Capcom has always had a strange affinity for timed demos. The publisher has been experimenting with trials that limit access in some way for as long as I can remember downloading demos on console, as the functionality of the Xbox Live Marketplace began to gradually replace the need for cover-mounted disks on print media magazines. If the Resident Evil Village demo arrangement has proven anything, it's that this method of hype generation feels like a hangover of a bygone era
With Resident Evil Village set to launch on May 7, Capcom unveiled a somewhat convoluted method of demo distribution. Across two weekends in April, PlayStation players are afforded an eight-hour window to play through two 30 minute demos – spend any longer lingering in or around Castle Dimitrescu and you'll be booted back to the menu, encouraged to pre-order the game, and forced to turn to external sources to see what you missed. For the first weekend in May, PC and Xbox owners will be able to play through both the Village and Castle demos together, although it has similar limits on playtime (60 minutes) and availability (48 hours). Survival horror doesn't shine under such stringent conditions.
Race to the finish
Did you miss the village demo window or believe you missed some secrets in your rush to complete it? Then maybe you'll want to read our Resident Evil Village demo walkthrough.
While demos have been typically wielded by publishers to help drive pre-orders and sales, it's difficult to imagine that the Village demos will do either. The scenarios these demos present should be slow, introductory crawls through a new nightmare, though the artificial timer affixed to it forces you to break into a sprint to see it all. Because of the restrictions inherent to a time limit, it feels as if this demo has been designed for players that are already invested in the first-person style introduced through Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. If you missed or skipped the 2017 release, I'd wager that the demo isn't long enough to get a proper sense of the mechanics or systems at the heart of Resident Evil Village.
You could easily spend a few hours getting to grips with the lumbering movement mechanics – somehow clumsy and static simultaneously – that work to ensure Ethan remains vulnerable, even as he fills his pockets with enough weapons and ammunition to take on a small army. The same goes for the somewhat obtuse crafting systems that may seem archaic by today's standards of 'click to create', but are perfectly placed for Resident Evil's particular brand of slow-burn terror. Then there's the world, full of mysteries and secrets to be uncovered, but only if you have a keen eye for how Capcom likes to weave resources through its environments – if you're new to Resident Evil, there's a good chance that much of the nuance will be lost on you in a race to the finish.
Survival horror games are as much about the atmosphere they are able to cultivate as they are anything else. Working against the clock like this, the village demo becomes tense, but not for any terror born out of investigating a sprawling lair occupied by occultists, monstrous Lycans, and towering vampire witches. You're put on edge because you know that one dalliance with distraction can be the difference between seeing it all or very little at all. And that's a shame, because Resident Evil Village is undoubtedly one of the best looking and technically proficient games to land on PS5 since the console's release last year. Having the time to really admire how detailed the environments, the enemies, and the weapons are would only have increased my appreciation for the craft behind Resident Evil Village and my anticipation of its impending release.
I had to make the conscious decision to forcibly skip the cutscenes (something to be watched later on YouTube, I suppose, rather than processed in the moment) so that I could appropriately explore the environments and get a sense of what secrets they may contain. I found three hidden wooden goat idols, but I have no idea why I was trying to escape a fiery inferno toward the end of the demo… this wasn't what I hoped my first opportunity to get hands-on with the game would be like. I didn't even get a real sense of how the new hub area or defensive mechanics worked either. Elements like barricading rooms seem expanded from Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 2 Remake, but I can't say that I experienced that first hand as I elected to move forward against the attacking Lycans with shotgun in hand, nor do I have any real indication as to how well the bags of flour can be used to keep packs of them at bay. Questions for May 7, 2021, I suppose.
What worked in 2006, doesn't necessarily work in 2021
Capcom's tendency towards timed demos rarely makes sense in the modern era. My first memory of them dates back to 2006, where a Dead Rising demo gave us the opportunity to smash up the Willamette Parkview Mall for just 15 minutes. That wasn't enough time to get a real understanding of how the game's intricate survival systems worked, but at least it worked as a showcase of the game's impressive ability to pack the screen with zombies. Capcom has continued like this in the years since in one way or another, and with varying degrees of success – ten minutes to play a mission of Devil May Cry 4 here and a few weeks to enjoy a slice of Monster Hunter Rise there.
Resident Evil 2 Remake had a similarly timed and limited demo, and it didn't exactly set the world afire. These pressured demos don't give us the necessary space to properly appreciate what's being put in front of us, yet the work should be appreciated. Timed demos seem unsuited to an era where games are more densely detailed than ever before – as converging distractions constantly vye for our attention – so what difference does it realistically make if I were to spend half an hour, or half a day exploring one contained area of Village, aside from giving me more space to generate excitement?
This is why Resident Evil 7's Beginning Hour demo worked so well. It isolated us in a new area and let our imagination take the wheel. It's why the Maiden demo for PS5 worked too, acting as a potent in-engine showcase that encouraged your imagination to run wild in a den of decadence; I've spent enough time staring at walls in that castle to know it better than corners of my own apartment at this point. Our first opportunity to explore the village in Resident Evil Village went by with a whimper, then, its gates locked for further exploration almost as quickly as they were opened up to us.
Learn more about the history of Resident Evil with our ultimate guide to the Resident Evil games, exploring every major release and spin-off over the series' 25 year history, or jump straight into our Resident Evil Village gameplay preview for new details on the upcoming release.