Industry folks knew that Capcom were toying with horror and virtual reality when they tested out “Project Kitchen” at past conventions. However, what none of us knew was that they intended to bring their flagship Resident Evil franchise into this exciting new realm. Yet, they made exactly that move and shocked gamers everywhere during E3 2016. Resident Evil 7 will be playable as both a standard game as well as a virtual reality release. Equally surprising is that the series is taking a huge step back from its more modern iterations.
Resident Evil 4 was a start of something more action-oriented for the series, but it was with Resident Evil 5 that it truly became an action first title. Sure, zombie-esque beings were still present, but the terrifying atmosphere was all but gone by that point. It’s hard to be scared when your character has hulking arms or tons of weaponry in tow. In any case, Resident Evil 7 pushes back – away from these fast-paced releases. However, it doesn’t appear to be going back to the PlayStation 1 era for inspiration either.
Instead, what was demoed of Resident Evil 7 at E3 felt much more like a modern indie horror release you’d find on Steam. In many ways, it also feels like P.T., the demo for the ill-fated Silent Hills. There were no zombies or otherwise obvious enemies attacking you throughout. Instead, it was a rather quiet exploratory experience with a sense of dread growing as you creep around in the darkened building. The goal was simply to escape a decrepit home by wandering, picking up objects, and interacting with them. It is impossible to say how similar or far from Resident Evil 7 this initial demo will end up being, but it definitely shows Capcom are thinking about atmosphere again.
They’re also honing in on virtual reality. The only problem as of now is that they need to really “perfect” their usage of VR before bringing it out for the world to play. For me, and for some others, playing Resident Evil 7 with a PlayStation VR headset was an exercise in pain. For whatever reason, the speed of moving the character’s orientation (by moving the right analog stick) was so smooth and fast that it caused some definite nausea. I’ve played other VR games with PS VR (as well as other headsets) and the majority do not cause this reaction for me. My belief as of now is that they need to slow that camera motion or add in a new mobility option to stop people from feeling sick while playing. Luckily, these shouldn’t be hard fixes.
Disregarding the sick feeling some got while playing, Resident Evil 7 just makes sense in virtual reality. It wouldn’t at all if Capcom continued to pursue the modern action-packed Resident Evil formula, but that’s the antithesis of their upcoming title. This is a horror game which looks to take what’s best about truly scary games – dread, darkness, and the unknown – and put it in a setting that you can’t escape from. Virtual reality is poised to have all manner of uses, but horror is probably the most effective. Of all the upcoming PS VR experiences and games, it is likely that Resident Evil 7 shall become the one most worth playing. It creeps onto PS4 on January 24, 2017.