The announcement of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard at E3 last week wasn’t a surprise. After all, this is a series that is more than 75 titles deep by developer Capcom’s count. But what was surprising is that both zombies and the series’ traditional third-person perspective have been jettisoned in favor of a first-person “haunted house” experience. In fact, the trailer looked strikingly similar to the Hideo Kojima/Guillermo del Toro playable teaser for their abandoned Silent Hills game.
What gives? Is Capcom just looking to give fans a quick-and-dirty substitute for the Silent Hills they’ll never have?
Then I played the demo on PlayStation VR during E3 and immediately understood the dramatic shift in perspective: Resident Evil 7 is built first and foremost as a showcase virtual reality experience — and a terrifying one at that.
My one-hour Resident Evil 7 demo was by far the most frightening VR experience I've had. Coupled with surround-sound headphones, it consistently spiked my heart rate into the red zone.
I felt claustrophobic throughout, even in a "safe" area. I approached each door frame and corner with the timidity of a kid looking for monsters under the bed. And I still suffered multiple jump scares. (Who keeps a mannequin in their hallway?!)
In short, it was awesome.
The greatest testament to the power of Resident Evil 7 in VR is how it altered my basic approach to playing video games. I'm typically an explorer, interested in diverting to whatever side paths a game offers. In the Resident Evil 7 demo, you have a critical path to completing the demo, and it all takes place on the first floor. There are stairs leading to a second floor, fully explorable, but the first time I passed the stairwell a distorted human figure flickered at the top of the stairs.
Suffice it to say, I still don't know what's up there. And I'm okay with that.
If you're impatient, you can play the same demo in standard reality on your PS4 right now, but I highly recommend waiting until Jan. 24, 2017, when you can purchase Resident Evil 7 as a PlayStation VR title.