The first image that greeted me was a dilapidated wall. Torn and faded wallpaper exposed the wooden slats underneath. An inky shadow loomed over the scene. In the bottom right there were scratch marks that read, ‘welcome home’. After eleven years, it’s good to be back.
Resident Evil 7 Beginning Hour is an interesting proposition: take twenty minutes to explore a rustic house with the simple intention of getting out. The short demo sets the mood and tone that Capcom are going for with their next main series entry. Director Koushi Nakanishi has veered away from the gun-toting mayhem of the last two games, and has taken us back to a simpler time. Whilst Nakanishi has made clear that Beginning Hour will not be a part of the main game, the approach it takes will now be the direction the core series will move in.
Let’s get the initial take out the way then. I liked this a lot. The time I spent poking about the creaky rusted pile was rife with tension. I was constantly on edge and scared of what may lurk around each corner. This was obviously very reminiscent of P.T., only there was far more of a physical presence here. (That isn’t to say that there isn’t something ghostly going on as well mind.)
P.T. started something, but sadly it was relegated to the limbo of cancellation, and there hasn’t been much to take up the mantle. As a result, Beginning Hour feels as though there is finally mainstream justice being done to first-person survival horror.
Ah, those immortal words. Yes, this is undoubtedly survival horror once again. The protagonist is slow, vulnerable, not a specially-trained agent, and is absolutely out of their depth. So are we. There are several nice touches here for fans of the series. I spotted a photo with an Umbrella Corporation logo, I found a lock pick, and I replaced a missing fuse at one point. There are puzzles here that reward thorough exploration and lateral thinking; with rewards for patient players like an axe or other hidden goodies.
At this point the only troubling aspects to Beginning Hour are the clichés littered throughout. There are a myriad of horror movie tropes displayed prominently throughout which sadly telegraphed a couple of the jump scares for me.
The feeling that lingers upon completion of the demo – which can be done in a number of ways – is one of slight ambivalence. The reality that the demo will not be part of Resident Evil 7 leaves it feeling a little out of place, and it feels as though the entire experience is haunted by the ghosts of Kojima and Del Toro.
All things considered, this is a triumphant move in the right direction. The entire Resident Evil series has lent heavily on cliché, but this has never been a weakness. It was never that the games were original in their scares; it was that the interactivity bred new fear. Thankfully, fear is omnipresent throughout Beginning Hour. We can’t wait to play the final game when it launches on January 24th 2017 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.