Resident Evil 7′s Most Enigmatic Puzzle Has Players Still Trying to Finger it Out
Earlier this week during E3, gaming’s biggest marketing blitz of the year, Capcom announced Resident Evil 7. They had to outright tell us the trailer we were seeing was related to their 25 year-old franchise, however, since the grimy, atmospheric and unnervingly creepy footage on display bore little resemblance to the hero power-fantasy firefights the franchise has morphed into since the Gamecube years.
For fans that still remember the feeling of unease when you opened a new door in the creaking Spencer Estate, this about-face was exciting as hell. Before we could catch our breath, though, Capcom dropped another surprise on our laps – PS4 owners would be able to experience the first-person horror firsthand with a playable demo available that very night (’course, it took some serious digging to find since PSN’s displays didn’t quite keep up with Capcom’s marketing plans).
The demo, titled Beginning Hour, isn’t necessarily a representation of the greater whole, just in the same way P.T. wasn’t exactly a chunk sliced off of whatever Silent Hills was going to be before Konami decided pachinko machines were a more lucrative market. Beginning Hour won’t even be a playable part of Resident Evil 7 when it releases next year. It’s an entity unto itself that serves as a taste of the new game’s tone and ideas.
You wake up in a desolate farmhouse. It’s dark, dank, and laden with creaking floors, near inaudible whispers, and distant footsteps. You can interact with a few items, like drawers, and explore the small length of the house, mostly running into debris, maggots, and locked doors. Oh, and creepy ass mannequins that, uh… well, let’s just say keep your eye on them.
You eventually come across a chained up cabinet with a VHS tape inside. It’s marked “Derelict House.” Upon booting the tape up, you don’t just passively watch. In a creepy little flair of design, you’re put in the role of Clancy, the cameraman, who’s filming Andre and Peter, the “Sewer Gators” Crew – an appreciable riff on haunted house hunters the likes of those Ghost Adventures fuckwads – as they investigate the abandoned Dulvey House. You’re given some light backstory but mostly spend this segment scrutinizing shadows. Don’t blink, though, and you’ll definitely see this old house isn’t quite empty…
From there, you’re on track to one of a few different endings the demo holds for players.
The Sewer Gators get wrecked in a hidden basement Blair Witch style. If it’s your first time finding the hidden compartment within the room where the demo begins, you’ll be given the ‘Backdoor Key’ after viewing the VHS tape. Bobbing and weaving a few jump scares, you make your escape out the back… and a grizzled old man clad in a raincoat decks you in the face after saying, “Welcome to the family, son.” That’s one ending.
The demo – in another rip on P.T.’s structure – loops back to the beginning where you first awaken. Using your new insights, however, you can open the secret compartment from the get go and find the fuse that’s missing from the fuse box conveniently located in the very same room. This puts you on track to the demo’s second thread of ending(s).
Run up to the second floor, activate the now powered attic stairs, climb up, and you’ll find a room with a ringing telephone. Next to the phone is a picture of a black helicopter sporting a – dun dun dun – Umbrella logo. Flip the photo and handwriting scribbled on the back reads, “Are they watching us from that helicopter?” Who’s us? The Dulvey family? Is the farmhouse actually a testing ground for a new biological weapon? How is Umbrella still active having both been publicly disassembled in the early 00′s and with their founder, Oswell Spencer, deader than a door nail? It’s invigorating to see mystery return to the series.
Head spinning with questions, things continue to spiral toward “What the fuck?” territory if you decide to pick up the phone. You’re treated to a woman’s voice – a voice that knows you, though your character cannot reciprocate – that utters something entirely cryptic. What’s said changes depending on which actions you performed before the call; be it grabbing certain items, or whether or not you visited VHS World beforehand. In all cases, the conversation ends abruptly, and once you try to leave the room, “The Family Man” welcomes you to his brood with another mean right hook.
And that should really be it. A short peek into the series’ return to bump-in-the-night survival horror. But one item you can attain in the demo has kept players revisiting the brief teaser again and again. One little item has had us scouring forums and peeled to others’ streams in the hopes of finding a new hint to unlock what most are sure is a secret ending…
It’s this fucking dummy finger:
Found in a drawer early on, the item seemingly has no logical use. There’s no slot to shove it in. None of the mannequins seem to have a use for it (none of the mannequins have any arms). Our inventory screen informs us its made of celluloid, a highly flammable material, but there’s nowhere in the house to burn the item. The joint that attaches it to its missing hand has raised suspicion, too. It sort of looks like a key… But, of the three inaccessible doors within the farmhouse, only one isn’t boarded up by planks, and the one that isn’t holds no promise of interaction (unlike the backdoor which prompts you to find the key you’re given at the final stretch of the demo).
People have gone mad in their search for the finger’s purpose. You can peruse pages of accumulated trial and errors on just about any gaming forum. Most might have dismissed the dummy finger’s inclusion as a red herring if it weren’t for this Tweet from an industry somebody, and the fact that, in our collective hunt, several other secrets have been unearthed.
In VHS World, if one is to investigate behind the kitchen’s microwave, you can find a lockpick. Clancy can use the lockpick almost immediately on a nearby drawer (which is locked in the present day before viewing the tape) to find… nothing. After exiting the tape, if you’re to give the drawer a look-see in the present timeline once more… there’s a small, equippable axe awaiting you. So far, the axe serves no purpose save for the smashing of a few boxes and some choice mannequins (revenge!). Is there more to it? Maybe. Is it probably just a preview of the main game’s new melee mechanics? More than likely.
Beyond that, eagle-eyed gamers have found the recurrence of the number 7 in eerie, if not meaningful, ways. Seven creepy dolls hang from the ceiling in the cubby beneath the stairs. The ghost girl that appears in brief flashes within the videotape always pops up randomly at the same seven locations (some positing that triggering all seven sightings is the key to unlocking… we don’t know). Hell, some players have gone lateral with their thinking, looking for clues in everything from the initial trailer to turning the time-stamp found on the VHS into geographical coordinates.
But… maybe they aren’t crazy. This secret mining has churned up legitimate results. Those coordinates for instance? They lead to an actual road in Louisiana which lines up with the mansion plantation’s “rural America” setting.
As of this writing the code has not been cracked. We have a longer list of false leads than positive ones. Every time a player is on to something – like the little shimmy the finger makes, perhaps pointing in the right direction – it runs into a dead end (all items in your inventory sporadically shimmy; no magic compass there).
Perhaps… the dummy finger has no intended use. That initial encouraging Tweet? The same author says it may not have been entirely accurate. Maybe the finger’s an addition that’s already served its purpose: to have us spread buzz of a fifteen minute demo that probably only deserved fifteen minutes of fame to begin with. Given the amount of effort and time fans have poured into solving this mystery, that’s a recipe for backlash. Don’t be surprised if Beginning Hour receives a sly patch in the coming weeks that suddenly fulfills the finger’s gassed up destiny.
Yet, I’m still left hopeful for the full fledged release of Resident Evil 7. This finger, excuse the pun, inadvertently pointed out that Capcom has the ability to create a more nuanced product than originally thought. The secrets we found are downright creepy. Unnerving even. And that’s exciting. Exactly what was creepy about punching boulders in RE5 or getting into a literal fistfight with a B.O.W. as Wesker’s one-liner spewing son in RE6? Resident Evil’s dark, more foreboding future looks surprisingly bright.
(Here’s a free idea, Capcom: throw in a dummy finger replica with the special edition just to fuck with people).