Over the weekend, the PC version of May 2021’s Resident Evil 8: Village was apparently cracked and uploaded to various piracy depositories. In sadly unsurprising news, as with at least a few other cracked PC games in recent years, this scene release came with a bonus that’s currently only available to freeloaders: improved performance.
The game’s cracked version, credited to the release group Empress, includes an “NFO” text file that cites two distinct antipiracy prevention measures: “Denuvo V11” and “Capcom Anti-Tamper V3.” While the NFO text includes its fair share of anti-Denuvo language, the Empress author’s technical breakdown of the crack says both systems working in concert are to blame:
All in-game shutters [sic] like the one from when you kill a zombie are fixed because Capcom DRM’s entry points are patched out so most of their functions are never executed anymore. This results in much smoother game experience. THIS IS PURE CANCER AND ANYONE WHO ACCEPTS THIS IS NOTHING BUT A PATHETIC GARBAGE HUMAN SLAVE!
The messaging continues with a key clarification: Capcom’s DRM was “fully obfuscated” in a Denuvo virtual machine, thus making the game “run even slower.”
More bullets, fewer spikes
While Ars Technica is—for obvious reasons—not in a position to perform comprehensive tests of RE8:V‘s cracked version, we have independently verified that the Empress release solves at least one infamous issue with the existing retail version: frame-time spikes.
Ars has seen like-for-like scenarios played out on RE8:V‘s retail and cracked versions on the same midgrade gaming PC with a RivaTuner Statistics Server (RTSS) performance graph turned on. The retail version includes easily reproducible scenarios where attacking an advancing zombie with a gun—something you do quite often in Resident Evil games—can trigger a visible on-screen stutter. In other words, the image freezes for a noticeable moment before the game catches up, and this can be seen in RTSS’s real-time graph as a spike. The same spikes don’t appear when the same save file is loaded on the game’s cracked version.
Whether either version enjoys a lead in other performance metrics is unclear, and performance can obviously vary based on hardware, drivers, and other factors. But the aforementioned testing scenario was run on both versions of the game in 1080p resolution, an environment better suited to reveal CPU-bound performance limits, and the cracked version showed, at least in the limited tests we reviewed, a better distribution of its CPU workload across a 12-thread chip.
“The pivotal moment of a game with guns is shooting those guns”
Previously, DRM providers like Denuvo have loudly admitted to the seeming inevitability that cracks appear on a per-game basis. “Given the fact that every unprotected title is cracked on the day of release—as well as every update of games—our solution made a difference,” Denuvo’s marketing director said in 2017. Coincidentally, this admission came in the case of Resident Evil 7, the last mainline entry in Capcom’s long-running horror series, whose Denuvo scheme was cracked less than a week after the game’s retail launch.
Whatever Capcom and Denuvo worked up this time around seems to have evaded crackers’ efforts for much longer. That may have come at the price of guaranteed smooth performance—with gaming analysts like Digital Foundry’s Alex Battaglia maligning the game’s PC version. “This stuttering honestly leaves a very bad first impression for this game, as the pivotal moment of a first-person game with guns is shooting those guns,” Battaglia said shortly after RE8:V‘s May 2021 launch. “If that is unsatisfying very often when you do it, then the game is doing something wrong.”
Still, Denuvo has done enough work in recent years to rule out the obvious assumption that its DRM instantly results in reduced PC performance. Hence, we made sure to get an independently verified test result before moving forward, even if it might mean certain PC hardware combinations may work better with Capcom’s existing retail version.
Judgments, last or otherwise
Capcom, like other gaming publishers, has eventually updated some of its PC games with Denuvo-free versions. In Capcom’s case, though, that usually doesn’t happen until the game in question has reached the end of its update life cycle, particularly in terms of post-launch DLC packs. As of press time, RE8:V still has unreleased DLC in the works. Capcom representatives did not immediately answer Ars’ questions about whether RE8:V‘s PC version may receive a quicker path to such an update thanks to this week’s Empress crack.
A weird, stuttering, DRM-laden PC game might very well be better than no PC version at all, and that fact came up on Monday when Japanese gamemaker and publisher Sega made the news for a PC-related complication of its own. Its Judgment gaming series, a critically acclaimed spinoff of Yakuza, might not continue after the sequel Last Judgment launches later this year. The issue, according to reports, is that one real-life actor’s talent agency refuses to agree to terms that would bring the series to PC platforms like Steam.
Listing image by Capcom