During Sony’s E3, the Resident Evil VII teaser stood out to me as a Big Deal. I love Resident Evil, I love horror, I love the look of the game. I mentioned it briefly during my Sony E3 post, and I’ve been obsessing over it ever since. Because here’s the thing — there’s more than enough to obsess over. But more on that later.
A little bit about the game:
It takes place after Resident Evil 6, and it will feature a new main character and has no returning characters. This new main character will not be the character you play as in the teaser. The events of the teaser take place before the events of the main game. RE7 will actually be the second Resident Evil game in first person. (But the first one barely counts — it was Resident Evil Survivor, a poorly reviewed game for PlayStation and Windows that came out in 2000.) The game will also be one player only, which means they’re abandoning the co-op option from 5 and 6. As if experiencing the horror in first person wouldn’t be enough, it will be fully playable with the PlayStation VR (out 10/13/16).
The playable teaser (called Beginning Hour) is meant to be a standalone experience designed to give players a feel for the direction of RE7, and it will not actually be a part of the game. As director Koshi Nakanishi told Game Informer, the game is “a tonal teaser of the game, it’s not a content tease.” The full game will have a larger environment, of course — but it will still take place in a dilapidated mansion, according to the Capcom blog. There will also be additional game mechanics, such as combat. That’s good, because I don’t fancy being stalked around a creepy mansion without the ability to fight back!
Sony released the Beginning Hour teaser on June 14, the same day the game was announced. The game will come out on January 24, 2017.
Now, about the demo:
You wake up alone in an eerily dark room in a rotting house. There’s a TV in the corner ominously playing static. You’re armed with only a flashlight – which you can’t turn off if you’re concerned about someone finding you. It’s daytime, but it doesn’t feel like it – the windows are mostly boarded up, and it takes you a while to find slivers of sunlight.
Beginning Hour was extremely scary the first time I played through it, mostly because I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if I would have to run and hide, if I would have to fight, if things would jump out at me. As it turns out, there’s nowhere to run and no need to hide, but things did in fact jump out at me — and there was nothing I could do about it. The scary moments are good enough that they had me jumping even after multiple plays through, and the creepy moments gave me chills.
The first person perspective, as well as the limited illumination from your flashlight, delivers a deliciously limited field of view that makes you feel on edge the whole time. There are plenty of bumps, creaks, doors slamming, and footsteps in the distance to make sure you never feel safe.
The teaser has a gripping arc: you wander the main house looking for a tape that you can play on the TV in the first room you entered, and once you pop it in you then play through the events of the tape as though you’re living them. Once the tape is finished, you go back through the house, with (depending on which order you do things) new information on where things are. This was a cool technique that was much more interesting than just statically watching a video. The visuals change as well during the video part to simulate the feel of VHS quality, which enhances the horror atmosphere. The method of having the player search the same location in different timelines presents the opportunity to play around with the discoveries they’ll make.
You should play it for yourself – it’s still available for free on the PlayStation Store. You can also check out my play through in the video below! I only play through one of the possible endings.
The demo holds more than meets the eye
The internet is now filling up with people trying to poke into all the nooks and crannies and ferret out all the secrets that Beginning Hour holds. We know there are multiple endings, including a rumored “true ending” that no one seems to be able to find. (However, I have one friend who says she successfully left the house! Achieved by hugging the walls and creeping around.) Of the various items you pick up and use throughout the game, no one has been able to figure out (at least at the time I’m writing this) the purpose of the “dummy finger” that you find in a drawer in the main hallway. Doing things in different orders triggers different paths to take through the demo, and different endings. You can play through the entire thing once without finding certain items and areas in the house.
One of the more frustrating secrets for me is the alleged ghost girl, who shows up at random times in certain places during the VHS tape portion. I have never been able to find her in all of my many plays through the demo. Even when I looked up a YouTube video which showed several of her appearances, I had trouble seeing her in the video. Kudos to the eagle-eyed gamer who managed to find her in the first place. Check out this list of her known locations if you want to try to spot her. Honestly, I would be surprised if a ghost of any sort featured prominently in the main game, since Resident Evil enemies aren’t typically of the spectral variety.
To what extent will the mysteries of Beginning Hour pertain to the main game? That’s hard to say, but considering that the developers have already said that it’s not content from the main game, they might not relate at all. It’s probably just a fun way to keep fans excited while they wait for the real deal.
How does it compare to previous Resident Evil games?
Based on what we can glean from the demo, the series is definitely getting back to its horror roots. They’ve left behind the sweeping, global scope of bioterror attacks that games 5 and 6 focused on. Instead, you feel the more human, personal fear of being in imminent danger. This isn’t about saving the world — it’s about saving yourself.
Some things about the demo’s atmosphere feel like Resident Evil to me: the bags of trash throughout the house, the unidentifiable creepy sludge in the cooking pot, the gruesome dead bodies of the animals you find. However, some details feel distinctly like Silent Hill: the house setting, the notes you find, the nature of the “find the key” puzzles you have to solve, the mysterious phone calls. This isn’t a complaint since I love both series, it’s just interesting to see the new direction that Resident Evil is pursuing, and the inspirations that probably went into it.
It’s hard to judge how the combat will feel, considering that there’s no combat in the demo. It’s possible to find an axe, but all you can do with it is destroy boxes and mannequins. However, based on the overall demo, it feels unlikely that the game will have the gun focused, military style combat of 5 and 6, at least. I predict that combat will be dramatically scaled down, possibly reduced to melee only. (Although, they might use gun combat to get gamers to buy the newly designed PS VR Aim Controller.)
How excited am I for the main game to come out?
So excited! Resident Evil 7 is already available for pre-order. The digital deluxe edition, available from the PlayStation Store for $79.99, includes a special dynamic theme, Survival Pack DLC, four short side stories, and one additional story episode (when they are released).
Finally, some Fun Facts about the game title:
While the “Wikipedia official” title refers to it as “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” it’s being stylized in America as “RESIDENT EVII. biohazard” and “BIOHA7ARD resident evil” in Japan. (Check out the image earlier in this post to see it.) It’s a lot of focus on the number 7 for game that will technically be the eleventh installment in the main Resident Evil series.