I’ve never completed a Resident Evil game before. I tried to make my way through Resident Evil V, but didn’t find it all that enjoyable and put it down about halfway through. For the most part, I wasn’t a fan of horror games until after I completed the original Dead Space. It took me months to complete it, but I found a genre that was as much terrifying as it was thrilling to play.

Since completing Dead Space, I’ve completed a number of different horror games. That list includes titles like Outlast, Among the Sleep, Alien: Isolation (don’t get me started) and most recently (obviously), Resident Evil VII.

A horror game is successful, in my opinion, when it creates a sense of dread and panic within the player as they play through the game. It should be a challenge to just take the next step, and when you make it to the next checkpoint/save area, there should be a sense of relief. All of the titles I mentioned above did this successfully.

For me, Resident Evil VII is this year’s Alien: Isolation (so far). The game provides little introduction other than a cryptic message from your missing wife. Sound familiar? You’re soon on the premise of a mansion in Dulvey, Louisiana — the Baker family mansion to be exact. Once you arrive at the Baker mansion, though, the story quickly grows into something much more diabolical.

Ethan Winters, much like Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation, isn’t your typical movie hero/heroine trope. Both of these characters are thrown into situations they’re unprepared for and become stronger characters for the most part. When you play the game, you feel helpless and not like some super soldier that can take on anything that’s thrown your way.

It doesn’t take long for the horror to start in Resident Evil VII and the pacing of the game never lets you feel comfortable for too long. The atmosphere of the Baker’s home is considerably unsettling, with creaks in the floor and walls, window shutters slamming on the glass from the wind outside, and a number of objects set all around the house that you could easily mistake for an enemy. Resident Evil VII showcases master class in atmospheric horror design as the Baker mansion, much like the Nostromo in Alien: Isolation, is almost a character in of itself.

Resident Evil VII is a gorgeous looking game; everything from the character models, animation and of course the interior environments of the Baker mansion are oozing with detail. Heading down into the darker parts of the Baker home is unsettling due to the lighting in particular. Seeing a shadow move across the wall as something ominously approaches you made my skin crawl every time.

Being a newcomer to the Resident Evil series, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t make much sense of the actual narrative due to my lack of knowledge of the series. The plot in the game is relatively straightforward, but if you take the time to really explore the mansion and discover the many different files and news snippets laying around, you can really start to see how the games ties into the larger Resident Evil universe.

Even though I’m a big proponent of having to find all these little collectibles to deliver more of the story, Resident Evil VII makes use of them to actually supplement the narrative rather than make them annoying side objects to artificially extend the length of the game. I’ll be interested to see when others that know more about the overall narrative of Resident Evil go through and further explain how this game ties to the rest of the series.

The gameplay in Resident Evil VII is what you’d expect from a Resident Evil game, that much I do know. Since the game is a survival horror title, a lot of your time will spent scavenging for supplies to ward off the multiple threats the game has to offer, which, truth be told, isn’t a whole lot. There’s a lack of enemy variations that over time can make the combat feel a bit stale.

There’s also a specific section in the game involving some bugs that caused quite a bit of frustration. Thankfully they are only used in that one specific section of the game.

Combat in general is straightforward. You’ll have a small variety of weapons to use, and you”ll mostly be aiming for the head. Weapons feel satisfying and have a very punchy feel to them when fired.

My main issue with combat are the boss battles in the game. A couple of them are pretty good, but there’s also a few stinkers that can be rather frustrating and uninspiring — I can’t really say much more than that without spoiling certain parts of the game.

When you’re not in combat, you’ll be spending time your time figuring out environmental puzzles, finding keys to unlock different doors, and learning the layout of the house as you backtrack to previously visited areas. The puzzles in the game were slightly disappointing, as they require very little thought to solve. This keeps the pace of the game on track, but it also causes the game to be a bit lacking in variation.

Having not played through any of the previous Resident Evil games, I can say as a newcomer to the series that this game is a great starting point. I can’t really go back and compare this Resident Evil to past games in the series, so I can’t really tell you if it’s the reinvention of the series you might be looking for if you’re a longtime fan. The only thing you really need to know about Resident Evil VII is that it’s a competent horror title worth a playthrough regardless if you’re a fan of the series or not.