I’ll be the first to admit that I am a complete and utter wimp. Always have been and I predict I always will be. Because of this, I intentionally stay away from the large majority of horror films and video games. To put it plainly, I hate getting jump scared. There is one franchise however, both video game and film, where I can’t help but feel the pull towards experiencing it for myself, and that franchise is Resident Evil. So when Capcom announced during Sony’s E3 press conference that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was not only real, it was being released in January, and it had a playable demo available right away, I knew I needed to play it and tell you all what I thought.
Well, I’ve played it and I have one word: wow. This demo definitely got my skin crawling. For me, the key indicator of a good horror experience is the atmosphere. The small house that you get to explore here has a very methodical atmosphere and even though I was frightened through every moment, I still adored my time walking around and discovering clues. It begins with the camera movement. It is all in a first person perspective, either through found footage, or live as the controlled character. The camera or flashlight you hold flickers every now and again making you believe that it could go out at any moment. I half expected the flashlight would go out at some point in order to set up a scare, but thankfully no such cliché was witnessed.
The goal of the demo is simple: escape the house. There are cupboards, closed rooms, and appliances that you can search to find different items and tools, some of them useful and others seemingly not. The room you wake up in holds a few chairs in the center, scratched walls that expose the drywall and wood foundations, and a television playing white noise on a dresser. Opposite the TV is an electrical panel with one fuse missing from it. In my play through, I never did find the fuse so I can’t speak to what it does.
The door to the hallway is closed. I’m apprehensive to open it, but when I gather my courage I discover an empty hallway. There is a locked door to the right and the path to the kitchen on the left. Before the kitchen though is a small pantry underneath the stairs. Hanging from the ceiling are small dolls who appear to have been placed to look like they’d been lynched. As you move about the house you will hear footsteps and it will take you a little time to figure out if they belong to your character or someone else. Going up the stairs you will find a small room with three manikins to the left. I don’t know what it was I did, but walking around and looking at the desk on the other side of the room from the manikins caused another manikin to appear right in front of the stairway. That scared the hell out of me.
Now, I don’t want to give away the whole demo experience for you, you can go download and play it yourself now from the PlayStation Store. But I did want to highlight those few key moments at the beginning, as they were what drew me into this mystery. We find out very little about who you really are, or what this place even is throughout the demo. It is designed that way to make you play the game when it comes out next January, but I never felt that I needed to know the answers to those questions right now. I was glad to only have a deceptively simple objective of leaving the house. It was the simplistic nature that made me slow down and observe everything. Once you start doing that, and are are so focused on the minute details, the designed scares become all the more potent.
This is a small slice of what to expect for RE7 when it releases in January. From the looks of this demo, it seems safe to assume that Capcom is finally doing away with the action heavy gameplay of the series’ previous entries in order to focus on a smaller, yet more haunting Resident Evil experience. Call this fan excited.