Res­i­dent Evil 7: Bio­haz­ard

Four hours in­side Cap­com’s first­per­son rein­ven­tion cranks up the nos­tal­gia fac­tor

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher Cap­com For­mat PC, PS4, PSVR, Xbox One Ori­gin Ja­pan Re­lease Jan­uary 24

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Jill sand­wiches might not be on the menu dur­ing the Baker fam­ily’s meal­time, but it’s one of only a few in­gre­di­ents from the first Res­i­dent Evil that haven’t been brought back for the series’ lat­est makeover. As we’re let loose in­side the game for an en­tire af­ter­noon, it’s hard to de­cide whether the big­gest shocks come from some fine-tuned jump scares or the sen­sa­tion that Res­i­dent

Evil 7 is sim­ply a modern-day re­make of the orig­i­nal with zom­bies traded out for Neme­sis-like me­naces.

Fa­mil­iar items, weapons and even puz­zles are rid­dled through­out, and the struc­ture of the world is too sim­i­lar to Chris and Jill’s Spencer Man­sion episode to be ac­ci­den­tal: early hours are spent clear­ing out the rooms of a large house har­bour­ing se­cret pas­sages to hunt down a trio of em­blems in or­der to un­lock the exit. It’s a door­way that leads not to safety, but a path wind­ing to a sec­ond, smaller build­ing. That the route takes us to a di­lap­i­dated swamp house rather than a guard­house, or that the main area’s a dingy, un­kempt Louisianan manor in­stead of a gleam­ing stone man­sion high up in the moun­tains, does lit­tle to mask the sim­i­lar­i­ties; the switch to first­per­son might once have sounded like a dras­tic step into new ter­ri­tory for the main­line series, but this is the clos­est Cap­com has come to re­cap­tur­ing the at­mos­phere of the 1996 orig­i­nal since the 2002 GameCube re­make.

Cast as the vul­ner­a­ble Ethan Win­ters, we pick up the story ap­prox­i­mately 45 min­utes into the game as the en­tire Baker fam­ily – fa­ther Jack, mother Mar­guerite, son Lu­cas and a wheel­chair-bound grandma – sits around an of­fal-laden ta­ble. When ar­gu­ments and phone calls tempt the fam­ily into other rooms, Ethan top­ples his chair, frees his legs and we be­gin our es­cape at­tempt.

We get no far­ther than the hall­way out­side the open­ing kitchen/din­ing area be­fore Jack reap­pears, armed with a shovel. We can ei­ther run or hide, but as we zero in on a key that could help us es­cape, Jack bursts through the wall and gives chase. Care­ful peer­ing around cor­ners and creep­ing at the right time lets us snatch up the key and scrab­ble to­wards the tem­po­rary safety of a save room to record progress with a cas­sette recorder, but not be­fore a hefty whack from the spade cov­ers our screen in blood spat­ters.

The save room presents us, weapon­less, cor­nered and wounded, with an op­por­tu­nity to take stock. A smart­watch called a Codex is strapped to our left wrist, and in one of many nods back to the ’96 out­ing it dis­plays our health as a coloured ECG read­out when­ever we check the in­ven­tory screen. Cur­rently

am­ber, we top it up by com­bin­ing a herb and a bag of yel­low Chem fluid in the Quick Com­bine menu to cre­ate a medium first-aid kit. Health items are mapped to R1, and press­ing it sees Ethan take out a jar and splash heal­ing tonic all over his left hand to patch up his wounds. Later on, we find more po­tent red Chem packs that can be com­bined with herbs for strong first-aid kits, while mix­ing gun­pow­der with the liq­uid pro­duces reg­u­lar and stronger hand­gun bul­lets, de­pend­ing on the Chem fluid’s strength.

Our first taste of com­bat is just around the cor­ner. Hav­ing now scooped up both a penknife and a pis­tol and used the first to slice open the tape that bound the cas­ing of an elec­tronic door-panel switch, we find our­selves trapped in­side the Baker’s small garage with Jack. Though Ethan can move while aim­ing, Jack’s speed com­bined with an alarm­ing abil­ity to soak up bul­lets puts us on the back foot. Help­fully, a block­ing move on L1 re­duces dam­age from blows and leaves our quarry mo­men­tar­ily stunned. Still, Jack’s abil­ity to ab­sorb bul­lets means guns won’t get us very far here, but grab­bing keys from a work­bench and jump­ing into Ethan’s sports car for a spot of close-quar­ters road rage does the trick. Speak­ing later with the de­vel­op­ment team, it tran­spires that crunch­ing Poppa Baker’s body against the garage’s breeze blocks isn’t the only way to end this fight.

With Jack beaten, we can be­gin ex­plor­ing our sur­round­ings at a slightly more mea­sured clip. The house is full of ob­jects to pick up and in­spect: tins to pry open, pic­tures to an­a­lyse, nod­ding bob­ble­heads to shoot, and VHS tapes to in­sert into VCRs in or­der to trig­ger playable flash­back chap­ters from the viewpoints of other char­ac­ters tor­tured by the Bak­ers. Man­u­ally in­ter­act­ing with a nut on the back of a pic­ture frame lets us un­screw a bronze ox stat­uette, which neatly slots into a plaque on a grand set of dou­ble doors and opens up the man­sion’s main hall.

Again, nos­tal­gia takes hold as the grand bal­conied en­trance splin­ters off into dif­fer­ent pas­sage­ways and rooms; some open, many se­creted away be­hind doors with an­i­mals in­scribed on the locks. Help­fully, these

dis­cov­er­ies are jot­ted down on the map, which be­comes a point of ref­er­ence while ex­plor­ing and back­track­ing through the vast plan­ta­tion and a trusty guide as to where to ex­plore next when­ever a new type of key is un­earthed.

Com­bat again comes to the fore down in the labyrinthine base­ment. In a mo­ment neatly fore­shad­owed by omi­nous notes about kid­napped strangers be­ing trans­formed by the Bak­ers, we come face-to-maw with the Molded. A com­bi­na­tion of Res­i­dent Evil 4’ s Re­gen­er­a­tors and Rev­e­la­tions’ Ooze, they’re tall, toothy golems birthed out of clumps of black ichor pasted onto ev­ery sur­face. With the shot­gun not ap­pear­ing un­til later, even one-on-one fights with these brutes prove tough, with mul­ti­ple head­shots re­quired to kill them. Mul­ti­ple deaths oc­cur when three at­tack at once, boot­ing us back to a nearby save room, but in a con­tro­ver­sial move, cop­ping it in other ar­eas, such as dur­ing boss bat­tles, will trig­ger check­pointed reloads. “We’re try­ing to smooth the process of get­ting back into the game af­ter dy­ing, rather than limit the pos­si­bil­ity of dy­ing,” ex­plains ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jun Takeuchi re­gard­ing this soft­en­ing of the clas­sic save-sys­tem rules.

De­spite the game favour­ing puz­zles and ex­plo­ration over com­bat, af­ter four hours we’ve stock­piled a flamethrower, a grenade launcher and a .44 Mag­num re­volver – and en­coun­tered am­ple rea­sons to use them. Pul­sat­ing hives of gi­ant, killer hor­nets in the swamp house, pa­trolling fam­ily mem­bers, and a static en­counter with Mar­guerite in which we’re trapped in a hole all do their part to burn through our sup­plies. All the while, plen­ti­ful back­track­ing to open up fresh ar­eas with new items gives rise to fresh shocks, as tense games of hide-and-seek with the de­ranged fam­ily con­trast nicely against the all-out hor­ror of Molded drop­ping through ceil­ing vents mere cen­time­tres from your face.

Cutscenes, QTEs and overblown hero­ics have been well and truly ex­or­cised, leav­ing a con­sid­ered hor­ror that clev­erly bor­rows con­cepts from the likes of PT and Out­last with­out feel­ing overly de­riv­a­tive. Know­ingly cheesy di­a­logue and scenes span­ning bath­tubdrain­ing right through to en­e­mies burst­ing through win­dows (this time it’s hor­nets, not rav­en­ous dogs, re­spon­si­ble for our yelps) re­in­force the series’ ’90s val­ues at ev­ery avail­able op­por­tu­nity, soft­en­ing the im­pact felt by the change in lo­ca­tion and cast. The re­sult is a shift ev­ery bit as dar­ing as the jump from Res­i­dent Evil Zero to Res­i­dent Evil

– and one that might yet be ev­ery bit as suc­cess­ful, too.

Plen­ti­ful back­track­ing to open up fresh ar­eas with new items gives rise to fresh shocks

Ch­est shots do lit­tle dam­age to the gelati­nous Molded crea­tures – you’ll need to re­move their limbs or pop their heads to keep them down. Al­ter­na­tively, shut­ting doors can trap them in cer­tain rooms

To help sur­vive the tougher ar­eas with health and ammo sup­plies in­tact, it pays to abuse the in­fi­nite save sys­tem and sac­ri­fice your­self to work out en­emy be­hav­iour loops. The Molded, for in­stance, can’t stray too far from their spawn points

TOP LEFT The knife is handy dur­ing the fre­quent mo­ments of am­mu­ni­tion de­ple­tion, but it won’t help you clear away the masses of killer bugs that block cer­tain door­ways or cup­boards: you’ll need the flamethrower for those.

ABOVE New weapons and char­ac­ter up­grades such as per­ma­nent health boosts and quicker reload speeds are found in­side bird­cages. Col­lect hid­den an­tique coins to go on a shop­ping spree

LEFT One new item among the fa­mil­iar herbs, em­blems and cranks is the Psy­chos­tim­u­lant pack. Chug­ging these tem­po­rar­ily high­lights ev­ery nearby ob­ject with a marker, help­ing you to sniff out valu­able ammo and health de­vi­ously hid­den in the shad­ows

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