Res­i­dent Evil 7: Bio­haz­ard

Old scare tac­tics are back from the dead


PC, PS4, Xbox One

Alot has been said about what’s dif­fer­ent this time out of the gates for this long-run­ning sur­vival hor­ror se­ries. Gone is the third­per­son view­point and over-the-shoul­der gun­sling­ing. Gone is the camp di­a­logue and un­be­liev­able char­ac­ters with overly styled hair, skin-tight leather cos­tumes or arms like tree trunks. But while the de­cid­edly PT- like first­per­son di­rec­tion in which Res­i­dent Evil is head­ing does feel stark, fresh, and very much what the se­ries needed, it turns out that Resi 7 still re­cap­tures many of the iconic el­e­ments from the se­ries’ past.

Dur­ing the game you dis­cover notes that flesh out the story. There are puz­zles to solve along the way. And as you move around the Louisiana plantation where the game is set, there are sump­tu­ously creaky doors that open achingly slowly. These re­turn­ing el­e­ments are not merely nos­tal­gia bait. Rather they’ve been rethought and re­built anew to de­liver upon the se­ries’ orig­i­nal core goal: to ratchet up that ten­sion; to get your blood pump­ing.

Our sec­ond op­por­tu­nity to play Resi 7 – af­ter the Be­gin­ning Hour demo avail­able to down­load now – comes in the form of Lantern, a short se­quence which, un­like that first of­fer­ing, forms a part of the fi­nal game. Lantern is es­sen­tially a note, here tak­ing the form of playable se­quences rather than a few para­graphs of ‘itchy tasty’ text. Hap­pen upon a VHS tape on your so­journ through the Baker fam­ily plantation and watch it back to trig­ger these past se­quences, flesh­ing out the story as you go. These stand­alone slices of game fea­ture dif­fer­ent styles of play from the ‘main’ game, which Cap­com tells us will fea­ture weapons and melee com­bat. The Lantern demo is a much sub­tler af­fair.

We are Mia, a young woman run­ning from a hag­gard old lady with the tit­u­lar lantern in hand. We jog across a rick­ety bridge, wire fences to ei­ther side of us adorned with bro­ken chil­dren’s dolls, and into the plantation es­tate proper, wherein we’re forced to play a deadly game of hide and seek with our an­gry and vo­cal pur­suer. We have to sneak around, keep­ing as far away from the glow­ing light of the lady’s lantern as pos­si­ble, while the house plays its haunted-theme-parkride tricks. Doors slam of their own ac­cord, and the crit­i­cal path pushes us down tight, nar­row spa­ces ripe for get­ting trapped in­side. It’s right in the mid­dle of this that a puz­zle is thrown at us. We can hear the shuf­fling feet of the old woman else­where in the house, and we find our­selves fran­ti­cally align­ing a small statue’s shadow on a wall to un­lock a po­ten­tial es­cape route.

You’ve got notes, puz­zles and, yes, those Resi doors. Here they open only as fast as you push them, invit­ing you to peer through the gaps as they creak ajar. Do this and the next room flushes into fo­cus as your depth of field ad­justs. These tran­si­tions from room to room feel ev­ery bit as tense as they did back in the PS1 era, though here they aren’t cun­ningly hid­ing a load­ing screen – they’re lend­ing the en­vi­ron­ment just one more el­e­ment of ten­sion to con­tend with.

There is still an aw­ful lot more of Res­i­dent Evil 7 to see, not least the ac­tual game that these demos have done lit­tle to fully re­veal. Will it re­ally not fea­ture any of the past char­ac­ters from the se­ries? How will com­bat work? Will it be dif­fer­ent enough from the rock-punch­ing ex­ploits of Res­i­dent Evil 5?

But as show­cases of the de­vel­oper’s in­ten­tion, and of its aware­ness of what worked and what didn’t with past games in the se­ries, these parcels of Resi 7 prove that Cap­com hasn’t thrown the mu­ti­lated baby corpses out with the bath­wa­ter in its bid for a re­struc­tured resur­gence.

Iso­lated think­ing

Stealth hor­ror might sound like Alien: Iso­la­tion’s shtick, but what’s on of­fer here is of a much more slap­dash na­ture. And we don’t mean it’s been shod­dily put to­gether – we mean that as you’re forced into cor­ners by your hunter, you have to find hid­ing spa­ces in places you’re not even sure con­tain them. There are no lock­ers, no pre­or­dained game as­sets you know you’ll be safe in­side or be­hind. On more than one oc­ca­sion the curses of the old woman are so close we can al­most feel her spit­tle, and it’s im­pos­si­ble to know if she’ll spot us.

Cap­com hasn’t thrown the mu­ti­lated baby corpses out with the bath­wa­ter

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