At E3 2016, Capcom invited GotGame to try their newly announced Resident Evil VII in their awesome haunted farmhouse booth. Entering the dark hallways and being escorted into a small room, there was but a single chair in front of a small table, a TV on top of it, and a PlayStation VR headset. With no previous experience with the PlayStation VR headset, this was going to be a completely new way to play.
In preparation for this demo, I played through the demo Resident Evil VII: Beginning Hour just so I knew what to expect (and to avoid being scared in public), though that wasn’t to say I wasn’t preparing for any surprises. Regardless, as the headset was placed on and the headphones were placed over my ears, I was handed the PlayStation controller and entered the demo.
First, it must be said that compared to other VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, the PlayStation VR has a very noticeable difference in resolution, and the images one would see on the TV are incredibly different when behind the visor, so images in this preview are not representative of the ones in the VR headset. Despite this, Capcom managed to still make a very immersive world with the hardware they were given, and despite playing the demo previously, I was more interested in looking around the environment than ever before, even finding new items because of this. Resident Evil VII: Beginning Hour isn’t part of the final game, but it does give players an idea of what they can expect when playing the full game when it launches next January.
The demo starts with the player waking up in what appears to be a living room, the only exposition being “get out of the house” as the dark and dreary atmosphere is displayed vividly with various things in the room to interact with. One might reach out to play the piano only for the keybed to slam shut before touching it. Another might find a torn paper with the words “I SHALL DASH THEM AGAINST THE STONES” written boldly. It’s already clear that the game tries to encourage exploration, and with the use of the PlayStation VR headset, that is even easier to do.
Leaving the room, it’s possible to hear footsteps on the floor above, yet navigating the house to find someone is a fruitless effort. Wandering around the hallways, it feels almost underwhelming that the controller is the only way to interact, as pressing X doesn’t seem to be as immersive as say using a motion controller, though it’s possible this may change later. During gameplay, the player has full control of where they are looking with the headset, so even during special scenes like opening a pot of a rotting meal, the player can look at their hand or whatever they wish during the scene as a cockroach crawls on their hand.
Moving through the demo, I came across the bolt cutters, placing it in my limited inventory space as a teddy bear falls in front of me. When playing the demo before, I didn’t seem to care where the bear came from but with the VR headset, I looked around the room and found a small little canopy above me where someone could technically throw things from. Now equipped with the bolt cutters, I made my way to a chained up cabinet to use them, recovering a video tape and immediately making my way back to the room I started in where a TV and VCR were ready for the tape. On my way over, I discovered a drawer I never noticed before that I opened up, pulling out a severed finger, but the purpose of which, I never discovered. Loud noises could be heard from somewhere in the house and the lights would blink on and off from electrical issues, trying to scare the player as they discover more secrets of the house.
Placing the tape in the VCR, a video starts and suddenly the player is in control of the cameraman Clancy for what appears to be a mystery reality show called “Sewer Gators”. Joined by Pete and Andre, the player will enter the Baker house in a town called Dulvey, which is the same house the demo started in. As the player follows Pete and Andre, Andre suddenly disappears into the hallway and the search for him takes both Clancy and Pete to the living room, where Pete finds a hidden switch in the fireplace, opening up a secret compartment (a detail the player is encouraged to remember).
This is where the VR experience also drastically changes, as the player is told how to crouch at this point to go into the hidden passage by pressing the right analog stick down. Without VR, this is a seamless transition, but in the VR experience, pressing the stick down suddenly shifts the view to the crouched position with no transition. It’s a bit jarring and though it’s likely not a factor of the final product, it was still an odd omission.
Going inside the passage, a ladder leads Clancy down to an underground room where the player finds Andre, but they soon discover that he is already dead, and his head is practically impaled on a hook against the wall to prop him up. Clancy falls over with Andre on top of him and the figure of another person is seen walking up to him before the video ends to the sounds of screaming. Upon returning to the control of the previous player character, the torn note from before is now on the counter in front of you, but instead of the word “THEM”, the word “YOU” is written over it in what can only be assumed to be blood.
Regardless of this creepy note, the player now knows to go to the fireplace to activate the hidden passage, going inside to find a key to the backdoor of the house, where the bolt cutters were previously placed. For players that haven’t played the demo, this is where most of the real scares begin, as a mysterious figure walks by a doorway when trying to make your way to the back door, only to disappear when trying to find him. Objects get tossed in your path and sounds can be heard as you desperately make your way to the exit, which should feel like a relief until the player is suddenly turned around and told “Welcome to the family, son”, being punched out by the mysterious man and ending the gameplay demo.
Though this is the main path, there are many alternate paths the player can take. A Capcom representative revealed that using the hidden passage in the beginning yielded a different result, so we took their advice. Taking this path took us to find a missing fuse from a fuse box in the living room, and placing it in allowed for the use of a switch on the second floor of the house. Pressing the switch marked “stairs” lowered a set of stairs to the third level of the house, a phone now ringing somewhere on this floor. The hallway is empty of anything to interact with but finding the room the phone is in shows a picture that has a message on the back, saying “Are they watching us from that helicopter?”
Upon answering the phone, a woman could be heard, sounding completely cryptic and confusing the player character. Trying to use the phone again gives a busy tone, and just when the player tries to get back to escaping the house, they are suddenly turned around by the same mysterious figure and given the same message, again knocked out and ending the demo. Apparently, there are even more alternate paths by mixing things up a bit, even an ax that can be used to destroy some of the objects in the home, but there was only time for these two paths in our demo.
Regardless of the downgraded visuals on the VR headset, the experience was still just as immersive as Capcom intended, and shows a new way to experience horrors in their popular Resident Evil franchise. The promise that the whole entire game can be played with the PlayStation VR gives an indication that Capcom is really going to try to change the experience of the game. It makes one wonder if the PC version of the game will be able to use the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive for a better visual experience, but it might still be best played with the traditional experience for most players that wish to avoid the horrors that close.
Resident Evil VII releases January 24th, 2017 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and we’ll likely get the chance to try a more updated build that shows more of the final product in the coming months. Look forward to more coverage on the next chapter of the franchise as it gets closer to the release date.