Spoilers for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard follow. Proceed only if you have completed the game.
Resident Evil 7 has received multiple acclaims and honors for it's unique spin on the Resident Evil franchise. Unlike the action oriented series it's predecessors have come to be, this game opted for a more survival horror approach and boy, does it deliver! Though what made it into a light hearted game for me was playing it with my sister. We play as Ethan Winters, who rides out to the Baker family estate, in response to a distress call from Mia, who went missing three years ago.
I tried to get my sister to play this game with me multiple times, but she was only convinced when I got jump-scared by Mia the first time. This sent my sister into a laughing fit. Soon after, my sister embarked with me on this journey through the Baker estate, thoroughly enjoying my fear and reactions to the horror in the game. Mia is the first boss we have to take down and the encounter seems very closed down as we are in the attic when she attacks us.
There were multiple times I was taken aback and scared out of my wits by the games well placement of it's enemies esp. Jack Baker, the father in the Baker family. Encounters with Jack are especially tense, esp. in one part where he drags us into a family dinner and we are introduced to the rest of the family. Jack is another formidable foe. We have two major encounters with him and it is only with a chainsaw that we finally saw him into half and put him down.
Then there were the Molded, RE7's version of zombies, who suddenly creep out of the walls. Even when I started keeping an eye out for them, they seemed to surprise with their suddenness of appearance. My sister compared them to the clickers in the Last of Us, albeit a lesser deadlier and more horrifying version.
There was that one that literally just squeezed himself out of a cupboard, then the other one chilling in the incinerator with the dissection room key, and not to mention the ones in the Boiler room. I ended up emptying my entire magazine taking out all of them in the basement that I did not even have bullets (not that it would have been useful) in my second encounter with Jack. At times, I did find the knife quite effective against them. Just aim for the head!
The encounters with Mia and Jack gave me some inkling as to the connection to the Resident Evil virus. They seemed to be infected by some form of the virus that gave them regenerative abilities. It seems that the affliction has a cure if treated in time else it will lead to a more permanent state. Guiding us through out journey in the estate through the various appropriately placed landlines is Zoe Baker, the daughter of the Bakers, who knows of a cure and is ready to help us if we get her the required parts.
My sister being new to the franchise was totally ignorant of the virus and wondered how they kept returning back or why they transformed into horrendous beasts. It seemed that Capcom had found that sweet spot where returning players and new players would have no idea of the story and discover it in the process of playing the game.
Another character of the family we often encountered at odd places, behind the bedroom door, in the master bedroom, in the basement is the old grandma. She keeps popping up out of nowhere and seems relatively harmless. I even considered popping a shot at her, but was scared of what she would turn into. I was getting the Dancer of Boreal Valley (Dark Souls 3) vibes from her.
Next in line was Marguerite Baker, the mother. Sneaking by her was a challenge in the Guest house, but when she sneaks up on us, we shoot her down. Of course that doesn't kill her and we find her body has disappeared from the pit she fell into, and a long arm reaching out to grab the lantern. We have to go down there and oh yes, we encounter the transmogrified creature.
The worst was the way she kept crawling onto all the sides, up the walls and then up to our face to take a swipe at us. My sister couldn't stop teasing her for being buttless (I have no idea what that meant). Quite a few headshots with the shotgun and flamethrower on her face helped taken her down.
We almost have a brush with the daughter, Eveline, who seems to be creepier than her family. For some reason, she is under protection. Going through the section of the house, where she reside, it seemed to be the darkest and creepiest section of the game. Teddy bears and toys lie strewn around. Surely there is a Chucky lurking in there somewhere, I commented. In her chambers, we find the first part of the cure.
I had met the father and the mother and had a brush with the daughter. Now it was time for the son, Lucas Baker. Lucas had taken Zoe and Mia captive and he was up to his games, which he wanted us to play. He lures us into a trap and when we make our escape and rescue them both. Zoe helps us create 2 doses of the cure, but before it can be administered, we are faced with Jack again in his final monstrous form.
Capcom knows well how to make boss fights entertaining, challenging and different and this encounter is even more so. Faced with the monstrous form of Jack, we have to make use of all the tools in our arsenal. Our faithful old shotgun came to the rescue again. This game reminded me of my love for the weapon from the Bioshock days.
We end up using one of the cures on Jack to defeat him and are finally left with a choice.
So far, what played out as a linear story leads to the first choice in the game. At the time, I was unsure of whether to choose Mia or Zoe, when my sister told me that it was not a choice at all and that we had to cure Mia. She was Ethan's wife after all. That is what we did and we ended up leaving Zoe on the docks.
On the Ship
As we make our escape from the Baker estate, we find ourselves attacked and end up by this crashed ship. This is where we switched to playing as Mia and find ourselves devoid of all weapons. It becomes a more stealth oriented section until we get the more powerful assault rifle.
We had spent quite a bit of time on the Baker family estate and this was the first change of scenery in the game. Not only that, but as Mia, we get a different set of weapons esp. the assault rifle. I understand why that weapon is give so late in the game as it made the encounters feel more action oriented than the tense moments of using a handgun or shotgun, which required us to be closer to enemies.
We learn more about Eveline and her powers as Mia makes her way through the ship to help Ethan. We also see Eveline multiple times prompting Mia to remember the truth and berating her for not being a good mother.
Escaping from the ship, Ethan now is left on the outskirts of the salt mine. Making our way through it, we learn more of Eveline and her powers. There seems to be a lab in the mines, documenting Eveline's powers and experiments done with it.
In the salt mines, we find out the true extent of her powers and that she was responsible for everything, the Molded, the Baker family's infection and subsequent madness. A military experiment in mind control, she was a prime specimen for the E-virus, which allowed her to control people and induce hallucinations. For some reason, she used this control to build herself a family, the Baker family being one of her victims.
In the Baker estate, it seemed that Eveline is part of the family. But the game also hints to us that she is not part of the family. Scrawled on the wall are messages stating to that fact. It is some really good environmental story telling on Capcom's part.
Finally, when we do learn of Eveline's identity, my sister and I were pleasantly surprised. It was staring at us all along. It turns out that Eveline, for some reason, through excessive use of her power maybe had started ageing and was actually the grandma we saw popping up throughout the estate. We administer a cure on her and she mutates and turns out to be the final boss.
A couple of grenades launched onto her face helped take her down.
The VHS Tapes were an interesting mechanic to share a bit of backstory and flashback with us. Rather than opt in for a video to show us what happened, we got to play through the many incidents, kind of like a Netflix interactive with a set outcome. The tapes started out providing useful exposition, but further allowed us to explore the environment, figure out pathways and find solutions to puzzles that could be applied to the present.
In a certain section, we even get to play out Ground Zero in the past and understand the beginning of the events, which triggered the setting of the game.
Puzzles are an important component of a Resident Evil game. They are tastefully handled in this game with key components to solve a puzzle falling in your hands at the right time. The puzzles were challenging, but not so difficult that we needed hints to solve. It did feel satisfying to get the result that we desired and move on to the next section.
One of the puzzles that I have to mention about is the one set by Lucas. If you had watched the Birthday tape, it makes it all the more easier to solve. However, if not, we have to die once to learn the solution. It is one of the brilliant uses of the VHS Tape mechanic in the game.
Not A Hero
A Resident Evil veteran and now part of the newly reformed Umbrella Corporation, now called PMC, Chris Redfield came to the rescue of Ethan Winters. I know of Chris from the trailers of RE: Village and was curious to learn more of the character. I got a chance in the "Not a Hero" DLC, where he is tasked with the capture of Lucas Baker and the rescue of three soldiers.
The one and half hour storyline sees us foray into the salt mines, dealing with the traps set by Lucas. In the end, to no one's surprise, each of the three soldiers are killed by Lucas, right in front of Chris. We end up hunting Lucas and having a face off against his monster form. He seems more lucid and aware than the others and presents quite a challenge to take down.
I was pleasantly surprised by Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. For a long time, I dismissed the game as a basic horror game, but when I actually started playing the game, it was amazing. The atmosphere and the locations were really great and the overall story was worth an experience.
Plus being a survival horror game, I was glad to have my sister along for the ride. It was fun to have this game as a play along. Traditionally, we have chosen to play a number of narrative driven experiences like Detroit: Become Human and The Last of Us, but this was the first survival horror game (not counting Last of Us in this genre) I had played with her and it has opened the door to many more down the line.
In fact, after finishing the game, I found out about the DLCs and jumped directly into them. Playing as Chris was a whole lot of fun in "Not a Hero" DLC. AS for End of Zoe and the Banned Footage, I caught them all on YouTube. I couldn't wait to get started on Resident Evil: Village and did not want to spend more on the DLCs. Though I have to say, they also held some good content and stories.