PS5 owners got their hands on the Resident Evil: Village demo, called The Maiden. The short, virtual tour expertly demonstrates terror without combat or exaggerated jump scares. It gives a horrifying taste of what’s to come and introduces fans to scary new enemies.
Players embody an unknown character named the Maiden instead of Ethan Winters, the playable protagonist of Resident Evil 8. It’s unclear how, or if, it fits into the overarching story, but it does demonstrate the game’s eerie tone. Though the gameplay is minimal, the haunting atmosphere is enough to sell Resident Evil: Village.
The demo starts inside a dungeon stationed underneath a luxurious house. The Maiden wakes up in a metal barred cell, and the haunting feeling sinks in immediately. Darkness is barely lit by a small beam of light. Everything looks wet and molded. The slight breeze and sporadic clanking of chains fill the air. The loudest sound is the sudden outburst of noise when picking up an item, the first of which is a note riddling the player’s escape.
The guide is as mysterious as the person who wrote it. It helps the player proceed without telling them exactly how. For example, one clue says: “it will be hidden where they’ll least suspect, soaked in blood.” The riddle is a perfect representative of Resident Evil storytelling. The clues are obvious, but the fluent discovery feels rewarding.
As The Maiden progresses through the dungeon, there is an increasing sense of being watched. Every small noise is startling, and every step is nerve-wracking. The claustrophobic dungeon is not the only haunting aspect of Resident Evil 8. Sometimes indirect storytelling is scarier than any jump scare. The Maiden stumbles into a room filled with bottles and stacks of paper. One note says the bottles are for “keeping the livestock alive.”
The underhanded, environmental storytelling is scattered throughout the demo. In one section, a stack of barrels is colored by an oozing black substance. Suddenly one barrel moves. There is a banging as the creature inside tries to escape. If Capcom can continue this uneasy tone, then Resident Evil 8 may be more horrifying than its predecessor.
In classic Resident Evil fashion, the player must locate bolt cutters to access previously locked areas. The inventory system is clutter-free and minimal, a good system that quickly gets the player back into the game. The process for progression was a little too simple. Items like bolt cutters and lockpicks were always nearby, and there was no in-depth puzzle-solving. Of course, this is due to the demo’s nature, where the goal is to show off Resident Evil graphics on the newest console. Environmental puzzles and tool collection will, hopefully, be more in-depth with the full game.
Either way, the puzzle-solving process becomes frantic when monstrous screams and heavy footsteps echo through the corridors. The player is on edge. They don’t know what or who is lurking. Every corner could reveal a giant monstrosity or stumbling zombie.
The player eventually escapes the dungeon and enters a gold-plated dressing room. It’s a stark contrast to the worn-down house of the previous game. The expensive house is the main showpiece for the RE Engine. It looks almost photo-realistic, and the glittering gold is a marvelous sight. It’s too bad the mirrors don’t reflect the character or the furnishings. The most impressive part, though, was entering a dining room area with an opened window. A cold breeze storms into the darkness, and moonlight brightens the room.
The magic of the Resident Evil demo is its ability to remain haunting throughout the whole experience. The main house, which resembles a traditional upstairs, downstairs Resident Evil layout, is not dark and claustrophobic like the dungeon.
It’s still terrifying.
The silence and emptiness of the house are almost as frightening as the torture-filled dungeon. When a voice says “I’m watching you,” it stops the player in their tracks and makes them question their actions. The Maiden makes the brightest of environments creepy. The short demo ends by finally revealing two of the game’s enemies. One is a black-dressed woman that materializes out of a swarm of bugs. The other is a massive woman who towers over the player. Her dress and jewelry match the fancy house. She is pale and dressed in all white.
Hulking enemies like these can make or break a Resident Evil game. For instance, the stalking Mr. X is much more terrifying than the Nemesis (from the remakes). The new villain has the potential to be a worthy opponent. She is not scary in appearance, but her demanding aura is equally as terrifying. Not to mention the claws protruding out of her fingers.
Some fans were displeased with the vampire enemy type, but The Maiden makes a good case for the switch. The storytelling also creates a foreboding ambiance around the vampires. They were scary long before meeting them. The demo ends suddenly, and it leaves players wanting more.
The demo perfectly encapsulates the type of horror for which Resident Evil is known; it’s disturbing, eerie, cheeky, and oddly addicting. One cause for concern is the PS5 exclusivity. Capcom wants to show off the best version of its RE Engine, and that’s understandable. Hopefully, they are not pulling a CD Projekt Red and hiding a much inferior last-gen version. That will be evident soon enough when the full game comes out on May 7. In the meantime, Capcom is planning another demo for all consoles.