Resident Evil 7 is a game that can get tricky. The major, named antagonists are the most difficult foes you’ll face. Anything else is usually more manageable than the Baker family. While one of the unlockable items you can acquire for subsequent playthroughs brings in Madhouse, an incredibly punishing difficulty level, all of the other things you can earn for your hard work and diligent collecting are better at making you faster and encounters easier. It feels like everything you earn is about preparing for speedruns or making Madhouse more manageable.
First, let’s talk about Madhouse. This is the most challenging difficulty level and, if you didn’t pre-order, unlocks after you’ve completed Resident Evil 7 once. This game requires you to play smarter. Ethan’s health doesn’t regenerate as the same pace as it does in other modes, only gradually recovering after any damage is done. Which makes the game more deadly, since there are far more enemies on this difficulty level. They don’t appear where you remember in previous games. They are far smarter and more desperate, ready to hunt Ethan down longer. Since there are fewer auto-saves and items, as well as a need to save inventory space for cassette tapes so you can save in safe spaces, you really need to prioritize things you need, craft whenever you can, be ready to effectively use item boxes to protect what you own, and do your best to face every opponent. If you manage to defeat this level, you receive infinite ammo. However, you still need to reload even when you have infinite ammo, so it isn’t going to mean you can easily power through any encounter.
The other item you get for defeating Resident Evil 7 on any difficulty level is the Albert-01R. This is a gun you can actually get on your first playthrough, but only at the very end. It’s one of the strongest weapons, letting you take out enemies with between 1-3 headshots, depending on what difficulty level you’ve chosen. Knowing it only takes three headshots to defeat some of the more difficult Madhouse enemies is a comfort. It, like any item you unlock on a playthrough, will appear in your item boxes and be one box large in your inventory. The only downside to this gun is, you have to reload after three shots. But, when three headshots can take out a strong enemy on the most difficult mode, you know you’ll be fine. This weapon is about making Madhouse easier to survive.
It’s probably best to take on Resident Evil 7’s normal difficulty level the first time, though, since that gives you The Secrets of Defense. This is an item that, while carried, halves damage you take when blocking. It’s one of two defensive scrolls you can collect. The other is The Essence of Defense, which is acquired by destroying all 20 Mr. Everywhere bobble-heads in the game. It functions in the same manner as the other scroll, which means equipping both keeps you from taking any damage when you’re guarding. Speaking of Mr. Everywhere, breaking all of these toys also gives you the Walking Shoes, which make you walk and run a little faster. Both of these are great for people who may want to speedrun.
The last two Resident Evil 7 unlocks are items that you might not get unless you’re doing a speed run. Rushing through the game in four hours or less will give you items in your next playthrough that will make it easier to find almost everything and deal with enemies. You’ll feel like one of the Baker family once you get your very own Circular Saw. It’s a melee, automated saw that lets you constantly slice and dice foes. Ethan also gets X-Ray Glasses that, when worn, let him see where all the coins, items, weapons, and Mr. Everywheres are in the house. You’ll even see their outlines through walls, making it easy to pick up the things you missed while dashing through the game.
It almost feels like getting through Resident Evil 7 once on Normal, perhaps in under four hours, convinces Capcom that you know what you’re doing. This then gives you everything you need to test yourself and maybe do things better and faster on a future run. Especially since all of the unlockable items are small enough to allow you room to carry many of them with you at once. Or, have them on hand when going through a Madhouse playthrough where you need space for cassette tapes. Your reward for winning is a chance to show how fast or smart you really are.
Resident Evil 7 is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.