|Developer||CAPCOM Co., Ltd.|
|Publisher||CAPCOM Co., Ltd.|
|Platforms||PC, PS4 (Reviewed), PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S|
Note: this review is based on my experience playing through the PlayStation 4 version, but the screenshots were captured on the PlayStation 5.
Picking up three years after the events of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, we once again step into the brutalized shoes of Ethan Winters. Ethan and his wife Mia have started a new life in a new location, far away from Louisiana and the horrors they went through there. Then, after a shocking opener, Ethan sets out to rescue his baby daughter from the Four Lords who rule over the region.
For the final couple of months leading up to the release of Resident Evil 8: Village, all the media seemed to be able to focus on was Lady Dimitrescu. Everything was so focused on her and her castle that I was under the impression the whole game would take place there, and the Lady herself would be the final boss. It turns out there is much more to the game, and the castle only plays one part.
Sexual Content: The buxom Lady Dimitrescu wears a dress revealing quite a bit of cleavage.
Alcohol/Drugs: A character is noted to be taking multiple prescription drugs. A few characters consume alcohol, as well as smoke tobacco.
Language: All of the colorful language one might expect from an M rated title is all here, including but not necessarily limited to, F***, H***, G**D***, S***, D***, D*ck, B***h, and B*****d, as well as taking the Lord’s name in vain.
Violence: There is almost constant portrayal of blood and gore. Characters and enemies lose limbs in battle, usually with generous amounts of blood spurts. Additionally, Ethan suffers at least as much as he does in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Some enemies have arm drills for weapons (like the Big Daddy in Bioshock, just smaller), and when they get you with it, the camera looks down at it as it bores through your abdomen.
Spiritual Content: The game is saturated with spiritual imagery, all of it pagan. The overall story premise revolves around a cult of which the villagers of the eponymous village are devout followers. They worship a figure called “Mother Miranda,” and at one point early in the game, you are present for a group prayer to her. Scattered throughout the game are “warding goats,” which are tiny, goat-shaped wooden statues that are believed to curry favor with Mother Miranda. Under the first warding goat is a plaque warning that whoever breaks the goat will face Mother Miranda’s wrath.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Castle Dimitrescu is only one part. However, most of the details of my discussions will be limited to that portion in order to avoid spoilers later in the game. That said, I will still cover the other sections in vague terms.
The game starts with a Tim Burton-esque animation of a tale from a storybook. It’s dark and creepy, and not the typical kind of story a parent would tell their child. Ethan happens to agree, and he protests Mia’s reading the story to their six month old daughter. Soon after, the Inciting Event happens, and you soon find yourself in a village overrun by lycans. One thing leads to another in rapid succession, and after a tragedy, you run into Heisenberg, one of the region’s Four Lords. He brings you to a meeting of the Lords and their master, Mother Miranda. From there, you head to Castle Dimitrescu.
Castle Dimitrescu is roughly the first quarter of the game. There are more locations to explore and bosses to fight. Each location has its own distinct atmosphere, and the boss battles are equally as varied. While the castle isn’t scary per se, it is macabre. There are a couple of jump scares that managed to get me, so I applaud them for that. I also love the gothic aesthetic. It just doesn’t quite fit the “horror” label.
In various places throughout the game, you encounter the mysterious figure known as “The Duke.” He’s a merchant who knows far too much about the Four Lords, and is easily the most fascinating character in the game. He sells guns and ammo, and will buy whatever you have to sell. Wherever he shows up is a haven from the area’s monsters, and that includes the Dimitrescu family. If they’re chasing you, you can head into the room where the Duke hangs out, and they will leave you alone.
Lady Dimitrescu’s daughters—Bela, Cassandra, and Daniela—are a highlight of the castle. Their presence is heralded by swarms of flies, and . The daughters also help to keep you on track, as oftentimes the only way to escape them—since fighting is useless at first—is to move on to the next area. They add an element of anxiety to the castle, as they often appear unexpectedly. Sadly, Jeanette Maus, the actress who played Cassandra, passed away before the game’s release.
Now, the second quarter, Boss Number Two’s domain, is where the game really lets loose. It is exactly the sort of horror experience I’ve hoped to have—and been disappointed without fail—from the past several games I’ve played in the genre. It’s my favorite part of the game.
Every room and hallway is dark save for a few small lights in various places. You spend a good deal of time in a room with a blood soaked floor, and mannequin parts hanging from the ceiling. All the while there is an inexplicable dripping sound, but it’s not clear what is dripping. And then, as if blood and dismembered mannequins weren’t enough, the embodiment of nightmares chases you. It’s wonderfully terrifying. I was tense throughout that whole section, and had the biggest jump scare in years.
Unfortunately, that is where the game peaks. Immediately after that, the game starts a downhill slide. Nowhere else is remotely as scary or fun. Some moments in the third quarter actually serve to kill the tension because of what seems like an attempt at comic relief at the most inappropriate times. Incidentally, it is also where the quality of the story’s writing takes a dive off Devils Tower. It’s especially disappointing after such a great first half.
Finally, the last quarter is when I stopped enjoying my time. This is, fundamentally, a survival game, yet in the last section, it pretends to be a straight action game. Ammo and healing items are limited, and still the game throws a dozen bullet sponges at you in just one section. Not only is it unnecessarily difficult, it’s also annoying and tedious. It seemed to me that it was designed to deplete any ammo you may have been hoarding for some time, but it wasn’t in service to a greater purpose. It drained it all just to drain it. Sure, you can get valuable items from those enemies, and yes, that money will help you buy new and powerful guns. But those new guns are useless when you have no more ammo, and when The Duke’s shop is sold out.
There are a lot of issues with the scriptwriting. Among them are cliché phrases and Captain Obvious lines. But worse than that is the voice acting, particularly Ethan. His delivery is often flat, and the emotion hardly ever fits the situation.
There are several poor storytelling conventions. The worst one is a twist for the sake of having a twist. Worse yet, the justification for it is built on sand. And then, after a big reveal, it apparently never occurred to any of the characters to ask an obvious question. There are enough plot holes to make the game resemble swiss cheese.
Of all the problems with the game, I would say Ethan is the worst. To be blunt, he’s a bad character. He sounds more distraught over a tragedy he has no stake in than he does about a very personal one. Then, he seems to forget what his mission is at times, and either tempts Death, or causes unnecessary obstacles for himself because he can’t keep his mouth shut.
Resident Evil 8: Village could have been an outstanding title. It’s fun, the second quarter is downright horrifying, and each boss fight is unique. Unfortunately, the many plot holes, poor scriptwriting and voice acting, and the overall shift of the second half all throw off its trajectory, and it just misses the mark. Even still, as far as the horror genre is concerned, this may be the best title all year. The exquisite first half makes the experience well worth the time.
The Bottom Line
Despite its flaws, Resident Evil 8: Village offers a fabulous horror experience that fans will enjoy.