Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, Resident Evil remains one of the most recognizable horror game franchises in the world. Although few promotions can compete with 2012’s pop-up fake human meat butchery, which opened at London’s famed Smithfield Market for two days for the launch of Resident Evil 6, the newest sequel is no less successful in giving fans a taste of what’s to come.
The upcoming Resident Evil 7 will be the first game in the series that will be playable in virtual reality using the PlayStation VR in addition to traditional screens. It is also very likely to be the first full-length game to be released in VR. Capcom has been doing a great deal of promotion for the game, which includes a demo on the PlayStation Network called Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour. In it, players must escape a dilapidated house and in doing so, find clues about the upcoming game. Then there’s the Lantern VR demo, which debuted at Gamescom earlier this year, where players are pursued through a darkened house by a woman carrying a lantern.
Mike Lunn, brand manager of Resident Evil at Capcom spoke with [a]listdaily from the New York Comic-Con show floor to talk about the franchise’s big move to VR, and how it was still delivering scares after twenty years.
What Resident Evil demos are you showing at New York Comic-Con?
We’ve got a couple of VR demos here—a lot of love around VR for the past couple of months since we announce the title at E3. What’s cool with the New York Comic-Con is that this is the first time we’re showing our Lantern demo [at the convention], giving people a bunch of different experiences. So, not only do we have the demo on PlayStation Network, Beginning Hour, now we have a new VR experience for people to try that gives them a different gameplay style.
It’s one of the videotapes you find in the game—it’s a slice of the main game itself. You’re going to be pursued by one of the characters that we recently introduced named Marguerite Baker. You can’t let her find you. If you do, horrible things happen to you. But it is cool to put on the VR headset and go into a new space. It’s really cool, really immersive, and you’re really able to drink it all in when you’re in VR.
Will the Lantern demo be made available to everyone when PlayStation VR launches?
Not the Lantern demo, but every PlayStation VR unit in North America has a demo disc, [and] the Kitchen demo will be included with every headset.
Kitchen is a tech demo we started in 2015, but we’ve updated and optimized it as time has gone along. Before we announced RE7, it was our way to test bed VR. We hadn’t made any VR games, so we wanted to make sure that when we did it, we did it right. We showed it at E3 2015 under the moniker of Kitchen, not even Resident Evil, and the development team took feedback on how to make VR the best product possible. Kitchen is a seeded sequence, and it happens after our PlayStation Network demo, where it’s an intro to VR.
What would you say are the core elements of the Resident Evil franchise?
I would say atmosphere. We really want people sunk into that atmosphere, that world. Survival horror and different fears. The first game was the fear of what could be around the corner. A little bit later down the franchise, when you’re in Kijuju, Africa or Europe, where there are tons of different enemies, it’s the fear of being overwhelmed. We offer different flavors of fear.
Resident Evil 7 integrates a lot of what of what we’ve learned over the years and goes back to the fear of the unknown. That’s really high-tension gameplay. Other than that, we have a lot of our keystone stuff. We’ve blown out our puzzle solving. Instead of just finding an item and putting it in a door, there’s going to be stuff to test your mettle. We’ve got combat in there, but it’s not the focus. You’re not going to be suplexing zombies like you were in RE6 or driving motorcycles off of buildings. It is slower paced, but we still do have combat and engagement.
What are the most crucial components for bringing Resident Evil to virtual reality?
Definitely, I think the immersion and horror. This is the first time we’re using the first-person perspective for a mainline Resident Evil title. What we wanted to do is, instead of being Chris, Leon or Ada (from previous games)—where a zombie comes around the corner, and you say, “cool, I have a grenade launcher. I can just blow it away.”—We wanted it to feel like it’s actually you. If it’s just you, then it’s like, “I’m not prepared for this!”
Not only will you be playing the character in first-person, but adding that VR element puts it over-the-top, because you’re literally looking around corners, checking for stuff, and it feels very natural.
Resident Evil 7 will be entirely playable in VR. How difficult is it to bring a full-length survival horror game into VR?
This isn’t just a demo experience, it’s not a side mission, this is the full tour de force gameplay. You can play with the VR headset, you can play without it, you can interchange. It’s totally up to you.
When we started development of the game, we wanted to do stuff with first-person. [We were] in early talks with Sony about what they were doing with their VR headset—it was something that was planned very early on. It wasn’t like we made the game and tacked on a VR mode. It was designed with that (VR) in mind.
There are a lot of survival horror games out right now. How does Resident Evil compete in a genre it helped create?
It’s our 20th anniversary, so we’ve been doing this for quite some time. I think that over the years, we’ve innovated in terms of what we’ve been doing. Back in the ‘90s, we were in Racoon City, and it was a slower-paced survival horror game. These past years, RE4, 5 and 6, were a little more action-y with an over-the-shoulder camera, but we’ve innovated and taken stuff from those games. We’ve brought back what make RE cool to begin with. You’re back in a traditional mansion setting, much like the first game.
This is actually what RE started as. These are the roots, but now with the power of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR, we’re able to do a lot of new and cool things. For example, with the videotapes, instead of finding a note on the floor, it’s a full-on video sequence that gives you potentially different gameplay and new insight on the characters. We’ve got our first-person camera, and there’s a lot of new tech-side stuff on top of the gameplay features we’re pushing. It’s really exciting.
After six games, numerous spin-offs, and a seventh game coming, what makes Resident Evil the go-to series for survival horror?
I think that what we’ve done over the past 20 years in terms of trying new things—again, we haven’t been the same game for the past 20 years, and I’m most proud of that. We’ve had the courage new things and learned what works for what we’re trying to do. For RE7, we’re trying to do old-school survival horror, but in a 2016/2017-timeframe.
I keep saying it, but it’s the immersion and the tension of you being there—we want to make you feel like the character. With Resident Evil 7, we’re really excited about the product we’ve got, and with VR, it’s even better.
Are there any cross-promotional plans with the Resident Evil: The Final Chapter movie release?
Yes, we’re planning a number of things. Nothing finalized yet, but the game comes out on January 24, the movie comes out January 27. It’s definitely high time to have a little cross-promotional love there, but no specific things to announce just yet.