VR could use a bit of work, but otherwise thumbs up
Finally! I played Resident Evil 7 earlier today and have been itching to write about it, but unfortunately had other appointments to attend first. It was hard to focus on everything else after spending twenty minutes in Capcom’s attempt to resurrect the corpse that one of its flagship series had become.
It looks like the rumors last month about a P.T. influence were correct. I have already seen some discontent from both those at the show, and those on the internet, that this looks more like Hideo Kojima’s and Guillermo Del Toro’s cancelled attempt at Silent Hill than a Resident Evil game. It’s no surprise that this is ruffling some feathers; people seem to either have wanted a return to fixed camera angles with more of a focus on horror, or a focus on making the recent third-person games scarier while retaining the solid shooting systems.
No one was anticipating a foray into the first-person perspective, but after playing it, it makes a ton of sense.
I originally wrote the rest of this post as a moment-to-moment walkthrough explaining my journey into Capcom’s faux-decrepit house they built in E3 and playing the demo, but two things happened. One, I realized that the demo is available now and you all can play it or watch it on Youtube already, and two, my laptop died when I was about to finish and it ate my post. It was really eloquent and in-depth and great, but it’s gone and I have a million things to write. SO IN THE INTEREST OF TIME:
The P.T. influence is very apparent throughout. While wandering through an abandoned (or is it) house, I found horrifying notes like “I SHALL DASH THEM AGAINST THE STONES” that would magically change to “I SHALL DASH THEM YOU AGAINST THE STONES.” I also walked past a mirror that was covered in a black soot, functionally obscuring the avatar, just like P.T.. But here’s the thing: it works, and it works really damn well. This demo wasn’t as obtuse and drenched in Kojima’s trademark insanity, and there are a few touches that give it a more Resident Evil feel.
For instance, I found a doll finger in a drawer (oh ho ho, more on that finger later) and then discovered that I was able to open up my inventory and examine items in a three dimensional view, just like the original game, making me do a dorky fanboy squeal. I found keys, bolt cutters, videotapes, and apparently an axe can be acquired even though I seem to have missed it. The addition of having an inventory makes this feel more involved than P.T. did with its strange mind games. I also found a photograph with an Umbrella symbol-adorned helicopter, which, along with Capcom’s statements that this takes place in the same universe as the rest of the games and isn’t a remake, is reassuring.
After finding a microwave filled with the mangled remains of a crow, I found the aforementioned bolt cutters on what looked like entire halves of horses laying torn apart on the ground. This led me to a videotape that I watched. While watching it, I became the character in the video, flashback-style. I was the cameraman for a horror show run by a sarcastic, washed-up weekend news anchor, and we had one more guy with us. I was struck by how natural the voice acting sounded in comparison to past iterations of the series. No lines stick out in particular, but the delivery felt more like a found-footage horror film than the cornball stuff we’ve heard in the past (which I loved! But in a very different way).
Other dude disappeared, and then pulled a Blair Witch Project move where he was found facing a wall ’til I approached him and I realized he had been killed, and I was quickly snuffed out not long after. I then went back to the present time, eventually found a key to leave through the backdoor, and was then stopped by an old man who said “Welcome to the family” and knocked me out. The demo ended there.
So a few things about the VR: it was extremely jaggy, which is jarring since, if you watch the footage on the regular PS4, it looks wonderfully detailed at 60 FPS. Certain objects, such as items on a table, were at such a low resolution that they reminded me of opening drawers in Shenmue and finding pictures of the contents instead of actually rendered objects. There are many compromises made to make this work on the PSVR, and the visual fidelity suffers for it.
Many people also have reported getting sick while playing Resident Evil 7, and I can see why. Using the left stick to move and the right to turn in conjunction with actually swiveling your head can be disorienting. I was mostly fine, but when our cameraman Richard Huynh asked to see what it was like, thirty seconds was enough for him to say “Nope” and take the headset off because he felt ill. The positive is that your save file remains consistent whether you’re playing in VR or not, so you can take it off it you get uncomfortable and play it normally. No, that’s not ideal, and I’m hoping that Capcom can find a way to make it less discomfiting.
What you lose in graphical detail, you gain in immersion. It was incredibly fun to creep around the house, and jump scares, which generally don’t phase me, are much more intense when your brain perceives them as happening RIGHT THE FUCK IN FRONT OF YOU. I’m not sure that I’ll play the entire game in VR, but I do want to spend more time with it.
When I first walked out of the demo, I was simultaneously impressed and disappointed. It was awesome, but there was strange lack of monsters/zombies, and the little teaser seemed a bit straightforward. But since then, I’ve found out through research that I missed a ton of events during my short appointment. There are actually multiple endings, little unsolved mysteries that Reddit is clamoring to unravel, and an axe that you can use to slash things apart with.
That dummy finger I mentioned earlier is the source of most peoples’ confusion, as there seems to be nothing to use it on. Players are trying it on everything, examining it everywhere, and hoping to discover a rumored fifth ending. And apparently there’s a GODDAMN GHOST that I didn’t even notice just about everywhere. That I didn’t see it at all kind of scares me even more, like I was locked in with a voyeur, completely unaware. I’m not sure how I feel about an actual supernatural thing happening in this series, but I’m almost positive there’s more to this story that we don’t know yet.
This mysterious, urban legend-style gumshoeing is why I’m so happy that Resident Evil 7 is taking cues from P.T. Like most others, I expected a third-person shooter that was slightly scarier. Instead, we got a small scale (thank the good lord, I’ve been asking for this forever) murder house that everyone wants to know more about. This demo won’t even be part of the actual game and is more of a prelude, but since the game is coming out January 24 next year, this is more than just a proof of concept.
We won’t be playing as the same character in the game proper, but the person will be a normal human as opposed to the mythic superheroes that the previous cast had become. He or she won’t be hopeless, though, because despite a lack of combat in this demo, shooting and healing with herbs will be in the full game. It sounds like there will be much less of it than in previous games, and single enemies will be a much more significant threat. Just what I wanted to hear!
Though I understand the fear that Resident Evil may lose some of its identity by taking what P.T. did so well two years ago, I think it’s a perfect fit. It’s been more than ten years since Capcom made my pulse quicken with a survival horror game, but today it happened. I’m ready to see if this was a fluke, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one.