Resident Evil 7: Biohazard in the test - horror port or well ported horror?

Author: Tobias Veltin, Elena Schulz
Date: 2017-01-24 16:04:00
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard turns out to be exactly the turning point that the series needed in the test. But does that also apply to the bad reputation of Japanese PC ports?

And now, an atmospheric demo, a PS4-exclusive VR experience and several promising trailers later it is certain: Capcom has succeeded in returning to survival horror with flying colors, Resident Evil 7 breathes new life into the zombie-like modern series. We are pretty sure that almost every fan of the old parts will be happy with the RE7 - even if or especially because it is a new, fresh experience in many places. But one after the other.

Something is wrong here

It is a mysterious message that main character Ethan Winters reaches at the beginning of Resident Evil 7. His wife Mia writes to him that she is on the abandoned Baker farm near the US town of Dulvey, deep in the swamps of Louisiana. Ethan should get her - while she says in a video that he should definitely stay away from her. Curious and disturbed, Winters sets off, after all, Mia has been missing for almost three years and was actually declared dead.

But it quickly becomes clear that something is completely wrong with the Baker property . A pot with slimy intestines is on the kitchen table in the guest house, and a dead, tattered crow lies in the microwave. In the cellar we find more cruel and strange things. A half-decomposed corpse, for example, and a list of names, some of which are marked "transformed" in parentheses. What the hell is going on in here? After another eventful discovery, which we don't want to reveal at this point, we are finally put down by Jack Baker.

A feast with a difference

A fade to black later we are sitting with the Baker family - father Jack, mother Marguerite, son Lucas and the grandmother - at a somewhat different kind of banquet table. On the table are stacked bones and severed body parts, innards and other disgusting dirt that Jack gave us Wants to press piece in the mouth. When a phone rings and the family leaves the dining room, we take the chance and break free from our bonds. But what now? All exit doors are barred, the windows locked. We can only get to the main hall of the property if we have a corresponding metal plaque.

Panic seizes us when Jack approaches us furiously in the narrow corridor, we whirl around and run through the corridors, the shovel-swinging madman on his heels. Running zigzag we work our way up a lead, hastily open a hatch in the pantry and sneak under the house into the washroom, where a tape recorder is waiting for us to save.

The first trouser check when taking a breather: Yes, they are full. My face, Resident Evil 7, what a great atmosphere you have! Above all, the game seems so intense because it is the first main part of the series that focuses on the first person perspective. That makes the horror even more immediate, more tangible than in the third-person parts of the series.

And all the more pleasing for PC gamers: chopping off and hiding works just as well and smoothly with the mouse and keyboard as with the gamepad. This is not least due to the fact that the buttons can be reassigned according to your own requirements. In addition, there are extensive setting options for mouse sensitivity, aiming aid and camera, which make quick changes of view and fights more pleasant.

Strongly depicted weakness

Unfortunately, these technical advantages do not help us to find a way out of the Bakers' horror house. That is easier said than done, because in order to open the door to the outside, we are supposed to find three metal dog heads that are scattered around the house. The greatest caution is required, because Jack wanders through the corridors and rooms of the house, an encounter with him usually ends with a quick demise.

In addition, we cannot kill the villain with conventional weapons, Jack seems to be indestructible for some reason. In general, Resi 7 conveys the helplessness of our character very well, because we are just not the super soldier who shoots everything down in earlier parts, but a completely normal civilian who is somehow drawn into this. We are brutally attacked early in the game, we take jacks in the head and are thrown through the air.

This leads to the fact that we open doors with bated breath and peer behind them, crouching past windows and carefully turning corners. This permanent state of inner tension may be exhausting for one or the other, but it is a real blessing for the atmosphere of the game.

Highlight horror house

Speaking of blessings: Capcom could hardly have chosen a better location than the run-down Bakers' farm for Resident Evil 7, the winding property turns out to be the secret highlight of the game. It gradually reveals more and more atrocities, in the basement we find, for example, incinerators for corpses and a complete dismantling station like in a slaughterhouse. We also get to know the Molded , musty mushrooms that peel themselves from black slime that stuck to the walls, floor and ceiling of the Bakers' house - there are no classic zombies in Resident Evil 7!

The standard form of the Molded is quite slow and can withstand a number of hits, but there are also smaller crawlers that are much more nimble, but also faster. The Molded are the final proof that Ethan is dealing with more than just a gleefully murderous hillbilly family. And more questions arise . Where is the second child in the family, Zoe, who keeps calling us? And what about the little girl Eveline, whose photos we can find all over the house? In addition to the dense atmosphere, this »WTF approach« also draws heavily into the game.

No feast for the eyes on the PC

So, when it comes to the scary factor, we'd give Resi 7 full marks here. However, things are not so good with the splendid graphics, which are rather mediocre, which is why we are usually very happy that everything is so dark and eerie. Up close, the textures appear fuzzy, even at the highest settings, and shadows sometimes flicker uncontrollably. Now and then there are even graphic errors, a display error in the reflections, for example, made the floor wobble as if it were covered with water.

After all, the setting options in terms of graphics are very extensive, even if the visual differences between the highest and lowest level of detail are limited. The shadow quality and shadow cache have the greatest impact on performance. If you achieve too low fps, it is best to start at this point.

Good old Resi mix

Resident Evil 7 presents itself in a playful way as a pleasant ego homage to the first series part. The mix of a lot of exploration, isolated battles against the Molded and some puzzles awaken pleasant memories of the original Resident Evil. We roam the house, search chests of drawers and cupboards, and collect ammunition, green medicinal herbs, gunpowder and chemicals in two levels with which we can mix better ammunition or healing potions. That always presents us with interesting decisions. Do we now use the found chemical for a healing potion or do we prefer to craft new cartridges for our pistol?

In general, ammunition in Resident Evil is not necessarily rare, at least on the normal difficulty level, but a fight with two Molded can eat more bullets than you think. If you keep your eyes open, you will also find other useful items. With steroids, for example, health can be increased permanently, stabilizers reduce the reload time, and psychotonic pills mark all interactive objects in the vicinity for a short time.

The inventory and the PC control: simple meets uncomplicated

Compared to other series parts, the inventory system has been streamlined a bit and is therefore pleasantly catchy. With the tabulator key we open our backpack and can quickly access the items we have collected, examine found items or craft new ones - everything conveniently with a click of the mouse, which makes it even more pleasant on the PC than on the console. It is also practical that the game automatically switches to the inventory at certain locked doors and asks us which item we would like to use. The assignment of weapons to quick selection buttons is also well done - we simply press 1, 2, 3 or 4 in the menu and can then quickly and easily access our favorite weapons and switch between them.

As is typical of Resi, the inventory space is limited, but can be expanded with backpack upgrades, which are in turn hidden in storage rooms. The game also saves automatically, but the reset points are not always chosen correctly. It has happened, for example, that we had already cleared a room in the basement of several Molded opponents, ran out of ammunition and were then killed by a single mushroom in the next room. We were then allowed to start again on the cellar stairs - and had to kill all enemies again.

Hence our tip: Better to go back to the next cassette recorder after a fight and save than trust a stupid automatic checkpoint.

Fortunately, the controls don't cause us any problems. Shooting with the mouse works much more precisely than with the gamepad and the "X" key helps us tremendously when turning around quickly in combat - with the consoles, a button combination is needed first. Resi 7 controls itself just as smoothly on the PC with mouse and keyboard as on the PS4 or Xbox One, even if one or the other might prefer the gamepad - after all, you don't want to have to look around on the keyboard in a panic moment. And as you know, there are enough of them in the horror shocker.

The puzzles of Resident Evil 7

The puzzles are well integrated into the rooms of the horror house and therefore don't seem quite as absurd as, for example, in the original Resident Evil. Often it is a matter of finding a key to be able to open certain doors (e.g. the snake and the scorpion key), but later it gets a bit trickier. For example, we have to turn a block of wood in front of a light source so that its shadow is covered with a prefabricated shape on the wall; we can only open a door in the cremation chamber if we unravel what it says with "3 A and a handprint" has.

We can only get the shotgun if we trick a certain locking mechanism. In general, the puzzles are not really head nuts, but they have a pleasant level of difficulty and complement the gameplay of the first section wonderfully.

Main actor in found videos

A real highlight of the game are the video cassettes , which we can find at different points in Resident Evil 7, and which also provide an enormous atmosphere. In the attic, for example, we stumble upon a video cassette that shows a camera team exploring the house, tracking down supernatural phenomena. The best thing about it is that we ourselves slip into some of the roles of the people shown on it and experience what is happening in the style of "found footage" films.

Later there is, for example, a tape in which we have to flee from Marguerite with Mia or solve a deadly riddle of Lucas in the skin of a poor, trapped swallower. Clever: The videotapes not only create an additional atmosphere, but also provide hints for solutions to certain puzzles that Ethan has to solve later.

The first video tells us, for example, where the switch for a secret door is hidden, in Mia's tape we see a crank that we later have to use elsewhere. We found and played four tapes on our first run, it could have been a little more. After all, it seems that parts of the Season Pass content (see box) consist of precisely such tapes.

Killer mom Marguerite is waiting

Of course, Resident Evil 7 doesn't just take place in the Bakers' main house. After a mini-boss fight with Jack in the catacombs of the house, we conquer the third dog's head and finally come to the outside area of the farm. But the horror is far from over, because now it goes into the voodoo-like "Old House" guarded by the murderer mama Marguerite.

Cool: The dynamics of the game change here, because many corridors of the half-collapsed house are blocked by insect nests, the residents of which attack immediately when we approach. Good for those who have the flamethrower with them (of course we have to find the individual parts first).

After Marguerite we have to do with son Lucas, who has come up with a very special meanness for us. We don't want to reveal that at this point, because Resident Evil 7 draws much of its fascination from precisely this discovery. The exciting story continues to push us up to this point, the oppressive atmosphere is terrific.

The crux of the game: the last third

So there is little to nothing wrong with the first two thirds of Resident Evil 7. Too threatening, too good, Capcom staged the rundown Baker property with its numerous secret passages, disgusting details and its crazy residents. But that changes after the big interboss battle. Because at this point in time we leave the Baker property and visit two more locations, which, in terms of play and atmosphere, cannot keep up with the morbid magic of the main house and the old house.

On the one hand, this is due to the puzzles that hardly exist, and on the other hand, the lack of opponent variation. We only encounter the two Molded variants, which, however, no longer pose a real threat when the submachine gun is picked up. The real surprises are missing. When the finale approaches with big strides, Resi 7 even falls back into old action patterns, it is almost all fired up.

After all: Aiming and shooting with the mouse works extremely precisely on the PC, which makes it much more fun than on the console. Towards the end, PC gamers are more likely to get their money's worth than Konsoleros when distributing headshots, which makes us a little easier to get over the heavy workload. At the end, the story also picks up speed again, and it also clears up why the game has "Biohazard" in the title. Everything finally culminates in a visually opulent, but unfortunately playful, rather unspectacular final boss finale.

Missed opportunities

Resident Evil 7 doesn't just make enough of its good approaches in the final battle. Missed opportunity number one: The morbid group dynamics of the food scene at the beginning of the game in the Baker family are not conveyed later because the members are spread out over the entire site.

Missed opportunity number two: Around the middle of the game, we have to make a supposedly elementary decision. In principle, that's very cool because we didn't expect it and really have to think about it longer, but the decision only affects one cutscene afterwards. There are no further consequences or even an alternative course of action - a shame.

Eerily beautiful atmosphere

Even if the PC implementation of Resident Evil 7 could technically have been more, it still scores with very atmospheric light and shadow effects and many ... well ... lovely details in the surroundings. By the way, faint-hearted natures should be careful not only because of possible anxiety states: Resident Evil 7 is not stingy with explicit and detailed depictions of violence, for example limbs are happily chopped off, heads split in half and fingernails torn out.

The sound , on the other hand, provides much more subtle horror and completely captivates the player. If we sneak down a corridor and suddenly a window rattles or the floorboards creak, we inevitably flinch. The German voice output is also very good, all speakers fit their roles perfectly. The only plus of the optionally selectable English language version: the pithy southern accent of the Bakers.

That comes after you play through

Resident Evil 7 takes about ten hours on the normal difficulty level. After that, some goodies will be unlocked, for example a particularly powerful pistol that bears the first name of another well-known Resident Evil character. There are also coins and small figures hidden all over the game. We can exchange the former for upgrades such as steroids at some storage points, the latter also give a bonus when we have found them all.

The greatest incentive for replay is likely to be the “madhouse” level of difficulty, which is also activated after playing through it once. Those who pre-order the game can even start on this level of difficulty right from the start. Among other things, there are hardly any checkpoints left here, the opponents are stronger and move faster, and tape recorders can only be used to save if you have a corresponding cassette. A real new challenge that is almost a guarantee for what we already have in the first round: full pants.

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