I don’t play a lot of Capcom games. The last one I played outside of Resident Evil was the Dead Rising series. Those games are driven by strong gameplay ideas, the ludicrous story turns filled with thin characters with tons of personality and labyrinthian navigation systems. That DNA carries over here with the Labyrinth navigation that makes sure the player never gains too much confidence. What I appreciate most about the eighth Resident Evil, is how it wraps players around its finger and never loses grip through the 8 and 1/2 hours it takes to tell its story. It is a perfectly-paced game. With the distance from the series overarching plot that #7 provided; at this point, the series mythology is self-perpetuating. No game in recent memory has more easily reminded the player how good the developers are at their jobs. Everything here is almost perfectly balanced with the clumsiness of the first person view contributing to claustrophobia but never feeling too nauseating or frustrating. I recall being exhausted after a drawn-out match against breakout star Lady Dimitrescu. I didn’t want to encounter any enemies for a good long time. The game, sensing this threw me against a more psychologically pinned enemy with the next hour of exploration building up to the most horrific sight.
You play as Ethan Winters following the events of Resident Evil 7. Husband to Mia who you saved from the last game, and daughter to Rose, whose capture supplies the player’s motivation. The game shares a European setting with the high water-mark entry Resident Evil 4 and yet is more action-packed compared to its slower-burning predecessor. That one particular nightmare-inducing element however was enough to cause this player to up and quit the game for at least an hour before continuing. If that’s not proof of the series’ horror bonafide roots I don’t know what is.
The developers make changes to the series formula like ‘The Duke‘ who replaces the shop and Merchant of previous games. Still transporting as ever, this is a comfortable man living in a very uncomfortable world and figures a bit more into the game’s plot. The game also brings back herbs from previous games which sat out #7. In terms of lineage, this game feels like what Resident Evil 5 was to RE4, or what the movie Spectre was to Skyfall. Equally embracing the franchise formula but much less crappy. The game’s plot also bravely ties in Vampires and Lycans to the Resident Evil lore while digging deeper into the franchise’s villain origins.
Finally the one wildcard this time around is the mysterious series mainstay Chris Redfield (#1, 5, 6, 7) whose shocking actions kick off the plot. There’s great frustration in his character’s inability to dispense valuable plot information that makes no sense keeping secret, but it does help that the plot uses his story contribution as a bonus rather than a crutch. Ethan Winters has some vital secrets of his own even he doesn’t know about. And the clip at which all this came out was at the right time. I was onboard and never bored or overwhelmed by the eventual late plot exposition. Despite a passing midpoint collision where Redfield goes to curious sabotaging lengths to withhold valuable information.
In the end, Resident Evil: Village was a wonderful reminder in how influential Japanese game development is. How even after 8 entries, 26 years and 3 generations the best can remain on top of their craft.
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