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[Review] Visiting the Village

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Michael Lacasse is an amateur writer and longtime gamer looking to merge those passions together into a horrific nightmare amalgamation.

Despite the picture, Chris doesn't become a werewolf...

Despite the picture, Chris doesn't become a werewolf...

Welcome to the Village

Resident Evil: Village (RE:8) is as much a dark fairytale as it is a homage to various flavors of horror. Starting with the beautifully animated children's tale “Village of Shadows” being narrated by Mia to little Rose to lull her to sleep that foreshadows your upcoming journey, and gave me some strong Coraline vibes, to Ethan Winters’ ultimate motivation of recovering his stolen daughter, it starts more Brother’s Grimm than Night of the Living Dead. By the time you’ve found your way to the village besieged by lycans, the tone moves towards gothic horror as you’re introduced to some survivors and a bit of the unorthodox religion built around the mysterious Mother Miranda.

While Capcom’s marketing campaigns were heavily centered around the Internet’s thirst for the 9-foot-6 Alcina Dimitrescu, she’s just one of five colorful characters that stand between you and your daughter and you’re introduced to the lot of them very early in your journey. The ghostly doll-maker Donna Beneviento who interacts with the world through her doll Angie, the self-loathing fish man monstrosity Salvatore Moreau and the over-the-top charismatic egomaniacal inventor Karl Heisenberg are each given a slice of the game to chew the scenery, some far more than others, before you get your meeting with Miranda. Each of these Four Lords are given their own environment inspired by different horror tropes for you to travel through and unload ammo into the various monsters that want to see you dead. Gone are the mold people of RE7, or the Moulded, and in their place is a far more varied cast of bullet sponges. Snarling lycans, shambling Moroaică, and drill-armed cyber-zombies are just a few of the things you’ll be facing while looking for your daughter. Don’t worry though, ammo tends to be plentiful if you’re landing a decent number of headshots and it’s usually the bosses, mini-bosses and optional mini bosses that really soak up a good deal of it. The latter are especially spongey and can tear through your carefully hoarded stash with ease before finally going down. The relatively generous amount of ammo and the swarms of enemies moves this title further away from the expected gameplay limitations of survival horror and is more of an action title for better or for worse. If you were looking for a more classic RE experience, this isn't it. There are a few tense moments in the game, with House Beneviento being a fantastic standout sequence for atmosphere—very reminiscent of a polished version of all the PT clones we’ve seen over the years done exceptionally well—but the game is more glorious B-movie camp than psychological dread. There are few moments where avoiding enemies is preferable to making their heads pop and most of them are near the end of the game.

Capcom also continues its sadistic vendetta against Ethan's poor hands. If you thought they'd gone through a lot in Resident Evil 7, well... you haven't seen anything yet.

More than just RE4 2.0

Village wears its RE4 influence proudly on its sleeve with its rural, Eastern European setting and the returning merchant, this time embodied by the Duke, a far more talkative ally in Winter’s quest to rescue Rose. The inventory system is also reminiscent of RE4 and they’ve separated crafting materials, key items and the new treasures that you can sell to the Duke for more Lei (the local currency) from your ammo, weapons and consumables. For people coming from RE7, this might give you a sigh of relief. Unless you’re a masochist who enjoyed inventory juggling with the item box in the last title, the larger inventory is probably a welcome change. There’s also no item box to store excess items and no real need for it. You’ll have plenty of space for everything you pick up, especially if you’re increasing your storage capacity regularly.

The Duke is also able to upgrade your weapons in exchange for Lei and there’s a new way for Ethan to boost his stats. Instead of the injectables from the last game, you can hunt various animals in order to harvest their meat which the Duke turns into delicious meals to increase your max health, your speed and absorb more damage when you’re blocking.

Beautiful Monsters

The game is easily the most beautiful Resident Evil yet and its max settings are beyond the capabilities of my gaming laptop. Still, with a bit of tweaking, it was still gorgeous to look at with detailed interiors and environments where you could almost feel the biting cold. You really get the sense that these places are lived in, with small environmental details that helps bring the sets to life. Castle Dimitrescu is especially impressive with its mixture of opulent interiors and bloody dungeons. I imagine with a powerful enough rig it’s probably one of the most visually impressive games made so far but it easily holds its own without the latest technology.

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Endgame and Replayability: Is it Worth?

My first playthrough clocked in at 9 hours and 6 minutes of playtime and I didn’t discover every secret by any means. The game also offers you a New Game+ mode where you’ll start off with your inventory, minus key items for progression, after going through the introduction. Beating the game also gives you access to the extra content menu which allows you to unlock various goodies by spending points gained through achievement hunting. This gives you access to a few more powerful weapons (that are quickly outclassed if you start sinking cash into upgrading your endgame guns—especially the New Game+ exclusive S.T.A.K.E. super Magnum that the Duke has on sale for a hefty 300,000 Lei) in the Duke’s shop and the extremely useful infinite ammo upgrade if you want to tackle “Village of Shadows” difficulty as well as concept art, models and the like. Village is worth replaying if only to soak in the beautifully haunting scenery again, this time while heavily armed to easily dispatch all those creatures standing between you and your sightseeing, but the staggering number of collectables is another great incentive.

The Verdict...

By the time the ending credits roll to the sound of singer Aga Ujima recounting your journey in the beautiful “Yearning for Dark Shadows”, calling back to the “Village of Shadows” fairytale at the start, you’ve gone through a veritable theme park of horror. The game also ties itself into the broader Resident Evil lore for people who care about that sort of thing outside of the connection to Chris Redfield and his Hound Wolf Squad. A post-credit scene also presumably sets up the final entry into what’s rumoured to be a trilogy (starting with RE:7) or some form of future DLC in the pipeline. Speaking of DLC, something akin to a longer House Beneviento sequence would be a great addition as the insane and murderous doll-maker was given a woefully short time in the spotlight despite being in one of the most memorable parts of the game.

This is a title that’s well worth picking up for horror game enthusiasts if you have the means to and a must buy the second it comes on sale if you can’t right now.

Resident Evil: Village is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, XBox One, XBox Series X and S, Google Stadia and Microsoft Windows.

Reviewed the Microsoft Windows version of the game.

© 2021 Mike L

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