When Capcom announced that it would be releasing its first paid DLC pack a scant week after the game's launch, it drew equal parts excitement and scepticism from the community. On the plus side: we only have to wait a week for more Resident Evil! On the downside: isn't that a little soon? Clearly this was prepared ahead of time and should have been included in the game, right? Both perspectives are reasonable and indeed this first batch of DLC, Banned Footage Vol. 1, doesn't add much. What it does add, though, is a delight.
Banned Footage Vol. 1 is separated into three distinct standalone challenges. The most original of the bunch is "Bedroom", a puzzle-based escape-the-room game putting players in the role of captured cameraman Clancy, who's been taken prisoner by Baker matriarch Marguerite. Shackled to a bed and threatened to a grotesque soup, the player must use their wits about them to claim that distinctly Resident Evil honour of becoming a Master of Unlocking.
To even hint at any of the puzzle solutions would be a spoiler, so I'll keep quiet on that, suffice to say that an unmindful would-be escapee may find themselves on the receiving end of Marguerite's horrific diet. Indeed there are ways to die in Bedroom, and some time-sensitive mental challenges do a fantastic job of inflicting a sense of panic while your hostess with the moldstess periodically checks up on you.
Unfortunately, these frantic escapades are only effective once, and each fatality sets you all the way back to the beginning of the episode. While retracing your steps doesn't take too long, there are lengthy scripted sequences where you'll have nothing to do but wait.
Ultimately, it's a small price to pay for Capcom's clever mix of booby-trapped brainteasers that require keen observation and some lateral thinking. There are a couple minor annoyances - like the time I tried using a spoon with a grisly stew in hopes of finding something useful in it, only for Clancy to actually ingest the putrid pabulum and keel over - but on the whole it's a pleasing piece of Resident Evil's more cerebral side that was largely neutered in the main game. Still, I can see what it was set aside as a standalone piece as it would bring the game's pacing to a screeching halt in subsequent playthroughs.
While "Bedroom" focuses on the brainy side of Resident Evil, "Nightmare" and "Ethan Must Die" highlight the game's combat encounters, albeit in slightly different ways.
"Nightmare" is essentially the game's "Horde" mode, tasking the player with surviving several waves of enemies while crafting a new arsenal between raids. Set in the Baker's basement, players are given scrap as currency to purchase new resources like guns, ammo, healing items, and booby traps. Between waves you're able to collect more scrap from various recycling machines placed in the arena's cramped corridors.
Resident Evil 7 didn't exactly have a very diverse bestiary with only three types of similar-looking foes roaming its halls, but "Nightmare" makes the most of them by keeping your resources to a minimum and not offering a lot of room to manoeuvre around these tarry threats. Jack Baker, true to his name, spices things up a bit by peppering the proceedings with the occasional mini-boss fight. There's even a little light stealth as you can occasionally shake your pursuer, but sooner or later you'll find yourself stumbling through these claustrophobic quarters with only the scarcest of resources to ward off your stalkers. It's all content recycled from the core game, sure, but it makes the most of it in a way the more linear, scripted campaign only hinted at.
For an even greater sense of surprise there's Ethan Must Die, the MVP of Banned Footage Vol. 1. A small, remixed slice of the main game, Ethan Must Die randomises what loot you get as you soldier through a drastically more punishing difficulty setting. Most enemies will slay you in a single blow (though blocking helps a lot if you're facing your enemy) and you'll need to make every shot count.
A successful run of Ethan Must Die will take less than 30 minutes, but expect to put in several hours worth of attempts before you conquer its fiendish challenges. Like "Nightmare", Ethan Must Die tasks players with becoming very intimate with the game's combat system, learning how to block, run, dodge, and stun various molded before facing off against the game's best boss fight, Marguerite.
The randomised loot and a bevy of booby traps adorning the Baker abode make Ethan Must Die a pleasantly replayable episode that functions as a standalone highlight reel of the core campaign, though it still falls a little short of its full potential. While resources are limited, enemy locations are fixed, as is the fixed path that blocks off various side-routes, removing many of the navigational choices that give the main game its sense of freedom. As such, it feels like a half-measure towards a more substantial Resi 7 arcade mode, though it's still an absolute joy as is.
On paper Banned Footage Vol. 1 shouldn't add much, as it relies on all the same environments and enemies from the parent game. But by providing three very different experiences, it digs deeper into Resident Evil 7's singular charms and highlights just how polished they are. These three mini-episodes are all worthwhile companions to the main event, but if Capcom intends to keep us interested in Resident Evil 7 in the months to come, it's going to have to pull out some new tricks in addition to remixing the ones it's already revealed.