Resident Evil: Village (PS5)
September 14th, 2022
The Resident Evil series has had it's ups and downs- the largest dip being after the release of RE5 and not rebounding until RE7, a period between 2009 and 2017. Resident Evil 7 reinvigorated the series with a fresh take- forgoing the third person "over the shoulder" aiming starting with RE4 with a first person perspective, and not starring any of our favorite characters from previous games. While the game's production value was excellent and the villains are complex and extremely creepy, it left a lot to be desired for me. The controls were mushy, item inventory somehow worse than previous entries, terribly written dialogue, non-skippable cutscenes and a protagonist so wooden I could have named him Pinocchio. It was a step in the right direction, but it's a terribly average game and a chore to play through. When I finished it, I wondered, "Is this it for Resident Evil? Have they decided to go a new direction and abandon all that Capcom built over the last twenty plus years?" Sure the characters and dialogue are hammy, the "tank controls" are difficult to get used to and the storyline of RE6 makes absolutely no sense- but at least the games were fun to handle and provided gamers with countless hours of entertainment over the years.
Well, I have good news, because Resident Evil: Village (aka "8". You get it? VIIIage? Hello?) is a throwback to the days when Resident Evil was fun, playable and had no shortage of entertaining characters both good and evil. Since the 2017 release of RE7, several Resident Evil games had been released, including the highly praised Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, which were great games to tide fans over until RE8 was completed. At first, I wasn't sure what to think of it: I had secretly hoped that they would get rid of Ethan and Mia, since their characters have personalities so dead that even a zombie could give a better performance. However, Ethan is completely overhauled in this game- he is still a great punching bag for the villains, continuing to lose appendages, but also develops some entertaining dialogue and starts to form somewhat of a personality. Of course, this is all dashed at the end of the game, but I won't reveal too much. The trailer that was released in 2020 was striking, though, and I was immediately hooked. I won't go into too much detail about what made it...interesting...but let's just say that Lady Dimitrescu became my latest crush. The village setting is a throwback to Resident Evil 4, and the enemies looked more like your classic zombies and not just mold monsters like in RE7. Also, while he does make a very short appearance in RE7, it is the return of our favorite Resident Evil hero- Chris Redfield! Thank you Capcom, for finally giving the fans a ray of hope that there will be more media developing the already existing characters and canon. I appreciate both Resident Evil 7 and 8, but I was nervous that Capcom was going to phase out the old canon in favor of a new one.
The story revolves around Ethan Winters, now living in Europe with his wife Mia and newborn daughter Rose. Immediately, they are ambushed and Mia is "killed," with Ethan and Rose being taken away. Chris Redfield appears to be the leader of this group- not explaining to Ethan what is going on and why he just murdered his wife. This creates suspense as you wonder if Chris has turned rogue- but just like with Jill's fake death in Resident Evil 5, we find out the truth later on. The vehicle that Ethan is transported on crashes, and ends up stuck in an old village that is terrorized by "Lycans." These are werewolf type creatures that are hyper-aggressive and murder the villagers with ease, but Ethan scrambles his way out and has to confront the four lords of the area. This includes Alcina Dimitrescu (aka "Tall Lady,") Moreau, House Beneviento and Heisenberg. Each one has a unique area that is their home- Lady Dimitrescu is at a castle, Moreau is a swamp, Beneviento is a seemingly abandoned home filled with creepy dolls and Heisenberg is a factory creating horrific bioweapons (very much like Doctor Frankenstein.) Once these four are defeated, Ethan must confront Mother Miranda, the overseer of the lords (who we find out, are failed experiments) who wants to take over the world with the Mutamycete. What I found particularly interesting is that through the use of documents, we find out that Dr. Oswell Spencer- the creator of the T Virus from prior games, was studying under Mother Miranda many years before he founded Umbrella. This suggests that the Mutamycete may be a predecessor to the T Virus and set the series into motion- kind of crazy to think that back in 1996, the creators of the series didn't even think that the series would go full circle like this.
The gameplay is a blend of both classic and new features- inventory management is done via box, reminiscent of the attache case in Resident Evil 4. Instead of a set number of slots that hold one item, regardless of size, there is a grid where you can fit your items depending on the size of each individual item. Weapons can be purchase and upgraded via "The Duke," a massive man who is apparently acquainted with the Merchant from Resident Evil 4. You can also purchase ammo and healing items- and bring The Duke ingredients to cook up recipes that boost Ethan's health and abilities. You have to hunt for the ingredients; killing birds, large mammals and fish- a feature not in previous entries in the series. This seems tedious at first, but it adds replay value and rewards players for backtracking. Which speaking of- most of the map is explorable throughout the entire game, a throwback to the classic Resident Evil games which reward backtracking and puzzle solving. You either have to remember where a locked room/box is and come back to it later with the key, or take your time returning to the Village to see what you can unlock now. Also returning is the weapon upgrading system, also from Resident Evil 4. While weapon upgrades could be found throughout the prior games, it's nice to be able to purchase them and customize to your liking rather than getting a handgun compensator or red dot sight.
Since it is going to come up, I want to say that overall, Resident Evil Village is a vast improvement over RE7 and has revitalized my hopes that the Resident Evil series will stay alive and develop further. The biggest improvement is the inventory system- I already brought it up, but it is LIGHTYEARS better than the shoddy, clumsy system in RE7. Pulling up your inventory pauses the game so you can focus on getting your equipment ready, and provides ample space to easily switch between weapons and items. This is in contrast to all the unfair deaths in RE7, mainly at the hands of Jack in the basement scene, where if you don't have your inventory on point you are pretty much screwed (or will have to play it over and over again until you get lucky.) Speaking of- the enemies and bosses seem much fairer in RE8. They aren't necessarily any easier, but the controls are on point and the difficulty ramps perfectly. The controls in RE7 felt overly stiff and blocky and the difficulty is uneven- in Village it feels much more natural and intuitive, more like the controls in the RE2 and 3 remakes. Also, you can SKIP CUTSCENES! After I played RE8 I went back and played RE7 and completely forgot about this, and it immediately turned me off. Who the hell doesn't allow the ability to skip cutscenes, in 2017?! The amount of cutscenes in general was ridiculous, but Village does a great job with exposition and story development without relying on cutscenes. Maybe this is because RE7 was designed with the PlayStation VR in mind- regardless, Village is superior on every objective level compared to RE7.
I can sit here and talk all day about Village and praise it continuously, but what is my final score? I give it a 4.5 out of 5- it is easily the best original Resident Evil game since RE4, with a unique cast of enemies, environments and an engaging storyline. The production quality is excellent- everything from how the game handles to the voice acting and charisma of the motion capture actors is incredible. Most importantly though- it is fun to play and grabs your attention from beginning to end. Long live Resident Evil!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.