We got our first bloody taste of Resident Evil Village yesterday courtesy of the Maiden demo, and let me tell you, it does some great things with footsteps.
Maiden puts you in control of an unnamed prisoner trying to escape from the dungeons of the foreboding Castle Dimitrescu. This journey to freedom opens with a note from a previous inhabitant of the cell you occupy explaining how to traverse the castle, which in typical Resident Evil fashion is full of puzzles and secret passageways. As the demo is mostly about getting a feel for Village’s atmosphere, exploration is the name of the game here, but anyone who played 2017’s Resident Evil 7 Biohazard should have a good idea of how to accomplish what Maiden asks of them from the get go.
While small, the dungeon requires a fair bit of back-and-forth as you figure out how to open locked cells and ultimately escape. You soon come across a pair of bolt cutters firmly lodged in a dead woman’s back, which open more areas to explore. That said, the removal of said tool also gives the corpse licence to move, and every time you pass that room, the body appears to be in a new position, slowly crawling out of the confines of the cell. Again, this is reminiscent of some of the best moments in Resident Evil 7, when the game would slow down and give you a good reason to fear what’s around the corner.
Horror games like the Resident Evil series are great at making you hyper-aware of both your immediate surroundings and what you can suss out about impending dangers by way of audio cues. Maiden, which acts as a “visual demo” for Village, gets incredibly beautiful once you escape the dungeon and enter the main house. I spent what felt like an eternity staring at a bronze relief of armies advancing on the dungeon’s main entrance, suddenly understanding why the preview is exclusive to next-gen consoles. But it’s the way the demo handles the sounds made by your character’s body that really caught me off guard.
Village obviously plays footsteps while you’re walking forward or backward, but it also utilises these sound effects when you’re turning. This isn’t unique, but I definitely felt like my footsteps in Maiden were amplified compared to other survival horror games, a small change that greatly increases moment-to-moment tension. I’m so used to only hearing footsteps alongside locomotion that I didn’t immediately associate the sound effects with my character while I was standing still and simply looking around. My time with the demo was punctuated by constant stops and starts as I became startled by footsteps and listened intently for the tall lady or her blood-spattered daughters before I realised I’d been hearing my own character adjusting her footing all along.
A lot of the horror of Maiden is wrapped up in its audio, in fact. The whole experience manages to make you feel like you’re right on the precipice of being devoured by some unseen European aristocrat almost entirely through sound. Soft indications of movement in the shadows of the dungeon, whispers and laughter in the main house, and those damn footsteps all combine to make a very exciting demo experience, even if there’s very little in the way of real danger.
Resident Evil Village is sure to be more action-packed — it’s a modern Resident Evil game, after all — but I appreciate that Capcom is willing to take things slow at the moment and let the environments speak for themselves. If we’re lucky, some of this tension will carry over into the full game to freak us out amidst all the shooting and yelling.