Hands-On: Resident Evil Village’s PlayStation 5 demo introduces the creepy new villains
Resident Evil Village isn’t coming to consoles and PC until May 7, but PlayStation 5 owners can get a small taste of its scares through an exclusive demo that launched this week.
Capcom refers to this demo as Maiden, and interestingly, it doesn’t actually take place in the full game. Instead of playing as Ethan Winters, the protagonist from Resident Evil VII who returns in the sequel, you play as a character known generically as the maiden. You can’t fight or carry any weapons here; your only goal is to try to escape the castle dungeon.
The nearly 4GB demo is meant to be a one-off experience. During the recent Resident Evil Showcase livestream, producer Peter Fabiano said they wanted to give players a “real feel of the visuals and audio” in Village. Perhaps Capcom was also inspired by Hideo Kojima’s standalone P.T. demo for PS4 (which was supposed to set up Silent Hills before the studio scrapped the project).
Maiden is a brief but effective introduction to Village’s snow-covered Dimitrescu Castle and the spooky denizens within it. Since you can’t defend yourself, you spend most of your time exploring, collecting items, and solving simple puzzles. It feels like a short adventure game that happens to be set in the Resident Evil universe.
Don’t Let Them See You
Maiden immediately thrusts you into the role of the titular character, who wakes up inside a damp prison cell with nothing but her clothes and a flashlight. A scrap of paper tucked away in the wall contains some instructions on how to escape the castle. The note reveals that someone (who is also trapped down here) is trying to help you.
You can tell right away that something horribly wrong is going on. Dead bodies stuffed in canvas bags hang from the ceiling, there are buckets filled with blood, and each cell has medieval torture devices and other sharp instruments. As you navigate the dimly lit dungeon — it was so dark that I had to crank up the brightness in the game’s settings — you’ll also hear strange growling noises as if a deadly beast is trying to break in.
Once you get past that area, however, you come across a different kind of world inside the castle, one filled with ornate furniture and golden chandeliers. The rooms and hallways feel like they were ripped straight out of the Victorian era. But as with the dungeon, everything just feels off.
Heavy curtains are drawn tightly over most of the windows, leaving candles as the only source of light. Peeking underneath them reveals the fact that it’s actually daytime outside. Noisy footsteps echo off the walls, and there’s eerie laughter that seems to come out of thin air. At one point, a shadowy figure just casually glides up a staircase.
There was a perpetual sense of dread as I roamed the castle, and it immediately brought me back to the police station’s labyrinthine corridors from Resident Evil 2 (when I played the original version on PS1). The castle retains that classic Resident Evil atmosphere, where it’s easy to get lost and you’re never sure what kind of threat is waiting for you around the next corner.
One of the last instructions from the note I found simply said, “Don’t let them see you.” I eventually found out that “them” meant the owners of the castle: Lady Dimitrescu (the towering figure from the trailers) and her hungry children. The only hostile encounter in the demo comes from facing one of Dimitrescu’s daughters, who wields a dirty sickle and can transform at will into a horde of ugly insects.
The battle led to a heart-pumping finale with Lady Dimitrescu herself, and it left me pretty excited for what Village has in store. I was a little disappointed that Maiden didn’t take advantage of the DualSense controller, nor did it give a good idea of the game’s new mechanics. But I suppose that’s why Capcom has another demo (to be released in the spring for all platforms) in the works.
However, as a standalone tale, Maiden is a fun preview of where the studio is taking its horror franchise and a tantalizing tease of the mythology behind Dimitrescu Castle. It’s not as groundbreaking or complex as P.T. was, but it still left me wanting more. And I’m sure that’s exactly what Capcom was hoping for.