“Welcome to the family, son.”

A playable demo of Resident Evil 7 is now available to download on PS4. We went hands-on with Capcom’s ambitious new entry so you can sleep easier at night. 

As you first load the playable teaser for the upcoming Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (titled The Beginning Hour), the screen cuts to a decrepit wall with the words “Welcome home” manically scratched into its stained, decaying wallpaper. Having been whole-heartedly swept up in the post-E3 rhetoric that this game will bring the much-needed return to the franchise’s survival horror roots, it’s hard not to smile at the playful double meaning of this cryptic message.

Can Resident Evil 7 change our perceptions on the franchise? How will it hold up to P.T.? Should it even be compared to P.T.? Against my better judgement, I dived into the harrowing hallways of the demo to find out just that.

Ok, it’s a lot like PT…

Ah, P.T. The dream project brought to gamers by what many believed would become the Holy Trinity of horror, only to be cruelly cast into the “rejected ideas” bin thanks to the small matter of an on-going feud with the most notable game developer in the world.

Although P.T. would be destined to sit sombrely in our digital libraries, its publication might just be the very thing to save the genre, and indeed the Resident Evil franchise. With its distinct lack of combat (or action altogether), its domestic setting and its first-person perspective, it’s impossible not to compare the Resident Evil 7 demo, The Beginning Hour, to Kojima’s teaser, despite the developers comments that this game was in development prior to the P.T. reveal.

You only have to watch a few minutes of gameplay to realise that The Beginning Hour draws heavily from P.T. At one point it even got me with a procedurally-generated scare, the likes of which really took off in titles like Layers of Fear. In many ways, however, the game is so different to P.T. that to limit it to basic comparisons would do it a disservice.

Despite the ghostly presence of a small girl appearing at numerous points throughout the demo, The Beginning Hour feels much more grounded than P.T., both to its credit and my horror. The player has more of a physical impact on the world around them, either by cutting chains or opening doors, which gives it a sense of realism and puts it on a par with titles like Outlast.

“The Beginning Hour tantalises the player with the idea that normality, even safety, might lie beyond a single door…”

What’s more, the Resident Evil series’ trademark formula – the concept of taking a familiar setting and making it eerily unfamiliar and threatening – shines through here in a way that never transpired in P.T. Whether it’s through the weak rays of light that struggle to penetrate the grime-layered windows, or the brief moment of respite the game affords at the end of the demo, Resident Evil 7 tantalises the player with the idea that normality, even safety, might lie beyond a single door – making my time in the house all the scarier for it.

House of Horrors

The game also looks to be once again re-inventing its assailants and doing away with the typical zombie formula (pardon the pun). From what I could tell, the player comes into contact with two assailants throughout the course of the demo, one of which appears to be a man with the ability to speak, and the other seeming much more supernatural in nature, though still demonstrating a certain level of intelligence and the ability to wield weapons.

Resident Evil 7 bloody face

We’re sure this would make a wonderful cosplay…

All of these assumptions might point to the return of the Ganados from Resident Evil 4, but no doubt the origin and true nature of the game’s enemies will remain a secret until we’ve had a chance to experience the full campaign for ourselves. What does remain clear, however, is that they are terrifying.

As an aside, while playing through the demo for a second time (there’s nothing like suffering for my art, right?), it also became clear that the timestamp on the video places a certain section of the teaser on June the 1st, 2017. Whilst the isolated nature of the demo gives little reference as to the setting or timeframe, we can assume (providing there’s no weird time travel voodoo going on) that the main body of action takes place after this date. Though why anyone is still using VHS tapes at this point is completely beyond me.

A Homecoming Story

Other Resident Evil staples like a confined inventory and magical herbs are also suggested to be making a comeback, with recent developer comments (and the hidden presence of an axe in the demo) confirming that combat will return to the full game, albeit from a first-person perspective. Could this be the franchise’s return to glory? It’s almost certainly too early to tell, but this demo has definitely got me hyped for the full release early next year.

Now, if you don’t mind I’m going to purchase some new underwear… It’s on sale, okay?!

Resident Evil 7 releases on January 24th on PS4, PC and Xbox One, and will also support VR.