One of the many surprise virtual reality (VR) software demonstrations at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, came from Capcom. Kitchen is a horror experience that is most certainly aimed at adults: less cartoon violence than Resident Evil and more fervent gore than an American adaptation of a Japanese horror movie.
Delivered by the producer of the fifth instalment of Capcom’s aforementioned horror franchise, Kitchen most definitely resides in the department of VR technical demos. Interaction is decidedly limited: armed with a DualShock 4 control pad, the player can move their arms around the area ahead of them. The experience is played in first-person, and throughout the player is unable to move their body or lift themselves out of the chair they are seated upon. Arms tied, there is only a single point during the demo in which the player’s interaction has any meaning whatsoever.
The experience begins in a less than pleasant kitchen. Strewn with debris and damaged beyond repair, you awake to find a video camera facing towards you. You can knock over the video camera, but doing so has no real impact. A companion lies unconscious on the floor, but soon awakes and though in obvious pain immediately sets about freeing you. Grasping a knife lying beside you he asks you to raise your hands. Doing so will allow him to begin cutting you loose, but all does not go according to plan.
A howling, beastly female figure enters. One could question one your unnamed associate doesn’t turn to see what approaches, but to do so would be the beginning of an unravelling of a great many horror clichés. Soon, she plunges a knife deep into his shoulder, thinking that she has won. Victory however, is not quite so easy to claim. Your would-be helper begins to fight back, with the brawl moving out of your line of sight. Slashes and brutal screams can be heard as the fight continues, all the while you’re left in the most unpleasant of surroundings with only the moonlight and a broken lamp for company.
A moment passes. Silence falls. How did the fight end? Are you alone now? These questions are soon answered, as the decapitated head of your fellow victim is thrown into the room and rolls across the floor in front of you.
The demo soon reaches an end, and with that comes the biggest crime of any AAA VR experience presented at E3 this year. Kitchen, in an attempt to create a jump scare, locks head camera movement. As the evil, blood soaked woman puts her hands across your face from behind you remain free to look in all directions, but suddenly the camera locks and the woman’s face drops from above, upside down in front of you. Continuing to move your head at this point is jarring as there is no indication as to why head movement is no longer yours to control.
Clearly a scripted ending, this finale is nothing less than an awful mistake. Kitchen was an interesting, high quality look into the potential future of VR horror, however this ending proves that for all the good indie developers and those well-versed in VR are doing, there are still many other teams that simply don’t understand the basic principles of design. VRFocus hopes to see more of Kitchen in the future, but at the same time hopes that the development team invest more time in research and development than they do designing jump scares.