I rush out of the destroyed vehicle after barely escaping a murder-suicide attempt by a madman named Jack, who remains stuffed within the passenger seat. Thick iron bars are driven through his face and neck. The car bursts into flames and I scramble to find a way out of the small garage that my captor has trapped me in. But before I can catch my breath, I see a flaming figure rush out of the car.

“Oh boy, now look what you’ve done, motherf—–!” Jack exclaims.

His searing arm lifts me off my feet — but before he can finish me off, the car behind him explodes, sweeping both of us off our feet and onto the cement driveway. I get up slowly while staring at Jack’s burnt remains. He does not move. I am relieved and go toward a potential escape from the ruined garage: a ladder. I make it to the ladder and start to climb, but something immediately grabs me. It is Jack, beyond disfigurement. He snatches the pistol I have on me and makes a twisted smirk.

“Do I have your attention, boy? You’re about to see something wonderful,” Jack says before blowing his brains out.

This is Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. It is uncompromising, mean-spirited and above all, terrifying.

You play as Ethan Winters, who is searching for his wife Mia. After receiving a video transmission from her, Ethan decides to investigate the location she sent him to, which looks to be an old estate. However, after he wanders through more of the estate’s grounds, he discovers that it belongs to the twisted Baker family. The Bakers will do anything it takes to keep Mia away from him — and to keep him from leaving.

It is apparent that the Resident Evil series has become progressively less reliant on the survival horror aspects prevalent in the original titles. Now, it instead has shifted to much more of an action-oriented style of game play. Resident Evil 7, however, chooses to bring back those horror elements that made the previous games classics to begin with.

Everyone begins the game with the option of picking from two standard levels of difficulty: easy or normal. I chose normal, which is the higher of the two, but make no mistake: this mode was anything but normal. Throughout my play-through, I died many times and encountered tricky boss fights, yet I never felt like the game was too difficult or broken in any way. Nevertheless, inventory management and fierce enemies make their return to the series, adding stress to players who may have been spoiled by some of the more forgiving titles in the series like Resident Evil 5 or Resident Evil 6.

In addition, the Baker estate provides a dark and eerie atmosphere reminiscent of famous movie settings such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Blair Witch Project. You can tell that the developers dedicated much of their attention to fine audio cues and lighting, with the sole purpose of immersing players into the creepy aesthetic of the Baker estate.

Even with all of its successes, there are still a few shortcomings that make the game feel a bit repetitive and dull at times. Enemy variation is limited besides the individual members of the Baker family and one other recurring enemy type. Do not expect the amount of unique enemies you would find in the first Resident Evil. The game is also shorter than most of the other series’ entries.

In spite of these flaws, Resident Evil 7 is a game that fans of the series and horror truly deserve. New fans can even enjoy the experience without worrying about any backstory since this game is not heavily reliant on previous events within the series’ universe.

3.5/4 Shells