sense of dread before you even make it to… the house.
The house is a disgusting nightmare. Blood, guts, body parts, dirt, and who knows what else lines the walls, stain the decrepit old floorboards and leak through holes in the peeling ceilings. I have to admit that in quieter moments I did find myself wondering how I would decorate the Baker property if I were to own it. Keep in mind that is no criticism of the game’s pacing, and is in no way suggesting I was bored. But is rather an admission of one of the many bizarre coping mechanisms I found myself leaning on during this ghastly escapade. Although the Baker’s residence looks nothing like the mansion of the first entry in the franchise, it feels just as tense. Through every door is the possibility of a new nightmare; a chance of a real-life heart attack.
Not too far into the game, you will meet The Bakers – the game’s main antagonists. They are very much a token Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, but that’s no bad thing. Playing hide and seek with this hellish family, stepping inside the horror film, is something I’d never thought I’d be able to do, let alone would want to do. The father – or Big Daddy as I call him – acts much like the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. You can put him down, but he may not stay down. If you weren’t a fan of that particular game mechanic do not fear; it’s not nearly as oppressive or overbearing as Nemesis was.
One downside to the family is their A.I. behaviour. I was a massive fan of Alien: Isolation and the Xenomorph’s incredibly intelligent design and ability to out-think the player. The Bakers are not stupid by any means, but they do feel much more scripted and limited to a degree. This is a minor niggle, and through the tears, sweat and screams you’ll barely have the time to notice anyway.
The VR immersion is fantastic. The scale is right on point – objects are a good size, ceilings seem the right height, and the stairs just feel right. It really feels like you’re there, in the oppressive Baker abode. Playing in VR allows you to appreciate all of the details in a way you never could before. Being able to move your head closer to a picture on the wall, or trying a get a better view out of a window has never been possible like this before.
For example, there are moments when you may find you want to hide from a particular enemy. In VR you can peek around corners to see if your stalker is laying in wait, or whether it’s safe to move on. This elicits both feelings of dread and awe as this is something you’ve never been able to do before. Yes characters have been able to peek around corners before, but it is entirely different in VR – it’s like you’re actually there. There were times I was being hunted by Marguerite – the Baker matriarch – and I found myself moving my head to get a better vantage point and to see between two wooden slats nailed to a window. Trying to do this without VR would be cumbersome, if possible at all.
Opening a door in Resident Evil 7 is just as cruel as it’s ever been. In fact, it may be even worse in VR. As you move closer to the door your character’s hand appears – which scared me several times, much to my later amusement – and slowly pushes the door open as you move forward. Some doors will open up into completely pitch-black rooms. There were many times I hovered outside these rooms, too afraid to move forward. It’s never as bad as it seems… most of the time.
The graphics on the original PS4 are what you’d expect if you’ve played other titles such as Robinson: The Journey. They’re low-res and pixelated, but you soon get used to it. And no matter how bad you may think the graphics are – you’re in the game. And for the first generation of PSVR, they’re still pretty good. I have heard the PS4Pro version of the game looks significantly better, but I have not had to opportunity to see this for myself. The game looks infinitely better when you get into the house, though that may be because everything is a lot darker.
The sound design is top notch. I highly recommend wearing quality headphones throughout – even though this increases the chance of a heart attack. Wearing headphones will help you evade the Bakers. You will be able to track their movements more accurately as you’ll be able to hear exactly where they are coming from.
Inventory management plays a big part in this instalment, just as it did in the classics. Do you collect that herb even though you’re at full health? Do you pick up those shotgun shells even though you haven’t found a shotgun yet? You’ll face all these classic Resident Evil dilemmas all the while living in constant fear. The classic puzzle sections are also back albeit simpler than I remember. They add a great change of pace and moments of light relief. The atmosphere changes when you’re in a puzzle room; you feel as though you can’t be harmed, though I did not put this to the test.
Littered around the environments are treasure photos that lead you power-ups that’ll help you on your way. And there are also twenty bobble-heads hidden through the game that’ll nab you a trophy upon their destruction. If you don’t get them all of your first run-through, there’s something to inspire a second. There are three difficulty settings, Easy, Normal and Madhouse, with the latter unlockable.
The jump to first-person may have irked some Resident Evil fans, but for me – a person who is really only a fan of the first four – I found the change of pace and style refreshing. And let’s be honest, VR horror is best served from the first-person point of view.
I would have liked an upgrade system for the weapons, like in Resident Evil 4, but it’s not the end of the world, and the game doesn’t suffer for its absence. More enemy variety would be another plus, but these are elements that can be tackled for the next instalment, which I hope is not too far away.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to cope with the full game, there are two demos available on the PSN Store. Both Kitchen and Beginning Hour are playable in VR. The former being a short, limited, affair in which you’re strapped to a chair throughout. The latter is the reworked version of the first twenty minutes of the game.
Resident Evil is back, and it’s just as ghastly as I remember.
VERDICT: 9/10 – This is VR horror at its best and is an essential purchase… if you can handle it!