Please note the spoiler warning in the title.

Edit: Since I posted this 2 days ago I already have some different thoughts. I've watched a lot of videos on the story of FF7R and you could say that I'm now optimistically intrigued. Knowing Squeenix, they could absolutely flub this up, but the groundwork for some really cool stuff is in place that I didn't grasp on a first playthrough. Still, these were my first impressions upon finishing the game and I think that's what matters most when reviewing a new game. You can't expect everyone to be invested enough to go hunt down 10+ hours of youtube videos for context & theories to add context.

Making this thread at Starwind's request and because I have a lot to say. Just wanted to make sure he got his shout-out first.

Tl;dr version - 8/10. Well above average and fun to play, the issues with the game only arise out of having too much context as a long-time fan.

I'll start off by saying that I know where people are coming from with their issues about this game. I own every mainline FF and a lot of the spin-offs too, so I'm about as huge of a fan as you'll find. That said, this was a "love it or hate it" game, judging by the reviews I've read and watched on YouTube.

Gameplay - For modern tastes, the battle system is excellent....but it's not my cup of tea. I heard tons and tons of people saying that it isn't just hack-and-slash to win, but I got through just fine barely using any characters but Cloud and hitting enemies with the rare spell thrown in for enemies who won't reach a staggered state from physical attacks alone. It felt a little repetitive and mindless at times for sure, I much prefer my characters lining up and taking turns hitting one another. Action combat removes the classic feel of FFVII and a lot the the strategy along with it. Maybe I'm just a Boomer though. This new system will be better for newcomers and normies alike. It didn't feel like a step up for me, but it wasn't a massive step down.

Music - Great! Not as memorable as the original OST because the songs were more complex, but I never grew tired of any tracks and they all fit very well. The simplicity of the older MIDI tracks is what makes them memorable I think. A full orchestrated soundtrack with several versions of many songs (there are at least renditions of the standard battle theme) just adds to much to the music for it to be catchy anymore. No complaints here, just a comparison of the pros and cons.

Visuals - the main cast and a lot of the landmark locations looked incredible and I'm playing on a base model PS4, not a PS4 Pro! When the game comes out on PC we'll see the best the game has to offer. That said...NPCs often look like horrific weirdo mannequins and tons (i mean TONS) of textures fail to load. You'll find doors everywhere that are just flat, untextured brown rectangles. Distant landscapes look like stretched JPEGs at times. There are several points in the game where you're high above the Slums and you can look down across all 8 sectors of the Midgar slums...and it looks pixelated and stretched out. The pre-rendered cutscenes are mind-blowing however, as SquareEnix always manages to do well with those. Enemies look great too.

Story - Okay, this is what I wanted to talk about. I'm the opposite of a lot of gamers in that I don't care much about gameplay, or even music if it's bad (i'll just jute the TV and listen to something else if it sucks)...but I need the story to be serviceable at the very bare minimum to enjoy a game or give it a high rating. I felt somewhat betrayed by FF7R in this respect, although after a ton of analysis after finishing the game i've warmed up to it a little bit. For the first...ehh...4/5 of the game the story follows the original almost beat-for-beat. Sure, there's extra stuff added, but nothing is taken away and that's what I wanted. I have no problem whatsoever with an EXPANDED FFVII experience, my line in the sand was a changed or reduced FFVII story and in some ways that's what we got. I heard a lot about this from early reviewers and I brushed it off as journalists wanting to make sensational headlines or video titles. I was warned that Nomura went kind of Kingdom Hearts with this, but 80% into the game I hadn't seen it and wrote them off entirely...until the final 20%.
To explain, there are these new creatures that show up at pivotal moments in the story. They look like ghosts and they're referred to as the "Arbiters of Fate"...but because they weren't affecting the direction of the story I just ignored them and pushed them into a box in my mind labeled "dumb yet harmless ideas". That was until they became a pivotal plot point that was 100% unnecessary and in fact damage the original story. It was at the 80% mark where I realized what the ghosties were doing...they were showing up at points where the cast would discuss a different plan of action from what occurred in the original game. The ghosts are a stand-in for the fans, or an analogy for die-hard purist fans if you will. they refused to let the party take actions that would change the future plot in any significant way. I would have been fine with that, but time and time again it was the ghost dudes who pushed the cast into action which I felt severely took away the agency of the characters. In the original game, the characters took action because of their own beliefs or for various reasons according to their backstory. Now they go this way or that way because ghost dudes show up and block an exit or start swirling around them, preventing them from doing this or that. the characters don't act of their own accord in a lot of situations, and now each party member actually has rather weak motivations for doing the things they do. Then near the end of the game, Sephiroth stabs Barret and the ghosts revert time because THAT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! I got a Game Over in a boss battle, why didn't they save me? It's not consistent. To top it off, you battle Sephiroth in the ending. Keep in mind that this is just part 1, and Midgar only accounts for about 10% of the original game. Square just couldn't keep it in their pants, they HAD to bring Sephiroth out way WAY too early when you don't even know why he's a bad guy and make you fight him. that fight severely de-values him as a villain. To top it all off, the actual final boss are the ghosties. They form into a giant ghost that looks straight out of Kingdom Hearts and you fight it. Since the Ghosts represent fate/destiny, the idea here is that you're fighting back against the forces keeping the game on its original track (aka, the old fans....aka the main player-base...). It felt insulting. After destroying the boss ghost, now the story is free to go off in some dumb-fuck Kingdom Hearts direction where nothing has any weight to it.

Not only that, but they pulled off the ultimate sin in my book: reviving a dead character or one that you believed to be dead. Seriously, this is my #1 pet-peeve in all media. It's fine if you want to kill off a character to make me feel some sense of loss, but if you bring them back I can't trust you again. As everyone knows, Aeris(Aerith) dies in the original and I now have ZERO belief that she will die or stay dead when the story reaches that point because they didn't even have the balls to leave minor characters dead in this one. From now on I won't be able to take main plot points seriously. The retcons and backdowns in this title were the biggest thorn in my side and I'll be harping on them for a long time. There's even a timeline split and stuff that I don't have time to go into here, especially for anyone who hasn't played the original because i'll just sound like a madman. It suffices to say that there's a super important guy who dies right at the start of the game, but the end of FF7R retcons that as well, so now there are two timelines occurring at once and's gonna be a mess.

Summary - It's very fun to play, but you need to turn your brain off near the end. That would be fine if this wasn't Part 1 of a 3(or more)-part series. Now that the plot is buggered so early on, it will get increasingly tough to care and hit those nostalgia peaks because the story isn't going to continue the same way as I remember it. I wanted an expanded retelling, not a different game. Because this doesn't bother many people, my review score still stands. It just should have been called "final Fantasy VII Re-imagined", not "remake" because it's objectively not a remake of the same game. They play that off by saying that the characters are "remaking" the timeline....which just means so they can back out of character deaths and give it a sickeningly sweet happy ending. FFVII original was dark and sad, you won't get those nuances here.