Resident Evil Village Preview: One Hour With Capcom’s Survival Horror Blockbuster

I can’t help but admire Capcom’s willingness to reinvent the Resident Evil franchise. The seventh instalment was a major departure from the norm, yet brought back a classical focus on horror through a whole new perspective – and it ruled. Meanwhile, remakes of beloved entries had fans smitten, ready and willing for another helping of zombie goodness. So, when Resident Evil Village began rearing its head with a focus on werewolves, tall ladies, and the occult, doubts began swirling in my mind. Turns out my trepidation was unfounded. Everything I’ve seen from Village establishes it as Capcom’s most confident project in years.

Like many of you, I’ve played the recent Village demo on Sony consoles, but Capcom recently provided me with a deeper look at Resident Evil Village. I sat through an hour of gameplay that chronicles the events seen before, during, and after the brief playable chunk. It reveals a far deeper experience – one that dips between locations that are awash with tone and atmosphere, all of which dare to challenge Ethan Winters in a variety of different ways. The footage begins with our belovedly bland protagonist awakening in a wreckage of sorts, the corpse of a deceased Umbrella operative laid out beside him.

A nearby radio screams out, with Ethan answering quickly in desperation. He asks for the location of Chris Redfield, and some idea of what the hell is going on. He’s cut off, clearly privy to information he shouldn’t be. So with no choice but to move forward, Ethan stands up and walks onward into the unknown. This section is shrouded in darkness, with Ethan having little more than a dim flashlight to guide his way. I adore the helplessness these opening moments express, something that has honestly been missing in Village thus far.

The focus has been on lush castles and open village farmlands, with Ethan seldom being plunged into darkness with no way of defending himself. That’s exactly the case here. Ethan doesn’t receive a firearm until he stumbles across a helpless old man who screams at our hero with fury, slamming a pistol into his hands to help dispatch the coming monsters. But before his first foray into combat, Ethan takes his time to explore the wasteland he finds himself in, eventually stumbling into what appears to be an abandoned basement.

It’s in a proper state, rotting furniture taking on the weight of faded documents and abandoned food which has long become the home of wriggling maggots. As Ethan shines his torch around, the painted picture only becomes more horrid. Stray letters provide a small amount of context to what happened here, but this investigation is brought to a halt as loud footsteps pound against the floors above. Ethan isn’t alone, so he rushes towards the upper sections of the building, finally finding his way into the village.

The vista that greets Ethan as he steps outside is nothing short of magnificent. Dimitrescu Castle towers in the distance like a medieval monolith, the lowly village cowering in its shadow as stray creatures of the night scramble and screech at anything that doesn’t match their twisted appearance. So, back to the old man, and a situation that provides us with our first glimpse at how detached from reality this place really is. Your defense alongside the old man immediately descends into chaos, with hordes of lycans driving you out into the village.

Much like the Los Plagas in Resident Evil 4, these are intelligent creatures. They can wield weapons and tools, while some can even ride upon horseback and operate machinery. The threat before you is difficult to comprehend, but safety is granted by the tolling of a bell in the distance. As if summoned by a higher power, everyone in sight throws themselves towards Dimitrescu Castle, leaving behind the pitiful human that had stumbled into their home. For now, Ethan is safe.

From here, the preview is much like the Village demo, albeit with a few extra bells and whistles. Ethan tries in vain to help a selection of villagers, although his kind-hearted nature accidentally leads to getting them all killed. Ah well, you can’t win them all. From here, it’s onto Dimitrescu Castle. Upon leaving the village behind, Ethan stumbles across some dilapidated catacombs and into the clutches of Heisenberg. Nope, it isn’t Bryan Cranston, but another member of the Dimitrescu clan.

Metallic objects float around him like some form of biohazard Magneto, a vague monologue leaving his lips before the flurry of objects launch towards Ethan, covering him in debris as he’s knocked unconscious. The horrendously unlucky man is taken prisoner, and thrown right in front of Lady Dimitrescu, Heisenberg, Mother Miranda, and a selection of other hideous creatures. He’s treated like a joke, laughed at and toyed with as little more than a feeble trespasser into a scheme he couldn’t possibly comprehend.

He’s their new plaything, provided with ten seconds to run as his shackles are cut loose and a horde of lycans are sent after him. I imagine this hubris will be the downfall of our villains, as Ethan falls down yet another hole before finding himself at the entrance of Dimitrescu Castle. It’s a grandiose building made up of multiple floors, secret passages, and architecture that would make even the most rancid of tories blush. I can feel the history bleeding through its walls, an observation which is quickly cut short as Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters become aware of my presence.

Ethan is stabbed through the ankle and dragged into their inner sanctum. Some of my Twitter followers would probably pay to be treated like this, but for Ethan, it’s absolutely terrifying. Lady Dimitrescu steps forward, cutting open Ethan’s hand and suckling at the drawn blood, declaring that our hero’s copper juice has grown “a little stale.” I’m unsure what this means, but the gaggle of occult girls immediately pierce hooks through Ethan’s hands and leave him hanging on the wall, walking away and leaving him like a prize to be claimed in the hours to come.

I’m not sure how he escapes, or why he’d want to, but the footage flashes forward to Ethan exploring the castle grounds. He stumbles across The Duke, a bulky shopkeeper who can be found in safe rooms to offer a variety of medicine, ammunition, and other items as you stop to get your bearings. It’s a huge location, multiple floors starting at the basement and leading all the way to the rooftops. Ethan uses an elevator in the demo, suggesting that fast travel options will likely be unlocked once you’ve done enough exploring.

Puzzles are as abstract as one might expect from Resident Evil. One room is filled with rotating statues, their correct positions dictated by an abstract poem strewn across a nearby wall. However, some are a little more intuitive, at least by Resi standards. Ethan will sometimes have to shoot lit braziers, using physics to ensure that every torch in a room is ablaze before moving forward. I hope Dimitrescu Castle is filled with instances like this, puzzles that challenge you while acting as a welcome respite from all the horror.

Unfortunately, Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters behave much like Mr. X did in Resident Evil 2. Once they become aware of your presence, they hunt you relentlessly across the entire castle. Daughters manifest themselves through a swarm of insects, shouting lines such as “I haven’t cut a man open in a while” before sinking their teeth deep into your neck. Male sacrifices seemingly aren’t too common in this household, with maidens often being chosen to keep Lady D and her offspring satiated.

The best part about being chased by Lady Dimitrescu is how she must stop constantly to navigate doorways she is much too tall to fit through. “I will break you, Ethan Winters!,” sure sounds tough, but loses much of its impact when the scary big lady is failing to fit her giant frame through a tiny space. Ethan can use her size to his advantage by hiding in the walls, a space previously used by workers as a makeshift living quarters. Their footsteps are recognisable, so you’ll likely need to pick the right moment to step out into the open.

I can’t talk about the demo’s final moments due to spoilers, but I will say that they tease some fascinating narrative revelations for Resident Evil Village that I’m very excited to see for myself. The true origins of Lady Dimitrescu and her wider family are filled with the nonsensical intrigue I adore this franchise for, and exactly how Umbrella and Chris Redfield tie into all this werewolf nonsense will be a joy to see unfold. I bet there’s an underground lab underneath the castle – calling it right now.

Next: I Sincerely Hope Sony Isn’t Reduced To A Blockbuster Farm

  • Game Previews
  • Resident Evil
  • Capcom
  • Resident Evil Village

Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously head of gaming content over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.

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