For those that have gotten to check out Resident Evil 7, it has become clear that the latest entry has managed to revitalize the series, providing some truly memorable and terrifying moments that highlight the series’ storied history. The new first-person perspective and return to a focus on horror provide a strong new direction for the franchise, even if common Resident Evil issues like clunky dialogue and lackluster graphics still plague the newest title. The short nature of the campaign already has Resident Evil 7 owners chomping at the bit for any new slices of gameplay and story that Capcom can provide. To satiate those needs, Capcom has released the first of two planned volumes under the Banned Footage header just a week after launch, with two replayable modes and a brand-new story experience. Unfortunately, the three new offerings all fall flat of their potential, as they forget what made the core campaign of Resident Evil 7 truly shine.
The first of the three new modes offered is fittingly titled “Ethan Must Die”, and is entirely separate from the Resident Evil 7 campaign and the Banned Footage tapes, despite the name of the DLC pack it was included with. Ethan Must Die sends protagonist Ethan Winters back to the Baker mansion, where he must survive against stacked odds to take down Marguerite Baker and any other enemies who stand in his way. However, everything Ethan has at his disposal, from weapons and ammo to healing items, is all acquired through randomized loot drops, meaning that players will offer enter areas filled with enemies with little to no means to defend themselves, making death not only a certainty, but something that can rarely be skillfully avoided. The mode may live up to its handle, but the luck-heavy nature of it saps any chance the mode has of being even remotely fun, coming up as the weakest offering of the three new experiences.
The second replayable mode, Nightmare, puts players in control of the Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour demo’s protagonist Clancy, as he attempts to survive a night in the basement of the Bakers’ mansion. What initially appears as a simple horde mode actually has some surprising depth to it, thanks to the unique way the mode incentivizes players to acquire currency and constantly switch weapons. Like “Ethan Must Die”, the odds are once again in favor of the enemies and occasional mini-bosses, but each death offers new rewards to assist the player on their next run, allowing for new strategies to be utilized in completing both of Nightmare’s difficulty options. However, after completion, Nightmare offers very little reason for the player to revisit due to its repetitive nature, keeping the mode as a one-off experience instead of something more replayable like the horde modes of other games.
The strongest of the three experiences in Banned Footage Volume 1 is easily the Bedroom tape, which tasks Clancy with escaping from the watchful eyes of Marguerite Baker. Bedroom represents one of the more intriguing puzzles Resident Evil 7 has to offer, by not only presenting some challenging item-based problems, but also using the stealthy nature of the puzzle-solving to create some truly intense moments of panic and forced memorization. Unlike the item-based challenges of the main campaign, Bedroom does feature a few contrived solutions that prevent the experience from being free of frustrations, but it offers a uniquely stressful experience that should be regarded as the creativity blueprint for Resident Evil 7 DLC going forward.
At a $10 asking price, Resident Evil 7’s first DLC is hard to recommend, due to Ethan Must Die’s near-unplayable nature, and the two Banned Footage tapes only offering enjoyment for a rather short period of time. But, for fans craving more of the intense combat and puzzle-solving that Resident Evil 7 had to offer, Banned Footage Volume 1 can satisfy those needs for an hour or two, and provides a potential-filled look at where Capcom could head for the second volume of DLC.