The comparisons between Capcom’s newly released teaser demo for Resident Evil 7 and P.T. are simply unavoidable. Both developed as standalone gateways into upcoming horrors sequels and both released during a PlayStation E3 media briefing, they even share the same out of character first person viewpoint.
The Beginning Hour, as it’s generously titled, may lack originality yet marks a potential change in direction for the Resident Evil franchise. Since its fourth numbered instalment, each successive spin-off and sequel has either come in way too short or, at the very least, divided opinion amongst fans as it diverges further and further from the series’ roots.
If this interactive teaser is anything to go by, Capcom is clearly making an effort to draw a line under Resident Evil 6 and dial things back to the way they once were. Although it’s hard to tell from fifteen obscure minutes of gameplay, hopefully that means a dramatic shift in not only setting and tone but placing atmosphere above mindless blockbuster action.
The demo kicks off in typical horror fashion as you awake on the filth-ridden floor of a derelict building. Although it’s daylight, a tangle of broken blinds and boarded up windows means that only a few disparate rays of sunlight illuminate your surroundings.
Upon gaining control of Clancy, the demo’s protagonist, you go about searching this run-down country home, collecting items and interacting with various objects. In this respect, it feels much more game-like compared to P.T., allowing players to store and use items from their inventory.
It isn’t long before you find a rogue video cassette and retrace your steps back to a television at your starting location. After popping it in, players are temporarily beamed back in time, Clancy’s now joined by two other guys – a producer and anchor scouting the location of their next haunted house show.
Thankfully Capcom doesn’t waste time in trying to flesh out these shell characters. Once again, you’re free to roam the country house until one of your crew suddenly disappears, and it’s after eventually finding him you snap back to the present and things now start to feel a bit off. Coming across a key to the back door, I was hit with this sudden urge to make a beeline and not look back despite having felt relatively safe before this point.
After a couple of well-placed jump scares I made it, only to be captured by the mysterious figure that had been stalking me all along. Following a brief end movie, The Beginning Hour starts over, inviting players to dive back in for more. Despite coming in at just under fifteen minutes, there are no doubt a handful of clues and easter eggs for eager gamers to uncover.
All in all, I’m just as clueless about Resident Evil 7 as I was before hearing of its existence. The interactive teaser points towards a dark and more traditional tone, but fails to illustrate the kind of experience fans can expect to get their hands on early next year.
That’s by no means a bad thing. Although the teaser’s ambiguity may breed frustration among some fans, Capcom has successfully propelled Resident Evil back into the public consciousness. Now – as with the aftermath of any teaser – we wait, our collective gaze falling upon Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show in the hopes of a bigger, more in-depth reveal.