This article contains spoilers for Capcom’s Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour Demo.
Please read at your own discretion.
When Capcom unveiled the new creative direction for Resident Evil 7 back in June, a demo titled Beginning Hour was released on PSN. This demo had players waking up as an an unnamed protagonist tasked with escaping a creepy house.
The starting room, a hallway, a second floor room, attic, kitchen and entryway could be explored. Although a small axe could be obtained, no enemies or combat of any kind appeared during the demo. Also noteworthy about this demo? There was no way to complete it.
Capcom has since released two updates to the demo. The final one, titled Midnight, launched during the 2016 Playstation Experience and opened a previously-locked door that leads to a new hallway, bathroom and basement area to explore.
After spending time with the demo when it first dropped, I championed it as a great new direction for the series. However, now that I’ve played the final update I’m not so sure anymore — the new basement area features Beginning Hour‘s first enemy and the first sample of Resident Evil 7‘s combat. Unfortunately, it brings up several problems for me.
When the enemy attacks in the basement, the space is small, cluttered, and difficult to move freely in. Players must reach a key in the back of the room and ultimately escape through the attic with it.
My first time in the new area, I was rightfully frightened. I had no idea what was down there, but quickly figured it out when the monster burst through a shelf and knocked me over. I had the axe and took several swipes at it, but it seemed like none of my attacks did any damage. After the monster returned a few blows, I died.
On my second attempt, I picked up a valve handle in the room before the monster appeared. I tried to exit and was met with a man blocking me in by barricading the door from the other side with boxes. Unable to escape and still unable to kill the monster, I died again.
I tried two more times and failed.
It wasn’t until I discussed the game with a friend that I realized it was possible to kick down the door after being blocked in. I’d have never figured this out on my own because the demo doesn’t telegraph the ability well — or maybe I’m just dumb?
Another big problem is that in order to get the best ending, players must escape the basement without being touched by the monster. Because the basement is small and the monster tends to sneak up for a jump-scare, getting around it without sustaining damage isn’t easy.
Those things were irritating, but my biggest issue with the demo is that there’s no way to save progress in it. That meant that each time I died or got hit (which ultimately spelled doom for a good ending) I had to start over from square one. I found myself becoming frustrated and then sprinting through the house from the beginning after each death just to try my luck in the basement again.
If a survival horror game is built on mystery, intrigue and slow exploration, then murky combat, dying repeatedly and poor (or nonexistent) checkpointing are guaranteed to destroy any tension the game manages to build. Of course, Beginning Hour is just a demo, so it’s impossible to judge the end result at this point, and I’m hopeful that the full release will address all of these concerns.
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