Capcom's iconic survival horror franchise, Resident Evil, has come a very long way since its origins in 1996. The series has continuously revitalized itself by changing its style over the course of two decades, that's hard to exactly pin-point one specific style than can be considered Resident Evil as a definite. In 2005, they reinvented the series with Resident Evil 4, and in 2017, they once again changed its gears with Resident Evil 7 - both games becoming great critical and commercial successes. The upcoming title, Resident Evil Village, continues the seventh instalment's focus on tense, first-person survival horror, and the latest 'Maiden' demo gives us a taste of something greater to come.
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The PlayStation 5-exclusive 'Maiden' demo for Resident Evil Village puts players in the shoes of an unnamed maiden, who has to escape a dungeon and the castle she finds herself in. Along the way, you'll find clues about the relentless torture of all previous maidens of the castle by the hands of one Madam Alcina Dimitrescu and her three sadistic daughters. We soon come to find out that they're fond of the taste of blood and don't particularly like the sunlight. I wonder what they are.
As a warning, I will be talking about the demo in detail until the final moments, so turn back if you don't wish to be spoiled or haven't played the demo yet.
After escaping the dungeon, players find themselves in the extravagantly designed mansion of Lady Dimitrescu. Gold ornaments line the hallways, massive Gothic-Victorian drapes block out all windows, and the main hall - in classic Resident Evil fashion - houses a winding staircase, massive chandelier, and locked doorways and paths that can only be unlocked by solving puzzles in the full game. In this demo, we only really need to solve one major puzzle (excluding escaping the dungeon), which involves finding an eye that can be placed in one of the door's embedded statues in order to find the courtyard key.
The objective remains "escape the dungeon/castle", and the task is fairly straight-forward. However, as the demo is advertised as a visual demonstration, I was absolutely blown away. Capcom's RE Engine continues to be one of the powerhouse engines in the gaming industry, and they're really flexing its muscles here. The detail of the textures, the superb lighting, and the crisp visuals are a sight to behold. One section in the dining room involved wind blowing fog and snow through a window that looked jaw-dropping. Resident Evil Village will no doubt be the best-looking game in the series yet, if this demo is anything go by.
Of course, the demo ends with our first encounter with the internet's favourite tall vampire lady, Alcina Dimitrescu. As with all Resident Evil demos, the experience always ends in a confrontation with the villain. However, just before we rush to our demise by the hands of Madam X, we're also introduced to one of her daughters - who I presume is named Daniella - that is able to shapeshift into a cloud of insects and travel around the castle quickly, weaving in and out of doors and walls.
I wanted to test how far this pursuit mechanic would go, and unlike the previous Resident Evil games that all had a pursuer, it was incredibly easy for Daniella to catch you. She's not a brutishly built tyrant stomping around that you can hear from a mile away, but a nimble and stealthy vampire who can traverse the environment as fast as you can run. This is a perfect and natural evolution of the RE pursuits because these enemies seem faster and far more formidable a threat than Nemesis and Mr. X. With Lady Dimitrescu also in the picture, she's tall but might be as fast or sneaky as her daughters, so it will certainly change up the intensity of the pursuits.
In similar fashion to Resident Evil 7's more traditional item management/inventory features and scouting around environments and puzzles for clues, this demo gives us a good idea of the textbook Resident Evil gameplay style that will be present in Village. It's great to see Capcom returning to their roots and bringing out the best of the 90s Resident Evil games again, while still finding new and inventive ways to scare us, whether it's with vampire and werewolf mutations or a first-person perspective to ramp up the tension and uncertainty of what's behind us. The demo is terrifying, built on a palpable atmosphere of dread, and there's a magic to Resident Evil that simply shines (and hopefully will shine bright) in Village again.
The 'Maiden' demo of Resident Evil Village clocked at around 20 minutes per run, but after playing it at least half a dozen times, I can firmly say that Village will offer something familiar - thanks to its level design, survival horror elements, and traditional RE gameplay - yet bring in a fresh angle with the introduction of new, menacing pursuers in the vampire threat as well as the Bloodborne-esque monster variety and locations. While it may be a hotly debated topic about Resident Evil so drastically changing its identity, I'd argue that the reverse is actually happening here. The series is simply reverting back to its old style while remaining relevant by having just enough "new" to keep it fresh, exciting and always unpredictable.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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