This morning, at PAX West 2016, my very first appointment took me to a faux-decrepit haunted house in the midst of the show floor. I was here for the “kitchen” demo for Resident Evil 7, presented in Playstation VR. As my Capcom friends sat me down and strapped me into the VR unit, they asked, helpfully, if I had any questions.
“Will this make me barf?” I asked, semi-serious. “Nah, it shouldn’t, but it’ll scare you,” was the helpful response.
See, I love horror, but I do get sick in VR, if things move around too much. But the kitchen demo, intended as a “taste” of RE 7‘s approach, very wisely eschews unnecessary movement for far better horror staples — gnarly sound, creepy visuals, and a twin dose of impending doom and utter helplessness. It is, in a word, awesome.
I sat in a chair in a disgusting, gnarly kitchen, maybe the same place as the also-rad RE 7 playable demo launched earlier this year. Ghost TV show bro from the same demo was tied up next to me. I had to hold my bound hands out for him to try and saw his way through my bindings, but, of course, we weren’t alone, and what followed made me scream a little and giggle with delight.
There’s a zombie lady around, and she has a big knife, and I couldn’t help but shout a classic “look out!” to ghost show bro before his inevitable assault. Poor ghost show bro! Intelligently, much of the mauling happens behind the scenes, where the disgusting sound design has a chance to shine. And of course, I was still tied to the chair, in real life as well as in-game, a helpless witness to the proceedings.
This is how you do horror in VR. No need for nauseating walking and head-whipping. Tie the player to a chair, make them feel as vulnerable as their character, and subject them to an audio-visual assault of the senses, with all of the zombie/ghost story/horror imagery that’s worked so well for the series until now.
It’s smart, it’s effective, and holy hell, is it ever fun. When zombie gal popped up again at the corners of my vision, I yelped a quick “oh, hey girl!” before, naturally, she spilled my guts.
Honestly, this is exactly what I want out of a VR horror game. Give me the theme park tricks, give me the spooky sounds and sense of confinement. Leave the nausea of of the equation, and I am a very happy horror fan.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard will launch on January 24, 2017.