Three pieces of content compose Banned Footage Vol. 2. “21,” is Resident Evil’s take on blackjack, a proposition that inspires are-you-kidding levels of insipidity, but, in practice, comes off as enjoyably madcap and mechanically principled. “Jack’s 55th Birthday,” is a non-canon retreat into absurdity where you acquire sporadically positioned food and pound it into the Baker patriarch under the duress of time and mortal peril. “Daughters,” is a microcosm of Resident Evil 7 that attempts to clarify Zoe’s place in the proper narrative.
There’s no getting around 21’s vacuous presence inside Resident Evil 7. Fortunately it’s deployed with weapons-grade sincerity and requisite bleak context, passing off an otherwise conventional card game as peremptory facet of Lucas’ conspicuous sadism. 21 opens with Clancy—the Sewer Gators cameraman, you remember him from Banned Footage Vol. 1—squared against some other despairing son of a bitch with a burlap sack on his head. Both men have one hand in a device that graphically chops off a finger when they lose a hand game of blackjack.
After Resident Evil 7’s “Happy Birthday” sequence and a general aura of malaise, it’s clear that Lucas derives pleasure from pushing desperate people into impossible challenges. I get it—if I were a malcontent immortal consumed with inventive torture, this is what I would be doing too—but the theme in 21 seems redundant after Happy Birthday. Lucas is a malicious psychopath. Again.
After a routine start, 21 goes a little crazy with the standard blackjack rules. Passing the hand-challenge cascades the player into a series of more dangerous penalties, and with this comes the addition of trump cards. These have a variety of uses; pull a specific card out of the limited deck, double an opponent’s bet, return your last drawn card, and myriad other ways to chaotically adjust the present game. Your opponent has his own trump cards, all of which do well to create a tug-of-war between card counting skill and basic luck.
Finishing 21 once wraps up its implied narrative and presumably completes Clancy’s backstory. More mechanically focuses endeavors, Survival and Survival+, are successively unlocked. These deviations from standard blackjack put an even greater emphasis on trump cards, and even come with a series of helpful unlocks if the player manages to complete certain challenges. Personally I was good with only trying Survival a few times. Dumb luck blowing up your game wears thin on patience, but I have to give it to the development team for taking something as simple as blackjack and driving this much content out of it.
Daughters is positioned as a meaningful bridge connecting one of Resident Evil 7’s substantial gaps; Zoe. The helpful southern voice on the phone and inexplicable branching path of the base game certainly could have used additional clarification, as I didn’t even know that she was a biological member of the Baker family. Perhaps it was communicated along the way and I just missed it; I thought Zoe was another captured victim trying to help out Ethan.
In any case, the opening sequence of Daughters presents one of the more surreal scenes in all of Resident Evil 7. The Baker family is…normal. It’s a casual evening during a stormy night; Marguerite is making dinner and Lucas is detached and playing with his phone when Jack comes home with a little girl from the wrecked cruise liner. Soon, everything predictably turns to mud. At this point the Baker’s residence isn’t a wrecked Tyler Durden house; the lighting is natural and normal, and nothing is off kilter. This is in stark contrast to the first time Ethan meets the Bakers three years a dozens of gruesome homicides later.
Zoe is tasked with fetching some warm clothes, at which point the Baker residence begins its transition from a rustic homestead to a revolting hovel. For Zoe, this manifests in basic fetch quests while a newly-insane Jack and Marguerite prowl walled-off sections of their house. This is both summery and instruction, as Zoe really only has two tasks before Daughters rolls to a quick close. Evading Jack requires Zoe to use two specific items in two specific places, and slipping by Marguerite is a basic stealth challenge. Failing either comes with an unpleasant and unescapable cut-scene, which is neat once and aggravating every other time.
Daughters is a disappointing misuse of an opportunity. A single, interesting piece of backstory is present if you’re careful enough to notice it, and two distinct endings are dependent on the player noticing an out-of-the-way, optional path. I still don’t really know much about Zoe, and suspect that there’s really nothing there beyond, “was able to slightly resist Eveline’s magic.” Daughters also fails to present a meaningful deviation from Resident Evil 7’s cat-and-mouse mechanic, doubling down on functionally identical content. The opening five minutes are a promise the proceeding twenty fail to realize.
Banned Footage Vol. 2 is strengthened by its bonkers extraneous offering, Jack’s 55th Birthday. Playing as Ethan (I guess, nothing here is cannon), the player must rush around contained sections from the proper game and collect plates of food or beer to nourish Jack. Time is a factor to measure your score, and a round is complete once Jack’s hunger meter becomes full. Molded sporadically prowl the premises, but executing them puts some time back on the clock. In this regard, much like Nightmare from Banned Footage Vol. 1, Jack’s 55th Birthday is a model in crafting personal efficiency.
Strategy arrives via inventory management. A chest is always present in Jack’s feeding room, and should contain a moderate sum of weapons and ammunition. The temptation to take it all with you is strong, survival has obvious value, but this also compromises efficiency. You can’t haul a ton of food back if your limited inventory is consumed with handgun bullets. Rolling light and completely running out of ammo is also a risk, as it not only opens the player up to dying but also removing precious seconds via slaying molded.
Jack’s 55th Birthday has more longevity than the rest of the Banned Footage Vol. 2 package. Some of the levels have locked doors that require the player the kill certain enemies in order to open, and there are also handful of neat, one-off weapons in specific areas. Cranking out a decent time also unlocks a myriad of different buffs and weapons available in the storage crate. All of this contributes to an arcade-friendly rendition of Resident Evil 7, and felt more engaging than the inspired but monotonous Nightmare mode.
Resident Evil, as a series, has usually been slightly goofy and occasionally self-aware. Resident Evil 7 played it straight nearly the entire time, which, given its serious narrative, was a necessary face. In Jack’s 55th Birthday the titular character is parked in a chair and wearing a delightful party hat and a clown nose. The hordes of molded, too, are each outfitted in a festive hat as they try to murder you. This is exceptionally weird, and dovetails neatly with its focus on high scores and improvised mayhem.
Banned Footage Vol. 2 is a more conservative approach to Resident Evil 7’s post-release program. It plays in the same space as Vol. 1—both are insistent and diverse recasts of Resident Evil 7‘s components—but it exchanges chaos for stability. Eccentric blackjack, exacting resource management, and a condensed, comfortable reprise of the proper game are suitable, if not safe, slices of content.