In recent years, Capcom seemed to have abandoned the ideas of Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, and focused on resurrecting older installments (which were, after all, quite successful), and it seemed they had no idea where to take the series next.
But that impression was false. After spending almost an hour watching the preview of Village, I can safely say this will be one of the best installments in the series, a worthy expansion of the franchise, a game heavily inspired by part four of the series, and generally a title pretending to the title of game of the year 2021.
Where's everyone going? Bingo?
At the start of the show, we returned to Ethan Winters, the protagonist of the seventh installment. He wakes up after a car accident somewhere in Eastern Europe and sets out to track down Rose's kidnapped daughter, abducted, as the trailers suggest, by one of the series' heroes, Chris Redfield (known from Resident Evil and Resident Evil 5). What's his motivation? We won't know until after the release, of course.
Initially, the gameplay is deceptively similar to what we know from part seven. We explore ruined houses, collect items until, over time, we get weapons and find ourselves in the heart of the title village, when the action will surely pick up the pace. I could be wrong, and it's still too early to tell, but I had the impression thatVillage will bet on story more than any other entry in the series. We meet a few NPCs, the protagonist fills a notebook with information about the world every now and then (doubt it will be crucial to gameplay, but it's a notable novelty in the series), and the scriptwriters slowly reveal the history of Mother Miranda's cult, and the village struggling with the Lycan attack.
Yes, your eyes aren't deceiving you at the beginning of Village, the main enemy you'll encounter will be werewolves, which behave similarly to ganados, the mutated villagers from part four. First contact with them (by the way, a fantastic sequence where we defend a house like in part four, years before) already proves the devs went to much greater a length in creating more dangerous enemies than the ponderous and predictable zombie of RE2 Remake.
Lycans attack in groups, use simple melee weapons, are able to dodge, retreat, looking for more convenient places to attack (which we can counteract by barricading doors and windows) and in one cutscene, we even see the opponents riding on horseback! And what's particularly interesting, in some places, it will be possible to avoid clashes with them, because they won't throw themselves at us if we don't feel provoke them, and don't get close enough which I guess adds depth to how we plan exploration, since, as befits this series, ammunition and resources are scarce.
While the Resident Evil series isn't known for its imaginative and creative puzzles, Capcom's recent productions are trying to change that. Yes, we'll still find simple environmental puzzles here, such as finding a key or another object, but during the demo, there were also a few more creative instances, where we are moved to a separate screen and played a mini-game apparently requiring some dexterity. No worries though you're unlikely to need a tutorial.
Let's see how special you REALLY are
Further surprises in the bestiary are experienced in Dimitrescu Castle, where the rest of the demo took place. Apart from the terrifying owner of the mansion, we'll meet something similar to the flying imps from Heroes III, namely hooded ghouls, and fight a kind of mini-boss in the form of one of Dimitrescu's vampire daughters. I don't remember having so many different types of enemies ever in the history of the series right at the beginning of the game, and I can't wait to see what monsters await further on. But let's go back to the aforementioned vampire.
The encounter with the "daughter" immediately evokes associations with, for example, Nemesis from RE3 the opponent appears at some point in the location and hinders further progress and solving puzzles, until we deal with her what's particularly interesting, is that in contrast to the adversary from Resident Evil 3, the vampiress can be defeated once and for all! It doesn't seem to be easy, though she can transform into a swarm of viscous insects, which not only makes her incredibly fast, but also, what's worse, temporarily immortal. So, Village is definitely going to bring new quality in terms of variety of enemies.
During the recent Resident Evil: Showcase, the creators revealed that the game's production motto was "beautiful, but terrifying," and it seems apt. Dimitrescu is a whole new level of stalkers immortal opponents moving independently through the area. And I don't mean the AI (which largely behaves similar to monsters from recent remakes).
With the help of well-written dialogs, the castle's dominatrix is able to play the scary notes with surprising effectiveness, more than once challenging the protagonist, threatening them, or simply verbally humiliating the character. The effect is electrifying although on the level of gameplay it's not really new, thanks to the fine creation and good dialogues, this will be the first enemy in a long time that I'm expecting to see in my nightmares (and I'm definitely sacrificing my character a few times just for the sake of science).
What are you buying... sir?
A European village, a castle, some cultists, groups of enemies a lot sharper than zombie, the main character who follows the trail of a kidnapped young woman whether consciously or not, Village definitely harks back to Resident Evil 4 time and again. One such treat is the return of the "salesman" an NPC we meet several times throughout the adventure.
I haven't played the game, unfortunately, so it's difficult to talk about the visual setting. I don't think it's really fair to judge the quality of visual aspects based on compressed video stream. Nevertheless, I'm inclined to say that Resident Evil: Village will be quite similar to what we've seen in the temporarily available PS5 demo.
In the Village, the shady guy from RE4 is replaced by Duke, an equally mysterious, if not slightly friendlier and more eloquent man who, in addition to buying back the items we collect (are the optional treasures and medallions coming back?), will also offer an assortment of all sorts of healing items, upgrades and ammunition. And I'll admit, this last one can be a bit worrying in "Four" you couldn't just buy ammunition, so even though there was definitely more action than horror in this part, you still had to carefully manage the limited resources. I'm a little worried that being able to buy this item will make the game easier than it should, but for now I'll trust the developers to balance the economy.
As for the equipment and resources, it's worth mentioning that Village will offer additional components such as gunpowder and chemicals, which were not present in part seven (but, for example, appeared in some form in last year's Resident Evil 3). As befits the series, the Village will offer a simplified crafting system, utilizing resources found in limited quantities and even more limited space in the hero's backpack. It doesn't turn gameplay upside down, it just streamlines it slightly which is enough for me.
Wow, what a Village!
More action, a greater variety of enemies, a great atmosphere, probably the best stalker enemy in the history of the series and a handful of references to one of my favorite installments and some improvements to the formula that's how I can briefly describe my very positive impressions of the Resident Evill: Village showcase.
The best part in years? I sincerely hope this will be the best RE to have been released in years, and it seems possible based on the early game play I experienced. If you're still not convinced I definitely recommend you take interest in the time-limited demo, which will be available for a while before the premiere from 29 April to 2 May on Steam and Xbox, and between 24-25 April on Sony), because everything seems to indicate that within these, we will be given access to a large portion of what I recently saw myself. I won't be part of it myself, though, because I was tempted to pre-order the game for the first time in a long time and I have a feeling it was a good decision.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ever since my first exposure to Resident Evil 4, I've been a big fan of survival horror games from Capcom (though I'll make no secret, I've always preferred the approach to the genre offered by Konami's rival Silent Hill ). I've gone through all the installments in the main series one or even more times, and I've also tried some of the better spin-offs and side installments. My favorite games in the series are the original (and the remake from GameCube) and the fourth part, but I also have a lot of fond memories for Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and the excellent remake of Resident Evil 2. I miss the Resident Evil 5-like co-op, and I'm glad the series dropped the Resident Evil 6-like spectacle over time.
Jordan Debowski | Gamepressure.com