I've already experienced how terrifying Resident Evil 7 is in VR, but I'm only just learning how damn fun it could be also. Whereas the game's initial "Kitchen" demo was an exercise in silent spookiness, the new "Lantern" sequence I played at New York Comic-Con was a 15-minute thrill ride in which I tried not to die — and failed.
If you've seen the game's Lantern trailer before, you'll know exactly what I flung myself head-first into on a PlayStation VR headset. A creepy, lantern-touting woman follows you throughout a run-down house, forcing you to sneak, hide and run in order to avoid being captured. The whole thing was as unsettling as it sounds.
While my first taste of Resident Evil 7 in VR gave me some good jump scares, this new demo marks the first time a virtual reality game has actually made me short of breath. I found myself physically ducking and trying not to exhale whenever the woman walked past my hiding spot. When I squeezed through a claustrophobically tight opening between two walls in the midst of my escape, I could have sworn my chest caved in a bit.
But nothing was scarier than the one time I failed — the semi-undead woman yelled at me and ran full speed at my face until the screen went black. Even when I tried again and eluded her, the demo ended with me being captured while scurrying beneath the house's floorboards.
According to Capcom, the Lantern demo is one of several "cassette tape" side missions that you can find and play thorough in order to learn about other characters in the game. After the mission was over, I woke up at a dinner table as the main character, watching as a group of loud-mouthed, southern-drawled monsters tried to force feed me what looked like human body parts. When I didn't comply, one of the not-zombies took a knife to me — one of many moments when I wanted to close my eyes to avoid the terror.
Aside from being a tense VR experience, the Lantern demo gave me hope that Resident Evil 7 can also be a fun and engaging horror game. I was pleased to see some of the puzzle solving from past RE games make a return here, and while there wasn't any combat in the demo, a Capcom representative assured me that you'll be able to duke it out with, well, whatever the hell the game's enemies really are.
My one gripe with my original demo remains, though; the graphics still look a little grainy. I was told that the demo's fuzzy look was partly intentional since I was essentially watching a cassette tape of something that already happened, but the game generally looks a bit too pixelated for a next-gen horror title. This could simply be a limitation of PlayStation VR; I've yet to try the game out on a regular TV.
Resident Evil 7 launches for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Jan. 24, 2017, though its VR component is exclusive to PlayStation for a year. Judging by the two demos I've played, however, the game is shaping up to be a scarily good first-person horror romp no matter how you play it.