Our review of Resident Evil Village (stylized VIIIage, or Resident Evil VIII), developed by Capcom. Available now for PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Stadia, and Windows.
WHAT IS IT?
A horror-themed FPS with occasional descents into proper horror.
IS IT GOOD?
It’s entertaining but it’s way less scary than it should be.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
Fans of James Cameron’s Aliens.
THE ETERNAL DEBATE
Ridley Scott’s original Alien (1979) is a work of pure horror: deliberate, terrifying, and revelling in the helplessness of its central characters/prey. Its sequel, the James Cameron Aliens (1986) is an altogether different beast: a big, loud, dumb action flick, with horror elements. Alien had space truckers with a makeshift cattle prod; Aliens had space marines with pulse rifles.
Both films are entertaining, both are classics of their respective genres. But whether you prefer Alien or Aliens says a lot about your pop culture sensibilities – and is a good barometer for how you’ll respond to Resident Evil Village.
WELCOME TO THE VILLAGE
In the early years of Resident Evil, the emphasis was firmly on horror. Weapons were weak, ammunition sparse, and the zombies relentless. Much of the terror came from not knowing whether you’d make it to the next save point, let alone get out of the mansion/city/facility alive.
That all changed with Resident Evil 4 (2005), a game widely heralded as one of the great third-person shooters, but also, let’s face it, not that scary. Like AlienS before it, RE4 sacrificed helplessness for big dumb action setpieces, straying from its origins while setting an impressive bar for other action games in the process. RE5 and RE6 got louder and dumber, and only in 2017’s Resident Evil 7 did we get a return to the series roots, albeit from a new first-person perspective.
Capcom’s latest, Resident Evil Village, keeps the first-person-view of its predecessor, but tilts heavily in favour of RE4-stle action, mostly to its detriment. Call it guns before brains.
WITH AN S
In RE7, you were often both physically and metaphorically in the dark. In Village, that’s no longer the case. Let’s start with the protagonist: in RE7, Ethan Winters was just a random dude looking for his missing wife. But thanks to the events of that game, he’s now a well-trained soldier with a penchant for increasingly explosive weapons. RE7‘s central setting, the Baker House, was dark and intimidating; you never knew what horrors might lurk around the corner. Village is, well, a village – a much more open and easily navigable location, with clearly telegraphed monster locations and a roster of werewolves, vampires, and evil dolls that look great, but vibe more “creepy fairy tale” than “nauseating body horror.”
In other words, Village sacrifices quality for quantity. Instead of one lumbering monster, like the original Alien xenomorph or Mr. X/Nemesis from the early Resident Evil titles, Village deploys swarms of enemies (technically, “parasite-infected bioweapons”), overwhelming you by sheer numbers – exactly like Aliens. Also, for that matter, a lot like Resident Evil 4. So much so that Village could count as a direct sequel.
That said, there are moments when Village gets dark and claustrophobic. It might strip you of your weapons temporarily, or funnel you through a particularly harrowing survival sequence. These are, unsurprisingly, the best parts of the game, greatly benefiting from Village‘s impressively lifelike graphics. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe walking through snowy woods again.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m definitely Team Alien. I think the original film is a horror masterpiece, and I consider its video game sequel Alien Isolation the single scariest video game ever made. The Resident Evil series has never been that scary, though RE7 had its moments, especially its front half in which you were helpless, clueless, and overwhelmed. In comparison, Resident Evil VIII puts a weapon in your hand in the first twenty minutes.
That’s really too bad when so much else about the game is so perfect. The village is impeccably designed, as are the many indoor and outdoor locations you eventually visit. In any other game, the ominous Castle Dimetrescu might be the centrepiece; in Resident Evil Village, it’s Level 1. (Still, it bugs the heck out of me that everyone in this European village speaks perfect North American English.)
Village‘s story is also compelling, if saddled by an ugly habit of fridging its female characters. The monsters are suitably gruesome and intimidating, though they lose some of their menace after you’ve mowed down fifty in a row. Most importantly, Village is a joy to play: I’m not really a big FPS guy, but I love Village‘s visceral combat, the enemies that grab at your limbs and scream in your face. In its better moments, it feels exactly like the best parts of Aliens.
And hey, if that’s your bag, you’re going to have a good time with Village.
As Alien is to Aliens, so too is Resident Evil Village to Resident Evil: not horror, but horror-themed. Not always scary, but always exhilarating. Not strictly dark or foreboding, but with an impeccable sense of a place where anything might attack at any time.
As someone once said, they mostly come at night… mostly.
Final score: 7/10 bioweapons.
Visit the official page for Resident Evil Village here.