Resident Evil 7 VR Is as Terrifying as It Sounds

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.

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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.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.