Resident Evil 7: Cloud Version, currently available for Switch only in Japan, is a bold release for Capcom: The game can only be played via cloud streaming. After testing the game in multiple environments, we can confirm that it works better than you’d expect, especially if you’ve been disappointed in the past with services such as PlayStation Now – but still it comes with some problematic caveats.
Loading Resident Evil 7 is a little different than the average Switch game. The app itself is only 42MB, and can be downloaded for free from the Japanese eShop. After launching the app, you are connected to the server to start playing. You can then play for 15 minutes for free, or pay 2,000 yen (about $18) to access the full game for 180 days. You never install the game locally to your Switch – everything is handled via streaming.
This means you need a decent internet connection. Since Switch does not have a LAN socket out of the box (you need an adapter), for most of us this will mean connecting over wi-fi – but the good news is that even without LAN, the results are pretty convincing, depending on your connection.
My home connection delivers around 30-40 Mbps download speeds over wi-fi on an average day, and playing like this, the game works well enough. During several sessions, I occasionally noticed minor lag issues that affected the framerate very slightly, and the sound stuttered frequently, like it does when running earphones from a DualShock 4. But personally it wasn’t enough to bother me.
Whether in handheld mode or in docked mode on a TV, the resolution maxes out at 720p, so it’s not exactly the 4K experience you’d get on a PS4 Pro. But I was able to play with full 720p resolution over wi-fi at home.
More importantly, I noticed zero input lag when playing over my home wi-fi – every button press worked perfectly.
I had less impressive results in other conditions. In the IGN Japan office, where wi-fi is shared between dozens of people, I get about 13Mbps download speed on Switch. Similarly, I tried tethering to my iPhone, which generally bags me 17Mbps download. In both these settings, the good news is that I could usually connect to the server and play. However, the resolution took a noticeable hit, sometimes frames dropped and, worse, I sometimes experienced severe input lag. Occasionally I would lose the connection altogether and get kicked out.
Also, on one particular day I found myself unable to connect to the server no matter what – for around 12 hours or so the game simply wouldn’t let me play it. Having just coughed up the 2,000 yen a few hours earlier, that was frustrating to say the least. Being a cloud-streaming game, you are at the mercy of the server.
There are other server-based setbacks. Switch is a portable system, and you may find yourself starting a session in one location and continuing elsewhere. I found that changing networks mid-game usually forced a disconnection and sent me back to the splash screen; and even briefly putting my Switch to sleep was enough to cause a server check, which usually meant only a brief pause, but sometimes kicked me out. That said, I did have success tethering to my iPhone and playing even on a moving train, with only one connection drop in a 30-minute session.
Unfortunately, resetting your connection means relaunching the game from the nearest checkpoint. On Switch, we’re used to being able to wake the system from sleep and pick up from where we left off, so this unwanted backtracking may become annoying over time.
The game itself is the same as previous PS4, Xbox and PC versions, but the Switch version adds optional motion control for the main camera and the aim camera. I found motion control helpful to fine-tune a shot while aiming, but less so when walking around. Incidentally, when playing on a bad connection, the lag between moving the controller and the jerky frame rate made me feel physically sick at one point, which makes this the second version of Resident Evil 7 (after PSVR) to make me want to puke. You can separately turn off motion control for camera movement and for aiming, so it’s not a big problem.
Also an icon showing your wi-fi signal strength appears in the top-left of the screen at all times – not a distraction, but it’s not very pretty.
Your save data is also stored on the cloud, not locally. The data will be stored permanently, so long as the Resident Evil 7 cloud service itself is still running, so you can renew for another 180 days anytime, even after your first rental period has ended, and continue using your save.
Even at 720p, the art design is as gorgeous as ever, and the Baker Family house is filled with the same horrors that made the original version one of the best games of 2017. Your mileage will vary depending on your network connection, and of course not all countries have broadband that is as fast as we get in Japan, so I wonder whether Resident Evil 7: Cloud Version will ever get a Western release and whether it would perform as well in certain parts of the US or Europe. I guess it would vary greatly from place to place. Incidentally, the game does already contain full English, French, Italian, German and Spanish language options, though right now you need a Japanese Nintendo eShop account to download it, and connections from outside of Japan will likely be poor.
From what I’ve played so far, I don’t think Switch is quite ready to support streaming games as the norm. A proper port would be far preferable, even with a few performance sacrifices as we saw with the Switch versions of Doom and Wolfenstein II. But it’s impressive to see how tantalizingly close Capcom have managed to get – and if it’s a choice between Switch owners getting a streaming Resident Evil 7 or no Resident Evil 7 at all, well, it’s definitely better than nothing.
For more on Resident Evil 7, check out our full review of the game, and 20 minutes of Resident Evil 7 Cloud Version played with a tethered iPhone connection.
Daniel Robson is Chief Editor at IGN Japan. Welcome to the family.