Whenever a new Resident Evil game is announced an old fear sets in. Will it be like the latest entries—honoring its survival horror roots while perfecting the Resident Evil 4 formula—or will it be like the mess that was Resident Evil 6, a game brought down by its own ambition?
With the release of the latest Resident Evil: Village gameplay video, I feel more confident in the direction Capcom’s taking the franchise. The game, as we already knew from last year’s Playstation 5 Reveal event, is a continuation of Ethan Winter’s story which started in Resident Evil 7. It keeps the first-person perspective introduced in that entry but changes the location and the overall scope of the gameplay.
Upon first impressions, the move to a European village setting, complete with ominous wooded areas and even its own castle, reminded me of RE4 and its decision to ditch Raccoon City for Spain in search of that fresh new thing that would revive the series (which it did). Village doesn’t seem interested in retreading old ground, but it does look like it has its sights set on walking down the same path RE4 did back in 2005. Striking gold twice on that scale would be an impressive feat should it work.
The comparison to RE4 comes easy given the gameplay trailer leans heavily on the action, albeit with the survival element the series is known for still in place. Whereas RE7 kept to one-to-three monsters on-screen at a time, Village is aiming for bigger crowds plus the inclusion of oversized enemies that echo the chainsaw-wielding ‘iluminado’ from part four. This time we’re getting a large werewolf-like man carrying a humongous axe.
This enemy type also made an appearance in Resident Evil 5, where giant axe-wielders hunted Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar in Kijuju, Africa. These creatures have fit in well previously as they embody survival horror at its most intense. From the looks of it, we should expect them to be bigger, badder, and meaner in Village.
Chris, as had also been revealed before, will feature in Village, although his status as a playable or non-playable character hasn’t been revealed yet. Fans are speculating Chris could actually be RE8’s main villain, perhaps taking over the reins from Wesker (the once chairman of the Umbrella Corp. and all-around man of mystery).
The showcase also confirmed item crafting and briefly explained how it fits into the game’s new focus on openness and exploration. This means players will be using their knives constantly to break anything that looks like it holds a green herb or a box of bullets. Crafting isn’t new to the franchise, nor did it seem as if anything revolutionary was going to be introduced as per the trailer, which is something that can be said of what was shown in the gameplay video as a whole.
This new look at Village didn’t really present a considerable departure from either RE7 or the current remakes of RE2 and RE3 in terms of game mechanics. The gameplay loop feels familiar enough and should be easily recognizable for veteran fans. There’s survival horror action, a new set of strange and wacky main villains, an isolated setting full of bio-terrors, and a lone hero in the center of it all consumed by conspiracies beyond his paygrade.
The new coat of paint does show promise, though. The village setting and a focus on monsters not commonly seen in previous Resident Evils such as werewolves and vampires does warrant attention. And yet, there are a few things that also inspire a bit of worry.
A large chunk of the showcase saw Ethan inside a castle littered with puzzles and secrets, something we’ve seen before (with hints of the first Resident Evil in what was shown). The open areas surrounding the village look more engaging and could offer more unique scenarios for players to explore. I hope the castle area doesn’t eat up the majority of the game and that players get the chance to explore different aspects of the new location.
The new female vampire villains look well-designed as well and feel creepy enough as enemies that follow the player around, much like the Nemesis did in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. But when compared to the other main villains in the franchise, they look a bit out of place. They might be too exaggerated or explosive as personalities for Resident Evil, and that’s saying something. This is where flashes of Resident Evil 6 spring to mind, a game that strayed too far from the core ideas of its predecessors to its detriment.
The foundations laid by Resident Evil 7 are strong enough to allow Village to tinker with the formula rather than reinvent it. What was shown in the gameplay showcase suggests Capcom sees the future of Resident Evil in first-person, with a hefty dose of risk-taking and experimentation along the way. It might not look like it’ll revolutionize survival horror gaming as of yet, but Village sure does seem like it has a few tricks up its sleeve, and they may be enough to turn the gaming world on its head.