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The cracked version of Resident Evil Village runs better, testing confirms

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Update: A Capcom spokesperson tells PC Gamer that the company is "currently looking into the reported PC performance issues."

Original story: An interesting claim appeared over the weekend: that a cracked version of Resident Evil Village not only bypasses Capcom's DRM, but runs better than the Steam version. The tech reporters at Digital Foundry (opens in new tab) put that claim to the test, comparing Resident Evil Village's normal and cracked versions, and what do you know, it's true: The pirated version doesn't stutter like the retail version, Digital Foundry says.

For the most part, the two executables perform identically, as DF's Rich Leadbetter explains in the video embedded above. To be clear, the cracked version does not deliver an overall frame rate increase. At certain moments, however, the time it takes to render a frame suddenly spikes in the retail version, causing a noticeable pause, or a stutter. Digital Foundry shows that this stuttering does not happen at all in the cracked version, suggesting that DRM processes are occasionally interfering with Resident Evil Village's ability to render new frames. 

The inconsistency looks particularly annoying in combat: In its video, DF shows the screen momentarily halting the moment an enemy is hit. The site says that the same issue does not appear in the console versions.

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(Image credit: Capcom)

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The claim that PC DRM solutions hamper game performance is common, but it's usually tricky to prove, because we don't get many opportunities to test game executables that are identical outside of one including DRM and the other not. In this case, we don't know all the variables: DRM may not be the only difference between the retail and cracked copies of Village. As Leadbetter points out, though, if DRM is not to blame for the stuttering, the only remaining conclusion is that the cracked version both bypasses the DRM and fixes a performance issue unrelated to DRM. That's possible, but I think it's safe for us to reject 'oops, accidentally fixed the stuttering' as the explanation here (and it doesn't really reflect better on the game).

Anti-tampering technology Denuvo, which advertises "zero-impact on the gaming experience," is often the target of DRM performance hit accusations. In a 2016 test, we found that Denuvo DRM did not affect performance in Final Fantasy 15, but others have recorded apparent Denuvo-related performance hits in different games, such as Devil May Cry 5. This case doesn't resolve the Denuvo question, because while the cracker says that Denuvo is used in Resident Evil Village, Capcom's own DRM technology is apparently at play, too, and could be the main contributor to the stuttering problem.

I've contacted both Capcom and Denuvo parent company Irdeto for comment, but haven't heard back as of yet. 

Some good news, perhaps, is that aspects of Resident Evil Village's DRM will likely be removed in the future. Capcom hasn't said as much, but it's something the company does: It patched Denuvo out of Devil May Cry 5 about a year after release, and dropped it from Resident Evil 7 two years after release.

Tyler Wilde
Tyler Wilde

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.