'Resident Evil 7: Biohazard' brings fear, terror, fun to franchise

A creepy setting, frightening villains, and a storyline that has more twists and turns than a Tour de France race, “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” is the perfect fright film in game form. All it is missing is the gratuitous sex scenes.

The latest title in the long running franchise harkens back to a time when mowing down wave after wave of zombies wasn’t considered the norm. RE7’s mood, environments, and characters portray fear and fright in a bold, in-your-face way, and that is without diving into virtual reality.

The protagonist, Ethan, is played from a first-person perspective as the player heads to the bayou of Louisiana. Don’t worry about the alligators. There are greater dangers inside the buildings.

After receiving a pleading email from Ethan’s wife, who has been missing for three years, the hero delves into a story resplendent with lies, lies, and damn lies. Even the monologues of the enemies contain clues that are hard to believe until that piece of the puzzle slips into place.

Who or what is the true evil? Who can you trust when people transform into something  monstrous right before your eyes?

The setting, a series of houses and buildings deep in Louisiana, offers a contrast of light and dark, modern and ancient, and power and helplessness. Secret passages, attics, and basements add many layers to each, making exploration frightening, since you never know what lurks around each corner.

It takes on the film quality of “Don’t go in there, you idiot!” when a darkened room is your only way forward. You know nothing good is going to come out of entering that area, but you must do it to find a way to safety.

The enemies are similarly cast. The obvious ones, the Molded, offer almost a brief mental break from the unknown horrors that lie within the game. These things are obviously monsters, and they are easily recognizable as bad guys. Kill them with extreme prejudice.

The normal looking men and women are the truly scary ones. They will hold a conversation with you in one moment, cut off your leg in the next, and offer you a healing liquid to restore you back to health in the moment after that.

How do you react to that? Waiting one second to see what they might do could be your last second, but act too quickly, and a key piece of information may never be revealed.

The boss battles take a good measure of your abilities to manage your inventory and how well you have explored the area to find powerful weapons. The fights are brutal, often in tight quarters, and unforgiving if you make a tactical error or slip up.

Weapons range from up close, with a pocket knife, to ranged, with pistols and shotguns, to area attacks, with grenade launchers and the like. Ammunition can be hard to track down, but crafting on the go with found materials makes it a bit easier.

Likewise, health containers can be looted from rooms, but they also can be made with the right supplies. Your inventory is likely to indicate how well you might survive an encounter. Too few items will often mean certain doom.

Collect as much as you can. Even the most innocuous item could have potential value later in the game. Ancient coins are scattered throughout the settings, and they can be used for stronger stats or weapons. Grab them whenever you can.

There are chances in the game to increase the number of items you can carry. A safe box in save rooms is also a good place to store things you may not need at the moment. Oh, and save often, even if it requires a bit of backtracking and especially after brutal and bloody fights.

The gore in combat is plentiful. The opponents truly are nightmares, and their constant patter about death and dismemberment is distracting. Absorb the moments, but don’t let them distract you from your goals.

As terrifying as all these things are, it is in virtual reality where the fright show really shines. Using the PlayStation VR, the first-person perspective becomes even more personal. While the movement isn’t as fluid as standard play, the scares and terror are ramped up as you crane your neck around shower curtains, waiting for something to jump out and grab you.

It ranks high in one of the best VR experiences out there for the PSVR right now, showcasing how an extended gameplay experience can be immersive throughout the story. You’ll scream. You’ll shout. Your heart will be racing. When you take off the headset, you’ll be smiling, grateful that it really was just inside a game.

The story is on a rail, moving you from one area to the next and facing off against set enemies in specific locations. That’s ok, because the settings are wide and expansive enough to feel like you have freedom of movement, which is true. However, story progression follows along a set path, and divergence from that path is not an option.

This isn’t a game about choices or options. This is a game about survival and playing along with how the villains manipulate you. Can you unravel the mysteries surrounding this house while keeping yourself alive long enough to escape?

There are some definite ties to the “Resident Evil” franchise, some more obvious than others. But what “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” has done is reaffirmed it's place in the horror game genre. The fear of the unknown is heavy in this game, but so are the real and quite fatal dangers. That combination plays on your mental and physical toughness, which is why this game is so amazing.

Bravery is not your only weapon.

"Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is available worldwide now. It is available for the PlayStation 4, including the PlayStation VR mode, Xbox One, and PC. The game is rated M for Mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. This post was done with a provided PS4 copy.