Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’s Madhouse difficulty greatly ramps up the challenge, but it’s also the best way to play it. Longtime fans of Resident Evil - AKA Biohazard in its native Japan - started life as a remake of Capcom’s Sweet Home. This 1989 2D title was a tie in for a horror film of the same name, and it pioneered survival horror tropes like limited items, puzzles, and diary and text entries being used to advance the plot. Resident Evil evolved into a different type of game during development, but while Capcom had middling expectations for it, it became a surprise worldwide hit.

Following a troubled development 1998’s Resident Evil 2 became an even bigger success, and a franchise was born. The series has since appeared on everything from the Game Boy Color to the Nintendo Switch. After a turn towards action that began in earnest with 2005’s Resident Evil 4, the franchise has now gone back to its horror roots with the recent Resident Evil 2 remake and the upcoming Resident Evil 3. The series also spawned a series of hit movies with Milla Jovovich, anime movies, comics, novels, and other merchandise.

Fans of the franchise were upset with the action focus it took, but following a very mixed response to Resident Evil 6, Capcom went back to the drawing board with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. This game stripped away a lot of the bombast and firepower that defined its most recent predecessors, and instead took cues from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead. The game also employed a first-person view, which gave it a different feel. Resident Evil 7 is a challenge on Normal, but once players beat the game they unlock Madhouse difficulty - which is where the fun really begins.

In addition to the standard changes in difficulty, like making enemies tougher and harder to kill, Resident Evil 7’s Madhouse mode changes how the game works. It uses players’ knowledge of their previous run against them, switching around the location of items. For instance, in the boss fight in the garage with Jack Baker instead of just finding the car keys, it’s now necessary to find a lock pick to get the keys first. In the attic fight with Mia too, instead of a few well-placed shots, it now takes nearly all of Ethan’s ammo to stop her.

Resident Evil 7’s Madhouse difficulty now requires players to find cassette tapes to save, and since there’s a limited amount its important to save strategically. Auto-saves still happen but they’re much rarer. Jack is now in almost constant pursuit of Ethan too, necessitating more stealth, while enemies like the Molded show up much earlier - and are tougher to take down. While it may sound like it just piles the difficulty on, Madhouse is designed to make players approach the game in a new way.

It puts an increased emphasis on exploration and ammo conservation, and while enemies are tougher, there are fewer of them to balance things out. Like 1997’s Resident Evil: The Director’s Cut - which mixed around enemy and item placement - Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’s Madhouse continues the franchise’s proud tradition of modes that mess with fan expectations. It’s an intense, scary ride, but its also the best way to experience the game’s chills.

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