It is hard to dispute the quality of Sony’s E3 conference. With consistent high profile reveals – including a Crash Bandicoot revival, the announcement of The Last Guardian’s impending release and, of course, Hideo Kojima’s new IP – the show was a resounding success. But most startling of all was the trailer for a new entry into the Resident Evil series – Resident Evil 7 biohazard – one which could easily be mistaken for PT at a glance. However, not only were we provided with a trailer but also a playable demo, which became available immediately after the conference, free for PS Plus subscribers.
The demo itself is about the same length as Kojima’s PT, but without the complexity needed to reach the end. You wake up in a dilapidated house, with the objective simply to escape and little else. The scares are minimal, and the atmosphere of the house paints a similar picture to dozens of identical games that have come before it.
The switch to first person is a welcomed move for a series that had long since begun to stagnate thanks to its monotonous over the shoulder action. The player is introduced to mechanics similar to Silent Hill, whereby collecting items helps further the player’s progression through the game. All of these items are stored a simple inventory system mapped to different directions on the D-pad. One has to wonder whether this change is enough to maintain any sense of lasting interest. Since Resident Evil 6, this genre of horror has flooded the market, and entries such as Outlast and Layers of Fear have done a better job than what we have been shown so far.
Having played through the game twice, there are different pathways to discover, each of which reveal slightly more information pointing towards a Resident Evil game. However, one of the biggest questions left on my mind is how far they are willing to take this theme of a demented family – akin to House of a Thousand Corpses – being monitored by Umbrella. How will these serious themes combine with the zany universe and cartoonish characters that have become a mainstay of the series? Somehow I can’t see the silent cameraman and intrepid reporter interacting well with the superhuman Albert Wesker or titular heroes Chris and Jill Redfield. Perhaps it could go down a similar road to Resident Evil Zero (hopefully not too similar) in having a side story that occurs somewhere in between the events of the main titles.
It’s early days however and, if nothing else, this brief demo – coupled with the recently Resident Evil Revelations 2 – marks the solid steps Capcom have taken in pulling the series out of the quagmire of mediocrity some had feared it would never return from.