LOS ANGELES — Before I even started playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on PlayStation VR, I was pretty freaked out. Capcom’s E3 2016 booth was a recreation of a dimly-lit haunted house, which made me feel like I was walking straight into the original game’s iconic spooky mansion. I eventually entered a small room, where a PR rep asked me if I’d prefer to play the game in VR or on a TV. Against the interest of my own sanity, I chose the headset.
Resident Evil 7 brings the main series to the first-person (and to virtual reality) for the first time, giving Capcom an excellent excuse to scare the hell out of anyone willing to play it in VR. The demo I played threw me headfirst into an eerily dilapidated house, with no clues as to why exactly I was there in the first place. That's a pretty standard situation for a Resident Evil game, though being able to physically turn my head to examine my surroundings ratcheted up the eeriness.
I began in a small room with a static-ridden television set and a broken fuse box, where I picked up and interacted with items using a quick push of the controller's X button. The TV’s VCR was missing its tape, and I needed to find a way to fix the fuse, so in classic Resident Evil fashion, it was time to explore a creepy locale for some key items.
As I walked from room to room, I immediately tensed up at the subtle but terrifying noises of creaks and footsteps coming from around the house. Even just opening doors was anxious, as I found myself quickly looking behind me every time I entered a room. The jump scares eventually intensified, as I got faked out my falling mannequins and disturbing paper dolls hanging from ceilings.
Once I ended up in a disgustingly rundown kitchen, I knew something was up. Plates covered with maggots lined the counter, and the fridge was filled with rotted meat. When I opened the microwave, I found a dead bird inside. What else could go wrong?
After finding the missing tape and playing it back, I was transported to an interactive flashback scene that let me experience what happened in the house before I arrived. In this scene, I became a cameraman for a duo of paranormal investigators sent to check the place out. As you might expect, things went very, very badly.
Once I finished watching the tape, an old note lying around on the table suddenly had some fresh, blood-stained writing on it. When I turned around I saw, a big, lumbering figure walk down the hallway right outside (I couldn’t tell if it was a zombie or just a really scary dude). I did my best to hide and find an alternate route, but my booth assistant assured me I had to walk in his direction. Awesome.
As I approached the exit, I found myself walking as slowly and methodically as possible out of sheer fear. I eventually got to exit door, but just before I could escape, I heard an incredibly unsettling human laugh right behind me. Sure enough, there was that same not-zombie, pulling me back into the house just as the demo ended. I'm pretty sure I physically raised my arms at that point, as if that was going to do anything.
I left Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 demo with my heart racing, though I did remember my few gripes about the game once I caught my breath. The game wasn’t quite a visual stunner, though it was an early build, and I wasn’t sure if the fault lay in the game itself or my PlayStation VR headset. I also found myself wishing I had touch controllers for picking up objects and opening doors, but it’s easy to imagine the game supporting the PlayStation Move controller at launch.
It’s unclear whether Resident Evil 7 is a full series reboot, but it sure feels like it — and in a good way. As shaky as I felt once I got out of that damned house, I’m looking forward to forcing myself through the whole thing when Resident Evil 7 hits PS4 on Jan. 24, 2017.