I'll avoid open spoilers here (you can find those, and our thoughts on them, here, if you're so minded), but suffice it to say that the final act of Resident Evil 7 Biohazard [official site] is not the equal of the claustrophobic cat and mouse chase/escape room mash-up that makes the rest of the game such a terrifying triumph. It is, then, a relief to find that the first two rounds of DLC, now available on PC after temporary PlayStation imprisonment, broadly mark a return to what made the Baker house such a successful reinvention of the Resi formula.
I'll do this as set of capsule reviews, seeing as the DLC is divided into, essentially, mini-games. It's also currently sold in two parts, unless you splurged on the season pass, known as Banned Footage Volume 1 and Volume 2. Annoyingly, both have exceptional elements and both have entirely disposable elements, so there's no easy 'buy this one over the other one' answer here.
Banned Footage Vol. 1 review
The £8 pack comprises...
You know how all the routine monster-shooting was the best bit of Resi 7? No, me either. Anyway, this is that, framed within a wave-based survival structure. I guess it's for people who felt the pace of Resi 7 was too slow and not Resident Evilly enough. It's the no-brainer inclusion, but exactly the sort of thing one would expect to find as a bonus mode in the main game, rather than as part of a paid add-on. It's fine for what it is, sure, but it's the exact opposite of what makes Resi 7 Resi 7.
Ethan Must Die
Something of a hybrid of the better elements of the Resi 7 main campaign and Nightmare above, this is a combat-focused remix of some sections of the Baker house, culminating in a boss fight. Consciously brutally hard, its entails gradually building up your arsenal and scavenging for resources that, unlike in the main game, are randomly-placed to some degree. It's more interesting than Nightmare for sure, and likely to be of particular appeal to those who immediately replayed the campaign on Madhouse difficulty after completing it once, but I want to be surprised rather than face trial by fire, hence didn't stick with this for long.
The clear highlight of the first bundle, this takes the Saw torture-puzzle ethos of the Lucas section of the campaign and pairs it with the bio-horror and intense menace of the Jack and Marguerite parts.
It's a prequel to the main story, and shows us more of what happened to Clancy, the doomed cameraman seen in one of the found footage tapes (and the demo). He awakens in one of the bedrooms, chained to the bed and with a rictus-grinning Marguerite delivering some unspeakably foul broth for him to eat. Then she leaves, at which point you can attempt to make your escape by finding, combining and deciphering items within the room. However, certain of your efforts trigger her to return, activating a short window of time in which you must attempt to conceal all evidence of your incomplete breakout.
It's a fabulous idea, playing with the memorisation challenges that have long been part and parcel of Resi games, but making them a logical part of the dark fantasy. Even though, by now, Marguerite should be a known quantity, the terror of her impending approach, followed by her suspicious checking of the room to see if anything is out of order, is right up there with Resi 7's heaviest-hitting moments of terror.
Sadly it's all too brief and only stands up to one playthrough, realistically. I'd definitely be up for a dedicated bundle of a half dozen vignettes like this, though. It utilises and clearly understands exactly what it has in Resi 7's best element - the twisted Baker family - and keeps its hands clean of the excess that characterises Resi 7's final act.
Banned Footage Vol. 2 review
The £12 pack comprises...
Jack's 55th Birthday
I'm in two minds about this one. On the one hand, a comic-toned time attack affair feels vaguely in keeping with the kind of bonus modes of Resis yore, although once again it's uncomfortable to find it in a paid add-on rather than unlocked at the end of the main game. On the other hand, this treats Resi 7's most unsettling character, Jack Baker, as essentially farcical. Every time we see Jack in the light, his powers are weakened. Even within this DLC package, we have a mode in which Jack is supposed to be terrifying, so turning him into a hungry lump in a party hat here is a risky gambit.
But it works, more or less. You, as Mia, have to dash around various parts of the Baker house, trying to find food for Jack before the timer expires. You'll run into increasing numbers of Resi 7's disposable monsters as you do (many in funny hats themselves), and there's a vaguely Call of Duty: Zombies structure here, whereby there's limited ammo and you gradually unlock more weapon types as you play.
It's all very silly and entirely throwaway, but there is an appropriate edge of mania to it, as an otherwise stationary Jack slams his fists on the table and demands more, while you sprint about, terrified not of the monsters themselves, but of the delay they represent. Something of the sadism of the Bakers glints through the broad comedy. On the other hand, it misses a key trick by making the food you have to find entirely ordinary, rather than the tubs of unspeakable parts that we are treated to distressing close-ups of elsewhere in Resi 7.
The centrepiece of Banned Footage 2 and, realistically, of the whole DLC boogaloo to date. Daughters is mini-campaign, set before the events of Resi 7 proper. You should not play it if you haven't finished the main campaign, and to even talk about it, I need to do this:
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
The thrust of Daughters is witnessing the transformation of the Bakers from more-or-less happy family and into the monsters we know and fear. We see their kindness as they bring Eveline in from the storm, we show their rickety home before it's coated in a patina of absolute filth, and we see Zoe's terror as her beloved parents mutate into twisted horrors. This DLC very much capitalises on Resi 7's strongest elements, which is to say the mingled terror and tragedy of the Baker parents.
However, it also shines unfortunate light on some of Resi 7's weaker aspects, as well as revealing a game that's beginning to strain against the limits of its simple systems. Playing as an as-yet infection-free Zoe, your goal is to escape the house while evading your newly-superpowered parents. Though this marks a welcome return to the paranoia and mostly combat-free early hours of Resi 7, it also means a less welcome to its rather arbitrary stealth systems, where success can depend on enemies inexplicably not seeing you when you're three feet away but failure can result from a total inability to lean or peer and thus requiring sprints-of-faith.
Its multiple endings also depend on that other Resi 7 bugbear, only being allowed to pick up a handful of objects, and in this case the 'true' ending even hinges on finding and using those objects in a specific order. That's fine in as much as it gives reasons to replay this 40-ish minute long tale a couple of times, but, coming off the back of the main campaign too, it makes Resi 7's inner workings a little too obvious and a little too artificial now.
Still, this is broadly an excellent extra slice of Resi 7, returning the Bakers to their deserved front-and-centre placement, making them menacing all over again - as well as their traditional jump-scare behaviour, they're extra-monstrous because of how brutally they treat their own daughter. Given that this is the earliest moments of their transformation, we also get to see flashes of horror at their own behaviour, and it's heartbreaking. Pointedly, Daughters fails to even mention the faintly tiresome Eveline backstory, keeping its focus tight on the Baker household.
Adam felt that Resi 7 itself did a fine job of conveying the tragedy and lost humanity of the Bakers, but I felt that was too little, too glibly. Daughters absolutely fixes that, but I can't help but feel that it would have been far more valuable if included in the main campaign, as one of its flashback sequences, rather than a free-floating cast-off like this.
After Marguerite in Bedroom and Jack in Birthday, sadistic son Lucas gets his turn in the sun. This is Blackjack by way of Saw, with you as long-suffering cameraman Clancy facing off against another Baker victim, Hoffman, in the playing cards version of Russian roulette. Whoever loses a round loses a finger, with further tortures introduced in later stages. It's simple but effective, turning the inherent dilemma of whether to stick or draw as you try to stay under the magic 21 into something deeply traumatic. However, it's diminishing returns following the gruesomeness of the finger-slicing initial stages, and there's far too much sub-Joker prattle from Lucas, who remains the least compelling of the Baker clan. I think he wears his malevolence on his sleeve to his own detriment, whereas the fewer words and more opaque intent of his parents keep them deeply unsettling to the last. Still, this does a solid job of making a card game feel like a real part of the Resi 7 theme, and I enjoyed/was distressed by it far more than I'd expected.
So, is all this worth twenty quid? I wouldn't say so. You could blow through it all in three hours, and it's unlikely that you'd play most of it ever again. The only elements of it that I'd say you even need to see are Bedroom and Daughters, but even those are one-shot affairs.
However, given that the 25 quid season pass contains this and some as-yet unspecified further story-based DLC, it's probably going to turn out to be better bang for your antique coin. What, in the main, all this has achieved is to restore the Bakers to a position of wildly menacing prominence, something that the closing hours of Resi 7 had unfortunately undermined, and for that I'm grateful.