Resident Evil Village Preview: No silver bullets needed here

There are definitely werewolves, though...

Stevivor was treated to view an hour’s worth of gameplay from the upcoming Resident Evil Village ahead of a PlayStation-exclusive demo experience on PS4 and PS5… though one of two PS demos have already come and gone ahead of this embargo and we’re out in the Aussie bush without a console to figure out how much content overlap there was.

Our hands-off experience featured lengthy clips of action, exploration and more, sometimes intercut with subtitled commentary from Capcom PR.

The experience began with a seemingly clueless Ethan Winters, the protagonist of Resident Evil 7, entering the newest (and obviously, titular) Village to feature in the long-running Resident Evil franchise. While Ethan’s surroundings were far less of the Saw-like, rust and gore-covered buildings seen in his original outing, they were equally as scary. Walking through a pitch black abandoned cabin, your failing flashlight hardly did anything to show what was around you. Things were certainly going bump in the night, accentuated by excellent sound design that only heightened feelings of paranoia that swelled from your chest.

As Ethan continued into the village proper, we — that being myself and whoever the anonymous person controlling Ethan was — met an old resident, someone who was clearly spooked and somewhat aware of what was going on. As per the usual trope, he has no time to tell you what’s going on. Continuing on, others begin to tell you what’s going on around you before their loved ones stop them, pointing at you and spitting out, “he’s an outsider!”

It’s at this point where we first encountered a werewolf-like attacker, something our Capcom handler confirmed was called a Lycan. They seem fast-moving and ferocious, clad with rows of sharp teeth… and equally as sharp claws. Thankfully, the Lycans don’t need silver bullets to be felled, with Ethan putting several rounds into his attacker’s chest before a lucky headshot caused an all-too familiar critical response (ka-boom). If low on bullets, Ethan can also use his permenantly-held knife or otherwise punch, counter-punch, block or push assailants in his efforts to survive.

According to Capcom, the Lycans tend to attack as a pack and you’re encounaged to try to systematically take them out one at a time to thin the pack and increase your chances at survival. Despite that warning, I tended to notice that the combat sequence that accompanied that PR spin showed a pack of Lycans who’d circle you and attack one at a time, almost mirroring early combat as seen in the likes of Assassin’s Creed 2.

The Lycans in that particular sequence shown seemed to defer to a Grandfather-like leader of the pack, a giant werewolf clad with a hammer-axe contraption that seemed eerily similar — almost to the point of being almost identical — to the one held by Resident Evil 5‘s Executioner. I thought feelings of deja vu would end there, and I was almost immediately proven wrong.

Ethan fled from his attackers and took refuge in a nearby home, attempting to bar its windows and doors as he entered. Much like Leon S. Kennedy did at the beginning of Resident Evil 4, Ethan desperately circled the room he found himself in, attempting to scavenge whatever he could. Crafting, of course, returns in Village, with Ethan able to create healing items, ammunition and more. As he worked to create useful items, his hastily-constructed defenses quickly fell and Lycans began to pour in, just asking to be shot.

Then a bell rang out in the village, and Ethan’s attackers immediately withdrew. Likely to bingo.

I have no doubt that the Lycans are some sort of evolution of the Plagas seen in RE4 and (through Tricell) in RE5. Despite a new draping of fur-and-claws, there are too many similarities to be coincidence. And I love it.

Ethan slowly encounters more and more survivors from the titular village, and hardly anyone is willing to properly interact with him. They seem to know what’s happening to some extent, and call out — and even pray — to someone called Mother Miranda for protection. One villager proclaims that Mother Miranda protects the village itself… but she’s seemingly stopped (or has been stopped). Surprisingly, the hour’s worth of gameplay showed us what Mother Miranda has been up to (or at least has set up an excellent red herring), but I’m choosing to leave you all in the dark with that one.

Ethan’s chance to learn about the village and its inhabitants is cut short with yet another distraction — an old man, likely bitten by one of the Lycans, has succumbed to his infection and is now a Lycan himself. Sinking a machete into the shoulder of the village’s de facto leader, he snarles and attempts to attack Ethan and the remaining survivors, shuffling towards his intended prey with arms outstretched. It, in turn, reminded me equally of the first Plaga-controlled villager you encounter at the beginning of Resident Evil 4 as well as the first (EVER) zombie you encounter within Resident Evil‘s Spencer Mansion.

There’s a crazy mix of old and new within Village and I’m all for it. Resident Evil 7‘s supernatural elements return, seemingly mixed with the science that’s usually to blame for Umbrella’s numerous outbreaks. Enemies look new, but seem familiar all the same. Typewriters return when you want to save your progress (though they don’t require an ink ribbon for at least the game’s low-to-regular difficulties). We didn’t see too much of it in the preview, but Capcom also said that Village will employ “a revised inventory system based on space management” — so RE4‘s cases, anyone? The Duke, a mysterious merchane who follows you around the village and will kit you out for a price? Well, he’s practically screaming, “Hello, Stranger!”

Of course watching and playing something are two very different things, but armed with the knowledge of how gameplay felt in Resident Evil 7, I’m absolutely gagging for Resident Evil Village next month. There are mysteries to solve, people to protect, monsters to eliminate and, seemingly, an evil corporation that (still!) needs to be brought to its knees. Move aside Chris Redfield — this is a job for mild-mannered Ethan Winters.

When I’m back at home, I’ll thankfully have a chance to play for myself in the second of PlayStation’s exclusive demos (but could we also stop with the platform-specific stuff, please?)… though I’ll still have to bend over backwards to work within its ridiculous timing. Thankfully, a third multiplatform demo will be available in early May, and at a somewhat better time for Australians too.

Resident Evil Village and its bundled multiplayer component, Resident Evil RE:Verse, head to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S & X, PS4 and PS5 from 7 May 2021.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.