Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

If you are a survival horror fan then you have probably become relatively disillusioned with the genre’s progression over the past few years. The term ‘survival horror’ has even become a rather redundant term for many games – which claim to be so – but are actually just spooky shooters.

Fear not, for Resident Evil: Biohazard (or Biohazard 7: Resident Evil as it is known in Japan) has come to the rescue of what perhaps isn’t the most popular type of game, but is certainly one of the most thrilling and engaging.

Welcome to the family! Each member poses a massive threat to your existence. Maybe not granny having a nap after too much large intestine.

As a massive survival horror fan, I can honestly and proudly say that we are now very much surviving the horror once more. Whether you’re a newbie to this type of game, but enjoy having your nerves scrambled, or are by now a deadpan veteran to scary games, you are in for an absolute treat (provided you don’t suffer from motion sickness).

Like any great survival horror game (or any horror story for that matter) Biohazard involves an unwitting protagonist called Ethan Winters goose-stepping headfirst into a grizzly and very lethal nightmare; completely ignoring very blatant indicators of more than likely dismemberment. From this point onwards, you are trapped in a foul and unforgiving world, viewed very intimately from the first person. Let’s just talk about how real the camera work is in this game.

I mean, why wouldn’t you go in there?

Biohazard, being a first person game, means that all of the diabolical happenings are right up in your face, removing the barrier between television and living room, injecting the terror straight into your perception in a fourth-wall-shattering display of witchcraft.

Seriously, Biohazard is going to get behind your eyes and under your skin. You are going to experience the violating discomfort and woozy proceedings afforded only by games like Outlast (from which Biohazard certainly took queues).

Speaking about taking queues, Biohazard is a melting pot of goodness. It seems to have taken the best parts of classic survival horror titles such as early Silent Hill titles and the above mentioned hit, American horror blockbusters like Evil Dead and The Chainsaw Massacre and, of course, the winning elements of the Resident Evil franchise in general.

After a rather mouldy decline into schlocky, action-heavy drudgery, Capcom have reincarnated their much-loved phenomenon with as much visceral calamity as can be fit into a Blu-ray disc.

Gorgeously haunting architecture and detail

“So, what is this game even about?” you may be wondering if you haven’t been following its development or hype. Without giving too much away, our seemingly nondescript hero finds himself submerged in crap when he haplessly waltzes into what looks like a derelict house, which actually turns out to be hosting various kinds of abominations and a very twisted family. The kind of family you’d have family dinners with on a Sunday – you know – if they weren’t completely deranged, sadistic, horrendously strong and seemingly invincible.

As for gameplay, prepare for a shocking rollercoaster through some tough as nails backwater bungholes. It is completely thrilling. Gone are the days of mowing down hordes of lumbering undead. Biohazard’s fights are tough, and they require you to be as observant as you are adaptable if you wish to win this one.

What are you doing in there, son?

The enemies in this game require outsmarting, because physical force alone just isn’t going to cut it. The average person is going to endure a lot of chopping, gouging, and evisceration, as they frantically scramble about each grizzly arena in search of victory.

You will certainly be doing a fair amount of your own daring handiwork. As you’ll soon discover, Ethan isn’t shy about getting his hands dirty either.

Seeing as you’re an ordinary citizen free of any military training (as many previous Resi heroes possess), don’t expect to be lining up headshots or filleting creeps with a bowie knife. Ethan is just an ordinary guy trying to make the best out of a very unsanitary situation.

Count your bullets and get your accuracy up to scratch

Biohazard successfully develops this theme, as his pistol slightly sways when being pointed. A reliance on makeshift weapons and tools makes up the meat of your inventory and progression.

This doesn’t mean that Ethan can’t hold his own in a fight, as you will quickly find out. He’s not afraid to go toe to toe with meanest of monsters.

The graphics are incredible. The gross, gloomy environments, nefarious characters, and other grizzly mise en scène are phenomenally cinematic. The gore has been lovingly detailed and orchestrated, the crescendo coming in the boss fights, which are truly a sickening spectacle to behold. Here one must keep their head as whatever crazed, mutated juggernaut tries to splash you against a wall. Combining the environment, your inventory and sheer brutality, each fight is a ferocious puzzle. The boss fights in this game are nefariously exhilarating.

Each area is obsessively filled out with spooky knickknacks. The efforts taken to create the most lifelike horror experience are astonishing

Biohazard’s short story might be its weakest point, but it is still very intriguing. You’re not only doing your best to survive in this madness, but trying to rationalise it too, trying to piece together small moments of clarity to get the bigger picture. It’s a short and sweet affair all in all, but you might very easily want to play it again, especially if you missed out on some of its secrets and collectibles.

9/10

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Bloodborne

Bloodborne is easily one of the most thrilling and rewarding experiences out there. At its heart, it’s a miasma of obscurity. Players are catapulted into a chaotic world free of proper direction or guidance.

We wander seemingly aimless through terrifying alleyways and forests with little clue on navigation and even less on what comes next.

 

Bloodborne
It’s a nightmarishly picturesque world

 

Players were continually stepping into treacherous new areas, only to fall face-first into smoldering pits of darkness, surrounded by deadly fiends crawling out of the wood-works, or in this case Gothic masonry.

This is what makes Bloodborne so wonderful, you never know what to expect, and never know just what the hell you are getting yourself into.

Everything is cloaked in mystery; characters, enemies, environments and the plot are just one big murky swamp we love swimming in.

 

Bloodborne
Whether you’re plumbing a ghastly sewer or exploring an arcane library, keep your wits about you!

 

Bloodborne is hard. How hard, you may ask? Let me put it this way: I didn’t think I was going to make it through the first stage. I was immediately faced with a brick wall of adversity, one I didn’t think I’d ever smash my way through.

Just fighting the most basic group of creeps was like trying to exorcise the Devil from someone using a YouTube video of a dog drinking water.

Bloodborne
Hacking at crazed plebs has never been so gratuitously thrilling

Few things have made me curse loudly in aggravated bitterness so frequently. Making such sweaty progress only to be drop-kicked back to the last checkpoint clocked about an hour ago is magnificently endearing.

The potion FromSoftware concocted made from despairing degradation and jubilant triumph makes for some interesting psychology.

The finely-tuned reflexes and systematic button-tapping required for this fluid foray can be a bitter pill to swallow for those unfamiliar with Souls games, but once digested, the game becomes a constant flow of garish exhilaration.

It was absolute bliss turning the tide on my tormentors, realizing that I could play this game! Maybe I’d even play it again on ‘New Game +’ (The same game, just much harder).

 

Bloodborne
Boss fights are the bread and butter of Souls games

 

Playing Bloodborne is like being transported into Edo Japan and becoming Miyamoto Musashi’s apprentice.

At first, he constantly beats you with a log for your piggish ineptitude, but in time you are meditating side-by-side under a waterfall, the crashing logs harmlessly splintering off your scalp.

In no time, however, you are magically reduced back into a chubby good-for-nothing and have to repeat the whole process again, and again, and again – pure, unadulterated joy.

 

Bloodborne
Bloodborne’s version of a bonfire

 

I experienced such ominous despair whenever I sensed a boss-fight was about to begin.

My heart sank and the hairs stood up on my arms whenever a colossal hellion skulked out of the shadows, knowing I’d be spending hours turning into days hacking at it.

One particular boss, Vicar Amelia, probably earned me the highest amount of retries I’ve spent on any boss in any game, ever.

Granted I was still pretty green to Souls games at the time – this foray was just complete insanity.

 

Bloodborne
Grab your friend and go tag team on a boss

 

Eventually, I managed to crush her though, and I jumped for joy. This sense of jubilation is rarely felt in many games; it’s the same feeling as finishing a lengthy raid or disarming the bomb surrounded by unaware enemies.

The boss fights are just complete savage adrenaline.

Sure, you spend a good amount of time on your knees, but once you find your way forwards and implement a sound strategy, the sense of competence produces complete elation.

 

Bloodborne
The creature design has been grotesquely detailed

 

 

Story-wise, the game centers around a gothic town called Yharnam besieged by a mysterious and devastating curse that has driven its population insane, and worse. People are starting to mutate into ghastly monsters, the few sane and unchanged individuals cowering in the shelter of their homes.

You play as a hunter, a skilled member of a syndicate tasked with eliminating such abominations, tasked with entering Yharnam and bringing bloody order to a place gone to hell.

Yharnam’s gloomy streets and cathedrals are just the beginning of your quest, as you plough your way through forests, universities and more mystical locations. You will soon begin piecing together a story entailing a damning thirst for power and knowledge that turns humans into the unspeakable.

Bloodborne

Bloodborne is an absolute treat for newcomers and veterans to FromSoftware’s punishing trials. Its hasty make-or-break nature is a fantastic change from Dark Soul’s more sludgy clunking.

10/10

Until Dawn

The star-studded Supermassive Games survival-horror hit for the PlayStation 4 is as creepy as it is beautiful. Loosely emulating games like Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, this story-centred title focuses on sensitive decision-making, that effect characters’ fates, and whether they get dismembered or not.

until-dawn-listing-thumb-01-us-12aug14.pngUntil Dawn is episodic in nature (with a very peculiar intermission between each episode) and crafted like a miniseries. Much effort has been put into making the game feel movie-like, with voyeuristic camera angles and progressive and reactive gameplay. It is a very refreshing title indeed, that is as much fun to watch as it is to play.

With actors such as Peter Stormare (Prison Break) and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) bringing fantastically realistic characters to life, this is one of the most cinematic gaming experiences out there. Throw in a jarring soundtrack and a gloomy snow-capped setting and you’ve got an intriguing fusion of horror film and survival-horror gaming.

 

Nothing better than having big actors in a game

 

Grab your expensive headphones and your mom’s Xanax prescription, because this game is as involving as it gets, and will need your undivided attention if you’re going to carry the story effectively. You are the director here, and it is up to you how things pan out.

Revolving around a group of preppy youngsters – unwittingly summoned to a splatter-fest set in some remote yet gorgeous snowy mountains in British Columbia – players will continually swap between each good-looking character as they attempt to gather clues and survive an onslaught of deadly situations.

until-dawn-screenshot-03-ps4-us-07aug14 (1).jpg

 

Quick-time event jump-scares

 

Players must combine reflexes with detective-skills to keep as many of the playable characters alive. The story is yours to craft, and almost every narrative-based step forwards is yours to take. By picking up mysterious premonitions (which are kind of spoilerish), one can daringly avoid as much atrocious fatalism as possible.

‘The thing is – I don’t really want any of these unlikable kids to survive. They’re arrogant and shallow – and I am sadistic – and I want to see some well-rendered gore; I’m going to lead each one into the lion’s den!’ is what many people playing this game probably thought.

 

Until_Dawn™_20150903210213.jpg
It’s just a prank, bro!

 

One could pursue this tactic, but that would just squash much of the game’s excellent story and events, and possibly prohibit one from uncovering a titillating mystery. Diligent life-saving and clue-collecting is required for achieving maximum reward and the best possible ending.

If you’ve played Heavy Rain on the PlayStation 3 then you know what kind of gameplay to expect. Players will work through the action dealing with quick-time events and methodological button-pressing sequences. Although the button-tapping antics aren’t as developed as Heavy Rain, it’s still highly thrilling knowing that pressing the wrong button when leaping for a ledge results in a brainy mess.

 

until-dawn-screenshot-01-ps4-us-07aug14.jpg
The game is filled with frantic decision-making, often requiring an instant decision

 

In the case of regrettable screw-ups resulting in the death of a charming twenty-something, don’t even try instantly turning off your console. The developers knew such tactics would be afoot, and so cleverly installed the most punishing autosave system ever made, which will resume the game exactly where you left off.       

There is also much use of the DualShock 4’s added gizmos, such as swiping the touch pad to turn pages or unlock bolts, using the motion sensor by waving the controller around to aim weapons and torches.

As for the horror, there is much homage to various classic horror classics like Saw and Friday the 13th. While tension is pretty constant through the use of rattling violin-scraping and obscure environments, I didn’t find the game anywhere near as terrifying as something like Silent Hill. This is due to the fact that if something ever jumped out at me, it would be a quick-time event.

 

How many will remain at dawn?

 

The meat of the fear probably came from the many jump-scares, which although gimmicky, are still very entertaining. You’ll also be chased a lot and have to decide between continuing to run, or hide, which is an interesting twist on terror: ‘Was that the right idea and am I about to lose another character?’

There are also fantastic moments of stunned stillness where a petrified character must remain completely still to avoid detection. This is achieved by holding the controller as still as possible, pretty difficult for those with an easily perturbed nature. If you don’t fancy using anything more than your index fingers and thumbs to play, you can always just select the simpler controls set up.

This game is for the thoughtful player that enjoys an absorbing story, slowly plodding about searching for clues. That’s not to say more adventurous gamers won’t enjoy it, as there is much heart-pounding action to be had, provided you don’t mind swapping platform for quick-time.

 

Classic horror film tropes galore

 

The game also goes deep into the traits of each character. Players should take note of each person’s fluctuating personality traits, as well as the relationships between the cast, which is displayed in bar-metres. Your decisions will often affect these relationships, which will obviously sway things like being saved or betrayed.

Key decisions will prompt a ‘Butterfly Effect’ moment; seemingly insignificant events will have massive repercussions later on. Weigh your choices against each other and try to predict what the outcome will be before picking a direction. Players can be more effective at decision-making through the studious piecing-together of clues and premonitions.

 

Homage to the countless actors chased in the invincible bath-towel

 

This is a game you will want to play again at least once. Being only about nine hours long (I clocked it in a few days), there are dozens of different possible scenarios and deaths to enjoy in the next play-through. Other than the movement feeling like an early Resident Evil title, this is an absolute slaughter of a game that will keep your sweaty palms glued to the controller.

Rating: 9/10