Fun fact: The subtitle of this latest instalment in Capcom's 21-year- old Resident Evil franchise is Biohazard, which is the Japanese title of the first game.
This is quite fitting, as Resident Evil 7 (RE7) is a return to the series' roots of intimate horror and puzzle-solving, while being a spiritual reboot that does not require any knowledge of the previous entries.
You play Ethan, an average Joe whose wife went missing three years ago. A cryptic message from her leads you to an apparently abandoned manor deep in the Louisiana bayou, home to the creepy Baker family and a colony of grosteque monsters called the Molded.
Just like in Resident Evil's Spencer Mansion, you have to escape this house of horrors through exploration and enemy combat. Long-time fans would appreciate the throwbacks to earlier instalment staples like themed keys, safe rooms and deadly traps.
In a series first, the camera is in first person, a cunning design choice as it puts you in Ethan's shoes and further limits your field of view. This reduced perspective, coupled with slow turning and walking speeds on default settings and the absence of a heads-up display, makes the experience more immersive and tense. I was in constant fear of something lurking behind closed doors or a baddie sneaking up on me (both of which can happen).
RE7 excels at creating an eerie atmosphere and maintaining suspense. Every dimly lit corridor, creaking floorboard and flickering shadow adds to a pervading sense of unease, while the scarce ammo and medical supplies left me feeling vulnerable.
PRICE: $70.10 (PlayStation 4, version tested), $69.90 (XBoxOne), $85 (PC)
GENRE: Survival horror
The textures and sound design are disgusting to a fault - from the rustle of insects swarming out of Swiss-cheese-like hives to the glistening entrails of the Bakers' presumed victims in their fridge.
While there is the occasional cheap jump scare, most of the frights - like several of the Molded oozing out of the floor or psycho dad Jack Baker rounding a corner wielding a big shovel - appear without accompanying music.
One tip I would give to series newbies is to take time to explore every nook and cranny.
Besides finding ammo and items that can be combined to craft weapons and medical supplies, there are hidden collectibles such as antique coins and bobble-head dolls that unlock upgrades and achievements.
In addition, much of the backstory is delivered through notes and photos belonging to the Bakers and their past victims.
There's also a mini "video" game in the form of VHS tapes, where you relive the experiences of another character and uncover clues which can help you in the present day.
I have little to complain about the roughly 10-hour single-player campaign. But I did encounter a glitch or two, like one where Baker matriarch Marguerite was stuck in an animation loop, running into a wall for several seconds.
Also, unlike recent titles, there is no co-op campaign or online multiplayer mode.
• Verdict: RE7 is a skin-crawling, back-to-basics entry that can be enjoyed by series old-timers and newcomers. If being terrified is your idea of fun, I highly recommend spending a night with the Bakers.