The first person perspective works surprisingly well, specifically when combined with other elements like the well-done sound engine and controls. Here the limited view also forces you to be slow and methodical, rushing could lead to missing much-needed ammo or being surrounded by the Molded. The Molded being this game’s version of zombies being fairly similar to leech zombies from past games. As you progress through Ethan’s journey you discover video tapes. These tapes act as a found footage mini game allowing you to play through events as past victims. This allows you to learn routes, find hidden locations or learn the solutions to the puzzles.
Capcom really nailed the controls for Resident Evil 7 with a full suite of bindable keys including secondary keybindings for everything. The developer learned from their mistake here with past games that were half-hearted and missing features. Controls are fairly standard for a first-person game, there was one basic change. There is no jump button instead, here the space bar is the default block button. Combat while minimal early on is slow and methodical, Ethan has to carefully time his shots as multiple shots to head in a row will not stun an enemy. Scoring headshots are vital as well, enemies take more damage from headshots and ammo conservation is smart. During reloads Ethan also walks at a slower pace to accuracy will leave the player less vulnerable.
Ethan’s health can be viewed via the codex watch which is located on his wrist, his status can only be tested from the menu via either the tab key or the ‘I’ key to access inventory for crafting. Health and combat prowess can be increased by finding steroids or stabilizers. Steroids permanently increase max health and stabilizers increase reload speed. Ethan also starts with a small inventory capable of carrying up to twelve slots with large weapons taking two slots. Finding backpacks increases his inventory by four slots which reduce his reliance on the item crates in the safe rooms. Finding steroids, stabilizers and backpacks are the major forms of character progression.
One of the Molded in a salt mine, they are closest things to zombies in this game.
Most of the puzzles are fairly simple breaking down into two categories: scavenger hunts and shadow puppets. The scavenger hunts have you looking for keys or the passwords, hints, and locations are fairly easy to find. Some items for puzzles flat out tell you where to put them, in this case, the puzzles require minimal thought or effort. Searching everything will make the puzzles much easier as you find VHS tapes that can show Ethan where to find keys or what passwords are. There are also multiple files and pieces of paper that show you where you find solutions. The shadow puppet puzzles require finding items which when rotated in front of a projector will display the correct shape to complete a painting. This again isn’t difficult, the good news here is that players don’t need to create a perfect match there is a margin of error. Puzzles have always been part of the DNA for Resident Evil games, but here some come off as uninspired, more or less busywork to pad the game.
VHS tapes can also be discovered, allowing Ethan to see the events from the eyes of other people. When a tape is found and inserted in a VCR the player takes control of other people, from there they play through the events that lead to either their death or them being captured. These segments while fairly linear can also have a minor effect on the present as items found during these sections are added to your inventory permanently. This was an interesting game design choice and here they nailed it perfectly as a nod to found footage horror.
The crafting system is also fairly simple with few recipes. There are two core crafting materials; chem fluids, and strong chem fluids. Chem fluids are used to make handgun bullets, first-aid medkits, burner fuel for the flamethrower and psychostimulants which make items easier to find. Strong chem fluids are used to make enhanced handgun ammo which does more damage, strong first-aid kits which fully heal Ethan, flame rounds for grenade launchers and neuro rounds for grenade launchers. The crafting has been streamlined as the players need to learn no recipes. They automatically know the recipes once they pick up all relevant materials. The crafting system is fairly simple, which is fine with the limited inventory a complex system could add unneeded backtracking.
Inventory screen, Ethan's health can be viewed from the watch on his wrist.
The largest downside is the length, with the game taking about 7 hours on the first run. However like with past Resident Evil games, beating the game certain ways or within certain time limits unlocks weapons and items for a future run. While the story lacks branching paths for replayability there is plenty to do here if you’re a completionist.