The internet might have spent all week obsessing over tall vampire ladies, but I spent all night dreaming of them. Wait, no, that isn't right. What's the opposite of a drea— Ah yes, a nightmare. I spent all night trapped in a freaking ray-traced nightmare running at an inescapable 60 frames-per second; a feverish fiasco inspired by an hour exploring Resident Evil Maiden. Thanks for the restless night, Capcom.
Just as Resident Evil 7 made me immediately regret investing in virtual reality back in 2017, it's already clear that Resident Evil 8 will have me wishing that 2021 wasn't the year I decided to haul a new 4K television into my apartment. It's difficult to hide behind your hands when the blood-stained smirk of a mysterious witch can still be seen on the periphery of your vision. But that's Resident Evil Village for you, a game that will demand your attention even as you're too afraid to give it.
Resident Evil Maiden hands-on
The Resident Evil Maiden demo is primarily a visual and audio showcase. It can be completed in little over 20 minutes, although you'll likely linger in its meticulously crafted corridors for longer. It's a demo designed to give you a small taste of the next instalment in the long-running survival horror series, an expectation setter that raises a high bar even higher. With the Resident Evil Village release date now set in stone, it means that hell awaits for just a little while longer.
Resident Evil Maiden is also, ostensibly, an experience built to give PS5 owners a true showcase of what we should expect from the first year of next generation games. I wasn't expecting Demon's Souls to be sidelined so quickly in this respect, but it's difficult to imagine anybody crawling away from the Maiden demo without being utterly entranced by its fidelity. The first 12 months are always formative for new generations, and it would appear that this – if the games we believe will be Big in 2021 are any indicator – is no exception.
Part of what makes Maiden so impressive is that it isn't merely a tech demo designed to help calibrate your television's HDR or easily justify the price of next-gen admission to any onlooking inquirer. It also acts as our introduction to Castle Dimitrescu, an area that will undoubtedly form a large part of Resident Evil 8's playable space. What we find is an elaborate sandbox stuck in time, its ornate fixtures working to distract from the true horror that hides within – insects scuttling through cracks in its facade, blood soaking through carpet and settling into floorboards over generations. Castle Dimitrescu is so clearly awash with the stench of death and decay that the PS5 practically renders it into reality.
The advent of the RE Engine, working in chorus with Capcom's stunning attention to detail and inimitable art direction, offers a permission structure to be easily impressed. Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2: Remake, and Devil May Cry 5 are just a few of the games that have quickly justified the publisher's early investment in advanced 3D modelling techniques and 3D scanning photogrammetry technology. All of that means that even as Capcom so clearly targets PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X, the Resident Evil 8 PS4 and Xbox One versions can still channel abstract terror through twisted architecture.
There's a baseline of quality to the assets, and the way they look when cast under differing intensities of light and shadow, that few other studios are able to match. Resident Evil 8 will take this to a new level, it has to. How else can I justify spending a solid 20 minutes examining a lineup of crude torture chairs in Resident Evil Maiden last night? How do I explain away time spent examining the way that dust settled on their warped wooden frames, mesmerised by the depth of detail, dynamic light and shadow revealing new imperfections with every twitch of the thumbstick. Admittedly, I didn't do any of that through choice, of course. I'm pretty sure I spotted a corpse inching steadily further across the ground every time that I turned my back on it. If 2005's Condemned: Criminal Origins taught me anything, it's that if you believe something is capable of moving out of sight then you should never dare to address it directly.
What Resident Evil Maiden lacks in interactivity it makes up for with atmosphere, then. Few series are treated to such powerful scene setters as the acclaimed horror series, after all. Biohazard had us first endure the tortuous Beginning Hour scenario, while Maiden strips all combat and defense mechanics from play to leave us helplessly hunting for an escape from a quartet of murderous vampiresses. While the Maiden demo doesn't appear to be as full of secrets as Beginning Hour, the pervading sense of dread it is able to conjure in such a short space of time will leave you uncomfortable, impressed, and thirsty for more.
Welcome to Castle Dimitrescu
Resident Evil is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, so expect to see plenty of weird crossovers. First up is Resident Evil meets The Division 2 in a new crossover event coming next month.
As a standalone story, Resident Evil Maiden gives only a few clues as to what we should expect from Resident Evil 8 on May 7, 2021. In our Resident Evil 8 gameplay trailer breakdown, we noted a number of the most important and impressive changes coming to the game, but you'll see few of those reflected in this showcase demo, aside from the warmest of introductions to Lady Dimitrescu and her horrible horrible children. You'll also get a little background on the vampyric goings on at the castle grounds and a sense of the maddening puzzles you'll be required to navigate should you wish to move between rooms. If there's one constant in the impenetrable messiness of the Resident Evil timeline, it's that the folk in the bioweapon business hire the worst architects the world has to offer.
But really, what you'll get in Resident Evil Maiden is a true glimpse into the power of the next generation. Faster load times are one thing, but there's an unmistakable quality to the scale and detailing here that feels transformational. If Maiden is a real indicator of the path that Capcom is on, then Resident Evil 8 will be the game that simultaneously justifies the cost of your 4K TV and makes you regret buying it in the first place. It'll make you love the day you brought 3D Audio into your home and loathe the pressure to put the headset on. And, if you're anything like me, it'll probably give you a new found fear of decaying witches that can dissipate into swarms of sticky insects. Resident Evil 8 better be worth the restless nights.
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