We have been playing and evaluating Resident Evil 7 Biohazard (RE 7) on PC since it was released one week ago. Although we did not like what the Resident Evil series had become, and although we didn’t have high expectations for this game, we were immediately drawn into it, and have completed it after about 15 hours of play in three long sessions, ignoring all of our other work and duties. It is *that* good.
Here are our impressions of RE 7, including a mini-performance and IQ evaluation using 18 of NVIDIA’s and AMD’s top video cards.
Resident Evil 7 was released last Tuesday morning on January 24. Resident Evil Biohazard is a first-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the eleventh installment of the popular Resident Evil series and it is the first time that it is played from the first person view, usually the series is played from the third person view.
Set about 4 years after the events of Resident Evil 6 and in the same universe, the story follows the player as Ethan Winters, an ordinary man armed only in the beginning with a flashlight and with his wits to survive. Shortly after starting the game, you find your wife Mia, who has been missing in action for the past 3 years, in a apparently abandoned plantation, that was home to the Baker family. The rest of the game is a struggle just to survive against overwhelming odds and with little in the way of weapons.
Fortunately, you can help Ethan find, make, and use various weapons and tools in the fight against the Baker family and versus creatures known as the “Molded”. Healing herbs can be used in the event of injury and stronger meds can be concocted from herbs combined with chemicals, and puzzles may be solved to further the story.
The events of RE 7 center around an abandoned plantation in Dulvey, Louisiana. Ethan finds Mia imprisoned in the basement of the main house. While they attempt to escape, Mia becomes possessed and attacks Ethan, who kills her to survive. Ethan is next attacked by a resurrected Mia and subsequently knocked out by Jack Baker, the head of the Baker family. Ethan is held captive by Jack, his wife Marguerite, their son Lucas, and an old lady sleeping in a wheelchair.
Although Ethan escapes his captors, he is repeatedly confronted by Jack, who like Mia and the rest of the family, can apparently regenerate from fatal wounds. Jack is a special enemy that pursues Ethan relentlessly and in the beginning, he cannot be stopped – he will even break through walls to get to you. You will have to run and hide until it is time to face him repeatedly as a boss until you can find a more permanent solution.
RE 7 gameplay is a more traditional survival horror game which are not action and fighting oriented like RE 5 and RE 6 are. Returning to it’s Resident Evil roots, RE 7 focuses more heavily on horror, and there are many events that will make a player jump. Like earlier Resident Evil games, puzzle-solving and resource management are important to success. The player never feels that he has enough bullets even after searching everywhere for them, and special weapons like a homemade flamethrower provide a bit of welcome relief.
For this evaluation, we are focusing on the single player campaign which will probably last for at least a dozen hours for the first playthrough. After you are done, you may unlock harder difficulty settings and may even bring a powerful weapon with you for subsequent playthroughs. And there is an achievement available for beating the game in less than 4 hours.
Here are the video cards that we tested at the highest settings at 1920×1080, 2560×1440, and at 3840×2160 resolutions with the very latest drivers:
- GTX TITAN XP 12GB
- GTX 1080 8GB
- GTX 1070 8GB
- GTX 1060 6GB
- GTX 1060 3GB
- GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
- GTX 980 Ti 6GB
- GTX 980 4GB
- GTX 970 4GB
- GTX 780 Ti 3GB
- GTX 770 – 2GB
- Fury X 4GB
- RX 480 8GB
- RX 470 4GB
- RX 460 4GB
- R9 290X 4GB
- RX 280X 3GB
- RX 270 3GB
NVIDIA is featured as “The Way it is Meant to be Played” in the opening screens. NVIDIA’s HBAO+ is a high level of Ambient Occlusion that adds to the atmosphere by creating better shadows and lighting. The settings are varied, from subterranean laboratory horror settings, to nighttime, to rare brightly lit daytime scenes, and the game makes good use of its own custom RE Engine capabilities.The story is very dark and absolutely not for the squeamish or for those offended by gore, guts, body parts and sadism. The RE 7 story is the stuff that nightmares are made of and it is more than adequate to move the action forward. And there is a lot of action, from running and hiding to confronting giant bosses with weak spots that need to be discovered and exploited. Although the game is rather linear, it does not feel that way and the player can approach objectives from multiple pathways. There is one choice that a player will have to make two-thirds of the way through the game that will even determine a “happy” or an “unhappy” ending.
You have to experience RE 7 for yourself as a player to appreciate it much as you do a movie or a play, and not from viewing clips on a tablet, nor from watching Youtube gameplay videos. The settings although focused on a plantation, also feature some varied locations – from exploring a nearby shipwreck, to liberating a salt mine.
RE 7 is part of a series, and it captures the spirit of the earliest games and it expands on the horror element by moving to the first person view. The controls are easier to manage in this game than the earliest games of the series which are from the third-person viewpoint.
Although the story has a satisfying ending that answers a lot of questions and provides a coherent backstory, it leaves other questions unanswered for future downloadable content, and perhaps RE 8 to continue the story.
The gameplay is superb. In the first part of the game, the player is mostly just concerned with hiding, solving puzzles, and running to survive. Headshots are crucial as bullets are never in good supply even after the player finds a handgun. The computer controlled AI NPCs are adjusted by the game difficulty levels, and at the highest levels, they pursue the player relentlessly. There is a function (X on the keyboard) to spin the player 180 degrees in an instant to facilitate quick getaways which is a nice feature.
Checkpoint Saves and difficulty
This gamer hates the checkpoint system. However, this checkpoint system is particularly well implemented. There are times when they are far apart and the strategy of using “safe rooms” and a tape recorder to save in one of the 14 available slots is crucial to not repeating events or battles over and over. Mercifully, there are no Quick Time Events (QTEs) to react to.
RE 7 has some replayability. Mostly a player will want to explore and find everything which may require 15 or more hours. You can start over and attempt to collect every item, or at a higher difficulty, but little changes unless you want to try the second ending. You also get to carry over a special weapon that you get in the ending of the first playthrough. And you can try to complete the game in under 4 hours which will win the player an achievement award.
Bugs, Graphics and Performance
There appear to be very few bugs that slow the game performance, and during more than 15 hours of play, we experienced a single lock-up which required us to restart the game. There have been a couple of patches since it was released last week, and RE 7 is a very polished experience. The implementation of DX11 in RE 7 is good, and it appears to be reasonably well optimized. However video memory does not appear to be well-managed, and even video cards with 3GB or 4GB of vRAM may suffer performance issues. Even 6GB appears to be less than ideal if you are playing at higher resolutioins. Shadow Cache is one of the settings that can impact performance. If you are using a 4GB vRAM-equipped video card or less, it may be best to turn it off. If you are using 6GB or more vRAM, it may improve performance.
We played RE 7 at the highest details and settings all the way through the campaign at 2560×1440 using our Pascal GTX 1080 and then replayed much of it with 17 other video cards using our Core i7-6700K at 4.0GHz where all 4 cores turbo to 4.4GHz, an ASRock Z7170 motherboard and 16GB of Kingston HyperX DDR4 at 3333MHz. The repeatable benchmark that we found was about 10-15% more demanding than the game’s average framerate, but about 10% less demanding than the toughest boss fights which slowed framerates the most.
On the next page, we will introduce static image quality screenshots to compare some the main settings, and later we will give performance results using the highest settings. Let’s check out the Settings that we used as well as their impact on Image Quality (IQ).