The Resident Evil 7 demo gave me one task: get the hell out of the creepy ass house. In my 20 minutes with the demo, titled The Beginning Hour, I had the constant feeling that there was something else in the house with me. That just goes to show how brilliant the game’s sound design is. The entire house was full of creaking boards, footsteps, water dripping from the faucet, and flies buzzing around rotting carcasses. The demo didn’t have a lot of jump scares (there were maybe two jump scares), but it did such a fantastic job of creeping me out with just the ambience and pervading sound effects. Every little creak was enough to get a knee-jerk reaction out of me, simply because you didn’t know what horrors could be lying around the corner, waiting for you to fall into their ravenous traps.
I should mention that I played through the demo with the PSVR headset. Like many other PSVR titles, Resident Evil 7 does suffer from the blurry grainy effect. However, the difference between the gameplay experience of playing with or without a headset is massive. The first-person camera certainly gives you a heightened sense of immersion, and the VR forces you to be truly present in that dilapidated house. I had to play the game with a DualShock 4, but even then, it was impossible not to feel completely alone but present in the broken home.
A nod must be given to the door opening animations in the Resident Evil 7 demo. The Beginning Hour brings back the tension that came with the iconic first-person door opening process in the older Resident Games. By making it first-person, there’s a serious sense of anxiety that comes with the simple act of opening a scratched up door. By pushing the X button when next to a door, it creaks open and stays slightly ajar. You can get a glimpse of what awaits you on the other side, but it’s not quite enough. You’ll have to move forward and use your body weight to push the door completely open. If I’m being completely honest, the jump scares got me the first time, but nothing quite matches the insane tension that comes with opening a damn door.
Eventually I found a VHS tape that showed me the fates of three other individuals who had chanced upon the same house I was in. The tape gave me the location of a secret passage in the house, and that led me to a key that would open the backdoor. It was at this point that I finally had concrete evidence that I was not alone in this house. The house suddenly seemed to come alive as the creaking and shifting grew even more intense. I was done. I had to get to the backdoor and get out. I sprinted to the door, pushed it open, and was immediately assaulted by some sort of undead being. Next thing I know, my character was dead, and the demo was over. It was pretty exhilarating.
The one thing that really pleased me about this demo was that Resident Evil 7 seems to be bringing back the environmental puzzles, which were a staple of the classic games. I found a dummy finger early on in the demo, but I didn’t need it at all to escape the house – I suspect this might be related to some hidden secrets within The Beginning Hour itself. There was also a fuse box with a missing component that stood out to me very conspicuously, though I didn’t need to mess with it either. Finding key items and slowly figuring out how to use them to unlock explorable areas in the world was a big appeal of the classic Resident Evil titles, and I couldn’t be happier to see them make a return in this latest entry.
Capcom has mentioned that most of what we see in the demo won’t be in the final game, and they’ve also confirmed that there will be weapons and herbs to use. However, if The Beginning Hour is a good indication of the direction and style that Resident Evil 7 is going for, I can safely say that I’m looking forward to see even more. After years of action and shooter-styled Resident Evil games (which I enjoyed very much), it feels really good to see the series go back to its roots and recreate the fear that came with being trapped alone in a terrifying space.