The Resident Evil VIII: Village ‘Maiden’ demo is available now on PlayStation 5, and Capcom refer to this as a Visual Showcase ahead of the release of the full game. That’s basically a direct invitation to put the demo under the Technalysis microscope and I’m not about to turn down the gesture.
VIIIage is a multiplatform game set to release on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. This demo is exclusive to the PlayStation 5 and intended to show off the capabilities of that console. That means a lot of Resident Evil fans simply don’t have access to play it, so we have uploaded a full play-through of the Maiden demo in 4k HDR with 3D audio; it isn’t the same as experiencing the game for yourself, but it is the next best thing. Feel free to check that out if you want to
Capcom appear to have set themselves some lofty targets for performance. The Maiden demo runs at a native 4k resolution at all times with limited use of ray traced reflections, and it aims to deliver that at 60 frames per second. That’s pretty much the golden standard for console performance.
Unfortunately it isn’t a standard that the game can maintain consistently. A large portion of the demo takes place in dank confined areas and the performance locks nicely at 60 frames per second, but as things move towards a conclusion we’re introduced to a larger more vibrant space that is deliberately reminiscent of the iconic Resident Evil mansion. This section looks simply splendid but performance takes a noticeable hit with framerates in the low 50s.
The troublesome area of the demo also features subtle ray traced reflections across the floor. Without any secondary points of reference it is impossible to be sure if these are a significant factor contributing to the frame drops, but honestly they don’t add much to visual aesthetic.
Overall the performance profile is already impressive but there are some huge compromises made to deliver on those targets. Most notable in the restrained use of dynamic shadows, with one particularly ugly trick I really hope doesn’t make it into the complete game.
The Maiden demo takes place indoors in a largely static environment and makes sensible use of pre-baked shadows. Baked shadows have a low performance cost and are free from any stepping or artifacting so it makes sense to use them in abundance, but they’re essentially ‘fake’ shadows; they won’t respond to moving light sources.
VIIIage does feature dynamic real time shadows for the rare NPCs and moving objects but they’re used extremely sparingly. At one point the player passes through a small delicately crafted room lit by a central fire but the shadows do not dance with the flames, and the absence of shadow from the player character is a glaring flaw.
More critically, for a large part of the demo the player character carries a torch. You might expect the light of the torch to cast ominous dynamic shadows across the grisly claustrophobic environment but that is not the case. Instead Capcom employ a trick here that is completely new to me, and largely ineffective.
The torch does not cast shadows into the environment. Instead it attaches fake shadows beside the objects it touches. The effect is initially deceiving in static screen shots. You might look at this and believe the slumped body is casting a shadow, but look closely and you realise the shadow is not cast upon the wall, frame or barrel but rather it is attached to the body.
In motion this trick is ineffective and frankly it is quite baffling that it made it into the demo.
In a game that leans so heavily into atmosphere light and shadow can have a dramatic presence, so I can only hope that Capcom give this some serious attention.
So there it is. Capcom seems to have set their sights on some particular features and metrics that perhaps aren’t conducive to making the game as good as can be. It isn’t all bad though; the engine seems to be performant and the environment art throughout the demo is really strong and very much on-point for the Resident Evil IP.
Have you played through the demo? Did the shadows frighten you more than the witch? Let us know what you think of this video and what else you’d like to see from the Technalysis series!