The first wave of DLC for Resident Evil 7 consists of two separate packs: Banned Footage Vol. 1 ($9.99) and Banned Footage Vol. 2 ($14.99). Each pack comes with two video cassette "flashbacks" plus a bonus game mode, for a total of six scenarios. Volume 1 features "Nightmare," in which you play as Clancy trapped in the basement trying to fight off waves of molded; "Bedroom," in which you play as Clancy locked in a bedroom trying to solve puzzles to escape; and "Ethan Must Die," an ultra-hard rogue-lite mini-campaign in which you play as Ethan exploring the main house and green house before fighting a boss. Volume 2 features "21," in which you play as Clancy forced by Lucas to play a sadistic version of high-stakes blackjack; "Daughters," in which you play as Zoe on the night that the Baker family starts to turn; and "Jack's 55th Birthday," in which you play as Mia in a comically bizarre time-trial scenario about searching the Baker estate for food to bring to Jack.
Since each scenario involves a completely different premise with its own unique gameplay, I'll be reviewing each scenario individually, grouped based on how they appear in the two DLC packs. I'll give my overall thoughts on the value and balance of content for each DLC pack -- essentially, whether either of them is worth buying or not -- in the conclusion section at the end of the article.
Banned Footage: Vol. 1
"Nightmare" is a video tape flashback in which you play as Clancy, the cameraman from the Sewer Gators, trying to survive the night trapped in the basement of the Baker house. It is, essentially, a horde-survival mode. You have to survive five waves of increasing difficulty while managing a limited supply of "scrap," which serves as a currency for crafting weapons, ammo, and upgrades at a workbench. You begin with a certain amount of scrap to build your starting loadout, and are rewarded with more scrap for surviving each wave. Trash compactors spread throughout the basement provide a slow but steady stream of extra scrap to help during each wave, if you can make it to the trash compactors and back to the workbench. Scrap costs for ammunition and healing aids start out cheap but become progressively more expensive as you buy more. You can also spend scrap to activate traps in the environment like explosive tripwires and automated turrets that target molded enemies.
Getting swarmed by molded in the compactor room.
A lot of the fun of playing "Nightmare" comes from its strong implementation of resource management. Scrap is your lifeline in this game mode, with it providing literally everything you need to survive, and so you have to spend it wisely. It might be tempting to stick with one or two powerful weapons, but you'll quickly find ammo prices skyrocketing to unsustainable heights, so you have to juggle multiple weapons and balance your usage to keep the ammo prices down. You could spend a huge chunk of scrap to make your weapons do a lot more damage, but then you can't afford as much ammo. You could spend an even bigger chunk of scrap to unlock other areas of the basement with extra trash compactors and traps, or increase the production rate of trash compactors so that they'll produce more scrap in the long run, but that leaves you strapped for scrap in the short term. Meanwhile, is it worth upgrading other things like your max health, run speed, or reload speed?
Unused scrap also counts towards your final score, should you survive all five waves. Each time you play, your score is added to a cumulative score of all your previous runs; as you reach higher cumulative scores, you unlock extra bonuses like beginning wave one with extra scrap to get a better loadout before starting, or unlocking more powerful weapons and upgrades to build from the workbench. These upgrades make the game a little bit easier, of course, which allows you to get higher scores, which allows you unlock better upgrades for a constantly satisfying reward cycle. And so, not only do you have to manage your scrap to make sure you have enough supplies to get through the final wave, you also have to weigh the thought of deliberately handicapping yourself by not taking as many upgrades so that your unused scrap will contribute to a greater score.
Wave one starts out fairly easy, with you mainly fighting a slow trickle of basic molded, one-on-one, with the occasional "Travis" molded thrown in, before getting a few crawling molded at the very end. Wave two ups the ante by throwing more enemies at you, and then having you fight Jack at the end, who serves as a type of mini-boss. As the waves progress, they start introducing the "fatty" molded (who spew bile at you) and mixing more of the "Travis" and crawling molded into the mix, while making all of the enemies stronger; they gain a little extra health, faster movement speed, and increased damage. In the final wave, you have to fight Jack again -- this time, with his chainsaw scissors -- while more molded continue to spawn around you. When you beat "Nightmare," you unlock "Night Terror," which is the same scenario but even harder, with proportionally higher scores.
Setting up a turret to shoot Jack.
I had a lot of fun with "Nightmare" (and particularly "Night Terror"), but I never really got into the high scores. It took me a few attempts to beat it on each difficulty, and then I played it a few more times to try different strategies and challenging myself to get higher scores, but it takes a lot of time and effort to unlock some of the more interesting bonuses. I, personally, didn't feel like it was worth it to grind scores for a few hours just to unlock fun alternatives for what is, ultimately, a meaningless game mode. Still, the action in Resident Evil 7 has a satisfyingly raw and intense feeling to it, in large part because its slower pace emphasizes each individual enemy encounter more, and "Nightmare" lets you get a quick fix by jumping into a short scenario that pumps the action and the survival tension way up, with a new resource management system that lets you make interesting, weighty decisions about how to spend your limited resources and plan an efficient session.
If you like the action in Resident Evil 7 and/or wish there were more of it, then "Nightmare" is a good option for you. I was certainly pleased that the base game chose to stay away from this type of constant action, but after playing "Nightmare" I kind of wish they'd included a trimmed down version of it (one wave, no scrap system) as a video tape that you could play in the base game. It reminded me a lot of the Cabin fight from Resident Evil 4, which was one of the most intense and memorable moments of that game for me, and so I think "Nightmare" could've stood out as more memorable and impactful if you could've experienced it as Ethan watching the tape in the main playthrough. Then of course, they could've sold the "Nightmare" DLC as it exists now with five waves and the scrap system as an "expanded" version. Either way, I got a few hours of entertainment out of it, and I may find myself coming back to it every now and then, because it's not a bad way to kill some time.
Banned Footage: Vol. 1
"Bedroom" is another video tape flashback in which you play as Clancy, this time solving another Escape-the-Room puzzle similar to the "Happy Birthday" tape. In this tape, you wake up strapped to the bed in the master bedroom with Marguerite bringing you some of her delicious home cooking. As it turns out, you aren't strapped down very securely, so once she's gone (and locks the door behind her) you're free to get up and start searching the room for ways to escape. Like "Happy Birthday" you have to complete a series of specific actions in a specific order, which involves things like figuring out the combination to the padlock for the storage closet, finding and putting paintings in the correct places on the wall, and figuring out how to get a nest of spiders out of your way, among other things.
Good ol' Marge bringing some of that home cooking.
The twist in this scenario is that Marguerite periodically returns to check on you, typically when you progress through the sequence enough to trigger events that cause a lot of noise. If she catches you out of bed, or notices that things in the room are different than they should be (e.g., if you rearranged the paintings and didn't put them back) then she'll unleash her bug assault on you and damage you. If you get caught enough times, you die and have to start the tape over again. Solving the puzzle to escape the room, therefore, involves not only solving the individual puzzles within it, but also remembering what all you've done and backtracking some of your progress when you realize Marguerite's coming and you only have 30 seconds to make everything look like you've never been out of the bed.
As usual, the puzzles in "Bedroom" fall victim to typical adventure game logic where there's only one exact way to do something. Instead of feeling like you're trying to come up with a creative solution to a problem, it feels like you're just trying to deduce the idiosyncratic logic behind the intended solution. I was fine with that in "Happy Birthday" because it was deliberately set up (by Lucas) to function like an Escape Room puzzle -- it makes sense that there'd be an intended sequence to follow -- but "Bedroom" isn't an Escape Room puzzle, it's Clancy improvising on the spot. You're also forced to learn some of the scenario's mechanics and solutions through trial-and-error, which isn't a problem in and of itself, but it's certainly irritating when certain things screw you over and you had no way of knowing that would happen until you try it, or when you play the entire scenario scenario and then fail at the very end, and have to start over from the beginning because you didn't do one little thing that you didn't even realize was necessary at that specific moment.
Ah, the ol' "Arrange the Paintings" puzzle.
There's not much else I can say about "Bedroom" without spoiling solutions to puzzles, other than to say that the whole thing is really short and has no replay value. I liked "Happy Birthday" in the base game and thought it stood out as the best (aka, only real) puzzle sequence in the entire game, and "Bedroom" is basically on par with "Happy Birthday" but with a little bit more excitement (in the form of rushing to reset the room to its original state and thinking on your feet when you have to pick a dialogue response) and a less sinister premise. "Happy Birthday" felt genuinely unsettling as I went through it; I felt a lot of nervous tension as I completed different tasks and approached its end, wary of what was going to happen, whereas I didn't feel much of anything during "Bedroom" except the mild panic of resetting the room and getting back in bed within the time limit. It's always nice to have more puzzles, however, so I'll gladly take it.
"Ethan Must Die"
Banned Footage: Vol. 1
"Ethan Must Die" is a super-hard mini-campaign in which you play as Ethan going through the main house of the Baker estate in search of the keys to the greenhouse so that you can fight and kill Marguerite. The campaign uses all of the same locations, enemies, and items from the base game, but remixes everything to create a new and unusual route through the house with a bunch of challenging and unique encounters. As a mini-campaign, it only lasts about 20 minutes, but it'll take you much longer than that to beat it because you have to complete it all in one run; if you die, you start over from the beginning. Death comes incredibly easy in this mode, with Ethan dying from traps and most enemies in just one hit, and you get very little in the way of weapons or ammunition, which is randomized every time.
Two loot crates in a room with an explosive tripwire.
This mode may very well be called "Ethan Must Die" because you basically have to die to learn how traps work and where to expect ambushes. Item crates, for instance, are randomly rigged to explode and kill you, but you probably don't expect that until it happens to you -- then you know to start checking for the telltale signs before opening any. This mode also introduces a couple of new traps that can target both you and enemies: automated turrets and pressure plates that spew lethal gas. The game is fair about showing you how turrets work before really putting you up against them, but the first pressure plates you encounter have no enemies around, so you either avoid them and have no idea how they work, or sacrifice yourself to learn what they do. Likewise, a lot of enemies ambush you in particular spots, attacking you a mere second after they appear, with no warning whatsoever, meaning you're probably going to die unless you have perfect reflexes.
Trial-and-error therefore plays a huge role in beating "Ethan Must Die," typically with you advancing to a new area and dying, then starting over with newfound knowledge of what to expect up ahead, until you reach a new area and die again. I was a little frustrated with that fact at first, but then I realized there's a definite learning opportunity with every encounter, and that nearly every encounter has an easy solution intentionally built into it. In reality, "Ethan Must Die" is actually pretty simple and easy -- you just have to put in the work to "solve" its "puzzles." Once you know the trick to beating each encounter, success mostly comes down to not screwing up in the few instances where you actually have to fight something head-on, and getting good luck with weapons and ammunition.
Two legless molded coming for me in the hallway.
The luck aspect with random drops can be pretty frustrating, considering that a lot of items are almost completely useless in this mode (what good, for instance, is getting a bunch of healing items when you typically die in one hit, or stabilizers when you're never going to have enough ammo to reload a weapon, or chem fluid if you're never going to find any gunpowder and vice versa) and can leave you completely screwed if you just get hosed on weapons and ammo. A lot of the mode's fun and excitement comes from that, however, since you never know what to expect; sometimes you just have to find a way to make do with three pistol rounds and a knife, and it feels pretty satisfying if you succeed. Resource management is also at the top of its game in this mode, with you having extremely limited inventory space and having to make tough decisions about what to take and what to leave behind. Is it worth, for instance, dropping that shotgun with two shells left in it in exchange for a grenade launcher with one grenade?
There's no inherent replay value once you beat it, unless you just want to try for a faster completion time, because so much of it is the exact same every time -- once you've "solved" it, each play is just rolling the dice to see what items you get. I really enjoyed learning its tricks and mastering it, and it certainly feels like an accomplishment having beaten it, but not everyone will enjoy (or ever complete) this game mode because of how hard it is and how much trial-and-error is involved. But, if you're someone who played (and enjoyed) Madhouse difficulty, then I think you'll also enjoy "Ethan Must Die."
Banned Footage: Vol. 2
"21" is yet another video tape flashback in which you play as Clancy. This time you're forced by Lucas to play a modified version of blackjack, in which you and another captive must play to the death, first by betting with fingers (which get sliced off by a guillotine when you lose), then with increasing voltages of electricity, and then finally with a tug-of-war set of spinning blades that have to be pushed towards your opponent by winning. "21" follows the normal rules of blackjack except it uses a modified deck consisting only of 11 cards, numbered one through eleven. It also adds special trump cards to the later rounds, which allow you to play special actions like drawing specific cards from the deck, or forcing your opponent to discard his latest draw, or switching cards with your opponent, and so on. Once you finish "21" you unlock "Survival," in which you have to defeat five opponents without losing all five of your fingers, and by beating that mode, you unlock "Survival+," in which you need to face ten opponents without getting your electricity gauge to max.
"Hoffman" getting a brutally close shave.
The initial "21" scenario that you go through with Lucas has some decent story value because it gives you more insight into Lucas's sadistic personality and makes him a little more sinister than he appears in the base game, but once you complete that and move onto both "Survival" modes (and even during "21" itself, in terms of the gameplay), you're really just playing blackjack, plain and simple. It may be dressed up in a Resident Evil theme, but it has nothing to do with Resident Evil 7, its characters, its premises, or its gameplay. This is, simply, an unrelated card game sold as Resident Evil DLC. I'll admit, it's a little more fun to play than regular blackjack because the 11-card deck makes it easier to count cards and calculate probabilities, and the trump cards give you more control over things than simply relying on the fate of the draw, but it's still just blackjack.
Both of the "Survival" modes felt pretty boring and repetitive to me, especially so when it comes to "Survival+" where you're literally playing a hundred or more hands of blackjack over and over again, slowly trying to make your way through a line of 10 opponents who each have 10 "hit points" for an hour straight before even reaching the final "boss," who spams obnoxiously overpowered trump cards at you that can completely screw you over if you don't have enough of the right trump cards to counter them, and thus force you to spend another slow and excruciating hour working your way through opponents just to face the boss again and hopefully not get screwed as badly. The final boss borders on being outright unfair and broken, which could possibly feel like a fun and worthwhile challenge if it weren't such a huge waste of time just getting to him.
Consulting my hand of trump cards.
There's plenty of strategy to be had with playing the right trump cards at the right time and playing for the long haul instead of the quick win, but there's still some luck involved with card draws, and it can be infuriating to play for 75 minutes, reach the boss, and have a 75% chance to draw a card that will put you at 18, 20, or 21, and you end up drawing the one card that busts you when you don't have a trump card to save yourself. Or when you get the final boss down to his last few "hit points" and you raise the stakes enough to beat him on the current hand, playing all your trump cards to get a perfect 21 and knowing he can't possibly beat you (or even tie you), and then he plays a card that says "too bad, this round doesn't count." And then he draws a perfect 21 on the next hand when you have no more trump cards left to do anything about it.
There's built-in replay value with the two extra "Survival" modes, and you can also strive for specific achievements (like "win a hand despite busting" or "play 15 trump cards in a single round") to unlock more powerful trump cards, but I was just so bored and annoyed with it that after trying "Survival+" twice I gave up, and had no desire to try anymore. The game of blackjack, as Lucas imagines it in this version, is pretty solid, and I like card games, but playing a card game for hours at a time is not what I think of when I think of Resident Evil. I like what they did with Lucas's character, but wish they'd done something different with the gameplay. This felt like the weakest of the six DLC scenarios, and I did not enjoy playing it.
Banned Footage: Vol. 2
"Daughters" is a video tape flashback in which you play as Zoe on the night that the Baker family begins to turn. While a hurricane is wreaking havoc on the gulf of Mexico, Jack comes in from the rain saying he's found "another one," carrying an unconscious little girl in his arms. He and Marguerite agree that they can care for the two storm victims for a few days, until the storm passes and they can get them into town. Marguerite starts fixing dinner, Jack takes the girl upstairs to Lucas's old bedroom, and tasks you with getting her dried off and getting her into a set of clean clothes. And then all hell starts breaking loose. Suddenly Jack and Marguerite are acting weird, losing control of themselves, and coming after you; you have to avoid them and find a way out of the house.
Sitting down for breakfast with the family.
That's pretty important, since this tape is less about gameplay and more about story, atmosphere, and characters. Gameplay-wise, it's the usual mechanisms from the base game of hiding or running away from the Bakers and searching the environment for the right key items to unlock doors. The scenario can branch in two directions, resulting in either the "bad ending" or the "true ending" depending on what you do; this comes down to essentially a 50/50 choice on which drawer you choose to open with the only lockpick, and whether you were observant enough to notice one small detail. In my case, I noticed that detail and made a mental note of it, but I apparently picked the wrong drawer, not knowing that I'd just locked myself into the bad ending. That, I feel, is a little lame, as if they did that to make the "true ending" harder to get so that you'll have to replay it to see it.
Like with the "Bedroom" tape, there's not a lot I can say about this one because it's so short (it only lasts about 15 minutes -- twice that if you play it again to see an alternate ending), and I can't discuss what happens in much detail without spoiling things. It's nice to see what the house looked like a few years prior to seeing it in its rundown state of disarray as Ethan, and to get a glimpse of what the Bakers were like before changing, but it's so brief and the change happens so quickly that the effect is kind of lost. You get basically one dialogue exchange with each family member and then suddenly they're evil and possessed. There's not enough time to appreciate who they were before the change, and the change happens so suddenly that there's not enough time to appreciate that, either.
"When I ask for rope, I expect to get rope!"
There's some good, creepy stuff going on with the atmosphere, though. I like the fact that Zoe uses her lighter to see in the dark, which restricts your vision to just a few feet in front of you so there's a little bit more dread with not being able to see things until you get close enough. There's one good artistic moment when this somber piano music kicks in, with the rain from the storm pelting against the house and Zoe sobbing uncontrollably, having just escaped from Jack, who can be heard through the walls gibbering maniacally while trying to keep control of himself. "Daughters" is a great idea and explores something that I think everyone would enjoy getting to see, but I really wish it were longer and more fleshed out, because as it is, it feels like more of a missed opportunity than the grand revelation I was hoping it would be.
"Jack's 55th Birthday"
Banned Footage: Vol. 2
"Jack's 55th Birthday" is a bonus game mode consisting of a weird, zany, off-the-wall scenario in which you play as Mia frantically running around various locations of the Baker estate trying to round up food and bring it to Jack to fill up his hunger gauge within a specified time limit. You can play in three different sections of the estate on normal and hard difficulties for a total of six scenarios. Each one begins with you selecting equipment and upgrades from an item box, which will be useful for fighting off the molded which spawn throughout the level to impede your progress, but will add to your time for each one that you kill. Different types of food are worth more for satisfying Jack's hunger, and some items can be combined to improve their value. And since food occupies inventory space, you have to balance having enough weapons, ammo, and upgrades to contend with the molded as efficiently as possible while leaving yourself room to carry more food.
Jack waiting for his birthday feast.
The general theme and atmosphere of this game mode is such a pleasant change of pace from the dark and depressing scenarios of the base game and all of the other DLC. Jack's sitting there with a clown nose and party hat, all the molded wear comical hats like football helmets, baseball hats, party hats, and cowboy hats, the guns shoot confetti (in addition to damaging the molded), and Mia's cheering "whoo hoo!" and "let's go!" like she's having fun every time she finds a powerup or a sweet cache of food somewhere. Then there's that whimsical music playing in the background, which sounds like something out of a cartoonish platformer from the 90s. The whole thing is so ridiculous that I fell in love with it immediately.
Just beating each scenario is simple enough, but you really want to go for faster times to unlock better powerups, which are not only fun to play around with (there's a golden crowbar that lights enemies on fire) but also help you get better times on the higher difficulties. Getting those faster times is almost like solving a puzzle; besides just figuring out the ideal loadout of equipment and powerups for each stage, you also have to figure out the most efficient route through each stage. As the scenarios advance, they start introducing color-coded locked doors, which require you to find and kill a particular enemy somewhere with the matching color. Most stages also have a blue or red blaster, a laser pistol powerup that gives insane time bonuses for each enemy you kill with it within a certain time limit. So, getting those high scores involves going to the right places in the right order to minimize time wasted backtracking, as well as maximizing the amount of extra time you can earn from killing enemies.
Killing a molded and earning extra time.
Of all the DLC, I think this one might have the most replay value, since you get six different scenarios to play through, and you have to play each stage a few times to puzzle out the most efficient loadouts and routes. The unlockable powerups are a lot of fun to mess around with, so I felt genuine motivation to try to get as many as I could, and the bonus SS ranks that unlock when you score an S rank on a level look so incredibly challenging that it would be a real badge of honor to pull off. I'm not sure I care enough to strive for that, but I had a lot of fun getting S and A ranks on each of the six stages, and may find myself coming back to some of them later to try to get my last remaining S ranks.
I got about 15 hours of gameplay out of the six scenarios released in the Banned Footage DLC packs, and I enjoyed my time with each one, except for "21" which I thought was kind of rubbish compared to everything else. After playing through each one sufficiently to review them, I booted the game back up to grab a few screenshots for this review, and then found myself playing some of the modes for another 2.5 hours, just for the fun of it. So, you can spend $25 on both DLC packs and get 12-20 hours of entertainment out of them, which isn't a bad ratio. For the most part, I wouldn't say any of them are really essential -- they're mostly just content padding, giving you extra game modes and fun twists on existing ideas already explored in the base game. They don't add to the main game in any significant way, except for maybe "Daughters," which is so short that you really aren't missing much.
If I had to rate the six scenarios based on how much enjoyment I got out of them and how much value I feel they add to the game, with one star (*) being "meh," two stars (**) being "pretty good but a little underwhelming," and three stars (***) being "solid fun with good replay value," it would be as such:
Banned Footage Vol. 1 ($9.99)- "Nightmare" (***)- "Bedroom" (**)- "Ethan Must Die" (***)
Banned Footage Vol. 2 ($15.99)- "21" (*)- "Daughters" (**)- "Jack's 55th Birthday" (***)
So if you're in a situation where you can only afford one DLC pack, I'd have to recommend Volume 1 since it offers more fun and replay value for a cheaper price. That recommendation comes with a caveat, however, that you have to have played and enjoyed Madhouse difficulty and be looking for a tough challenge, otherwise "Ethan Must Die" will be completely worthless to you, and you might not even enjoy "Nightmare" (or its harder version, "Night Terror") that much. But if you liked the "Happy Birthday" tape and want more Escape-the-Room puzzles, then "Bedroom" is absolutely necessary. "Daughters" is worth playing, but it's too short and I feel like they could've done a lot more with it. "Jack's 55th Birthday" is a really fun juxtaposition of the usual themes and gameplay mechanisms, but some people may not appreciate its silliness as much as I did. And "21" was just lame all around.