Perhaps it’s a testament to how bad the last 18 months have been, but I find it hard to believe 4-years have already passed since Capcom managed to refresh their stagnating IP with Resident Evil VII. A shift to the first-person perspective and several run-and-hide sequences – cribbed from the excellent Amnesia and Outlast games – was paired with a more restrained survival-horror experience, last seen in the pre-Resident Evil 4 era.
Since then, we’ve received the stunningly-realised Resident Evil 2 remake and enjoyable – though far less essential – Resident Evil 3 remake. Now, just short of a year since it was officially announced, and less than a month before release, Capcom used their Resident Evil Showcase event to release a new Resident Evil Village trailer, gameplay footage, and announce a pair of demos for all platforms.
The new trailer focuses on Ethan’s arrival in the titular village and highlights the myriad of survivors, villains, and creatures he’ll encounter. As with the prior games, each villain has an over-the-top personality and you’ll no doubt have to defeat them to progress. Interestingly, it appears Ethan’s name becomes well-known by the inhabitants (or is he known already?).
Chris Redfield returns and is clearly at odds with Ethan. It remains to be seen what his angle is, and whether Capcom will directly reference events from their prior games. What is certain is if this is the conclusion to Ethan Winter’s story, Capcom may finally ditch his everyman persona and reveal his true connection to current (or past) events.
The biggest surprise was the return of “The Mercenaries” mode, which first featured in 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, returned in Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6, but has been absent since. This timed, action-heavy mode has always been a distinctly arcade-like experience – tasking you with clearing areas of enemies or reaching an objective – and now comes with several tweaks to the formula in Resident Evil Village.
Rather than one continuous run, with rewards doled out at the end, Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil Village allows you to visit the store to purchase gear and upgrades between areas. Within a combat area, you can also find “Abilities”, which range from commonplace health and damage buffs, to gaining health on kills or causing corpses to explode. It appears fully fleshed out, takes a few ideas from rogue-lite games, and looks to offer an involved single-player experience for those that have completed the campaign.
Unfortunately, not every aspect of the game and pre-launch marketing is as well thought out. Sony console owners will have had an exclusive attempt to play through the village area demo this past weekend, for a 30-minute period within an 8-hour window. Those same players will again get an opportunity to play an upcoming castle demo on the 26th April 2021 (with the same time restrictions). Other platforms can access both demos, for a total of 60-minutes of playtime within a 24-hour window, on 2nd May 2021. It’s restrictive and a step back from the generous RE2 remake and RE3 remake demos that generated a lot of interest that surely translated into sales.
The other important news announced a few days before the event, was confirmation of the resolutions and framerates we can expect on current- and last-generation consoles. The spread of resolutions across each console comes as no surprise (4K on the Xbox Series X/PlayStation 5 down to 900p on the base PS4/Xbox One) but there are puzzling frame rates. Both the high-end machines run at 45fps when ray-tracing is turned on, and the same frame rate is used for the Xbox Series S and base Playstation 4. On 60Hz displays – which includes the majority of HDTVs and a healthy percentage of PC monitors – 45fps means a cadence of two duplicate frames followed by a single frame. This will result in a constant stutter, even if the frame rate is perfectly locked and does not fluctuate.
Despite the frustrating demo schedule and some bizarre technical choices (you can, I guess, disable ray-tracing or select another visual mode to avoid the 45fps cap), Capcom has been on a roll with the Resident Evil IP for the last 4-years and it’s likely Resident Evil Village will continue to impress.
Resident Evil Village launches on all platforms – Xbox One/Xbox Series/PlayStation 4/PlayStation 5/PC – on 7th May 2021.