E3 2016: Resident Evil 7’s Demo Is a Good (But Horrifying) Sign of Things To Come

Watching the Resident Evil 7 reveal stands out as my greatest memory during the Sony E3 2016 Press Conference. What I saw appeared creepy and mysterious, two qualities I have been searching for from games this entire generation. Instead of having to wait until next January to get my hands on it, Sony has made a free demo available to all PS Plus subscribers. Upon learning of this, I quickly downloaded the demo to see what it had to offer.

The demo is set in the same dark, ominous house featured in the reveal. My first impression was that I was somewhere I had been before. "Is this Resident Evil's mansion?", I thought to myself. No, it wasn't, but was sure similar with its haunted hallways and creaking wooden floors. As much as I initially felt as though I was revisiting an old friend, as I explored my environment deeper it became clear that I wasn't playing a traditional Resident Evil game.

The first person viewpoint is perhaps the most radical departure, as Resident Evil has been a third-person "action" game since its inception. This style of play punctuates interaction, while also significantly increasing tension. I found myself having to come face-to-face with the things I feared most rather than tilting a third-person camera in their direction. Objects and characters are no longer distanced from the senses, they are within arm's length and seemingly tangible.

Resident Evil 7 de-emphasizes action. There's a feeling of intimacy here that hasn't been felt since the early Resident Evil games. I spent a lot of time investigating my surroundings up close, becoming acquainted with the world rather than trodding through it as if I were trying to jog myself out of a swamp. Movement speed is slow, and something as simple as going over to a table, picking up a key, and then taking it to a door is simulative. This might come across as a bad thing for gamers who just want to shoot up zombies, but it has some very real benefits.

Resident Evil 7 is a scary game. No, horrifying is the right word. As you might have noticed, it takes a book from P.T.'s book when it comes to gameplay and environmental design, which means that moving point A to point B takes courage. I was glad to see that it strays from its more action and jump scare oriented roots by focusing on psychological horror. The game is methodical and forced me to confront sinister obstacles, albeit at my own pace.

"There's a feeling of intimacy here that hasn't been felt since the early Resident Evil games."

Like P.T., Resident Evil 7 has a great sense of discovery. There is a full story to unravel and consume here. I found several secret items and bits of information that weren't pertinent to mission completion, but were well worth my time. If you find yourself playing the demo, make sure that you take a few moments to investigate your surroundings. Ultimately, your effort to become engrossed in the world is pertinent to a fulfilling experience.

Capcom has done a phenomenal job when it comes to the game's art and sound design. Environments are ever so muddied, resembling Silent Hill at times with a hint of Resident Evil 4's haunted characteristics. The world is unwelcoming and as though it had a secret it didn't want me to discover, but played at a pace where I could get my bearing straight when necessary. Meanwhile, environmental and sound effects provide a sense of presence. I swore

The Resident Evil formula, whether you're talking about the classics or Resident Evil 4, is clearly not here. Consequently, I expect hardcore fans of the franchise to be upset to varying degrees. That said, Resident Evil is here in-spirit, resulting in something that is different but does draw familiarity. Not only do story elements line up well with the classic 'Raccoon City virus outbreak' narrative that the series was founded upon, but the character design is true to its predecessors. Resident Evil 7 might play very differently, but it leaves behind traces of its footprint as to not make you wonder why it's called Resident Evil in the first place.

For those who are upset that Resident Evil 7 is moving away from tradition to a such a radical degree, it's important to remember that Resident Evil hasn't been considered great in many years. Fans have been yelling at Capcom telling the company to make something great, especially after such a beloved release in Resident Evil 4. It is taking a bold risk with this title, and that's something this industry needs more of.

After watching P.T. and Allison Road canceled before my very eyes, Resident Evil 7 is the last bastion of hope for horror as far as I'm concerned. Well, at least for the immediate future. I have high hopes for the final product which will debut on January 24th for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.