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Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour Hands-On Preview: Disturbing For the Wrong Reasons
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Resident Evil 7 has officially been announced. The reveal itself wasn’t that surprising… it was pretty much assumed the game would be announced at this year’s E3 Expo… but I don’t think anyone could have guessed it would look like this. With a new first-person perspective, a total absence of familiar characters, and no immediate ties to the previous games in the series, the seventh game in the series seems like a fresh start altogether.
Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Played), Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Resident Evil
Release Date: January 24, 2017
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
Along with the announcement, Capcom made a playable demo of the game, Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour, available to all PlayStation Plus subscribers. So with thoughts abut what the next game in the Resident Evil series could be fresh in my mind, I promptly downloaded this bite-sized teaser and jumped into a new house of horrors. What I encountered was truly disturbing… for all the wrong reasons.
It’s impossible not to draw parallels between the opening moments of this demo and the intro of P.T., the teaser for Hideo Kojima’s now-canceled Silent Hills. In both cases, the protagonist wakes up alone on the floor of a dark, spooky house. In Beginning Hour, ambient noise immediately begins to harass your ears, while loud footsteps cam be heard from just outside the cramped room and ferocious growls seem to surround you. It effectively set the mood.
An inescapable thought entered my mind, however, this isn’t Resident Evil. Walking around that initial room, flanking a ratty old couch and heading toward a fuse box on the wall, it all seemed so foreign. Upon investigating the fuse box more closely, a note popped up on the screen: “There is a missing fuse.”
There’s some Resident Evil, at least, I chuckled quietly, unaware that it was the only time such a thought would occur.
After reading a vaguely sinister sentence scribbled on a torn post-it, I eased into the hallway to find myself in a dark, yet all-around average home, with rustic decor… again, quite similar to P.T. Opening a chest of drawers, I located an odd mannequin finger which immediately popped into my inventory. Puzzled, I spun around and moved closer to a kitchen, stopping only to glance upstairs as obligatory footsteps beckoned me upward, before stepping in.
The fridge was disgusting, filled with rotten food and what may (or may not) have been human remains. There was a dead crow in the microwave (which I suspect is not the best method to eat crow) and, on the other side of the room, a locked drawer. “There is a small keyhole,” the game informed me, implying a key was hidden somewhere. I never located it.
Discovering my ability to sprint, I then ran upstairs to see what awaited. Passing by a group of mannequins who were probably meant to be scary, I soon found a big red button labeled “stairs” across from them. Alas, there was no power. Locating the missing fuse would surely remedy that! Turning around, it became apparent that at least one of the mannequins had moved closer. Testing this theory, I turned my back once more in the hopes of eliciting a Doctor Who-like Weeping Angel scenario… and was disappointed to see it remain stationary. Hmm.
If any of this sounds boring to you, let me say this now, it was. P.T. had the combined minds of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, two of the most creative people in their respective industries, to devise ways to scare you. Here in Beginning Hour, Capcom only attempts to creep you out with half-assed sound effects and subtle changes to the environment. Did that mannequin actually move? I don’t know. What I do know is that Condemned: Criminal Origins had a much more memorable mannequin encounter, so simply placing them in a game isn’t going to cut it now.
The final few minutes of my time with the demo were spent waiting for some grand finale to occur. Going back to the kitchen and sliding into the next hall… finally snookered by a jump scare, I might add… I quickly located a pair of bolt cutters to use on a chained-up cabinet positioned nearby. Inside was a VHS tape and, recalling a TV that was in the first room, I promptly headed in that direction.
What followed was a decent sequence set within the recorded footage, which was fully playable. It immediately introduced us to new characters, though their names escape me and are ultimately pointless. Two men walk toward an abandoned house, with you following along as the cameraman. They seemed to be filming a reality show of some kind, if their bickering was any indication. They broke in, revealing it to be the house you woke up in, and move inside before one of them was immediately separated from the rest.
A secret entrance to a basement was discovered while searching for him, which leads to a genuinely creepy moment that was a direct callback to The Blair Witch Project. When the cameraman was assaulted and knocked unconscious, we finally see what led to our initial awakening.
When the tape ends, reopening the secret entrance yields the key to unlock an exit. On the way out, someone dressed very much like Until Dawn’s psychopath walks past a doorway in a vaguely goofy manner, but getting to the exit was an otherwise breezy affair. As the door unlocks and I finally see sunlight for the first time, I’m pulled back inside and seemingly bludgeoned to death by a stereotypical hillbilly wielding a monkey wrench.
Fade to black, and then the demo begins anew as you wake up in the first room all over again.
While this was a playable teaser, Capcom said the scenario from Beginning Hour won’t be included in the final game and that it’s only meant to serve as a preview of the game’s atmosphere and style. That said, I’m not as excited for Resident Evil 7 as I was last week. It was a generic (but pretty) haunted house walking simulator, and a poorly-made one at that. It failed to instill any semblance of fear into my psyche, and the few attempts it made were kind of humorous.
More than that, it lacked anything resembling a Resident Evil experience. Capcom had been touting a return to the roots of the series in the months leading up to this reveal, but they don’t seem to have any idea what made fans love the series in the first place. This was a horror game, with nothing to differentiate it from the other titles inspired by P.T. It lacked the crucial survival element necessary for a true survival horror game, and in the absence of that… it just wasn’t fun.
Even so, more thorough gamers than I have begun to discover secrets hidden in this demo. Perhaps there is more to this teaser, and Resident Evil 7, than meets the eye?