Capcom's Resident Evil demo for PSVR is downright terrifying

We tested this out at E3-- well, kinda. Turns out, VR horror is extremely scary.

One of the biggest surprises to come from E3 2016 is the emergence of Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, a brand new take on Capcom’s long-running horror franchise. Our introduction to this new game comes in the form of a first-person demo set in a derelict farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Capcom made this entire demo playable in virtual reality via PlayStation VR at its E3 2016 show floor booth. The Resident Evil fan in me is excited for the opportunity to experience REVII in VR, but the rest of my body is wondering what in Leon Kennedy’s name is wrong with that part of my mind. After checking out this VR experience I can say that although it’s not confirmed that this demo is indicative of the full REVII experience, if the final thing is half as creepy as this was, it’s going to result in a lot of sleepless nights for RE fans.

I put on the PlayStation VR goggles at Capcom’s booth – which was designed as a spooky recreation of the house in the game -- and steeled my nerves to play. I was immediately plopped into a darkened room in the middle of the house, the words “Get out of the house” serving as my only guidance. I looked around to get my bearings, seeing only cobwebs and disrepair. I took the first few steps, floorboards creaking with every movement, before I reach the first door. When I tried to open the door, it simply cracked, leaving me to push it open at my own speed.

The other side of the door produced no monsters or ghouls, but instead a hallway leading to a kitchen area. It was at this moment that I admittedly panicked. The more logical part of my mind decided that the potential heart attack was not worth the potential humiliation of wussing out, so I passed the controller and VR headset to a companion in the room with me. I watched as she made her way down that hallway, encountering nothing but a disgusting sink and a pot of foul-looking food. She found a door to the outside world, but of course it was locked and she was forced to find a key. Remembering a chain-locked cabinet on the way to the door and seeing the bolt cutters on the ground in front of her, my friend opened the cabinet, retrieved a video tape, and walked it back to the starting room where a VCR awaited.

Playing the tape launched the demo a few hours into the past, where three men enter the house to inspect it as a possible reality show setting. Quickly, one of the men goes missing, and the other two eventually find a hidden a switch in the fireplace that opens a path to a room under the house. The missing companion is down there, noticeably lacking most of his face, and the two remaining men have only a few minutes to absorb this find before a ghoulish man wearing camo pants and boots attacks. We get a quick shot of his lower leg before the camera cuts out, catapulting us back to the present.

Using this knowledge of the hidden path my friend activates the switch, opening the door and leading to the same hidden corridor in the videotape. The key to the locked door is here, and we think this hell may finally be coming to an end. She runs to the door, unlocks it, and steps outside...only to be suddenly attacked by the same brute from the basement on the tape. We are left with the message “The Family Is Expecting You January 2017” and a few frayed nerves, but we’ve survived our encounter with the virtual reality version of Resident Evil VII’s introductory demo.

I am admittedly soft when it comes to horror games, so I knew going in that my odds of making it through the whole thing were slim, but man, did I underestimate its sheer creepiness. Being inside the VR headset was really frightening, paralyzing me with fear for a few moments before deciding to give up the goose. While I did not experience the motion-induced nausea many reported after playing the game, I was sick to my stomach for plenty of other reasons.

Yet when it was all over, I kicked myself for relinquishing the opportunity to explore it more. Once I had seen the scariest parts of this demo in front of me, I immediately wanted to jump back in and see what else it was hiding. After all, neither of us went down the ladder to the room under the house in the present, nor we did even venture up the stairs to the second floor of the house. The Capcom rep watching us even said that we experienced maybe a third of what the REVII demo hides, even telling us there may be a way to successfully leave the house. I will have to suck up my fear and jump back in via the downloadable non-VR version of the demo available on the PlayStation Store.

Perhaps what’s most thrilling about this Resident Evil VII demo is that it does not resemble a Resident Evil game in any way. Many maligned Resident Evil 5 and RE6 for moving away from the survivial horror that made the franchise famous and focusing more on explosive action and extravagant plotlines. REVII’s demo takes all of those criticisms to heart by leaving us defenseless, takings its cues more from Outlast than from previous RE games. If the full game ends up emulating this demo at all, REVII will be Capcom’s “be careful what you wish for” proclamation, and we’ll all have to put up or shut up.

Capcom has confirmed that this demo will not be part of Resident Evil VII: Biohazards main experience, instead serving as an intro into the world of REVII, but the abrupt shift to first person will remain. It’s not clear yet whether or not the dramatic change will pay off, but I might have to toughen up and see what this new Resident Evil game is all about. Come January 24, 2017, I won’t have another player to bail me out.