Resident Evil 7's Teaser Shows Promise, But Leaves Some Lingering Questions

Resident Evil 7's Teaser Shows Promise, But Leaves Some Lingering Questions

Capcom's reboot brings their horror series in an entirely new direction, but can it sustain first-person tension for more than 20 minutes?

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

As the winds change, so does Resident Evil... eventually.

What started two decades ago as a slightly more action-y take on old-school PC adventure games eventually became a full-fledged shooter with 2005's Resident Evil 4. And now, 2017's upcoming sequel seeks to bring Resident Evil back to its adventure roots—though in a much different context than the series' 1996 debut. In our modern media landscape, it's clear that YouTubers and Twitch streamers can be absolutely pivotal to a game's success, and Capcom definitely wants to take advantage of this phenomenon with a VR-ready, scarecam-friendly Resident Evil experience. But, after playing Beginning Hour—a free teaser available now for all PS Plus members—this new entry doesn't seem quite as cynical as it could be.

For the most part, 7 divorces itself entirely from any variation of Resident Evil you've ever played. Gone are the Michael Bay/George Romero theatrics, the shambling undead, and any significant ties to the series' confusing timeline—in fact, the only real reference I spotted amounts to a single, fuzzy Umbrella logo within a black-and-white photo. Beginning Hour—the title of this playable teaser—kicks off with your character getting to his feet in the middle of an abandoned, dilapidated dwelling, with one simple goal: Get out of the house.

Escaping the boarded-up hovel entails figuring out a chain of puzzles that gradually leads to the key necessary for unlocking the front door. (Think of it as a slight variant on the "room escape" genre.) Of course, Resident Evil 7 does its best to screw with you along the way, with plenty of ominous sounds and shifting objects to make you question whether or not you're truly alone.

The real twist, then, comes when your character finds a VHS tape locked away within a chained up chifferobe: Popping it in a nearby VCR allows you to enter a flashback that shows just how your character ended up the way he did before the events of Beginning Hour. It's more than simply watching past events play out, though. RE7's teaser makes its flashbacks interactive, meaning you can explore the house just as you would normally, and even find objects that aren't there in the present.

To be honest, Beginning Hour underwhelmed me a bit until I decided to jump back in after my first playthrough. With the knowledge given to me by the in-game flashback, I cut out the middleman and pulled a secret switch in the fireplace, which previously led me directly to the front door key. This time, though, a fuse sat in the place of the key, and I used it to access an attic area I had never seen before. Above all, Beginning Hour makes the most of its small space by encouraging you to approach solutions in as many ways as possible, and subtly changing certain elements to keep you on your toes. Thanks to the help of a viewer during my livestream today, I found out you can actually pick up and use objects in the past; I nabbed a well-hidden lockpick and used it to access a handy axe in the present—though I'm still not exactly sure what it's used for. (And from what I can tell, Beginning Hour doesn't feature a lick of combat.)

I can't tell how much Resident Evil 7 will be able to sustain Beginning Hour's same sense of tension over 12 to 15 hours (I'm guessing), but the choices on display so far have struck me as pretty thoughtful. For the most part, it relies on sheer dread rather than jump-scares, and the overall focus on revisiting the experience could lead to some great puzzles—and some even better secrets.

I'm already seeing a lot of backlash directed towards Resident Evil's new form, and while I typically commend people for their healthy skepticism, any drastic change to the series is honestly for the better. Capcom apparently realized another warmed-over, adulterated version of RE4 simply wouldn't cut it, so they simply went in the most unexpected direction possible. Even after digesting Beginning Hour, there's no way I could possibly tell you how Resident Evil 7 will pan out, but, at the very least, one thing is clear: it's definitely going to be memorable.

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