Resident Evil Village: Even Scaredy Cats Should Play This Horror Game
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil 7 was almost too much for me, even with the disclaimer that I am a big baby with just a decent potential for terror. The 2017 game took place on a plantation and needed the player character, Ethan Winters, to stay in the same few houses on the estate grounds, with flashlights only lighting what was immediately in front of Ethan’s face and nothing else. The feeling was almost oppressively frightening, and the nightmare within—a family turned into hideous creatures by a bioengineered mold—felt uncomfortably real when combined with the setting.
In comparison, the newest Resident Evil game, Resident Evil Village, which is now available on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, is more akin to the movie Crimson Peak: It’s all a fantasy or gothic horror, and it’s also silly at times, in a way that Resident Evil 7 wasn’t. Without a doubt, Village is scary, but it’s still a lot of fun—I screamed a lot at the scares it threw at me, but I screamed just as much in excitement.
In Village, which picks up soon after the events of Resident Evil 7, Ethan Winters, one of the game’s unluckiest characters in recent memory, is once again put through the wringer when his newborn baby and newly rescued wife have whisked away from him and he’s thrown into an eerie village teeming with witches, werewolves, and other monsters. Ethan’s only chance at protecting his family is to explore the village and kill its four “masters” (including Lady Dimitrescu, a nearly 10-foot-tall vampiress who has already sent the internet into a tizzy).
About the fact that the Resident Evil mythology provides scientific explanations (made-up science, to be fair, not one that could actually be repeated in real life) for many of the monsters that Ethan experiences, these beings nevertheless fall into familiar fantasy categories. The fact that Dimitrescu, for example, resides in a massive, ornately painted castle complete with a massive bath filled with—you knew it—blood lets vault Village into a more fantastical world than its more mutant- and zombie-focused predecessors.
No, silver bullets and garlic aren’t in the mix when it comes to battling these beasties, but the lack of an exact 1:1 of what we expect doesn’t make the enemies any less entertaining to play with.
Granted, “fun” could be the wrong term to describe the experience, as Village doesn’t back down from the series’ trademark close-up bites and gory scenes. To wit, a midgame level is one of the scariest encounters I’ve ever had the privilege (displeasure?) of enduring, as Ethan’s arms are taken from him and, instead of battling the forces against him, he’s forced to scavenge for supplies in a dimly lit house, all while avoiding and hiding from one of the most nightmare-inducing monsters I’ve ever seen.
However, the franchise’s harrowing terror is offset by how ridiculous large chunks of it are. (Let us not ignore that the critically praised Resident Evil 4 featured a storyline reminiscent of Gerard Butler’s Olympus/London/Angel Has Fallen season, involving a cult trying to infect the president’s daughter.) Ethan has his hand severed early in the session. What comes next? He reconnects it. How would he manage to do so? So he presses the severed hand against the stub and pours some first aid medicine on it.
It’s a ridiculously ludicrous fix, but it seems reasonable for a game whose mascot has evolved into a tall vampire lady as a result of how horned up people have been after her original reveal in the game’s trailer.
Village is also remarkable on a technical level since it is beautifully made and animated; the way the characters move is uncannily authentic, which makes it all the more surprising when they arrive suddenly.
The game’s mechanics—organizing your items in a Tetris-like menu panel, being required to handle ammunition as a valuable and scarce resource rather than something to spray mindlessly at any new enemy—encourage you to use your brain as well as your fingers to explore instead of rushing to the next target. Furthermore, the PlayStation 5 version of the game fully utilizes the controller haptics, making each new gun sound distinct—the sniper rifle, for example, needs significantly more forceful button presses than the handgun you’re offered at the start of the game.
The village is still a difficult experience for weenies like me on occasion, but the fantastical richness of the world it is set intends to make the horror more tolerable. It’s also a fantastically entertaining and well-made game, with memorable monster designs and a remarkably large sandbox to explore. And, despite its mild-mannered lead, the plot is chaotic, with each new stage in the story introducing new gameplay mechanics and fighting styles. The village has some bloodcurdling horrors in-store, but they’re also delicious.
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