A tribute to Tobe Hopper.


14 January 2019

Years ago, I remember with a bit of envy my classmates having fun with the first episodes of Resident Evil: mainly the second chapter has captured my attention but playing on PC I had limited myself to some sessions on my friends’ consoles. After that I followed the evolution of the serie with some coldness, but at the announcement of Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, something convinced me to keep an eye on it and make it mine at the first reasonable Steam’s sale.

Launching the game, it’s immediately evident how much the project tries to return to those origins that the fanbase had been loudly asking for years. However, this happened on the game mechanics only due the general atmospheres bring us, in my opinion, closer to an “Alone in the Dark” or a “Silent Hill” game, a positive choice for me, due I was saturated with zombies and related. I admit that it was the change of screenplay that made me curious about this reboot: I wanted to play a modern survival horror, but able to look at the past, with a great narration and a superb art direction inspired by my favorite horror movies. I have been satisfied, even if with some doubts.

In the game we will act the part of the new protagonist Ethan Winter who is searching for his wife disappeared a few years before and now apparently alive and safe in the Bayou of Louisiana. Ethan will be invited by a video message to reach her and, arrived in the isolated and disturbing mansion of the Bakers, he will be catapulted into a nightmare from which you will have to help him escape with all the implications of an incredible and very sick story. It’s hard to say more without incurring in any spoiler, the main influences come from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” by Hopper that gave so much to the history of horror cinema: Re7 Biohazard is fully inspired from it, but there are also homages to “Ghostship” by Beck, “The Ring” by Verbinski, “Vacancy” by Antal, “The Blair Witch Project” by Myrick / Sanchev and “Saw” by Wan. So, try to blend all these inspirations with style and a touch of personality and you will have a discrete summary of the new Capcom game’s storytelling and screenplay.

If we exclude some parts that have an excessive interactive film feeling and some redundancy in the second part of the adventure, the gameplay is promoted too. The transition to the first-person view permits to increase the tension and the visual experience acquires a cinematographic look well supported by cutscenes and a good use of depth of field. The game mechanics are close to those have made the fortune of the original franchise: you will find safe zones where to store objects and save your game progression, a classic equipment with a limited amount of ammo, keys to recover, objects to combine and puzzles to solve. The DNA of the game is fully survival with some stealth feelings: you will have to survive using what you find in the best way, avoiding the battle as much as possible and taking advantages from the environments architecture. Even is not the core experience, the combat system is based on a well-balanced localized damage system, quite old school to avoid any quick time events abuse and various enough to not lock the player in the same dynamics.

Artistically, the game is a jewel: the art direction is amazing, everything appears very rich of details. The character design is very inspired although not excessively varied, but it’s in the environments looking that the game has its stronger feature: for those like me who have visited and played during the childhood in abandoned farmhouses, RE7 Biohazard will awaken primordial fears and disquietude. Realism is so awesome that on more than one occasion the prototype “PT” of Kojima came back to my mind and in fact, moving around in the Baker’s house, I had the suspicion that Capcom collected part of that inspiration in the creative process.

Technically, there is some loss of details in the game rendering due to textures resolution that appears not constant in quality: I would hope for a future upgrade by Capcom with higher resolution textures to solve this cause the defect is very visible during camera’s close ups. The massive use of post processing greatly affects game performances and it is necessary to play around with graphic options to obtain an acceptable fluency even on PCs with a good hardware configuration.

However at the right compromise, it is difficult to remain indifferent to the care shown by the developers in reconstructing game levels where nothing seems to repeat itself, always offering something new even if all events take place in a restricted area and there is a massive reuse of scene elements. The merit is also of an incredible level design that excels in the interiors sequences, claustrophobic and repugnant at the right point, and is a little poor just in the exterior ones not always inspired.

Audio Parts, mandatory with headphones, are in quality, but to avoid any kind of compromise my advice is to play the game with the English language and avoid subtitles.

RE7 Biohazard is a hit by Capcom for sure, a breath of fresh air in the survival horror offer in which art and narrative direction reach very high quality and the gameplay is fun, enough varied and well balanced. The narration excels in the first part, despite of some forcing in the protagonists’ relationship and maintains a good level in the second one until a conclusion perhaps a bit unclear, but certainly memorable.

The last Resident Evil should be played in the right way approaching it very calmly and should be slowly savored, it’s a title that aims more to senses and suggestions than to action and frenzy: the fans of horror movies and games, especially who is a bit nostalgic like me, must try it. It’s sad that today some optimization problems request compromises, but considering the hardware evolution, RE7 Biohazard will age and improve like wine, keeping its essence of pure “survival” horror unchanged.

SCORE 77/100