During Sony’s E3 press conference earlier this week, a new Resident Evil was announced. While this news might seem par for the course considering how many entries are in the franchise, Capcom had two surprises in store.
First, the new title, Resident Evil 7, is a first-person VR-enabled horror title heavily (and I mean heavily) inspired by Hideo Kojima’s P.T. It seems the recent trend of third-person shooting and punching zombies in over-the-top blockbuster action sequences is over for now. It also (so far) doesn’t seem to feature any previously-existing characters from the Resident Evil universe.
The second surprise is that a demo called Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour became available for Playstation Plus users to download (for free) just hours after the conference. In another nod to P.T., the unexpected “there’s a demo right now!” move was pulled straight from its original announcement at 2014’s E3.
It’s funny to me that P.T. is still serving as inspiration for horror games despite being no more than a tech demo for Hideo Kojima’s cancelled version of Silent Hill. It seems ironic that Resident Evil, suffering from identity issues for years, is now clinging to this unlikely creation for the next evolution of its franchise. I won’t complain though, because I played the RE7 demo and enjoyed it – and by “enjoyed” I mean that I nearly wet my pants.
The short demo’s preface features the player as a cameraman in a three-person crew on assignment to tape some sort of reality show in abandoned, potentially haunted places. After this is established, players wake up on a dirty floor in one of the house’s rooms and the only objective given is to get out of the house.
I won’t discuss much of the demo’s content because it’s only about 30 minutes long, but one point in the demo stood out to me. As I was in a room and walking slowly toward an open door towards a hallway, something outside led me to believe that someone was in the house with me.
I approached the door very slowly. Tiptoeing. I even did a little shuffle where I moved side to side to see if I could spot anything on the other side of the door before I mustered up the courage to walk through it. That’s how scared I was.
One quality that separates good horror (Silent Hill 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Alien: Isolation) from bad horror (Dead Space, Resident Evil 6) for me is how nervous I get at the thought of having to walk through a single doorway. Call it my Doorway Test.
I remember when I played the early Silent Hill games, I would approach most doors with a stomach full of anxiety and breathe audible sighs of relief if the door was locked. In most videogames I consider progression to be a worthy quality, but I find that a lack of progression due to fear to be a great litmus for the horror genre. And when I finally do make some progress? It’s both rewarding and terrifying.
Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour passes my Doorway Test.
Despite being a total departure from any Resident Evil that’s come before it and being pretty damn close to a rip-off of P.T., I give it a thumbs up so far. The developers of Capcom’s Raccoon City saga have been dabbling in ridiculous, explosive action for far too long, and it’s high time to go back to the style that kept me hoping that the next door would be locked. It’s not easy to find games that are truly scary anymore, and if this demo is an accurate representation of what RE7 will bring to the table, count me in.