Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017, PC)

By Kanaev / February 23, 2017

RE7 didn't lie about "returning to the roots". The aura of the original is everywhere in this game, plus it doesn't shy away from the classic with reenactment of some memorable moments from the first game.
   So. first of all — this is a game. Not a walking simulator, as some people thought it would be. It's 100% a game and the mechanics are wonderful. Gunplay is very satisfying. Resources are incredibly limited (played on the Madhouse right away), and enemies are fast and can catch up to you even if you are running. Since this is a "classic" RE, killing is optional unless it's a boss. You can run and dodge past everything. Even on the Madhouse.
   On the other hand, you can try and kill everything in sight as well, as long as you are precise with your shots and utilize the knife when needed (once again, just like in the classics). The knife. Oh the knife. Because of how limited the ammo is, I spent a lot of time dodging the enemies and stabbing them with the knife. Unlike the classics, here it's actually useful while still being vastly inferior to the guns (hello 4-6 with overpowered melee).
   What I also liked is the "dodging". No, there's no dodge mechanic a la RE3. It's all done by moving and crouching (also there's a block). But enemy attacks are telegraphed perfectly, so you can always dodge out of their way if you pay attention and it feels really good to dodge a devastating attack, not by pressing a prompt that appears on the screen or performing an I-frames move, but by doing it yourself with the controls that are used constantly outside of combat as well.
   Also fantastic bosses, but I'll keep quiet about them.
   I really-really enjoyed the mechanics in this game.

Let's just stay here with this nice bright sun...?!

Design-wise this game shines as well. As this is a classic RE, a lot of backtracking is to be expected, but it's implemented so perfectly that you don't even feel like it's backtracking. There's constantly something new in the old locations. They change their looks. Enemies appear/disappear. With newfound keys you can get a whole different perspective at navigating through the locations.
   If we talk about aesthetics, enemies are very frightening and disgusting. I jumped at several occasions from the combination of their looks and how they move. Graphical fidelity is also outstanding, but all female characters gave me uncanny valley feeling. Male characters looked great, so I don't know why that was.

The scare factor. This game is frightening, but not all the time. The horror it delivers constantly shifts in tone. It can be at times atmospheric and fill you with dread. Or it can turn into a B-style slasher movie with lots of gore and other disgusting aspects like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from which the game obviously took a lot of inspiration for some scenes and designs. The game also often tries to light itself up with ridiculousness. There are several scenes that should be scary, but they are purposefully presented in such a way that you start laughing and having fun. Also some of the enemies are blatantly playing with you for their own amusement. Shock factor is done really great here. But when the game wants to be dark, it delivers. Some performances by the actors and associated scenes forced me to take a short break. I'm still not entirely "happy" that I watched the "Happy Birthday" videotape.

About the tapes. Before the release I thought that they would be a big deal and I also heard that we would be able to do some things in the tapes that would change the present, but there's no such thing. There are very few tapes and all but one are completely optional. They give some insight on the characters and past events. Some of them would make more sense after the ending, but they are not as big of a deal as I was led to believe. Just in case the tapes were a factor for anyone out there. They are neat little things, but the emphasis is on "little".

Story is great and nicely ties everything together. It also rewards those who paid close attention, because a lot of stuff can be figured out with deduction and memory. Since none of the Resident Evil games ever had any sort of good story, I would go as far as saying this is the best RE game story-wise. They were all B-movies before, and this one is true to that, but still tries to be something more, which it manages to pull off.

Performance. The game is wonderfully optimized. My rig is GTX 780, i7-3770, 12GB of RAM. I use a normal HDD and played in 1080p with all settings at max except for Shadows (they were at High, while the max is Very High). I also used SSAO instead of HBAO+ and Shadow Cache was turned off. Resolution scale 1.0. The biggest hit out of those three settings is the Shadow Cache. Whilst turning it on the game dipped from 60fps to about 30. With Shadow Cache off, but the other two settings at max, I was able to maintain constant 60fps until I got out of the "prologue", where there started to be drops at some room transitions to 50fps (but it quickly got back to 60 after the "loading" was done). It wasn't too bad, but I got tired from it quickly and turned the above mentioned two settings down as well, and was able to maintain a stable 60fps for the duration of the game.

Now for the biggest turn off and probably the only "big" minus of this game — duration.
   I clocked in a bit over 13 hours for my first playtrough. But. This is Steam playtime. I was playing on the Madhouse difficulty and died a lot. The screen at the end of the game showed me the total of nine hours and 22 minutes. That's 43 restarts and almost four hours of lost progress. I explored a fair bit. I know I still missed stuff. I got 25 out of 33 coins, half of the bobble-heads and left several chests unopened because I didn't find enough lock-picks. I did, however, read all notes in the game. I would say my exploration total was pretty good and I've seen most of what the game can offer. If you are the type who plays games on easy, doesn't explore for the items, read the documents and generally just rushes through the game, I would say that the first playthrough for someone like that would take around five or six hours. So there you have it. The biggest minus of this game. Playtime for the first-timers can be anywhere in range from five to 15 hours, depending on the difficulty and the player's ability.

Just a quick word about Madhouse — they give you enough tapes. I felt like it was a perfect balance of saves, just like in the first Resident Evil. There are autosaves though. But they are rare. I think I noticed about seven of them throughout the entire game, and they are placed... weirdly. Like there's only two before the boss fights, while with others you have to rely on your own saves. One of them was incredibly strange because it happened at the transition from one of the save rooms (I'm glad I didn't use the tape right away and opened the door first!) So yeah. I don't think they take away from the challenge factor, because of how weirdly they are spread out. And they are at fixed places. Because when I noticed an autosave at one moment I loaded up a previous save and went to do some hard side-stuff that would have required me to save manually after anyway.

P.S. It was a fantastic experience and I'm glad that I played this game. I wish it was longer, but what there is is incredible. I seriously doubt that the upcoming free DLC or Season Pass will add much playtime. Oh well, I already bought the Deluxe and will just wait and see.