First Thoughts | Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour

resi 7The Resident Evil series seems to have some strange sort of hold over me, that no matter how bad the preceding game I’m still optimistic about the next one. I’m referring to the numbered games only – life’s too short to play through the approximately 17’000 spin off games at this point, apologies to the fans of Resident Evil Chronicles of the Revelations of the Survivor of Codename Veronica and her Umbrella.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first game many moons ago, liked the second, was ambivalent about the third.  The fourth was fun – although you can’t really call it a survival horror game when you are equipped with the equivalent arsenal of a small nation – before the fifth and sixth drove the series of a cliff.  And I remember being excited for Resident Evil 6, despite the warning signs of the tangled mess that would follow.  

Yet that itch still remains with the announcement of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.  Capcom have said they want to take the series back to basics and focus of the survival horror aspect of the franchise and have now released a demo to show what they’re working on.  So first things first – this is not a demo of the finished game; Capcom have said it remains a proof of concept. Still, having played through the demo here’s the reasons why I’m still excited about this…

  • The game is now in first person view.  This is a welcome development – rather than awkwardly trying to control a character through various fixed point cameras, you’re now completely in control of the situation.  It also adds to the tight claustrophobia of the game – nervously peering round corners, unsure of what awaits you… this is how a resident evil game should make you feel rather than watching your character move through a hall.  The limited view afforded by first person does also help play tricks on you – I remember one moment of wondering what the hell something was and what does it want… before realising it was my own shadow.
  • You’re a new character in a new situation.  Rather than the tangled nonsense that the series had become where you were tasked with taking well-known characters on an around the world quest to prevent bio-terrorist attacks, you have no identity in this game and Umbrella only gets the briefest of mentions.  This obviously may change in the final game, but it’s a welcome development. And on a related note…
  • The plot is stripped down. Rather than being tasked to bring down the Umbrella Corporation or prevent global attacks, you wake up in a scary house and your task is to escape the scary house. Again, this is subject to change, but it is for the best. Admittedly, this meant that you might as easily have been playing Silent Hill, Insidious the Game or Jeffrey McDougall escapes from the House of Hell  rather than Resident Evil 7, but it works whatever the name is.
  • It is creepy as hell. I’ve mentioned nervously peering round corners… but the creepiness of the story increases as you go through. As more develops, the tension increases, you hear a scuttle running upstairs, the music increases, the debris gets more sinister. During the final part of the game when I was on the verge of escaping the house, my heart was pumping, my nerves were on edge… And I was playing this in a well-lit room in the early evening whilst my wife sat next to me researching a tourist visa to Croatia. I imagine late-night solo gaming sessions would be an interesting experience. And adding to the sense of helplessness…
  • No weapons! After the absurd levels of weaponry in the last few games, there was none in this trailer. Just puzzles to solve and a house to escape. Capcom have said this will change for the finished game, but not to expect a ‘gun fest’.

As I said earlier, this is a proof of concept… and yet it does end on a cliffhanger.  Everything could yet change… but this is reason to be excited.

Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour is out now on Playstation Plus. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard will be released in January 2017.

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