Let’s get one thing straight: unless our games editor is in a particularly evil mood and assigns me the review, I’m probably not going to play Resident Evil 7 in VR. Heck, I find the Beginning Hour demo so terrifying even on a standard screen I’m not entirely sure I’m going to play it at all. But I will say this for those of you with an iron will and nerves of steel that dare to jump into Capcom’s scare-fest with PS VR: you’re in for a terrifying treat.
The Beginning Hour demo was updated this past weekend during the PlayStation Experience. It’s largely the same short game released back at E3 — which won’t be appearing in the final product — but now it’s integrated PS VR support. For many, it will be the first taste of the true Resident Evil 7 in VR, not counting the minutes-long and entirely stationary Kitchen demo, which we saw back at PAX.
In a first for the main series, the game is played in first-person. Having played the Beginning Hour demo on a standard display months ago, I’ve always been fascinated by how some of the game’s scripted sequences and actions would transfer into VR. Capcom has made some very smart decisions to ensure a comfortable transition. Turning, for example, is split into 30 degree angles in VR, with a short fade in and out each time you flick the right stick left or right. It’s a technique used in a lot of VR games with comfort modes, and it works well here along with a variety of other comfort options like stability cages.
Still, exploring the run down house that the demo is set in with a DualShock 4 will no doubt be uncomfortable for some, but I found it to be as smooth an experience as possible with this form of locomotion. The movement speed was just right and if I turned my head at an angle, it would slow down a little to prevent nausea.
One touch I really liked was interacting with the environment, at which point I would see my character’s pair of floating hands, cut off just below the wrist, perform actions. Anyone that’s played the demo will remember the ending too, where the camera is spun round on a normal display. Here, it simply faded between shots. All of this goes to tell me that Capcom has spent a lot of time really refining the VR experience after complaints of nausea at E3, and I think it’s worth pointing these changes out.
Comfort aside, Resident Evil 7 just makes a lot of sense inside VR. I’ve played horror games where I’ve embarrassed myself at jump scares, but even the slightest notion of activity inside Beginning Hour had me curling up into a ball, though I accept that most people are not as cowardly as me. The game appears somewhat brighter inside the headset than it does on a screen, though stumbling around in the dark in VR is never fun.
Even knowing where the jump scares were going to come, there’s a brilliant chill to exploring the house in VR. The foreboding silence, occasionally interrupted by creaks and murmurs in distant rooms, adds an essential sense of uncertainty to every step you take. It brings a lot to the experience to be able to lean around corners with positional tracking, checking that the coast is clear before summoning the courage to step out of one room and into another.
Most of all, playing through Beginning Hour convinced me of one thing: it will indeed be possible to play the full Resident Evil 7 from beginning to finish in VR. Given its support for standard displays, I’d doubted this was really the case, but the techniques Capcom have employed in this demo proved that it can indeed happen.
I used to be worried that Resident Evil 7 was going to be something of a mess inside VR. Now, I truly believe that it could be a platform-selling hit for PlayStation VR, and undoubtedly the biggest game on the system so far. Let me know if I’m right; I’ll be hiding in the cupboard.