Much like the core campaign, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard's first DLC drop is a pleasant surprise. Comprising of a mismatch of modes and bonus content, Banned Footage Vol. 1 isn't the most consistent expansion that you'll ever encounter, but it is one of the better ones – even if its proximity to the main game will leave you pondering whether it was cut from the primary package.
Headlining the add-on are two totally unique VHS tapes, each starring the hapless Sewer Gators cameraman Clancy, who fans will know was separated from his crew while exploring the Bakers' haunted home. Both cassettes aim to fill in a little of his story, starting with Nightmare, which sees the reality television reporter locked up in the basement by the jacked, er, Jack.
Fans of the game's combat will get a real kick out of this replayable bonus mode; you need to collect scrap in order to purchase one-off weapon and skill upgrades which can be used to defend yourself against the Molded until daylight arrives. Machines dotted around the underground arena generate scrap for you, but you'll need to collect your pay out by circuiting the environment.
A workbench allows you to invest your currency into ammunition and the aforementioned upgrades, which increase in expense each time you cash out. There are also traps littered around the environment which will help your cause – but at a price. Waves and waves of enemies will try to take you down, with a boss fight marking the end of each hour of your torrid night.
The really cool thing here is that, while the core loop has a roguelike feel to it, there is some persistence between runs. Each time you die, your score will be added to an overall tally, and this adds new items to the workbench, such as different weapons or upgrades that will aid your quest for survival. There are also starting bonuses that can help you get off on the front foot.
Meanwhile, the other tape opts for a completely different experience. Bedroom picks up at a later point, with Clancy stripped of his weapons and served up some of Marguerite's home cooking. Here your task is to escape from the Bakers' master room without arousing suspicion; each time you make a racket, the matriarch will come to check on you – and she won't be happy if you're out of bed.
This is less replayable than Nightmare, but it delivers a brilliant twist on the core mechanics. Move an object out of position and the cannibalistic cook will pick up on it, so you need to constantly retrace your steps in order to ensure that everything is as you left it. There is an element of trial and error here, but it delivers a great degree of tension without ever forcing you into combat.
Perhaps the weakest part of the package, then, is Ethan Must Die: a menacing bonus mode for masochists which sees you step back into the shoes of Mr Winters under a blood red sky. Random item drops and devastating enemy placements make this a really challenging slice of survival horror, and it will force you into copious deaths.
Learning the placement of the enemies is key here, but you'll still need to rely on a hearty helping of luck. You can collect any items you may have dropped on a previous run if you return to your deathplace, proving that From Software's famous system is capable of infecting just about any game at this juncture.
The problem is that the mode just doesn't feel particularly fair; Capcom would argue that's partly the point, and if people enjoy the impossible odds then more power to them, but compared to the more balanced Madhouse and the two excellent VHS tapes discussed above, it just feels like the developer plopped an abundance of enemies on the map and more or less called it a day.
Like matriarch Marguerite's dishes, bonus mode Ethan Must Die will prove an acquired taste, but the two other VHS tapes included with Banned Footage Vol. 1 are a delight. Nightmare serves up some surprisingly smart arcade action that fans missing Mercenaries will surely enjoy, while Bedroom is brilliant puzzle sequence that subverts the rules of the main game in order to create a real sense of tension without requiring any enemies at all. There's no question that had this content been incorporated into the main campaign it would have been an even stronger package overall, but as a standalone it's still easy to recommend.