Resident Evil 7: VR – First Impressions
Last week I attended an event run by Plantronics to show off their new series of headsets which I will be reviewing soon, the feature product of the range was the Rig VR headset that was made in tandem with Sony for the Playstation VR headset. To show off the functionality and comfort associated with using the Rig VR with the VR headset we were presented with a fantastic treat, the Tokyo Game Show virtual reality build of Resident Evil 7.
The demo starts you off on the other side of a rickety bridge across from a rundown cabin. Aligning the sides of the bridge are dangling effigies made from sticks that give off a very Blair Witch vibe, I walked across the bridge while looking around to spot that the entire scenario is surrounded by dense forest and the ground is matted with a rolling fog that seems to be breathing. The scene is immediately unnerving and I am buying into the virtual reality much quicker than I expected to.
My body in the real world started to rock a little, like I was standing on a boat. I think this was my brain trying to center everything and deal with the motion it is experiencing but not physically doing. I wasn’t feeling motion sick myself but I can understand reports of many people suffering from using VR technology.
I enter the cabin and can hear a middle aged woman talking in the distance. After walking around the cabin I find where she is, a hillbilly woman talking crazy to herself. She walks through a door and sees me which triggers a short cutscene of her grabbing me and then having to restart from a checkpoint.
I have found my antagonist.
Something clicked with me that I had not considered before: this woman grabbing me, despite being presented through a jump scare, just did not frighten me. I am not saying this to show off my balls of steel but to discuss something that might affect game design in VR in the future. I am 6’2 male and the logical part of my brain just wasn’t threatened by the skinny middle aged junkie. It was there I lost immersion in the simulation and started treating it more a stealth game rather than a virtual reality horror experience.
The issue here is that depending on the player’s life experience, each simulation will play out differently. I spoke to one of the representatives at the event about it and he said he found the woman terrifying, though he was shorter and of a slimmer build. I wonder how much the human brain will end up being a challenge to game designers in the VR space, the logical breaking down of every presented experience.
Virtual reality is still a very frontier technology and the Resident Evil 7 VR cabin experience is remarkably well made and convincing in its setting and game feel. I’m looking forward to what else the platform has to offer.
Matthew Ballinger is an independent game designer and production specialist. He has an unrelenting passion for all things game theory, mechanics, game development and academia.