What's your favorite Resident Evil game of all time? Ask any fan of the series and you'll get completely different answers for various different reasons. Despite having its roots in survival horror, the majority of the fanbase tends towards the more action-oriented fourth main entry in the series, Resident Evil 4. Since then subsequent sequels have been sort of a mixed bag, but with the release of Resident Evil 8 last week, Capcom has finally launched a true successor to one of the best RE games of all time.
Resident Evil Village is a direct sequel to 2017’s Resident Evil 7, but takes a very different direction to its predecessor, namely the fact that this time round instead of fighting against various mutated zombies, you’re now dealing with more occult enemies like werewolves and vampires.
It takes place in a remote village in a Transylvanian part of Europe, hence the title of the game, where previous protagonist Ethan Winters once again finds himself in a similar situation as RE7. Instead of searching for your missing wife, you’re now looking for your kidnapped daughter, a new addition to the Winters household.
At first glance it may not seem like the most Resident Evil of Resident Evil games, but its core is still there and arguably stronger than ever. Is it the best RE game of all time? Or has the series lost its roots which the previous game had claimed to find once again? That answer will heavily depend on what’s your personal favorite Resident Evil ever, but for the most part Capcom has done a tremendous job in keeping the series feeling fresh and exciting 8 iterations down the line.
As mentioned before, Resi Evil 8 feels more like a true successor to RE4 than an actual sequel to the last game. RE8 is, after all, a direct sequel to RE7, and so features the same elements of its predecessor: it runs on the same engine, is in the same first person perspective, and follows the same main character as the previous game. But the gameplay itself is heavily reminiscent of RE4, from the gameplay elements itself like the inventory management, the merchant, all the way to the same gothic horror vibe set around the outskirts of a local village.
Resident Evil 7 was a return to the old survival horror aspect of the RE games, taking place in a small, isolated location with limited items and weapons on hand. But with RE Village, Capcom has taken the more iconic elements from Resident Evil 4. You now have multiple different weapons which will be slightly better variations of ones you already had. Plus, you can upgrade them too, enhancing a weapon’s stats with currency you find whilst exploring or defeating enemies.
So the combat itself now takes a more direct approach to action, with more enemies to face in one go and more options available to dispatch them. The opening of Res Evil Village teaches you this perfectly, giving you one enemy to face with a single pistol that takes almost all of your ammo just to kill it.
But the mood quickly changes when you are suddenly thrust into an almost unbearably-tense sequence where you must try and survive as long as possible. You even get the shotgun at this point - less than an hour into the game - which only further accentuates the more action-focused approach compared to RE7. There’s red barrels to shoot in areas to take out multiple enemies at once or damage an enemy’s armor.
But where RE4 was much more wild and campy in its combat - with many roundhouse kicks to dazed enemies and over the top dodges from speeding boulders - RE Village tones it down a little to fit with the more serious tone of the last few releases. There’s no jump kicks to the head or massive QTE actions on screen to dodge an enemy attack. There’s just you, a gun, and a dozen enemies looking to eat you alive.
As with the recent remakes, Capcom has transferred the same excellent movement patterns of enemies into the more supernatural creatures of Res Evil 8. Werewolves are tremendously difficult to take down even with later weapons due to their ability to dodge and move so quickly.
I, like many others I think, was a little worried when I heard that the developers of Resident Evil Village decided to tone down the horror slightly this time round because Resident Evil 7 was too scary for some players. And whilst this is mostly true - RE7 had much more of an unsettling horror about it, the kind that you get when watching a classic Grindhouse movie from the 70s and wondering whether you just watched a movie or a documentary - RE8 on the other hand is a more stressful horror.
Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing purely depends on your taste for RE games. In this instance though, the creators have done a tremendous job not at being overtly scary, but making you dread every corner you turn because you can hardly take another sequence of barely surviving because you only have a few bullets left and no idea what’s in the next room.
If that sounds like fun to you, and if you enjoyed both Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 4, then Resident Evil Village should feel right at home. And for the true Resident Evil experience I would highly suggest starting your first playthrough on the Hardcore difficulty. As for the story? Well...
If there’s anything that the Resident Evil franchise has been known for, it’s definitely not for its story. At best they’ve been a cheesy B-movie horror flick, and at worst a cheesy B-movie horror flick. They’ve never been able to contend for Oscar-worthy storylines, but lately the overall RE story has taken a bit of a backseat, with much less exploration into the overarching plot of the entire series.
Playing Resident Evil for the story is like watching, well… you know the analogy I’m trying to make here. You don’t play an RE game for the plot, but that’s not to say it’s ever been bad. The narrative has always been a perfect compliment to the gameplay, propelling the player forward and into new areas against new enemies. As long as that (mostly) works, you’ll have a fun time.
Resident Evil 8 once again brings back the awkward campiness from the series, with cheesy one-liners and over-the-top sequences. Yet, despite that, it has produced some of the highest highs of the franchise and some of the most memorable boss fights thanks to some terrific motion capture, excellent voice acting, and crazy twists of events.
I think most of that stems from the fact we are facing a new kind of horror setting, the occult. Most antagonists of the series have been humans, or semi-human hybrids with the various iterations of the titular virus that started this whole franchise in the first place. Now there’s werewolves, big werewolves, a tall vampire lady, insect-controlling witches, and many more supernatural horror tropes that we haven’t seen yet in the series that I don’t want to spoil here if you haven’t played it yet.
The entire plot is a rollercoaster of a ride, and I won’t go into more detail about the story itself because if you’re a fan of the series then most of it is a real treat. I will say that if you felt like RE7 didn’t have enough connections to the overall RE universe, then Resident Evil Village will satisfy that need a lot more, with truly exciting ramifications for the entire series going forward and even completely recontextualizing previous games up to the very first one.
My point is, the overall story is nothing to write home about, but the journey you take may be one of the most memorable Resident Evil experiences to date. No matter where Capcom takes the series in the future, I will always remember my time in the gothic-infused Transylvanian Village, just like how I felt when I first entered the Spencer mansion all those years ago. And that’s something to be excited for.
The main protagonist of this one and the last game has been a bit of a controversial character for most fans, but I’ve enjoyed Ethan Winters as a series protagonist. He has slowly become this lovable goof who we didn't get to know very well the first time round but actually has some semblance of depth this time. He would often say things when they needn't be said, or stay quiet in moments where you'd expect the character to say or even address something. He still does this now, but there's more of him and his story to be invested in at least.
I always did like Ethan as a protagonist because he was just a normal guy. It's easy to forget that he's just an IT systems engineer, a far cry from the military-trained protagonists of previous games. We learn so much about Ethan and his story, and I can now proudly say I will adore him with as much admiration as I do for many other series favorites like Leon Kennedy or Jill Valentine. Even down to the cheesy one-liners after defeating certain bosses.
Visuals and Performance
Just like before, Capcom has returned with the photorealistic style that it introduced in Resident Evil 7, and somehow manages to turn it up to 11. This may be the best the RE series has ever looked, and I’m not just talking about the graphics themselves here. Even the models, with the immensely varied types of enemies you’ll face, and the distinctive locations of each main region, down to the incredibly smooth animations themselves are all immaculate.
I once again have to give major props to whoever was in charge of the motion capture in this game, because not only are the movements of the enemies themselves just so good, but the facial capture is amazing as well. At least for the most part. At times the other characters look and feel and react like real humans do, almost to the point of the uncanny valley.
The levels and areas themselves are so incredibly detailed as well, with many of the areas feeling cluttered and littered with objects, with the detailing of the walls in Castle Dimitrescu being a real standout here. And it all goes a long way to enhance the immersion.
There are only a few games to this day that have achieved that level of quality, and I’m so happy to see games adopting more quality techniques into the facial and motion capture to really make the worlds and characters within them feel alive and lived-in.
Unfortunately the performance on PC is a bit of a different story. It’s not terrible, and most of the time performs incredibly well thanks to the tremendous optimization of the RE Engine despite the photorealistic graphics. But there are some moments where the performance tanks seriously hard.
By now you’ve probably heard of multiple complaints as to frame drops when the bug ladies appear, but there’s also a particularly intense section towards the end of the game where tensions and excitement are high that is bogged down by poor performance. It’s not exactly a deal breaker, but it does take you out of what is otherwise a pretty exciting moment, and you should wait for a stability patch to come out if you’re particularly affected by that kind of thing.
Thankfully, the rest of the game outside these few particular moments, runs as smooth as butter. Even the ray tracing implementation - which looks fantastic - runs very well on modern hardware without the use of any upscaling tech like DLSS.
But that’s not all when it comes to Resi Evil 8. If you’ve played another RE game before then you know that there is some form of replayability for the main story. Whether that’s playing from a different character’s point of view with new locations and story beats, or completing challenges to unlock certain items.
RE Village thankfully takes the same latter approach as the previous Remakes, with a tremendous amount of challenges to complete and unlock certain bonus content. All the way from new and better weapons, infinite ammo, collectible figurines, concept art, and even a bonus game mode.
At the time of writing this I have put 53 hours into Resident Evil Village already, and played through the game 3 different times on different difficulty settings. Some players may only get enjoyment out of playing the game once - and that’s absolutely fine - but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice to the amount of content that is actually available to you here.
The main story isn’t very long, much like every other main RE game to date, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to play again but this time with infinite magnum ammo, killing bosses in a few hits, and shooting grenades wildly like there’s no tomorrow.
The other main attraction here is the return of The Mercenaries bonus game mode. Here it’s a more arcade-style high score challenge that seriously tests your abilities learnt from the main game. Here you have to be at your best and as precise and fast and knowledgeable of the various runs as you can be. It’s a hell of a lot fun, and if you’ve enjoyed this mode before then you won’t be disappointed.
If you’ve never played a Resident Evil game before, RE8 may not be the best one to start in order to get the full scope of the story. But hopefully it will convince you to check the rest of the games out there. This is a truly unique series of games that has transformed considerably in the decades it has been around.
It still has the same issues as every RE game has, but with even more love and understanding of its audience than ever before. It’s a seriously fun entry in the franchise, and has produced one of the most memorable Resident Evil experiences to date. It has once again sparked excitement for where the series will go next, and manages to stay fresh and interesting 8 entries in.
Resident Evil Village may be the best Resident Evil of all time. It certainly is up there with the best of the series, but that heavily depends on your kind of RE game. If you enjoyed RE4 or RE7 then you’ll probably like this one. And if you enjoyed both of them as much as each other then this very well could be one of the best. It certainly is for me.