There was a time, many years ago, when I thought Resident Evil games were something special. I can’t quite be sure how far this train of thought travelled, and part of me thinks that it was only really the first two games that had me clamouring for the controller. But regardless, this is a franchise that has delivered some great zombie brain spattered memories that will always be treasured.
However, the train definitely did derail. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt excited about anything Resi related, until roughly 10.30pm last night that is.
Having watched the latest undead shenanigans of The Walking Dead (not spoiler free unfortunately), it seemed apt to follow that with a little demo I’d downloaded just a few hours earlier, Resident Evil 7.
I fired up the trial game with minimal expectation and then, without even realising, I became completely lost in a beautiful nightmare of eerie, grim and quite incredible horror. My heart had two options at this point, stop, or beat like a whirlwind sweaty headed Dave Grohl drumming for Nirvana, thankfully it chose the rock star option. Watching the short opening sequence unfold and then taking those first massively tentative steps through one creepy as hell ramshackle farm house brought truly phenomenal immersion, the type of which is rarely seen in similar games. I felt like I was in a movie. Not watching a movie, but actually in a movie.
After a slow and overly cautious wander through the long abandoned home, where rotting food spilled across the kitchen table, and every creak and groan of the building etched my arms with goosebumps, I eventually stumbled upon an old VHS tape. I placed this into the recorder sat above the white noise crackle of the old TV set, and then something brilliant happened. The film began to play, I sat back expecting the usual story building cut scene movie synonymous with the horror genre, and then quickly realised I could control my character within this movie! As the act unfolded, three of us walking towards this old building, discussions about the history and the filming, it became apparent that we were some sort of low budget Ghost Hunters show about to bite off a lot more than we could possibly chew.
And I’m saying no more regarding plot. The demo is short and sweet and what secrets and scares it holds should be experienced first-hand. Instead I just wanted to talk about the experience of playing this new Resident Evil 7 demo, because right now, on the back of a run through, there’s no game that I’m more excited about getting my hands on.
Generally, I’m not one for horror games. I tend to question how much fun I’m actually having trying to control my hapless character whilst viewing the screen from the corner of my eye and hoping my heart doesn’t suddenly burst from my chest and land in a bloody mess on my pyjamas. But for reasons I can’t yet understand, Resident Evil 7, thoroughly enticed me in, and then even when the s**t hit the fan, or the armless mannequins came into view, I didn’t run for cover or quickly hit pause and quit, I saw it through. Well, to be honest, I saw it through on my second attempt. The attempt where my wife was sat next to me and the lights might have been on. On the first run I climbed down a ladder and bricked it big time, quickly scurrying off to bed to watch Father Ted…with the lights on.
If the demo gives a true representation of what we can expect in the full game, then Resident Evil might finally be about to return to the pinnacle of the horror genre. The game did a fantastic job of building the tension until I was literally jumping at every slight noise or movement. It goes full Spinal Tap on that ‘fear of the unknown’ element and dials it right up to eleven, but it works brilliantly. The slow burning terror that permeates the air is worth a thousand charging demons tearing across the screen, it takes the player into a truly horrific place and then dares them to be brave and to unravel the mystery, no matter what.
The dark heart of Resident Evil is beating strong once more, and my own heart might just be preparing a little space for it again.