From the Beginning Hour demo and both PSVR demos, “The Kitchen” and “Lantern”, it’s been pretty clear that Capcom has something different in store for us with Resident Evil VII Biohazard.
For a gaming series, as old as the PlayStation itself, a proper reinvention has been well overdue. Sure, the series has changed things up in the past, with mixed results- putting more emphasis on the action and less on survival horror gameplay.
Then there was the episodic Resident Evil Revelations 2, which added a bit of spice into the ailing franchise. What we really wanted, though, was something in the spirit of the early games, but without the cheesy dialogue- a modern take on a classic franchise.
Well folks, I think that is exactly what we have got with Resident Evil VII Biohazard. Not since the second game have I been so engrossed in a Resident Evil entry. And with PlayStation VR support out of the box, Capcom have really pushed the boundaries of the horror gaming genre.
What’s more, Capcom have thrown out the rule-book so much that you don’t need to have had any previous experience with the long-running series to enjoy this seventh instalment to its fullest. This is the point that you need to jump in, newbies.
Without reference to Raccoon City, The Umbrella Corporation or S.T.A.R.S, Resident Evil VII just gets on with it. The story, setting and circumstances are all new and the narrative completely void of unnecessary exposition.
The game does seem to take more than a cue from Konami’s PT demo for their aborted Silent Hill game. In fact, the premise seems like it has been ripped straight from Konami’s horror series.
You are everyman, Ethan Winters. After receiving a message from your, supposably, dead wife, Mia, you head off to find her, arriving at a derelict house in Dulvey, Louisiana. A house with a peculiar history of its own.
Armed with just a torch, you guide Ethan through the creaky abandoned house. It’s petty nerve-raking and very spooky. And, of course, it’s not long before things take a turn for the worst.
It’s the former occupants of the house, the Bakers, that present themselves as the main protagonists of the tale, each one with their own M.O. Think The Hills Have Eyes/Wolf Creek/Saw.
Returning to the series’ survival horror roots, the game features a well-paced mix of classic Resident Evil puzzle solving, some very Alien: Isolation-inspired cat and mouse stealth sections and, of course, some chilling creature encounters.
Inventory management becomes a bit of a thing, especially if you are one to pick everything up (which I recommend you do). The relatively small about of time that you can carry means that you will need to use the system of chests which, improbably, allows you to drop stuff in one and retrieve it in another.
You’ll soon learn to be on the lookout for green herbs and chemicals. These conveniently combine to make first aid, which you can then pour over you wounds like magic Dettol. As with previous Resident Evil games I typically found myself with an empty handgun, but load of ammo for a rifle that I didn’t own. Chipping away at a seven-foot tall monster with a penknife isn’t particularly funny or productive, especially in VR.
Breaking things up are a series of VHS tapes that you can discover. When placed in a VCR (that’s video cassette recorder for your youngsters) you get to relive the experiences of other unfortunate visitors to the house.
The visuals are superb. On your TV the game looks stunning. The Baker’s house is packed full of details, some of which you do only really notice when in VR. Things like little sticks at the bottom of stairs. The character animation is also spot on and a far cry from the robotic character movements usually associated with the series.
Switching the gameplay view from third to first-person makes a lot of sense, especially if you are heading towards photorealism, like Resident Evil VII is. Instead of being an observer with an over-the-shoulder third-person view, you are instead right in the action.
The game’s immersion is taken a step further with PlayStation VR support. Placing yourself in such a horrific environment is not for the feint-hearted. The whole Resident Evil VII experience becomes very real the moment you put on that VR headset. Too real. Terrifying, in fact.
Whereas the VR demos were full-on fright-fests, the actual game is, as I previously mentioned, better paced. This is all the more noticeable (and appreciated) in VR, allowing you to calm your heart down a bit before the next absolutely pant-wetting encounter.
But, playing Resident Evil VII in VR is like a different game entirely. It’s an absolute credit to Capcom for taking the plunge and releasing the game for PlayStation 4 owners with PSVR support straight out of the box.
With PlayStation VR the game transports you right into the terrifying world of Resident Evil VII. You feel as if you are actually there in the Baker’s house. Every creak makes your heart skip a beat. And when you finally meet someone in the house, well, remember to breathe and have a spare set of underwear handy.
The controls are designed to ease you into VR movement. First-person games can make new player feel a bit nauseous. To combat this, you can set the movement to rotate in in steps, short-circuiting the feeling that gives you VR-sickness. The downside of this is that it becomes a bit messing if you need to move quickly or fire on a moving target.
Aiming with a combination of your head and controller sticks can be a bit tricky. If you switch all the hand-holding off you may get a little queasy after a time, but the controls become a lot more precise.
Resident Evil VI Biohazard is probably the first proper VR game that I’ve played, and that’s out of all the previous PSVR titles and those released for the HTC Vive. This is a full-length AAA VR gaming experience.
Resident Evil VII Biohazard is a major leap forward, not just for Resident Evil, but for horror games in general. It’s terrifying and, as a VR title, absolutely horrific. This is a game that is easy to recommend, especially if you own a PSVR kit.