It is with enormous pleasure that we welcome new writer Karl Pendlebury to the Punk and Lizard family. As part of our initiation ceremony involving blood-letting and chicken-wrangling we asked him to write us something random, and as a huge Resident Evil fan he chose to share his recent experience with the Resident Evil 7 Demo. There be major spoilers here so be warned, but otherwise please enjoy and join us in welcoming Karl to our ranks.
I have had a major zombie obsession ever since I was eight years old thanks to Resident Evil. (Yes, my parents allowed me to play games with 15 certificates because they were awesome… I also watched movies cast with villains such as Freddie Krueger or a slightly psychotic Jack Nicholson – that’s another story for another time, but it may explain why I love nothing more than a good old horror-themed game). Anyway, as soon as E3 had ended and I heard the rumours of RE7 Demo being released, I turned off the lights, kicked my giant teddy bear off the sofa (his name is Sebastian for those who care) and waited for the download bar to deliver my thrills.
We all know by now what Resident Evil has to offer, or at least we thought we did. I had felt a little let down by a couple of later releases, when they switched from zombie-bashing and giant snakes in the attic, to crazy, rage-fuelled African villagers, so the first thing I prayed for was some walking/running rotted flesh. I have no idea whether my wishes have been granted as the demo, cleverly, keeps you in the dark – sometimes literally. I have no idea what the storyline or background of this game is about yet, but this short demo had my heart racing from start to finish. What is particularly great about it is that depending on what you do the story changes. You could play multiple times and have a completely different storyline each time.
What I loved most is how quickly it got into the action yet still built wonderfully. There was all the clichéd footsteps heard in other rooms, creepy-looking photos, TV’s left hissing with white noise – everything to let you know this isn’t going to end well. The tension creeps up beautifully as you find a note which reads “I shall dash them against the stones” – suggested to be a reference to a verse from Psalm 137:9 – oh goody, crazy, religious cult. Possible clue to the storyline of the game.
To start off, you find yourself alone in a room with the aforementioned television tuned in to Channel Creepy white noise. After venturing around the rest of the house you find a video tape (not even a DVD or a shared story on Snapchat). You put the tape in and hit play.
Suddenly, we go all ‘Blair Witch’ and through a camera lens you’re following two guys into an abandoned house at night. Idiots. Don’t they know what game they’re in? This is when I first noticed how much the graphics had improved since Jill Valentine had entered that mansion with her sexy square beret. I know it’s been 20 years, but it still amazes me how far video game graphics have come. Then I realised if pixelated, block-shaped dogs used to scare me, the realistic look in RE7 was really going to have me checking over my shoulder every five seconds. Even the sunlight that slashed through the slatted blinds had me calling my brother from the other room to take a look.
The controls are pretty standard for this type of game, so without having to worry about which buttons you’re pressing, you can just worry about trying to slow down your heart rate. Another joyous improvement is that walking through doors and up/down stairs is no longer a loading screen – nope, it’s all seamlessly real time – which means there’s no more running from someone (or something) and being able to catch your breath as you watch the door slowly creak open.
There’s plenty to do around the house, such as checking in draws, finding important items and standing frozen solid because you’re too nervous to turn the corner of the corridor. Then one of your acquaintances disappears and of course you have to go searching around the dark, scary house to find him. I don’t mean to sound cruel, but if this was real life and one of my friends went missing in there, I’d be out of there to tell his parents how much I miss him. Turns out, your friend is down in the basement with what seems to be a meat hook through his face (I don’t know, it all happened so fast) and you end up with his freshly hole-punched corpse falling on top of you. The camera rolls to one side as you squirm around on the floor until you notice a pair of heavy boots walking towards you from the shadows.
You open your eyes to find your character tied up in what looks like it could’ve been a cosy living room – if it weren’t for the broken furniture, boarded up windows and hazy vision. Another guy is passed out on the floor beside you (I’ll call him Stanley). As he gains consciousness he rushes over to you in a panic, finds a knife on the floor, stutters some gibberish and begins to saw away at the restrains around your wrists. Blackout. I did warn you that they’ve kept a lot hidden from us.
Now we’re back in “today” as the video comes to an end. There’s that note again… only this time it reads “I shall dash YOU against the stones”, artistically amended with what looks like blood. Time to run!! This is when I came to my senses and thought “get out of this house!” and I tried. I clicked in the L3 button and whizzed towards the back door as fast as my legs could carry me. Then the highlight of the demo happened and my heart stopped. It may seem silly, but it was an incredible moment. As I ran towards one of the doorways, something walked past the door. It was at that moment my Twitter post read something along the lines of “Nope!!! Whole bag of nope!!” and I shut down the Playstation and had to go calm myself down.
This is why I love games (or books or movies) – they may not actually be real, but they make you think it’s real. I was in complete awe of this game that had got into my head so much in the first five minutes of a demo that I couldn’t even finish it.
Finally, after about half an hour of deep breaths and telling myself it’s only a game, I decided to put on my big boy pants (especially after the others were almost spoiled) and dive back in. The plan still remained – RUN! I reached the back door and Capcom decided to smack me in the face with a nice little twist. The door was locked. “Find the key” popped up at the side of the screen and I think I may have said shouted something along the lines of “No! You find the key!” Maturity is for losers.
Guess where I had to head now? Back to the basement.
Not once on my way to the basement, collecting the key or going back to the door did I see another being (alive or dead) and I grinned as my hand reached for the handle – only for a cut scene to interrupt my freedom. Someone chuckled behind me and I got knocked out by someone who may or may not have auditioned for a role in The Hills Have Eyes.
The final part cuts back to Stanley (remember him?) still cutting away at your restrains. Something behind him screeches, then he screams in pain and plops onto the floor whilst you’re left staring at some savage person/creature.
If you’re of a nervous disposition, don’t play the Resident Evil 7 Demo. As a human being, you need sleep to survive and after this the only way you’re going to catch forty winks is via a brick to the skull.