Surprisingly enough, Capcom’s Resident Evil 20th Anniversary Tour rolled into Cleveland, Ohio to mark the halfway point of its trip around the country. Intended to promote the upcoming Resident Evil 7 while also driving extra business to local GameStop locations, the tour promised to be a good time for fans to come and hang out. But did it live up to those expectations?
Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Played), Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Resident Evil
Release Date: January 24, 2017
ESRB Rating: Mature
My fellow attendees and I were herded into one long, coiled line while the staff set up the trailer, PlayStation VR units, and outdoor challenge stations. A random assortment of music was played through one massive speaker, and later, one of the staffers picked up a microphone and briefly tried to explain the challenges. But his mic cut off and left him to disappear back into the trailer with a deflated sigh. Fifteen minutes passed and he finally returned, telling us about the free posters and certificates we could win by meeting specific goals in Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, and Resident Evil 6. The catch: we would have to step out of the VR line to do so. Yeah, nice try! Nobody fell for that.
All in all, 30-40 people showed up before the VR demos began. There were only four VR demo units inside the trailer, and we were told each group of four people ahead of us in line would represent a 15 minute wait time. Doing the math, six or seven people left immediately… and were replaced later by others who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Because the demo was untimed, it took around two hours before that lovely headset was hastily plopped over my head… but those poor souls near the end of the line? I’ll never know what fate befell them.
One thing to note before my demo impressions: the staff tried their best to make the wait less excruciating, chatting with people in line and answering any questions tossed their way. If you find yourself attending this event in your home town, don’t be afraid to talk to them.
What I got to play was the same “Lantern” demo shown in the video above. It begins with a short calibration, which takes place in a dark room. After looking up, down, left, and right at glowing blood stains to ensure the head tracking is correct, on-screen prompts told me to walk around and enter red circles to get accustomed to using VR with a standard controller.
What surprised me is that you can’t turn by simply rotating your head, and instead must use the right thumbstick as in any other first-person game. However, one bizarre difference is that it only turns you incrementally, meaning you have to tap the right thumbstick in the direction you want to turn several times to orient yourself. Since this was my first experience with VR, it threw me off for about two or three minutes. Perhaps quick movements cause problems for the headset, or maybe Capcom just didn’t want VR newcomers to get sick during these early days in the hardware’s lifespan. Either way, it left me disappointed.
Luckily, that faded over time. I had seen the RE7 Lantern trailer before, and so had a general idea of where to go and what to do. What I didn’t know is that the main action, where the matriarch of the villainous Baker family chases players, would begin so soon. She appeared behind me mere seconds into the demo, and so I sprinted forward across a rickety rope bridge (the first and only time my stomach demanded to know what was happening) and entered a small cabin. Around this time I discovered the text was too blurry to read, possibly because the headset wasn’t properly positioned on my head.
Evading Marguerite Baker for the duration of the demo was slow, but fun. When her withered, zombie-esque mug turns toward you, you instinctively tucked yourself in more behind whatever you’re using for cover. The PlayStation VR’s head tracking worked perfectly every time, matching my movements any time I stretched my neck or leaned around a corner to survey the area. While navigating the cabin and turning a little too closely to some junk, I even jerked my head back when I nearly poked my eye out on a digital broomstick handle. That’s some powerful stuff, there.
Even with the general blurriness of the display (which, again, I think would mostly be cured with proper adjustment), I was absolutely blown away by the overall immersion. When I ended up in the basement in total darkness, only for Marguerite’s lantern to ignite and have me staring at her rotted, gnashing teeth an inch from my face, there was no mistaking that she was there. That I was there. Similarly, when the dinner table sequence concluded the demo and I found myself forced to confront those freakish Texas Chain Saw Massacre wannabes, I truly felt as though the domineering Jack Baker was looming over me, waving human remains and a sharp knife in my face.
While my impressions of the Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour demo were negative, my time under the PlayStation VR headset showed that the drastic new direction for the series is entirely built around that experience — and though it pains me to say it, that wasn’t a bad decision. Unfortunately, the majority of those purchasing RE7 in January will not own that hardware… and I’m not yet convinced the game is strong enough on its own.
As for the tour itself, did it meet my expectations?
Uh… kind of? I should’ve known the tour wasn’t going to be all that special if they were willing to enter my neck of the woods. In addition to the live PlayStation VR demo for RE7, the biggest incentive to show up was the exclusive merchandise made specifically for sale at the tour’s booth. Among these items were a 20th Anniversary Collectible Coin, some great looking hoodies, and tour shirts bearing the name of every state they will travel to by November 16th. More than any of those, the item I had my sights set on was the 12” tall plush Licker, one of the most iconic and recognizable enemies from the games…
…Except they weren’t on sale. Through no fault of the tour’s staff, they were not allowed a permit to sell anything inside of Ohio’s borders. That came from the lips of a staff member, who then gestured toward a cop car parked directly across from the demo trailer. Inside was an officer whose only job for the day was to monitor activity and make sure no limited edition merchandise was sold to any diehard fans. Because that would obviously be the worst thing happening in Cleveland. One poor fan traveled two hours by bus to try nabbing something for his collection, which made me feel better about the 40-minute drive my older brother, his wife, and I took.
Sadly, what I experienced with the demo also proved that I’ve become desensitized to most horror games. Signs posted all around the tour trailer noted that our participation was recorded, and there’s no doubt that I looked pretty damn demented as I grinned gleefully throughout the entire ordeal. That lasted the length of the drive home as well, I’ll have you know. When all was said and done, I walked away with a free poster after playing the VR demo, one 20th Anniversary Pin for pre-ordering RE7 at GameStop, and the certainty that I’m going to buy a PlayStation VR in the near future.
But why does it have to be $500?
More information about the Resident Evil 20th Anniversary Tour, including dates and locations for the remaining stops, can be found at the official website.