Preview | Resident Evil Village (The Village)
This past weekend, PlayStation owners got a small taste of Capcom’s upcoming horror title, Resident Evil Village. Different from the Maiden demo, this early access demo of the village put players in control of Ethan, allowing us to explore the eerie commune. During an eight hour window, fans essentially had 30 minutes to run through the demo, either choosing to reach the end goal or to spend time exploring the village. Playing it on the PlayStation 5, we couldn’t help but check it out for ourselves. Keep in mind, there will be some spoilers from the main game, so reader discretion is advised.
We didn’t have a lot of time to play with the settings, though there are some technical specifics to mention. There are many ways to experience Resident Evil Village, even within one single platform. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X offer two different settings, one with 4K HDR at 60 fps, the other at 45 fps with ray tracing on. The Xbox Series S offers 1440p at 45 fps or 1440p at 30 fps with ray tracing on. Those playing on PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X have either 1080p at 60 fps or 4K HDR at 30 fps. The base consoles of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will play at 900p at 45 fps and 30 fps respectively. Finally, playing on Stadia offers 1080p or 4K at 60 fps. PC will presumably go as high as your hardware will allow.
For our demo, we went with the ray tracing off to experience the smooth 60 fps gameplay. The aesthetics of the village didn’t scream “ray tracing” to us, so we’ll save it for the Castle demo. No matter your settings, it has to be said that Resident Evil Village is definitely a gorgeous game. The environments in the village are full of splendid details and atmosphere gives a wonderfully eerie sense of dread. We’ve talked about the beauty of the RE Engine many times before, most recently for Monster Hunter Rise. This being the first game built with next-gen hardware in mind, Capcom can let loose and show what the engine is capable of. The results are astounding, and we’ve only seen such a small snippet of the game.
The demo begins as we are greeted by an elderly shamanistic woman, telling us about how the village fell into darkness. This is apparently thanks to Mother Miranda bringing Ethan’s daughter, Rose, back to the village. How Rose is important to the plot is unclear, and it’s obvious that there is some missing context here. Either way, there’s a mystery to solve in this strange community, and Ethan is apparently the best one for the job. Already aware of the monsters in the area, Ethan has some experience, though he clearly hasn’t seen everything yet. The village itself does give off a vibe akin to Resident Evil 4, which is definitely a welcome feeling.
For this demo, our task is to gain access to the castle gates, which requires key-like stone crests to enter. As we enter the village, we start in a welcoming graveyard area. There’s a statue of the “Maiden of War”, an altar where “Goats of Warding” are offered, and even a handful of small homes. Fans of the more modern Resident Evil games may have experience here, as there’s already hidden secrets to uncover. Upon looking at the Maiden of War statue, you can’t directly interact with it, but there was a crystal fragment hidden in the eye of her goat shield. The Goats of Warding are also destructible items that work kind of like the Mr. Raccoon toys from Resident Evil 2 and other tokens in past games. Of course, there are other environmental elements to interact with, especially for items useful for crafting.
Crafting returns from Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, giving Ethan the ability to combine various items for different results. This includes combining herbs and chem fluid for first aid meds, or even gunpowder and rusted scrap for handgun ammo. The demo does give us a bit of time with crafting, though it’s clear there are other things to craft later on in the game. With a little exploration, we’ll come across plenty of items to pick up, as well as areas that show hints of future importance. One example is the many wells around the village, which are marked clearly by yellow paint. The small splash of color in the mostly black and white landscape helps to draw your eye, even if we can’t do anything with it yet. It stands out as something memorable, which will likely be a pattern with so many design elements of the game.
It’s not long before we come across the castle gate, seeing the two areas to insert the crests. There aren’t a lot of places we can go, though some of the dead ends yield interesting results. Luckily, there’s an open gate leading to a small chapel. Inside, we find our first key, the Maiden Crest, as well as an elaborate altar. Moving on, we move down a path surrounded by a field of wheat. The building on the side contains an M1897 shotgun, a landmine, and some supplies. As a figure runs quickly past the window, we know we’ll soon need them. It’s worth noting a few things before we go outside. First of all, there’s boards and furniture that can be used to barricade windows and doorways. This is another callback to the Resident Evil 2 remake. There’s also flour bags that can stun enemies should you shoot them.
Once outside, we continue our path, only to hear growling in the distance. There’s shuffling in the wheat and movement of unseen foes. Of course, this would be our new enemy type for the game: Lycans. These werewolf creatures were seemingly once normal people, but they’re now more feral and vicious. There’s no reasoning with these creatures anymore, so that’s when you take out the guns. With a handgun, a knife, and a shotgun at the ready, I prepared for combat. One interesting thing to point out is that the game uses the environment for this moment incredibly well. It’s not so bad dealing with enemies when you can clearly see them, but when they can cover their movements like this, it makes things harder to predict.
Of course, predictability is probably the last thing we get with the new Lycan enemies. These aren’t shambling zombies. They’re quick, able to dodge, and they sometimes even wield their own deadly weapons. If you’re not careful, they can take you out in a vicious display. Of course, now Ethan can better defend himself by blocking with his hands. A successful block will even allow you to push enemies away, giving a brief window to shoot back. There’s a handful of Lycan enemies to fight in this field, and should you defeat them, there are several items and treasures to collect. Of course, this area also shows that there is another option: running. Should you choose to avoid the Lycans instead of fight, you can make your way to a home to seek refuge with a couple villagers.
You’ll meet Elena and her father Leonardo, who is gravely injured (and wielding a large machete). It’s nice to see non-hostile people, even under the circumstances. It gives a sense of calm and allows us to feel safety. Of course, we’re not out of the woods yet. After a brief conversation, Elena tells Ethan they need to get into Luiza’s house, who is right next door. Problem is there’s a locked gate. Thankfully, Ethan can climb through the window and make his way into the front yard to open the gate. With the gate open, Leonardo and Elena follow, trying to gain entry into the home, only for a gun to be pointed at their face by Julian. It seems the many villagers are no longer trusting of others, especially of outsiders like Ethan.
It’s not long until Luiza shows up, expressing her own hospitality to the people in need, letting everyone inside. We have a cinematic where the remaining villagers try to contemplate what’s going on. They enter a prayer, and even invite Ethan to join them. Unfortunately, it’s not long until Leonardo succumbs to his injuries, originating from a Lycan. He loses his sense of mind, and begins viciously attacking the other villagers. Luiza herself takes a brutal blow from his machete. The room begins to catch on fire, and all but Ethan and Elena fall victim to Leonardo’s onslaught. Of course, he’s not done yet, going after Ethan in a scripted sequence, only for Elena to fight back with a shotgun.
After retreating into another room, Ethan and Elena need to find a way out before the house burns with them. The room they enter has a truck, but Ethan will have to do some brief exploration to make use of it. There doesn’t seem to be a time limit, so you can take your time looting the place too. Going along a pathway, Ethan will enter a kitchen where he’ll get not only the keys to the truck, but also a screwdriver. This will come in handy later. Returning to Elena, they get into the truck, attempting to drive into a brick wall to break it down. This feels familiar to a scene in Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out well and their path soon takes them upstairs.
While Ethan and Elena gain higher ground, it seems Leonardo is not far behind. Calling out Elena’s name, Elena feels like she can still save him. You probably know what happens in this situation. Unfortunately, Leonardo and Elena both fall into the flames below, leaving Ethan to be alone once again. Guess it wasn’t really worth learning any of their names after all. With the flames approaching, Ethan finds his way out of a window, climbing down the side of the house. In the front yard, there’s a small altar to examine. Now wielding a screwdriver, Ethan can open it up to find the Demon Crest (perhaps an intentional nod?). With both crests in hand, Ethan can now open the castle gates.
Making his way back to the gate, Ethan will hear the sounds of gunshots in the distance. Witnessing a horrific scene of a man’s death, Ethan watches in bewilderment as he tries to contemplate the sight. It appears to be one of Lady Dimitrescu’s daughters, though we don’t get a chance to see up close. Pursuing further, Ethan comes across the elderly shaman woman again. She delivers more of her crazy ramblings, or at least that’s how they seem. We’ll likely know more about this mysterious woman when the full game launches. Until then, Ethan makes his way to the gate, inserting the crests and rotating them to fit properly. With the gate open, Ethan makes his way to the castle, and the demo ends.
Overall, this demo is a pretty great way to see what Resident Evil Village is all about. While it’s unfortunate that the demo periods aren’t permanent, thankfully, fans won’t have to wait much longer. If the demo is any indication, we’ll have spectacular visuals, superb sound design, and lots of mysteries to uncover. This seems like it’s going to be a fantastic followup to Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. With the castle and more areas to discover, and even a new Mercenaries mode, this is looking to be a great entry in the series. We’ll be back next weekend with our impressions of the Castle demo, so look forward to that. Resident Evil Village launches on May 7th, 2021 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC, and Stadia. We’ll hopefully have our review sometime around launch.