TGS 2016: Resident Evil 7 Hands-on

I originally posted this at Critical Gamer

Lantern, an extended version of the Gamescom Resident Evil 7 demo, opened with an unpleasant game of hide and seek. I was chased into a rickety old house by a lovely old crone who desperately wanted to bash my brains in. She's a bit mad, you see.

It was all in first-person and shared the same grainy visuals as the first, publicly available demo. The house was dilapidated and dank, the kind of place you'd want to avoid even if it weren't patrolled by a psychotic old lady. And it was night time, because these things aren't nearly as frightening in the light of day. I ran and I hid; I fumbled desperately for door knobs, solved a puzzle using shadows and eventually crawled under the floorboards. Inevitably, Granny caught me and that was that. Only not quite.

The demo closed with a new, minimally interactive scene set around the dinner table. The Baker family had invited me for tea, or more likely dragged me kicking and screaming to the dinner table. There was an argument and the elder Baker mangled the arm of a co-diner (his son?) with a knife before turning his attention to the player. We were force fed filthy offal and god knows what else, but it was rotten and it soon came back up. Mrs Baker did not appreciate this and threw a wobbly, while Mr Baker turned his knife on us. The screen cut as he began to slice. Lovely stuff.

The first-person perspective and grimy visuals succeeded in building tension. There were some jump scares, but it is unease rather than terror that I felt over the course of this short demo. There was a real sense of hopelessness, as I crawled around the house, moving from one hiding spot to the another, trying to avoid the old lady. However, if this style of gameplay is to be the focus of the full game, then it may begin to drag. We know that the Lantern demo is an optional part of the final game, another tape that helps unravel the story, and that it may not be representative of the full experience. Gameplay-wise, I certainly hope that Capcom has a little more up its sleeve and that it may offer some occasional respite from the grainy, dreary imagery that has defined the first two demos.

Resident Evil 7 is a new beginning for Capcom. It's a much needed reset for a series that has lost its way. Here's hoping that Lantern is merely a taste of what's on offer and that there's a little more variety in the final game.


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