Some months ago I wrote a post arguing that the narrative around the Resident Evil series needed to change: that Resident Evil 6 was actually pretty good, and that the oft-stated desire to return the series to its survival-horror roots was anachronistic and would lead to a creative dead-end. Well, Resident Evil developer Capcom has now announced its plans for the next entry in the main Resident Evil series, and (hopefully) they will invigorate the franchise and change the way people talk about it. In short: Resident Evil 7 will be brought to you in VR.
Titled Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, details of the game have begun to emerge since its announcement yesterday at E3. It’s a multi-format release, but the big news is that the game will be fully playable in Playstation VR, which is due to be released later this year. Eschewing the action-oriented flavour of the last couple of RE games, RE 7 seems destined to go back to the roots of the series, with a much slower and more deliberate pace and an emphasis on atmosphere and scares. Crucially, the use of VR has the potential to distinguish this new game from what could otherwise be something of a hackneyed throwback to a bygone age.
Anyone who has used an Oculus Rift or Vive will have a sense of how powerful this technology is at creating a sense of immersion and physical presence in the gameworld. The prospect of a Resident Evil game designed for this environment is both exciting and deeply frightening; indeed, one of the first things I thought after using an Oculus Rift last year was how amazing a Resident Evil game could be if it made use of such technology. A few of the tech demos I’ve played have been deeply frightening–even something as simple as seeing a shark underwater can provoke an instinctive prey reaction that is more real and powerful than anything experienced when using a TV. The potential for a deeply immersive, 360-degree horror experience is practically limitless. Indeed, if anything Capcom may need to go easy on this, lest people start bringing lawsuits against them for psychological scarring or heart attacks.
Resident Evil 7 is due out in early 2017. So far, details about the game are still fairly thin on the ground, and it’s important to note that the game will also be fully playable without VR. It will be interesting to see how Capcom balance the need to make a game that is effective on both types of technology; that is satisfying to play on TV, but not so scary or nauseating that it’s impossible to play in VR. A lot is riding on it. The game’s success potentially means hundreds of millions of dollars to Capcom, not just in sales but in reanimating a struggling brand. But RE 7 has this on its side: survival horror and VR is a match made in hell.