Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Genre: Survival Horror

Original Release: January 24, 2017

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Luna, Stadia, PC

Played on: PlayStation 4

I was terrified when I took this screenshot, but I can’t help but laugh over the label reading “HeyBro”

Resident Evil (or Biohazard in Japan) is a series that I grew up with. I remember my brother playing Resident Evil 2 on the original PlayStation when I was younger, the associated dreams that strangely enough were not nightmares, and a handful of the puzzles. I didn’t understand a lot when at the time, but when I finally started playing through the GameCube remaster of the first game years later, it clicked for me. I was scared, but also engaged. It hit all the right notes for me and started a deep love. I wanted more.

And you know what? That love kept on going when I played Resident Evil 2 myself. I’ve only played a little bit of 3, but I loved 4 to pieces when my brother-in-law offered to let me play it (to the point that I now own it myself on at least three different platforms), and I still think fondly of those earlier titles. Sadly, Resident Evil 5 shifted away from the horror to focus more on the action and cooperative play (though it’s still fun and scary at times), and 6 just went full-on action. I’ve only watched a playthrough of 6, so I don’t know that I can judge it fairly, but it’s definitely not my favorite title in the franchise. But then, the demo for Resident Evil 7 came out in the middle of 2016 and definitely brought the horror back. It drew a lot of comparisons to the sadly canceled P.T. given its first-person perspective and the mysteries for players to solve. Some of these mysteries (the dummy finger) didn’t have answers right away, those were patched in leading up to the game’s release, but it kept the game on your mind and honestly I really like that.

It’s grotesque, but I love it and can’t look away. So many cow legs, so much rope.

So the story of Resident Evil 7 doesn’t focus on Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, or any of the other established protagonists. Instead, we fill the shoes of one Ethan Winters, who made his way to the Baker estate in Dulvey, Louisiana after receiving an email from his wife Mia following her disappearance three years prior. The game eases you into things nice and slowly with some time to get a feel for the controls, but lets you know right out the gate that this is a horror game, as evidenced above. For what it’s worth, I find this really good for building that tension and anxiety that I play horror games for. Just that sensation of being on edge right out of the gate, that tightness in my chest and the resultant heavy breathing. It makes me want to stop, but I also feel like I need to keep going. It’s compelling.

And that’s something I’ve missed from a lot of horror games over the years: that desire, almost a need, to keep going and see how things play out. Outlast felt almost too scary my first time through. I stopped a recording eight minutes into my first session and said I would be right back, I didn’t come back for a day. Others have just left me kind of bored like Dead Island or, in the case of Penumbra, stuck as a dog patrolled back and forth in front of me and I ended up not playing it again for the longest time. I didn’t feel that with Resident Evil 7. In fact, I played through about three quarters of the game in one sitting. That’s how much it stuck with me.

The Bakers are an interesting family. Creepy, but also funny if that makes sense.

Honestly, Resident Evil 7 feels like what would happen if you took Evil Dead 2 and made it into a game. Yes, I know there are Evil Dead games (I have a few), but I have yet to play them. Anyway, Resident Evil 7 is scary, but also funny if that makes sense. It blends horror and humor together really nicely and just keeps you hooked for more. Like I distinctly remember my first playthrough: crawling on hands and knees everywhere, jumping at every sound, panicking when I saw Jack down the hall from me carrying a shovel and walking pretty fast. It was great. Even after beating the game as many times as I have on varying difficulties, I still think about that and how much of a trip it was each time.

And yet that brings me to a bit of a personal sticking point: I kind of wish the main story were a bit longer. I get that it’s not as long because you’re supposed to play through the game more than once and unlock more stuff as you go (otherwise completing the game in under four hours would be a nightmare), but once you’re out of the main house everything just feels like a blur, especially if you know where you’re going. Like I know the story beats, but you’d be hard-pressed for me to tell you where everything is or if there’s an optimal way to approach situations. I’m not the optimal approach kind of guy most of the time anyway, so I might give someone a headache if I didn’t handle things the same way they did.

The creature design is amazing though, I can’t deny.

Putting aside my disdain for minmaxers, I want to shine a light on the design team’s work. The environments and monsters have that familiar Capcom feel while also being new enough that I want to look over every bit of it. The Molded look humanoid, but also frighteningly alien and surprisingly meaty considering their composition, the Bakers don’t hit the uncanny valley or weird me out with their movements like you might expect from parts of Kingdom Hearts II (though honestly that doesn’t wig me out as much as it does some of my friends), and even Ethan’s model changes a little bit depending on whether or not you’ve healed recently or if you’ve been hit. There’s a lot of really neat attention to detail that I might have overlooked if it weren’t for this blog. I’m sure it sounds silly and perhaps a bit egocentric, but ever since I started this project I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the amount of work that goes into each of the games in my library. Yes, even the objectively bad games like Superman 64.

But Resident Evil 7 isn’t bad. In fact, it’s really good! Even after I’ve gotten used to the scares and know what to do and where to go next, I can’t help but smile. The Bakers just make me laugh, and my sister and I will occasionally exchange some of Jack’s lines for kicks. The game really does convey the theme of family in its own strange way, and it’s definitely brought my siblings and I closer together.

I could go on about the main game, but I don’t know that I have much more to say without spoiling the story. And I don’t like to do that. Final Fantasy VII Remake was an exception because of how well-known the plot of the original release is. So instead, why don’t we take a look at some of the DLC in the order that I went through it? Let’s start with Nightmare.

Banned Footage Volume 1: Nightmare

Poor Clancy just can’t catch a break, can he?

Where the main game takes you all across the Baker estate, Banned Footage volumes 1 & 2 lead you through cameraman Clancy Javis’ time on the property immediately after the derelict house footage found in the demo as well as the very beginning of the game. In Nightmare, Clancy is locked in the basement of the main house and has to survive wave after wave of Molded until 6 AM, starting at 1 AM. Each wave is an hour, coming to a total of five waves. Where Ethan could just find items and make do as he bumbled around, Clancy doesn’t have that luxury. Instead, Clancy has a number of compactors at his disposal, each of which will provide him with scrap metal over time that he can use to craft a knife, guns, ammo, healing items, or just cash in for various upgrades. Each wave will be harder than the last, and each item you craft drives up that particular item’s cost, so it becomes a question of how long you can survive without spending too much while accumulating scrap metal to purchase upgrades and set traps. It’s tougher than you might think, but each run, whether you succeed or fail, adds points to a cumulative total that will unlock more items or upgrades to make subsequent attempts easier. It’s a fun and challenging little diversion if you want some more gameplay after finishing the main game!

The Molded wind up in some pretty comical positions too. God I love ragdoll physics.

There’s also a nightmare mode that halves the scrap metal produced if you’re up for a greater challenge, but it isn’t absolutely necessary to do so unless you want the trophies/achievements. It was rough, but doable.

So let’s change gears and talk about the next bit of DLC. How do you feel about escape rooms?

Banned Footage Volume 1: Bedroom

From the basement to the bedroom. Seriously, Clancy just cannot catch a break.

Immediately following the events of Nightmare, Clancy wakes up in the Baker family’s master bedroom. In fact, he’s stuck on the bed with his left hand manacled to a bit of wood serving as a table. Marguerite brings him some…food and the game begins proper.

Marguerite switches between gentle and motherly to psychotic at the drop of a hat and I love her for it.

The goal of Bedroom is to escape, but with a bit of a twist. Where escape rooms require you to find clues and keys and the like, Bedroom has Marguerite come up and check on you intermittently. And if she spots one thing out of place things are not going to end well.

It’s kind of like The Green Mile.

You don’t have to put everything back, but certain items need to be either tucked out of sight or put back where you found them. It’s a game of patience and logic. And it can be hard to find some items you need, but keep an eye out and you’ll find what you’re looking for. There are also some really clever puzzles with subtle hints that didn’t click for me until after I bumbled my way through, but once it clicked I couldn’t help but smile. Normally that would upset me, but it just made sense.

Now, the final part of Banned Footage Volume 1 is Ethan Must Die, but I didn’t end up working through that until after I finished up Volume 2, so we’re going to deviate a little bit and talk about 21 instead.

Banned Footage Volume 2: 21

My luck might not be great, but at least I’m not Clancy.

21 is Blackjack. Clancy and another victim of Lucas’ are pitted against each other, betting their lives one finger at a time at first. Whoever has the higher total is the winner, but go over 21 and you lose. Unless both of you go over 21, in which case whoever’s got the lower total wins. It’s less confusing than it sounds, I swear.

Lucas is sadistic, but I can’t help but appreciate the amount of effort he put into this. Seriously, who makes ten finger-sized guillotines?

Obviously it’s not as easy as just hitting 21 or being closest to it. Like with everything else, there’s a twist. In this case, Lucas provides you and your opponent with a number of trump cards that will change the flow of the game one way or another. You can swap cards with your opponent, return a card to the deck, draw a specific card, or even change the number you’re trying to hit. It’s a neat change on the only card game that I’m any good at. Seriously, I love blackjack, but I can’t play poker to save my life.

Also there’s Mr. Saw. He’s pretty sharp.

21 also includes a Survival and Survival+ mode, pitting Clancy against five and ten opponents respectively. Like with Nightmare, it’s a game of patience and strategy with a bit of luck mixed in, but it can be done. Just take some time and think it through, you’ll get there.

I don’t have a lot else to say about 21, it basically speaks for itself. And that’s the end of Clancy’s misadventures in the DLC, so let’s talk about Daughters, where it all started.

Banned Footage Volume 2: Daughters

Hope you’re ready to feel sad, because oh boy the feels are real in this one.

As I said, Daughters is where the events of Resident Evil 7 begins. A hurricane in Louisiana, a small family with some sizeable real estate (seriously, have you ever been down south? You can get some really nice houses for cheap compared to Pennsylvania where I live) and massive hearts. And then everything goes south. It goes south fast.

I can’t fault Jack and Marguerite though, they had the best of intentions.

Daughters puts you in control of Zoe as the Bakers deteriorate into the terrors that Ethan would later encounter. The house layout is nearly identical to the main game, albeit with a few minor changes, but this is more an exercise in stealth than action. Zoe will have to sneak around to find answers while also hiding from Jack and Marguerite. This one actually has two different endings, depending on your actions, but it’s not so hard that you absolutely have to look up a guide. A little bit of critical thinking and I was able to puzzle out what I had to do.

Just…try not to get caught.

And with that we come to the final part of Volume 2, Jack’s 55th Birthday.

Banned Footage Volume 2: Jack’s 55th Birthday

How do you feel about tonal dissonance?

I don’t really know how to talk about this one after coming off of Daughters. I don’t have anything particularly witty to say, so here’s a picture of Jack in a clown nose and party hat.

I’m not kidding. The tonal shift is kind of jarring. “I’m wastin’ away here!”

The object of Jack’s 55th Birthday is to celebrate by stuffing as much food down Jack’s gullet as it takes to fill up that satisfaction meter at the top of the screen. As Mia, your job is to run around in one of six stages collecting food for Jack and destroying Molded to freeze the timer for a little bit. The faster you feed Jack, the better your rank, and the more items you unlock. Each stage also includes at least one blaster, which is basically a recolored pistol with different fire patterns: the blue one fires hard-hitting rounds that will net you a few seconds and an almost-guaranteed kill, while the red one increases your movement speed and can fire rapidly while also igniting your target. It’s ridiculous in the best possible way and the music is so upbeat that you just can’t help but bob along as you run back and forth across the map. Be sure to shoot Mr. Everywhere if you see him! I won’t say what happens, but it’s worth doing!

And of course that brings us back to Ethan Must Die. Hoo boy this was a time.

Banned Footage Volume 1: Ethan Must Die

How do you feel about dying repeatedly?

As frustrating as this game mode might sound, I found myself laughing a lot. At least at first. After a day or two of trying it just got tiresome. See, Ethan Must Die – and I’m either going to hate myself down the road or become the next subject of a meme for this – plays a bit like Dark Souls. There are no checkpoints, but every time you die, a goddess statue appears where you dropped. If you smash that statue, you’ll get an item back from your previous run, or some ammo if it ends up being an item you already have. Unlike Dark Souls though, there is little to no room for error. One clean hit from a Molded, one bomb, or one snootful of nerve gas from a floor panel and you’re dead. You’re going to die a lot, and it’s going to get rough. You might be tempted to give up and I would not blame you for that in the slightest. But I promise you it is absolutely doable.

Get used to seeing this.

Perhaps ironically, I was dreading the end boss more than anything else in this mode, and yet that part ended up being a cakewalk compared to getting hold of the key I needed to reach them in the first place. Go figure.

I don’t have any more pictures from this mode on hand, so instead let’s move to the second to last bit of the DLC:

Not A Hero

This time around we’ve got a familiar face of old!

No boulders to punch, sadly.

Not A Hero takes place immediately following the events of the main game, with the player in control of long-time veteran of bioweapon shenanigans Chris Redfield. This one takes place entirely in the mines near the Baker estate, with Chris on the hunt for Lucas. Three of his fellow soldiers have gone missing, and Chris is on his own. He’s got a knife, a pistol, and a shotgun by his side, but Chris can also do something that Ethan and Clancy couldn’t: he can deflect attacks. Time your block right and you’ll knock away your enemies, leaving them open to attacks. You also don’t take damage from this, so it’s worth practicing if you have the chance. And if you decide to do a run on Professional Difficulty after you clear the game, you’re going to want to be good at it. Trust me.

There’s also a new variant of Molded. These guys are horrific and I love them.

Not A Hero also bridges the gap between classic Resident Evil and modern Resident Evil by providing Chris with a somewhat vague indicator of his health that shows displays a heartbeat in three different states and colors. Green is fine, yellow is caution, and red is danger. It’s a nice little bit of nostalgia for the first couple of games (again I haven’t played 3 in a while so I don’t remember) that actually works with Chris’ heads-up display in his helmet. It’s not quite diegetic, but it does help with immersion, so I like that.

I won’t say too much more than that just because, as ever, I want my readers to be able to experience this for themselves since I find that part of the charm. I know there are times where it isn’t necessarily easy, like with Mohawk & Headphone Jack (that’s going to be an adventure when I get to that one), but for what it’s worth, Not A Hero is free. You can just go and download it for nothing and get a bit more story.

Which, incidentally, is a nice segue for our final bit of DLC, which wraps up the RE7 story nicely.

End of Zoe

Jack has a brother named Joe. Joe punches things. Joe is king of the swamp.

Have you ever heard the song Amos Moses by Jerry Reed? Or the cover Primus did on their Rhinoplasty album? Because the way they describe Amos, I can’t help but think of Joe Baker, except Joe still has both of his arms. My friend Scott calls him Punch Uncle, but the man has a whole survival guide and most of his combat revolves around punching things or throwing spears made with tree branches. He has a full alligator skull in his house! Joe Baker is awesome. Like seriously, if I were ever to make a friend who lived in or near the Louisiana Bayou, I could only hope they were as badass as Joe Baker. They don’t necessarily have to be a rugged survivalist, but I wouldn’t mind that. Just call me cher at least once, okay? I don’t really know why, but it just makes me smile.

Anyway, End of Zoe takes place a few weeks after the events of Not A Hero. Joe Baker comes across Zoe in the state you see above and it’s up to him to find a cure for her. Along the way he’s going to have to fight his way through Molded and mold-infected alligators and show he’s a swamp man worth his salt by surviving off of crayfish and other small critters, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as just boxing a Molded to death.

Above: A reenactment of Joe Baker fighting his way through the infected swamp. (Anime: Baccano!)

As with Not A Hero, End of Zoe includes an extra difficulty, this time it’s labeled as “Joe Must Die” and it is brutal. If you work through all of the extreme challenges unlocked after clearing normal for the first time, you get the Spirit Blade which helps you keep your health up as you fight and looks pretty darn sweet honestly.

It’s a machete with veins and an ominous red glow. How can you not like it?

It took me a few days and there was a bit of frustration, but as with everything else it is definitely beatable with enough persistence. Take your time, take a break if you get frustrated, and you can do it. I promise you that.

Thus, I feel that I can safely give Resident Evil 7 my recommendation.

And with Village coming out in about a month at time of writing, I think it’s worth taking the time to play through Resident Evil 7 to get some of the story if you’re so inclined.

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