“Lantern”, an extended version of the Gamescom RE7 demo, opens with an unpleasant game of hide and seek. We are chased into a rickety old house (you know the kind) by a lovely old crone who desperately wants to bash our brains in. She’s a bit mad, you see.
It’s all first person and shares the same grainy visuals as the first, publicly available demo. The house is dilapidated and dank, the kind of place you’d want to avoid even if it weren’t patrolled by a psychotic old lady. And it’s night time, because these things aren’t nearly as frightening in the light of day. We ran and we hid; we fumbled desperately for door knobs, solved a puzzle using shadows and eventually crawled under the floorboards. Inevitably, Granny caught us and that was that. Only not quite.
The demo closed with a new, minimally interactive scene set around the dinner table. The Baker family has invited us for tea, or more likely dragged us kicking and screaming to the dinner table. There’s an argument and the elder Baker mangles the arm of a co-diner (his son?) with a knife before turning his attention to us. We are force-fed filthy offal and god knows what else, but it’s rotten and we can’t keep it down. Mrs Baker does not appreciate this and has a wobbly, while Mr Baker turns his knife on us. The screen cuts as he begins to slice. Lovely stuff.
The first person perspective and grimy visuals succeed in building tension and made us feel a little uncomfortable. There are some jump scares, but it is unease rather than outright terror that we felt over the course of this short demo. Crawling around the house, running from one hiding spot to another, worked well here; and there was a real sense of hopelessness as the old lady stalked and cornered us. However, if this is to be a focus of the full game, it may begin to drag. We know that the Lantern demo is an optional part of the final game, another tape that helps unravel the story, and that it may not be representative of the full experience. Gameplay-wise, we certainly hope that Capcom has a little more up its sleeve and that it may offer some occasional respite from the grainy, dreary imagery that has defined the first two demos.
Resident Evil 7 is a new beginning for Capcom. It’s a much needed reset for a series that had lost its way. Here’s hoping that Lantern is merely a taste of what’s on offer and that there’s a little more variety in the final game.