Nearly three years on from its original release, Resident Evil 7 remains an enticing glimpse through the keyhole at AAA VR. Some of its more dated design decisions may creak louder than a floorboard in the Baker Mansion but, even in 2019, you’ll struggle to find a VR game as slickly produced, let alone as darkly and delightfully terrifying as this.
You’d hope, nay expect, that a location-based prequel, neatly hidden away behind a giddy haunted house-style set in Capcom’s impressive new Tokyo-based arcade, would live up those standards. Sadly this isn’t such a warm welcome back to the family.
Resident Evil: Walkthrough The Fear tries to capitalize on the uncompromising new brand of terror that 7 established for the series (whereas the Resident Evil 2-themed experience, Valiant Raid, plays to its shooter roots), but doesn’t demonstrate the same understanding of its new format that the original game did. It’s a 10 – 15 minute multiplayer adventure that initially teases potential escape room-style elements that would be well-suited for brave puzzle masochists, but ends up opting for rudimentary point-and-shoot action.
You find yourself trapped once more in the haunting confines of the Baker basement, following along with a desperate escape attempt turned game of cat-and-mouse. In its initial moments, when the menacing cackle of Jack Baker fills the room as he offs a non-playable character by typically unpleasant means, it’s easy to find the fear of RE7 gripping you once more, so much so you might consider ripping your headset off.
But, even for a self-confessed VR coward, the threat doesn’t linger. Walkthrough The Fear is played on an HTC Vive with a single controller. A guide instructed me to hold the kit with two hands, but I could never mirror my placement with the virtual hands grasping my gun. It’s a clumsy bit of on-boarding (I got the sense the staff didn’t have to do it much), made worse when myself and a partner (in this case a member of store staff, as no one else would play it with me) fail to kill the first monster we’re locked inside a room with using the bullets provided. Our NPC guide continued to tell me to grab non-existent ammo while I awkwardly side-stepped around the room. After about 5 minutes the monster conveniently died all on its own. Not the best start.
But things pick up, if never reaching the spectacular heights of the game this is based off of. You follow a tour of the basement, occasionally stopping to pick off more monsters with limited ammo. Your familiarity with the source material — and the sneaking suspicion you’re just witnessing a lot of recycled assets from it — does away with much of the mounting tension, but I still couldn’t stop my heart from racing when dodging a lumbering swipe from an enemy and quick-footing it to the other side of the room.
In fact there’s an ironic touch of Resident Evil-style tank controls given you’re told not to run (why wouldn’t you run!?) and you’re fitted with a heavy backpack PC. This is a strained experience, which does play to the slower pacing, but also robs you of a full sense of immersion. And yet, despite the given precautions, there was one moment I managed to walk into a wall with no in-VR warning. An unpleasant surprise in the middle of a horror game especially, but surely a far more ugly error for anyone that has this as their first VR experience.
More memorable touches include the use of external audio that add a nice sense of space. Walking over to one corner in a room with running water reveals a trickling sound effect that appears as if it could be right in front of you, while you’ll occasionally hear Baker taunt you while stomping around other rooms.
Resident Evil 7 VR Arcade Review Final Verdict
Again, its all a little haunted house, but this should have been more. As welcome as it was to return to the unwelcome world of Resident Evil 7, Walkthrough The Fear lacks many of the revelatory moments of unbridled horror that make the original an essential staple in any PSVR collection and doesn’t hold the same assured grasp on immersion throughout. There was a chance to do something truly terrifying here; perhaps a series of Saw-style games to save your friends lives or new monsters designed specifically to play to VR’s strengths. But Walkthrough The Fear just doesn’t take the invention that RE7 was built upon to heart.
There are plenty of people out there who’ve been hoping to see Resident Evil 7 on PC VR headsets but you’d be better off waiting for a proper home release of the full game, or buying a PSVR, rather than springing on a ticket to this watered-down version in Tokyo.