Whilst zombies might be as looming a pop cultural presence in 2017 as disposable pop music and pornography, 20 years ago, when the first Resident Evil game was released on the original Playstation, zombies were an almost forgotten entity in horror. After the original George Romero trilogy of “living dead” films, the genre appeared to have run out of steam and had become a lumbering shadow of its former self. Shinji Mikami’s iconic survival horror game and its equally inspired immediate sequels arguably gave the genre a much-needed kick-start, and now, 20 years later, the zombies are everywhere, both metaphorically and literally.
The aggressive marketing campaign behind the 7th game in the series began in earnest almost a year ago, when the harrowing “Opening Hour” demo first debuted on the Playstation Store for PS4 owners following an unsettling reveal at E3. The demo in question introduced Resident Evil veterans and virgins alike to the bold reimagining of the franchise. A game quite obviously built from the ground up for VR, Resident Evil 7 is a first person horror game (all other numbered entries in the series up to this point have been third person affairs) that takes more than a few obvious cues from modern horror games such as Outcast and Amnesia. These games, however, were never intended to be mainstream blockbusters, so it’s certainly intriguing that Capcom would take such a risk by throwing away a tried and true formula for something untested on such a vast scale. It appears to be paying off though, as many fans see it as a way for the series to abandon the more action heavy direction the games took after Resident Evil 4, and return to the tense, horror roots of that first classic game. As a result, hype for the game has reached fever pitch over the last few months and the various parties behind the game are looking to utilise this “return to horror” angle with a series of bold activations, the most interesting of which is a full blown Resident Evil Horror House, set up in our very own London town.
Resident Evil 7: The Experience will be a 45-minute interactive trip around “a haunted and dilapidated venue in the heart of London’s East End,” including puzzles and scares from some soon-to-be familiar characters. The press release from Capcom states: “Those brave enough to enter will take on the part of investigative journalist interns helping a paranormal TV production team investigate the disappearance of their crew members who never returned from the house." Taking part is free, but slots are limited, and will be given out on a first-come-first-served basis. If you want to try it out for yourself then you’ll need to head to Dray Walk Gallery at 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL. You’ll have to be eager, though; only 28 pairs of tickets will be given away each day. Of course, the interactive horror house concept is far from a fresh one, but, to my knowledge at least, this is the first such horror maze to exist purely as a promotional tool, and given the nature of the game it’s pushing, it’s a pretty inspired move.
As someone who has been fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough depending on your point of view) to experience the opening portion of the new game in VR, I can attest that it’s a pretty uniquely terrifying experience. So much so, in fact, that I honestly couldn’t stomach more than 30 minutes of it before I had to remove the headset and put on something a little gentler. This intensity is something that, if the trailer (below) is anything to go by, should be perfectly encapsulated by “The Experience.” That kind of fear is also, it has to be said, pretty bloody addictive (I was right back in after a brief respite, despite my own better judgement).
That’s not where the Resident Evil 7 promotional circus stops though. Seemingly intent on providing its fans with the most ‘immersive’ experience on the market, Capcom have followed the lead set by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone with their “Noculus Rift” (a device that allows you to smell the farts of the characters in the latest South Park game. Yes. Really) by releasing the Resident Evil 4D Candle. Named the “Wood, Sweat and Tears 4D VR Candle,” this oddity is meant to simulate the smell of the Baker household from the game (imagine the Texas Chainsaw house amped up to 11). If you’ve ever wanted your house to smell of rotting flesh, swamp gas and mouldy wood, then look no further. The scent is supposed to last for 18-20 hours, which should be ample time to beat the whole of Resident Evil 7. The candle retails for just a shade under £15, which seems excessive for what is essentially a one-note gag, but compared to the other promotional item being flogged alongside the game, it’s a buy I’d wholeheartedly endorse.
This other item is, of course, the great burnt penis usb stick that sent Reddit into fits of giggles when it was unveiled earlier this week. It’s not actually a severed and burnt penis, of course, but a finger, but you’d have to have the cleanest mind on earth not to spot the resemblance. One suspects Capcom themselves might also have suspected as much, given the amount of coverage the stick has been getting on social media due to its unusual shape. Whatever their intentions, however, it can’t be denied that the promotional machinations behind the game have been pretty spectacular thus far. I just hope the game itself can live up to the campaign supporting it. Either way, we’ll all be finding out together on January 24 when the game hits shelves worldwide. Whether you’re playing in VR (PSVR only for now as Sony paid for a one year exclusivity deal) or cowering behind the sofa, I’ve seen and played enough of it so far to suggest it’ll be a bit of a trouser ruiner!
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK. He has Resident Evil 7 on PSVR on pre-order. His mind and body are ready. He thinks.