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Resident Evil VII: Biohazard - Page 2

GAMEPLAY (cont'd)

The Molded
Mmm... meaty!

On top of that, there are shades of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis here, with some of the game's seemingly unkillable main baddies stalking you wherever you go. Most notable is Jack Baker, who spends much of the first few hours of the game hounding you like the xenomorph from Alien: Isolation, forcing you to regularly go into fight-or-flight depending on how much ammo and health you can spare. He opens doors, runs after you, and knows how to corner you. In one particularly memorable scene you've probably seen in the trailers, he even plows through the walls to get at you.

And unlike other survival horror games out there, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard absolutely nails the balance. You never feel adequately prepared, nor are you ever unfairly crippled. Despite apparently forsaking the genre years ago, Capcom has proven yet again that nobody does survival horror better.

There are also bobbleheads to break, for some reason

The boss battles are also quite good, using unique, occasionally claustrophobic environments to induce panic. Gone are the fights where you stand in one corner and unload your ammo, because these bosses are particularly relentless, tracking you down no matter where you try to plant yourself. For example, the first proper boss fight involves running into Jack Baker in a locked garage. There's a single car there--it happens to be yours--and you can make a mad dash for the keys and try to use the car to slam Jack against the walls, but if he gets to you before you're able to start the engine, he will take control of the car and do donuts in the tiny garage, leaving you no safe place to stand except right in the middle. Boss fights like this really get the adrenaline flowing; they can be tackled in multiple ways; and they don't rely on quick-time events.

With all that said, there are some disappointments. For one, it's relatively short, clocking in at roughly 10-12 hours. With such a tight schedule, the game doesn't have room for much in the way of enemy variety--there's basically only three variants of the "molded," which are this game's version of zombies--and it gives you some of the best weapons surprisingly early, assuming you don't miss them. Unlike recent games in the series, you can't really upgrade those weapons or your other skills (though, if you're lucky, you'll come across two or three steroid injectors to improve your health), and you have to discover through trial and error which found weapons are best. The puzzles, too, are very easy, barely even qualifying as puzzles. There is one Saw-style death trap that is excellent, but it is brief and unique, a solitary exception to the lackluster puzzles that dominate the game.

[Gameplay: 8 - Returning to its survival horror roots, Capcom builds well on what works, and the first-person perspective is a brilliant leap forward. However, the game is a bit short; the enemies aren't varied enough; RPG elements are all but gone; and the puzzles are weak.]


Marguerite Baker is ugly in many ways

You can see slimy, glistening mold growing on the walls beneath curls of peeling wallpaper. Above you is the subtle creak of somebody stepping on an old floorboard and the scurry of a mouse or cockroach. Dust swirls by your feet as you break a crate to get at its contents. You see the flash of a dancing shadow, and then there's a slight swell of music before you hear Marguerite Baker's angry, giddy voice say, "You can't get away, boy."

It's good horror, to be sure, and the environments are stunning in their twisted beauty and deep attention to detail. The world is so lovingly crafted that it's doubly aggravating that the facial animations look so plastic. From a distance, with pulled focus and heavy chiaroscuro, everything is nearly photo-realistic. Even the main baddies of the game, the "molded," are sickeningly real. (The game designers rotoscoped real meat to create them.) However, up close, the sleight-of-hand is revealed. Hair is especially bad, looking more like underwater mops than anything that belongs on a human being.

The moody but subtle music, ambient sound, and excellent voice acting make up for it, though. And yes, I did just say voice acting. This is a Resident Evil game with good voice acting, and that's pretty much unprecedented. It's a triple-A title, and it looks and sounds the part. In creating an emotional response, the well-crafted world absolutely evokes dread. It's not truly terrifying--it's no P.T. or Dead Space--but it will get under your skin.

[PRESENTATION: 9 - Some textures and facial animations fail to cross the uncanny valley, but on the whole, the atmosphere of the game and level of detail are effective.]


The Baker Mansion
A new mansion setting is what the franchise needs

My on-again/off-again love of Resident Evil is no secret. My frustration with the action-heavy direction it's taken in the last decade has made me so jaded, I thought I'd never love it again, especially after the ridiculous insanity of Resident Evil 6. However, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard has brought back thrills and emotions I haven't felt about the series since the Gamecube remake of the original, the game that introduced me to survival horror.

For that reason, I consider this game an unequivocal success. I hope its sales numbers match those of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, the two games bafflingly at the very top of Capcom's best sellers list, and I hope fans embrace it as much as I have. It's not a perfect game--it's too short, the load times are brutal, and the puzzles are simplistic--but man, does it feel good to have Resident Evil back.



Resident Evil VII: Biohazard is the best game in the series since at least Resident Evil 4, and the most effective survival horror RE game since the Gamecube remake of the original.

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-e. magill 1/30/2017

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