With Resident Evil 7's previous DLC pack, Banned Footage Vol. 1, I suggested that Capcom would need to "pull out some new tricks" in order to keep us interested in its smart but slim pseudo series reboot. With its latest add-on, Banned Footage Vol. 2, Capcom hasn't strayed far from the well by delivering an expansion that's even slighter than its first, yet costs 50 per cent more. That's not to say that this latest add-on isn't entertaining - as it's still quietly captivating - but rather that it's inessential and only caters to Resi 7's most devoted fans.
Like Banned Footage Vol. 1, this latest offering is comprised of three vastly different standalone segments that can be played in any order.
21 is the most bizarre of the bunch with its tenuous connection to the rest of the game's mechanics. Strapped to a grisly torture device, players resume the role of unlucky cameraman Clancy as he's forced into a deadly game of Blackjack against a fellow hooded prisoner while sick puppy Lucas Baker lords over, Jigsaw-like, from a bevy of monitors. Whoever loses a round gets a finger sliced off. Or at least that's how it starts. The stakes quickly raise to two fingers, then three, and it only gets more gruesome from there.
Take away the horrific premise and what you're left with is Blackjack, pure and simple. Yet Capcom has wisely tweaked the deck to make it more palatable as a puzzle game rather than one of mostly chance. You're playing with an abbreviated deck with no duplicates, so card-counting ceases to be the impenetrable Rain Man talent that the majority of us look at from afar in confounded awe. Smartly, there is a slight Resident Evil bent to the mechanics as Trump Cards are introduced, offering special perks like removing your last card or making your opponent draw again. It takes a while to rev up to it, but once you get there the common ground between Resi and Blackjack feels harmonious as you decide what Trump Cards to conserve.
It's a strange hybrid, and one that feels underwhelming in a first playthrough, but completing it unlocks higher difficulties with more strategic Trump Card management, and you can't help but appreciate the depth of this creative take on a classic game, even if it's not what most people boot up a Resident Evil game for.
Daughters is entirely different, offering a narrative-focused affair that's effective in the short term but ultimately forgettable. Putting players in the role of Baker daughter Zoe, the one who isn't a crazy homicidal hillbilly, we see what life was like for her the night her family turned from functional to ferocious.
On one hand it's nice to see the Bakers in happier times, though it's hard to shake the feeling that things weren't quite different enough prior to the catastrophe that kicks off the plot. The house is less insanely filthy, though it's still in borderline squalor with dingy floorboards, peeling wallpaper, and mirrors so smudged they can't even pick up the weirdly invisible Zoe.
For better or worse, Daughters is fiercely scripted and mostly linear as players follow a checkpointed path of story bits, chases, and stealth sequences. There's some light exploration and puzzle solving as players will no doubt replay it to seek out its alternate ending, but it's still fairly straightforward with the whole chapter set in a slightly more sensible version of the Baker's main abode.
Scripted though it may be, there are still some effective moments. A spine-tingling melody played during a sequence where Zoe's father is stalking the halls trying to kill her recalls some of the incestuous horror of Twin Peaks, albeit in a more exaggerated manner. There's some exciting moments in Daughters, but it feels like a brief sequence (only about 20 minutes) cut from the main game rather than the wildly offbeat affair the other segments bring to the table.
That brings us to Banned Footage Vol. 2's most bananas add-on, Jack's 55th Birthday Party. In this whimsical spin-off, players resume the role of Mia and are tasked with running around reconfigured maps with the sole purpose of collecting food to bring to a hungry Jack Baker. The titular figure, decked out like a clown and adorned with a silly cone-shaped party hat, sits stationary at a table while Moulded creatures hunt you down as you gather his supper.
Set to an upbeat ditty with hat-wearing Moulded and brightly lit environments, Jack's 55th Birthday Party eschews horror completely in lieu of pure arcade score-attack. There are even different grades ranking how quickly one can bring the required amount of sustenance to Jack. Wounding enemies offers a brief time bonus, stopping the clock for a few seconds (depending on how much damage you inflict), and inventory management plays a huge role as various meals fill up different sized slots, so you have to be judicious in what you choose to bring when venturing out of the dining room. Food can often be combined too, to make better offerings. Sure, Jack will guzzle down a whole bottle of spice or an unseasoned chicken, but you'll sate his appetite more if you mix these things together first.
It's a strange mode that's more substantial than the previous DLC's standalone combat challenges, as Jack's 55th Birthday Party contains six maps with plenty of unlockable bounties. It's an acquired taste though, and I'm personally less enamoured with the memorisation-based challenges of sorting out optimal food-gathering routes than I am of the pure survival-based trials we saw in Banned Footage Vol. 1. Still, Jack's 55th Birthday Party is a pleasant diversion that offers a properly whimsical arcade variant of an otherwise suffocating saga.
Taken on their own, none of Resident Evil 7's miniature add-ons have been particularly substantial, but reflected on from afar they get points for originality. Between the two expansions thus far we've seen a scripted escape-the-room puzzle, a somewhat procedurally-generated take on Blackjack, a narrative-heavy flashback, and three variations on combat challenges.
Looking back on it, it's hard to tell if the folks behind these add-ons are lazy or brilliant. Resident Evil 7 is in many ways a small-scale game set around a geographically condensed location with precious few enemy types, yet there's something commendable about how much mileage its developers have managed to manufacture out of its minuscule maps.
When I first completed Resident Evil 7's campaign I liked it, but found it a little lightweight. By now, however, a majority of my time with the game has been spent on its unlockable ultra-hard Madhouse mode (which is free) and its DLC. The cumulative effect is that Resident Evil 7 is a far more varied, pliable product than I'd originally perceived. Typically I have a rule that I don't let price dictate my opinion as the content will forever be the same whereas the price will inevitably drop. But this is an exception. Banned Footage Vol. 2 is a solid companion piece to the main game, but I suspect that only the most diehard Resi 7 fans will find it justifies the current Ł11.99 asking price.