Resident Evil 7 demo puts the evil back in Biohazard

Debate’s long raged/wanked on about whether we in the West should really call the Resident Evil series by its Japan-given name, Biohazard. With the demo for the upcoming Resident Evil 7 [official site], that debate is over. There could be no more fitting name for its new house of horrors than Resident Evil.

Resident Evil 7 biohazard aka Biohazard 7 resident evil (they’re up to something there, no?) also makes it clear-cut that this is a series about reinvention, even if it tends to return to familiar characters and tropes time and again. 7’s the biggest shake-up yet, ditching the age-old third-person camera in favour of a claustrophobic first-person view, and broadly replacing action with investigation. At least, that’s the case in the enormously unsettling demo, Resident Evil 7 / Biohazard 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour – much may change in the full game.

Comparisons to P.T., the notorious PS4 demo for an ultimately axed Kojima/Del Toro Silent Hills project, have been made, and fairly so. Both are first-person and combat free, both are set within a locked house strewn with grotesque sights, jump scares and low-key puzzling, and both yield different secrets depending on how they are played.

Granted, this is somewhat academic given that Silents Hills is canned and it’s near impossible to get hold of P.T. any more, but in any case I’ll note that these similarities don’t make the two into copies of each other. P.T. was more about weirdness with sporadic moments of nauseating terror, whereas Resi 7 is straight-up horror from the get-go.

It’s trope-tastic from the get-go too, and doesn’t let up: spooky cabin, fridge full of rotting food, flickering lights, staticky VHS tapes, mannequin’s fingers, random animal carcasses, jump scares on the stairs, ruined dolls, something in the basement. The works, basically. But, thanks to a combination of pure mood and a structure that means much of this stuff spools out according to how you explore rather than playing out linearly, it works bloody well. I should mention that the demo looks great and runs well too – the tech powering it seems to be extremely efficient.

The setup: you, as an unnamed, first-person protagonist, awaken in a darkened and decrepit room. Your only directive is to escape the house. You look around, find other rooms, find objects which open up other rooms still, and in the main you encounter decay – but there is no knowing how long this has been the case, or even the cause of it. There are noises from around, above and below, but in the main, little happens. Apart from when it does. At which point, the demo may end – or you may be funnelled into new areas.

Generally, horror games don’t get to me. They’re too campy or too obvious or I just can’t buy into the idea that it’s actually me, not a Gameperson, in that place. Like P.T. before it, Resi 7 changes all that. It’s combination of perspective, pace and tone: when walking down a corridor, every step feels like agony, that dread certainty that something unspeakable is about to happen. It’s because it so rarely does, and thus always unexpected when something does kick off, that I can never relax.

Compare this to Resis past, where the general feeling is that, when trouble is encountered, it will be a question of how to deal with it, not a) oh god oh god oh god what even is it b) will it or will it not kill me immediately? I was terrified. No amount of scoffing at cheap stunts such as things falling over or something walking past the doorway then disappearing could change that. Can Resi 7 possibly sustain this for a whole game, or is a move to fisticuffs and gunplay only inevitable?

Because, please, do not let this reference to Stuff lure you into thinking Beginning Hour is even remotely an action-led affair. It is about evil being in residence in a place you are trapped inside. There is a videotape-based interactive flashback, and further clues to what has gone on can be assembled if you choose certain actions (particularly, if you are able to resist the voice in the back of your head that screams ‘GET OUT AS FAST AS YOU CAN’), but most cards are held to its glowering chest regardless.

Was I invested in the mysteries it conjures? No, not particularly – they are as I say assembled from familiar elements, with no sense that Resi 7 can tell me a tale I’ve not heard before.

But it’s all about tone, and the tone in Beginning Hour is bang-on what one could hope for from a modern horror game. There’s plenty of cinema in there, yes, but it knows how to use its first-person camera – that creeping fact that you are the one in this place – to full effect.

Resi’s long been a series that stumbles wildly between brilliance and mediocrity, and the last couple of games have suggested it might have become intractably stuck in the latter. Though a little on the obvious side at times, as a statement of intent to make Resi fresh, thrilling and abjectly terrifying all over again, Beginning Hour is a spectacular success.

Resident Evil 7 / Biohazard 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour is available for free via Steam now. Resi 7 itself is due for release on January 24, 2017.

15 Comments

  1. Mi-24 says:

    This looks FAR too scary for me to play. I will probably just occasionally look at snippets of gameplay or screenshots from the safety of the interwebs in a cowardly fashion. Probably just by reading more articles from RPS on the matter.

    Scariest horror game I’ve played was Alien Isolation, and that alone has convinced me not to play this.
    On a side note I am currently playing and very much enjoying the HD remaster of the original resi, enjoying it more than I enjoyed RE4, so thats fun.

    • dystome says:

      Yeah, this is definitely scarier than that.

      I did myself a particular disservice by playing on mouse and keyboard while not realising I had my 360 pad plugged in and lying on the (wooden) floor behind my chair. First time the rumble effect went off I nearly jumped out the window.

    • dylan says:

      Resi 1 is a great horror metroidvania-esque exploration game, and the remake does it a lot of service. Definitely my favourite in the series.

  2. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    I enjoyed the demo but I’m disturbed by the general lack of environmental interactivity. I don’t want Amnesia’s granular level of interaction, where you can pick up and physically manipulate almost everything you see, but RE7 won’t even let you meaningfully interact with a puzzle prop unless you’re carrying the right item to solve it, to “use” puzzle items in the absence of a puzzle prop, or to combine inventory items that the game does not specifically intend to be combined. One of the simple joys of the old survival horror games was messing around and experimenting with stuff like that, so streamlining it to this extent takes away some of that fun.

    • gunny1993 says:

      See I always hated that; nothing screws horror for me faster than chasing my own tail, trying to figure out how to do something and it taking forever because the game allowed me to do things that weren’t progressing the events.

      I remember some old indie horror game where there were puzzle elements and me not finding the correct doohickey that was placed in a silly location, spent 30 minutes traipsing round trying to figure out.

      Nothing is less scary than knowing that every single element of the game is locked behind some digital data point. If they could make it so I’d never be stuck by such a thing and events could still progress then i’d be game.

  3. gunny1993 says:

    Am playing it, is scary, nothing I hate more than fucking dolls that fucking move when I turn my fucking back on them.

    Edit: Seriously, fucking mannequins, fuck off, you fucks

    Edit 2: FUCKING, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK …. I hate mannequins

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Oh, if you don’t like mannequins for god’s sake don’t go upstairs.

      EDIT: Ah, too late. Sorry!

    • KastaRules says:

      LOL really? I played the demo and haven’t noticed that.
      I find the game intriguing btw…

      • gunny1993 says:

        There’s a doll of a baby that drops around the back door and the upstairs room is filled with mannequins

    • dystome says:

      That did happen! I thought I might have pushed it around by accident while I was looking at the walls. Sneaky plastic bastards.

  4. Xzi says:

    I couldn’t believe this insanity, I had to do a double-take. AAA developer puts out a demo in 2016 that runs butter smooth at 4K and looks hyper-realistic on a GTX 1070. Has multiple ways to finish, with many of them ending in death. I’m particularly glad the VR version is a PSVR exclusive for at least a year, because I like my shit to keep to my anus or the toilet, not my pants.

    Yeah, I’m buying it. Maybe not at release, but I’m definitely buying it. Props to Capcom for making a “cinematic-feeling” game work for once, and for thinking outside the box with photogrammatry, which has primarily been used for VR applications in the past.

  5. dystome says:

    Yup, spooked me pretty good too. I found two lots of handgun ammo though, which are presumably in there to tell us that there will be guns to be had at some point.

  6. Kefren says:

    Demo: I liked it when I EVENTUALLY GOT TO PLAY IT. F&^*%ING DENUVO. The only bit of the demo I didn’t understand was that it begins by playing a tape, showing a view recorded from your head, like when you walk around with a camera – but in this the camera is in front of you – or, even if it isn’t the one you brought, your hands are tied together in front of you, so how are you also filming?

    However, getting to play it was a nightmare. I’ve avoided ever buying a Denuvo game. I only bought Doom 4 recently because they’ve now stripped Denuvo out of it. But I saw this demo included it and though “What the hell, it’s free, how bad can it be?”

    I managed to install the game days in advance of playing it, but when I first went to load it I was having Internet problems. So instead of running it popped up a box with thousands of random characters in that I was supposed to paste into a “codefusion.technology” web page. Of course, I couldn’t access that web page on my PC because my Internet was down. I could maybe use mobile Internet on my phone, but there was no way I could type in all those random characters and symbols, to get another page of thousands of random characters I’d then have to type on my PC (presuming that would work). I used my phone to try and find out what this codefusion.technology thing is – nowhere does the site mention DRM or Denuvo, it was later that I realised that’s what it was, but they try and hide the fact from you. You can’t even truncate the URL to get to a homepage – it gives no information at all.

    Days later I got the router and Internet problems sorted. When I eventually got to the codefusion.technology web pages they were blank. Yet more hassles until I worked out that it was trying to run some scripts that were rightly blocked by my browser as security risks. I had to enable those, and over-ride warnings not to. Then the button to get the code I needed didn’t work due to Adobe flash errors, and requests to install new versions of that. Lots of time was wasted along the way. I eventually got it working. All that just to play a demo! There is no way I’d ever pay for a game with Denuvo in, it’s the biggest pile of crap. So much wasted time and hoops to jump through if you have this kind of problem, it means you’re in a bad mood by the time the game eventually first runs. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of a fuss about Denuvo. My first experience of it will be the last. Without that the demo would have made me very interested in Resi 7. But now the thought of it just annoys me.

  7. skankhunt42 says:

    The demo is marvelous,i shat myself when the guy walked past me & down the hallway,the atmosphere is so damn creepy & the visuals are stunning,it must look amazing in 4K