Resident Evil Village Maiden demo review – a taste of next gen blood

GameCentral goes hands-on with the exclusive PS5 demo for Resident Evil Village and gets a preview of next gen survival horror.

After all the hype, the 25th anniversary Resident Evil Showcase on Thursday was only 15 minutes long and everything other than Resident Evil Village seemed pretty disappointing (well, maybe the Netflix show will be okay). Village is by far the most important thing though and that looked great, with some welcome nods to previous entries that worked much better as an anniversary celebration than the dubious fan service of RE:Verse.

One of the most surprising reveals of the night was that a free demo would be released at the same time, although only for PlayStation 5. A standard multiformat demo, implied to feature a section from the final game, will be released sometime in the spring but the Maiden demo that became available last night is a PlayStation 5 exclusive. Not only that but it features a separate story and character that isn’t part of the main game.

Perhaps it’ll be released for other formats after the launch of Resident Evil Village on May 7 but for now a PlayStation 5 is the only way to play the demo. And since so few people will have one yet we thought a review would be useful, even though the experience is only around 15 minutes long. Unlike our usual reviews we’ll also include some light spoilers, although in overall plot terms there’s not really anything to spoil.

Although the demo starts without explanation, just a suggestion that you ‘escape the dungeon’, the implication is that you’re playing as a young girl (the maiden of the title) and perhaps a former maid at the Eastern European castle seen in the Resident Evil Village gameplay trailer. The implication, in both the trailer and the demo, is that Lady Dimitrescu and her ‘daughters’ are vampires or at least that they drink blood and act like them. There are also some clear nods to the legends of Elizabeth Báthory, with most of their victims appearing to be young women.

What any of this has to do with the typical Resident Evil storyline is a mystery, especially as the main game has you playing as Ethan Winters from Resident Evil 7. He’s not in the demo though and neither is Chris Redfield, who was in the first trailer. Instead, you start stuck in a dungeon cell and after finding a helpful (or planted?) letter crammed into a crevice in the wall you’re able to find your way out into the living area above.

Maiden is primarily intended as a tech demo, to show off Resident Evil Village’s next gen graphics, and they’re certainly impressive. Not necessarily anything you wouldn’t mistake for a last gen game at first glance, but the visual effects and level of detail are very good, especially once you get out of the dungeon and see the hugely complex chandelier hanging from the ceiling, reflecting light in a highly realistic manner.

Getting out of the dungeon involves nothing more than following the vague instructions on the letter, so it’s unclear whether the main game will have typical Resident Evil style logic puzzles or not. Once you do get up into the main castle though it’s obvious, as it was from the trailer, that the whole thing is designed as a homage to the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil 1. It’s not a direct copy, and the décor is considerably more lavish, but the stairwell and entrance hall are purposefully reminiscent, as are the rooms adjacent to them.

It immediately makes you think of what a first person Resident Evil 1 remake might look like and we’d now be quite surprised if that wasn’t something Capcom was planning down the line. Especially as it would distinguish itself from the existing remake and could include a VR mode. (Resident Evil Village will be fully playable in VR but there’s no such option for the Maiden demo.)

In gameplay terms there’s very little going on in the demo, since you have no weapons or any way to defend yourself. It barely even counts as stealth as while you hear, and occasionally glimpse, the daughters walking around they’re easily avoided if you’re sensible. Essentially, all you’re doing is wandering around some empty rooms picking up the odd interactive objects, but we love that fact because despite how unexciting that sounds the demo it is still terrifying.

Given the time it was released we were playing it in the pitch black of night and with no idea what was going on, as ominous noises clanked and banged around us. Just as with previous Resident Evil games, the sound design is excellent, constantly making you unsure of whether you’re alone or not and forcing a wince out of you every time you knock into a metal chain hanging from the ceiling or something falls down behind you, despite there seeming to be nothing to make it move.

Occasionally you can hear the daughters talking or moving about and during one tense moment they seem to be coming down the main stairwell as you try to get back up. We’ve no idea if that’s what they were actually doing though because we instantly ducked down and hid, but the sound effects seemed to make it very plain what was going on.

Like we said, there isn’t really anything to spoil here in plot terms, since there’s no explanation or context for what’s going on. Resident Evil Maiden is short but sweet and we were impressed by not only the graphics but the tone, which in true Resident Evil style is both genuinely frightening and amusingly cheesy when it comes to the over-the-top villains.

As a brief taste of what’s to come it’s certainly left us wanting more and hopeful that this will be a suitable 25th anniversary tribute to the whole Resident Evil legacy.

Formats: PlayStation 5
Price: Free
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 21st January 2021
Age Rating: 18

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