Resident Evil has been known in the last decade as an action-horror series that emphasizes fast and frenetic, over-the-top action, and generous, bombastic arsenals. These releases have been met with mixed reviews, with many fans and critics calling for a return to the series’ original form with more atmosphere, more subdued, paced combat, and more emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving. If the new teaser demo for Resident Evil VII is any indicator, the series is heading back to its roots.
Resident Evil VII: Beginning Hour exhibits many gameplay changes that deviate from recent offerings. Most obviously, the game is played from a first-person perspective, something completely new to the series. Players control an unknown man who awakens in a desolate house, tasked simply with finding out how to escape. The first-person perspective—a first for the series--helps make the experience chilling, as the eerie lighting and the creaks, moans, and bumps of the home constantly conjure evil just off-screen. Drawers and other vessels in the home can be opened with the press of a button, revealing disgusting and creepy details. Players collect items like an electrical fuse, bolt cutters, and a revealing tape that open areas of the house, reveal important plot information, or pose more questions. For instance, players can discover that the narrative still takes place in the Resident Evil universe, evident from an item in the home that incriminates Umbrella Corp, though where they are in the current timeline-or in the world—is unclear. There’s no combat to be had, but it has been confirmed that the final product will have combat in some form. The lack of combat enhances the demo’s intensity, similar to the terrifying yet terrific atmospheric horror games Amnesia: Dark Descent and SOMA.
The end result is a demo that plays just like Hideo Kojima’s teaser for Silent Hills, titled P.T., albeit far less unsettling. In fact, the demo is more reminiscent of the characteristic chilling and tense Silent Hill atmosphere and puzzle aesthetic than even of the first Resident Evil. With the seeming demise of the former series, I find it refreshing and exciting that the latter is diving into the void left by its competitor.
As this is a teaser, there’s no telling what the final product will actually play like, but as of now I’m hopeful. Capcom might be taking a chance with some fans, but the more paced and thoughtful gameplay may just elevate Resident Evil out of the suplex-a-zombie rut that it’s found itself in lately. Let’s keep our eyes, and minds, open.