Do you remember when Resident Evil was actually scary? It’s been a while, so you can take your time. In the meantime, you can have your thirst for next-gen horror quenched by playing the just-released Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour teaser. This is the first time I’ve felt a tension that wasn’t guided by ham-handed direction in a Resident Evil game since Resident Evil 4. It’s probably because Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour isn’t a Resident Evil game as we’ve come to know, it’s more like the long-dead Silent Hills demo P.T. mixed with Outlast.
There’s no sign of the usual cast of RE characters, the game seems relatively dark and gritty compared to the settings of the last two RE games proper. Yes, it’s another spooky farmhouse with a bunch of gross stuff, where a “family” kills people, but if this is the Resident Evil version of X-Files‘ Monster of the Week, I’m fine with it. The new engine the demo runs on is gorgeous. A solid 60 FPS runs throughout and I didn’t have a single stutter. Knowing that the fluid motion in the game will be available on VR is exciting and terrifying. I hope the Playstation VR headset doesn’t ruin under the pool of tears that will collect.
The demo looks and plays great. It sounds good too. But is it a Resident Evil? Nah. But maybe that’s fine. The atmosphere and sense of dread felt in this demo’s what horror fans are looking for. Whether the actual game will be in a first-person view and feature no gunplay is the question. This demo is essentially Outlast with a flashlight (you even guide a cameraman at one point). It doesn’t show the nuance or supernatural freakiness of the P.T. demo, but it still works.
On a personal level as a fan of horror and the Resident Evil series, and especially as someone who wants to see gaming move further as an art form, I can only hope that we don’t ever step foot in this house again. Having a “stand-alone” demo that shows off the tech but more importantly sets the tone for the upcoming game has far more impact. It would make me want to keep the demo installed on my system as a completionist. Maybe have some references to the demo in the full game, but I think revisiting the spooky house, with its clearly half-complete puzzles (I need to find a fuse, how original!) would lessen the scares the demo’s displaying. As it is now, it’s the X-Files episode that doesn’t really matter, but still sticks with you, adding to the general mythos of the story we’re about to experience.
Perhaps Leon Kennedy will be investigating this farmhouse or the property in general in the full game. The characters in the demo went missing, you see, and Kennedy is the man for the job. All of that makes more sense than for this to be the next phase of Resident Evil, but if it is, I welcome our new farmhouse freak overlords.