Resident Evil 7 Preview
Scaredy Bladder VR.
In order to get out of playing or watching something scary, I sometimes tell people I have a condition called "scaredy bladder"—that if I'm jump-scared, I tend to pee a little in fear. I am a perennial coward... I tend to jump easily, and I don't like it. Some people like the feeling of fear immediately replaced by safety and laughter and all that, but I just stay afraid. Which is why I wasn't exactly jumping (pun very much intended) at the idea of playing the new Resident Evil 7 in VR.
RE7 takes place after the events of RE6, in the same universe, so this shouldn't be mistaken as a reboot or anything of the sort. This is a continuation of this universe, even if the main game style focus has shifted more toward previous encounters. There is still the collecting of items and there's still fighting, though the form the fighting will take wasn't on display. It could be back to the "scrounge for a few bullets" mentality of the first few Resident Evil games, but it's not likely to be the action-packed fight brought in the last few titles of the series. Hopefully Capcom will shed some light there before launch.
When there's nowhere to hide, the only thing you can do is be surrounded by that sense of dread of the violent, macabre, and unsettling. This is something Capcom has done well when transitioning RE7 into a fully-immersive virtual environment. The demo I played through is hideously beautiful and detailed, graphically being just enough that the impression of immersion is there and focused. When characters are present they're obviously electric depictions of people—there's just not quite enough there to make them look "real" yet, as well-animated as they are.
There was only one real issue I had with the VR, and it was certain movements and transitions. Yes, it looks high-quality, but dropping into a crouch for example is a jarring experience, where the point of view changes abruptly with no shift in body movement. It's just a button press and BOOM!, you're crouching, different POV, and you're left to resettle back in. It takes away from the experience, but as this is mainly designed to be first-person for the PS4 and transitioned to work with VR, it won't be as smooth as it could be if designed for the headset specifically.
The ambiance is what Capcom has really focused on, and it shows. The location throughout the demo is falling apart and creepy, and when a man in the so-called abandoned building you're in walks past the door so briefly, rapid gasping can ensue. Everything about the world feels like a meticulously-designed horror movie, complete with eerie and crescendo-reaching soundtrack. When the music starts to pick up, that's where I wanted to take the headset off, because it was scary. And I am a coward.
But if horror—more traditional horror—and earlier RE games are in your wheelhouse, this should hit the spot, especially if you've been waiting for a return to classic form, the kind built for survival-horror and not action-adventure horror. Resident Evil 7 comes out January 24, 2017, and as long as the game store you're buying it from isn't too distractingly decrepit, you should be fine and not too scared.
And I did ask, and sadly for me, there is no "coward" play mode. Maybe the next one.