It’s been less than a week since Capcom and Sony announced Resident Evil 7 during Sony’s E3 presentation with a PT-like trailer that depicted RE as we’ve never seen it before – a first-person horror (FPH) experience. Capcom confirmed the game for current-gen consoles and PC, but also confirmed that RE7 would be compatible with PlayStation VR. But wait, there’s more. Sony announced that later that day/evening, PS4 players with an active PS Plus subscription would have exclusive access to the first hour of RE7 in the form of a demo. It was a momentous occasion for me personally as Resident Evil is my favourite game franchise, and I had been waiting a very long time indeed for an announcement for RE7, a game I hoped could rescue the series since the dismal RE6 practically drove the final nail into the coffin as far as the series being survival horror went.
Rumours had been rife for a while that Capcom were taking the series back to its roots, and that it would be a total reboot. But while it is not a reboot, with the premise of RE7 occurring after the events of RE6, the announcement trailer alluded that Capcom are indeed returning to their horror roots. Although I did expect to see changes to the stale formula, I didn’t expect to see such a significant change.
Honey, I’m home
It wouldn’t be real horror without hallways
Since the demo became available on PSN a couple hours after Sony’s presser concluded, I have played it through numerous times, recording the same ending in two different locations with a couple of slight variations. Now it must be said that Capcom have confirmed that the demo sequence and its lead character will not be in the final version, and that the lead will not be a returning character (Leon, Chris etc), instead it will be an average Joe that isn’t as accustomed to these sort of situations. While the demo isn’t a slice of the game, Capcom described it as more of a teaser of the direction that Capcom are taking with RE7, which makes the whole ‘beginning hour’ slightly misleading but that’s just nitpicking.
Running on the brand new RE engine the demo looks fantastic, with all the environments having a photorealistic feel that helps heighten and deepen the immersion. From the opening moments where you wake up on the floor of the dilapidated house and survey your surroundings, it’s obvious that Capcom have completely overhauled the series’ style of gameplay, although interacting with and using items still has a familiar modus operandi. Despite being akin to P.T. or Outlast, there are a couple noticeable differences in RE7’s gameplay. Firstly, you have an inventory with limited room (like the good old days) for items you collect throughout the house, and secondly there is some form of combat system, as you can acquire an axe and after doing so the game prompts you that despite it being rusted you can still use it to defend yourself. Although I am yet to engage in any combat, I have sliced up a mannequin and crushed some boxes during my time in the Rob Zombie-themed Big Brother house. Like most FPH games, the demo has a limited but fitting sound design – creating trepidation as you investigate your surroundings. I can only imagine how many people will soil their cottons when playing the game in VR.
Talk about your fixer upper
Scariest home videos
First-person horror games Soma and Outlast are two of my favourite experiences from this generation of consoles, and I think the premise Capcom have concocted has loads of potential for an excellent horror experience, especially in VR. However, despite enjoying this demo for what it was (FPH), there’s a large part of me that can’t help but feel disappointed that after all this time waiting for an announcement, this is what RE7 will be. It just doesn’t feel like a Resident Evil game, it would be like rebooting Call of Duty as a third-person shooter like Spec Ops; everything fans loved about the game would be gone. I’m not the only one that feels this way as I have read a multitude of comments on forums and social media concerned about the radical change. However, there are a lot more people that believe this new direction will breathe new life into the ailing franchise.
During Capcom’s post-reveal stream they confirmed that RE7 will contain elements of old RE games such as resource management, puzzles and herbs, but the vibe is totally different. In an interview with IGN, the game’s producer Masachika Kawata said that the game had been in development since early 2014, and I can’t help but think that Capcom have again tried to cash in on what is popular. Let’s be honest, FPH games have soared in popularity in the last couple of years thanks to the cult-like success of P.T., and it wouldn’t be unlike Capcom to ride a popular trend for profit. They did the same with RE5 & 6 with their prominent Gears of War tone. Now, in an attempt to win back fans that have had reservations about the franchise since RE5, they may have pushed them further away with such a radical departure. In all honesty I expected something similar to The Evil Within and that sort of style of modern horror and action. Resident Evil to me is a third-person, survival horror shooter, not a first-person horror game (despite Capcom wanting the very first RE to be an FPS and its light-gun spin-offs).
Man(nequins) of the house
That face when you’ve had too many tasty bayou buffalo wings
I haven’t forgotten that all of this is based on the infinitesimal amount of gameplay we have been given in the demo, and that Capcom have stressed that the final product will have more depth and variation to the gameplay. However like I said, even though I enjoyed the demo, as an RE game I feel disappointed that I won’t be running around with Leon or one of the other familiar character they have created along the way that fans have sentiment for. Instead we’re getting a brand new cast of characters that will most likely never be seen in another RE game (remember Billy or Rebecca anyone?). Capcom could have called this game anything else and I wouldn’t have felt a single ounce of dissatisfaction.
In saying all of this I am genuinely interested in seeing how the story of RE7 weaves into the main series’ chain of events and none of the disappointment with it being RE7 will stop me from playing it when it releases in January, as I do believe that the game will deliver an excellent horror experience. In some respects I feel sorry for Capcom, they just can’t win with Resident Evil and its fans; they’re damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t. They have genuinely tried to give fans what they have been crying out for. I hope that come January I can say that I was wrong.