Resident Evil, much like Final Fantasy, is a character-driven series. People who care about the series do so because of Leon, Claire and whoever else can survive a zombie apocalypse. The series’ use of the third-person perspective only serves to deepen the connection better character and player. Whilst the player may not be going through the things the character on screen is, there is a sense of impending physical danger. This is the effect of such a personal projection.
So what happens when you remove ALL of this from a Resident Evil game? This may not be a surprise, but as it turns out… the game stops feeling like Resident Evil.
The Resident Evil VII demo feels closer to PT, the doomed Silent Hill teaser from Hideo Kojima, than it does to Capcom’s AAA survival-horror series. Getting rid of the third-person perspective and replacing it with a first-person one, feels like an attempt to build on the success of PT, rather than a natural evolution.
Having said that, there are elements of Resident Evil here. There are a multitude of small puzzles, requiring the player to explore the environment, pick up objects, piece them together. As the series has become more and more action-orientated, it has moved away from the puzzle elements which helped to define the series. It’s nice to see these purer elements return.
The demo also revels in its horror. There are dark hallways, limited light, blood/gore and ritual items dotted around suggesting something incredibly sinister. It would appear that the latest entry in the series is focusing on one environment, making it as frightening as humanly possible. It’s without a doubt scary stuff… certainly scarier than the series has been in recent entries. Perhaps in this regard, Resident Evil is returning to its roots.
One section of the demo I really enjoyed, and the aspect which felt the most Resident Evil to me, was when the player puts in a VHS tape into a tape recorder. You’re taken back in time, and play as a cameraman filming two other characters. These characters are very well characterized, bantering with each-other. It’s a bit of shame then that they’re killed off seconds later (although.. it’s done in an intelligent way and had my heart pounding). There’s something very scary about seeing a friendly character in danger and not being able to help him. As a player I know that I can just re-spawn again, should anything bad happens to me. If something bad happens to the character I’m watching, well, that’s it. They’re done for. It’s an interesting aspect of the game, and proved that the experience wasn’t just a copy and paste of the PT demo.
Fans of the series shouldn’t be too worried that all is lost, as there’s an inventory system, and weapons… heck, there are even gun controls in the settings, so I’m sure that there will be combat. I feel like maybe the experience in the demo is far more misleading than one might expect.
At the end of the day, we don’t really know how close the Resident Evil VII demo will be to the final game. Is it all an elaborate ploy? Thankfully, we’ll find out very soon when the game launches on 24th January 2017.
In the meantime… The Resident Evil sub-reddit is trying to find out everything they can about the many secrets in the game. I would suggest paying the website a visit should you wish to find out more.