Harrison Abbott reviews Resident Evil 7: End of Zoe…
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a legitimate candidate for ”most surprising game of 2017”. Which is odd, given that its lofty pedigree should deny it any kind of dark horse status. It is, after all, descending from a uniquely impressive lineage, one that includes bona fide classics like Resident Evil Remake, Resident Evil 2 and of course, the incomparable Resident Evil 4.
With such a storied legacy propping it up, there should never have been any doubt about Biohazard’s potential. And yet, thanks to some piss-poor marketing, which presented the game as yet another desperate Outlast clone, RE:7 was initially met with a heavy dose of scepticism. The fact that it was immediately following on from a procession of badly-received disappointments (like the risible Umbrella Corps, the lacklustre Operation Raccoon City and the messy RE:6) certainty didn’t help matters either.
Nevertheless, when the game finally arrived, it turned out to be bloody fantastic, functioning as a creatively energised return to form. In celebration of this unexpected success, Resi 7 has now brought out a fancy new Gold Edition, which incorporates all of the existing DLC into a convenient bundle. This means that, in addition to the base game, you get the two Banned Footage volumes, along with the recently released End of Zoe and Not a Hero expansions.
For those who have yet to experience RE:7 in any capacity, this is one hell of a package. However, if you already own the game, then you will need to consider if the add-ons are worth purchasing in their own right. This is hardly an issue when it comes to Not a Hero, which is free, so you might as well pick it up. But End of Zoe on the other hand costs a whopping $14.99, a steep price for something that takes less than 2 hours to complete. However, if the brevity isn’t an absolute deal-breaker for you, then this is another excellent slice of survival horror fun.
For the premium DLC, our focus shifts away from Ethan Winters and over to Joe Baker, the elder sibling of Jack. You remember Jack? The crazy redneck with a Wolverine healing factor and a penchant for mutilating people with a shovel. Anyway, it turns out that Joe lives on the outskirts of the Baker plantation and has remained completely unaffected by the e-series virus that has consumed all of his kin.
He is thus blissfully unaware of all the horrific goings-on, so when he discovers the calcified body of Jack’s daughter, it comes as a bit of a shock. After violently interrogating an Umbrella soldier, Joe learns of an antidote that can be used to save his niece (the titular Zoe) and sets off on a quest to find it. As can be expected, he faces some monstrous resistance along the way, in the form of mutant alligators, fungal zombies and a weirdly persistent stalker.
Luckily, Joe is something of a pugilist and is more than capable of holding his own in a fist-fight. There is accordingly a complete overhaul of the game’s original combat system, with the emphasis shifting from ammo conservation and basic gunplay, to first-person brawling. Very little of the previous model is left intact, meaning that players are forced to adjust their entire approach, learning new controls, new rules and new strategies.
Such a radical change may justifiably set off alarm bells for some. After all, whenever DLC tries to introduce brand new mechanics like this, the results can be underwhelming. In the worst instances, you can end up with something that feels incredibly tacked on and unrefined, like Mass Effect 2’s Firewalker pack. Moreover, in the case of End of Zoe, the entire add-on fundamentally revolves around these changes, so it is crucial that they are up to scratch.
Thankfully, the new control scheme is perfectly responsive and feels like a natural extension of the original experience. True, the melee combat might not be as finessed as Arkham Asylum or Dark Souls, but it’s more than sufficient for the brief playtime required. With an intuitive design that matches the left and right triggers to their corresponding fists and some useful combos that are oriented around hooks and jabs, there is enough depth here to elevate fights above simplistic button mashing. Furthermore, the newly implemented stealth kills make for a satisfying change of pace, nicely inverting the cat-and-mouse situations from the base-game, by turning you into the hunter.
Joe also has his own crafting abilities, which lean heavily on his survivalist background. For example, you can fashion deadly throwing spears, which come in handy during the DLC’s best sequences, wherein you have to traverse gator-infested waters and avoid disturbing the lurking beasts. These intense encounters are wholly distinct from anything else in the game, due to the unique behaviour of the gators and the need to look out for their telltale ripples in the water. As well as this, the new foes inject some sorely-needed diversity into the otherwise scant enemy roster. Indeed, Resident Evil 7 has always been lacking in monster variety, so it is certainly refreshing to take on a new challenge, with monsters that are more than just re-skins of the fairly bland ”Molded”.
On that note, you’re gonna be fighting plenty of them here, which is honestly getting a little-old now. Capcom do at least jazz things up a little with some marginally different permutations of the creatures, but their functionally the same. Even the central stalker boss is only a slightly bigger molded with some recognisable human features.
Another shortcoming is the restrictive level design, which completely jettisons the metroidvania approach of the base-game, in favour of mostly linear environments. That’s not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with more streamlined design, but when one of the best aspects of Biohazard was its interconnected map, it seems counter-intuitive to remove it. Exploring the intricate puzzle-box environment of the Baker plantation, scouring for its short cuts and hidden passages, was one of the most rewarding and addictive challenges in recent gaming. In comparison, End of Zoe’s A-to-B structure feels woefully generic and limited.
Overall, End of Zoe retains a few of RE:7’s niggles and comes up on the short side. In the end though, it is another gripping adventure and provides further evidence that this franchise has finally rediscovered its mojo. Oh, and on a side note, the heightened climax is gloriously demented.
- New boxing mechanics work surprisingly well, as do the stealth kills.
- Suspenseful alligator encounters are true highlights and serve to mix things up a little.
- Numerous collectables, unlocks and additional difficulty modes provide further replay value.
- Contains a welcome strain of black humour, particularly in its final moments.
- Level design is linear and bland.
- Too short to justify the asking price and doesn’t offer much narrative closure.
- The molded are really outstaying their welcome by now.
Reviewed on Xbox One.