'Resident Evil 7' Review Roundup for Xbox One, PS4, PSVR, PC: Critics praise new direction

Capcom

It's time. Resident Evil 7 is finally here. We've known for a while that it's a first-person game with little connection to the rest of the series, but it's been something of an enigma since its announcement. Would this reinvigorate a floundering franchise or be the final nail in its coffin?

Well, the Resident Evil 7 reviews are out and it seems like it's the former. If you want to know more about the game without spoiling the ending for yourself, keep on reading.

Resident Evil 7 Reviews: A welcome change in perspective

Resident Evil started as a slog through a mansion with static camera angles and clunky controls before moving to a traditional third-person perspective with Resident Evil 4. After the last game was not particularly beloved, it was time for another change. According to Giant Bomb's Dan Ryckert, the switch to first-person was the right move. 

At no point did I miss the traditional perspective and tank controls. This doesn't play like a first-person shooter, it plays like a Resident Evil game that happens to be in first-person. Ammo is sparse, so you'll have to make tough decisions regarding when to use it. When I decided to bring the guns out, I kicked myself for every missed shot. Not only are bullets a valuable commodity, but death can come quickly when you're reloading during a tense enemy encounter or boss fight.

Patrick Klepek of Waypoint echoed the sentiment. As a lifelong Resident Evil fan, he felt the switch to first-person helped bring back the tension he felt playing the original game in 1996.

If you've been wondering if Capcom could make 'Resident Evil' scary again, worry no longer. Switching the perspective from third- to first-person, 'Resident Evil 7' reestablishes the simmering tension of the original game by isolating the player and making them feel alone. 'Resident Evil' was "survival horror" because you were barely scraping by, never having enough bullets to feel truly safe. The series lost that feeling as it went along, trading horror for action, but it's back. Once again, every bullet counts, and you might want to think about running away instead of fighting. You're going to be muttering fuckfuckfuck as you turn the corner, not knowing what might be around the bend. Whatever's over there, it's not good.

Resident Evil 7 Reviews: Combat is appropriately intense, but the boss fights aren't great

Ethan Winters picking up a pistol in 'Resident Evil 7.'Source: Capcom
Ethan Winters picking up a pistol in 'Resident Evil 7.'  Capcom

Though protagonist Ethan Winters isn't gunning down hordes of genetically mutated monstrosities like Leon Kennedy in Resident Evil 4, there are still a small handful of enemies to fight in Resident Evil 7. In Polygon, Philip Kollar praised the intensity of the first person combat.

Of course, there is ammo, because there are guns, and combat is an option. Every weapon you acquire in RE7 feels different, and, most importantly, everything beyond the standard pistol feels powerful. When you blast a bad guy with the shotgun or fire a spray of machine gun bullets, it very clearly and visibly has an impact. Head shots, in particular, are both extremely satisfying and damn near necessary to take out most enemies without throwing away tons of bullets.

However, it isn't perfect. Resident Evil has always had plenty of boss fights, ranging from frustrating to iconic. It sounds like the boss fights in Resident Evil 7 skew more towards the bad end of the spectrum, according to Kollar.

Resident Evil 7 only contains a handful of bosses, but they're by far the worst part of the game. These encounters break the otherwise perfect tension and pacing of the rest of the experience. You are by necessity given tons of ammo and healing items in the lead-up to each boss fight, because these bigger enemies are invariably bullet sponges, sucking dry whole clips from your gun before finally falling. Worse yet, the wonderful feedback that's present in most of the game's other battles doesn't really exist here; in numerous boss fights, I found myself not totally certain if I was hurting the boss or how much, because the game doesn't make it clear.

Resident Evil 7 Reviews: The new setting and story deviate from the franchise's roots in a good way

The Baker family in 'Resident Evil 7.'Source: Capcom
The Baker family in 'Resident Evil 7.'  Capcom

Even when Resident Evil was at its most grounded — the first game takes place entirely in a mansion — it was still pretty bonkers. Each successive game upped the ante on the series' convoluted lore, taking players through increasingly outlandish sci-fi laboratories fighting giant monsters. At a point, it stopped being about zombies entirely.

Though Resident Evil 7 doesn't signal a return to zombie horror, it is set entirely on a run-down plantation in Dulvey, Louisiana. The plantation is populated by the sadistic Baker family, who Ethan has to fight throughout the game. In her review for IGN, Chloi Rad praised the new setting for its strong sense of place.

Traces of humanity aren't hard to find behind all the locked doors: old photographs, trophies for academic achievement, a discarded football helmet. Compared to the cold, medieval interior of the still-beloved Spencer Mansion, the Baker household actually feels like a lived-in space rather than a grandiose maze of traps and hidden laboratories, which is an interesting and more intimate change of scenery that focuses on something that the series has never fully explored before.

Rad says Resident Evil 7 is closer to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than classic zombie cinema, which is a good thing. However, it still comes with the same uncomfortable tropes that can be found in the films from which it finds inspiration.

Other times, [the game's] roots in "hillbilly horror" rely too heavily on overplayed tropes about rural America and begins to border on the cartoonish. The Bakers are disgusting, dysfunctional, and at times pretty laughable, but most of this is at least explained later on, which — without spoilers — satisfactorily avoids putting the blame entirely on their rural upbringing. [The] change in style and setting [in 'Resident Evil 7'] never fails to deliver a strong sense of place that makes frequent exploration and backtracking through the dingy Dulvey property and its secret underground lairs work without wearing out [their] welcome.

Resident Evil 7 Reviews: Breaking new ground with VR support

Up until now, most big games with PlayStation VR support have included it within the context of bolted-on side modes that don't add much to the game. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Rise of the Tomb Raider come to mind. Resident Evil 7 is bold in the sense that it allows you to play through the entire game using Sony's VR headset. Ryckert spoke highly of the VR option in his review.

I played the first several hours of the game exclusively in VR, and it really does add a lot to the scare factor. During those amnesia moments where I was hiding behind a crate or a corner, I found myself slowly peering out to see if my pursuer was heading my way. These moments can raise your heart rate when playing on a television, but the fear is more palpable when you're physically tilting your head around the corner instead of strafing with an analog stick. When one character grabbed me and wildly swung a knife at my face, I found myself tensing up as I involuntarily lurched backwards on my couch. At one point, a grotesque enemy surprised me while I was exploring a crawl space. When it popped up, I instinctively turned my head rather than look straight ahead and face the disgusting creature directly in front of me. A lot of these moments can fairly be categorized as jump scares, but I can't deny that many of them really scared the hell out of me while playing in VR.

Not every critic was quite as bullish on the feature. Kollar found it to be inferior to playing the game on a TV.

The main issue I encountered while playing 'Resident Evil 7' in VR was a pretty common one for the technology: It made me extremely dizzy. Moving in the game while standing still in real life was a disorienting process. Beyond that, I found specific visuals in the game much darker and muddier in VR. For example, a photo I picked up and examined looked totally normal in the regular game, but was impossible to make out in the added darkness of the PlayStation VR headset.

Rad found it to be a neat addition that worked well enough without being essential. One thing she notes is that it makes the combat significantly easier.

VR definitely makes the 'Resident Evil 7' experience very different, and I did enjoy my time roaming the eerie Dulvey property up close and personal, but it is not necessarily the superior option. The one area where VR does significantly improve the gameplay experience is combat: because you move your crosshair by looking around, VR makes landing headshots on enemies much easier than it is on a gamepad.

Overall, early reviews indicate Resident Evil 7 is closer in quality to the franchise's best moments than its worst mistakes. Having played a bit of the game myself, it was more compelling in its first hour than any previous Resident Evil game had been for me. Just don't play it right before bed.

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