Resident Evil is a name that has remained synonymous with the horror genre since its inception. While the series started off on a high note, with back-to-back hits and a few stumbles along the way, the series took a backseat after it failed to replicate the heights it had achieved with the more action-oriented Resident Evil 4, and despite their continued focus on more action-packed experiences, the series never managed to find its footing until Resident Evil VII.
AT A GLANCE
RELEASE DATE: 7 May, 2021
FINAL SCORE: 10/10
With Resident Evil VII, Capcom managed to revitalize the series with a new protagonist, Ethan Winters, and excellent use of first-person mechanics, delivering a phenomenal survival horror experience. It was exactly what the series needed, and now with Resident Evil VIII Village, Capcom takes the best of what the entire series has to offer, and builds on the foundation of Resident Evil VII, to deliver the best Resident Evil game to date.
Set three years after the incident in Dulvey, Lousiana, Ethan Winters and his wife Mia Winters have finally managed to leave behind the horrible events that occurred to them during Resident Evil 7.
The game starts off really strong with an excellent animation portraying a fable called the Village of Shadows and introducing us to Ethan’s and Mia’s daughter, Rose Winters. This momentary moment of tranquility is soon shattered with the arrival of Chris Redfield and his team, who promptly proceed to gun down Ethan’s wife and kidnap both him and his daughter. Things go further downhill when their convoy gets wrecked and Ethan awakens to find his daughter missing, stumbling across the main attraction of the game – the village.
I must say, Capcom’s marketing department has done a fantastic job of keeping things under wraps, and all those trailers that we got, barely scratched the surface of what the game has to offer.
The story instantly hooks you in, with mystery and intrigue, raising more and more questions in your mind while dangling the answers just out of reach. The story also constantly shifts around in tone and style, with these changes heavily impacting the narrative of that current section as well as the gameplay. It delivers its almost 10-hour narrative with excellent pacing, never outstaying its welcome and never managing to become stale. The characters are all well designed with enough depth and variety, the twists are also well done, and don’t feel like they’ve just been shoehorned in for the wtf? factor.
Resident Evil 8’s gameplay builds on the foundations laid by RE 7, but shifts towards a more action-oriented tone similar to Resident Evil 4. In ways, more than one, the game, in fact, ends up feeling like it’s a spiritual successor to 4, with a lot of returning mechanics. The game gives justification to this more offensive style of gameplay by stating early on that Ethan has been receiving military training.
This doesn’t mean that you can go full John Rambo on the enemies, but you have a lot of options available in order to dispatch them and the game often puts you in situations where you have to creatively dispatch hordes of enemies unless you want to offload your entire ammo reserve in just one encounter.
Resident Evil 8 is by no means a sandbox experience but it does allow you to deviate from the occasional path, and often main quests would lead to even more locations opening or a shortcut leading back to the hub of the village. The village is also chock full of secrets that reveal more background information to what is actually going on in the village as well as some back story for certain characters. You can also find treasures that are often locked behind riddles and puzzles. These treasures can then be sold to the duke, who performs the function of the merchant from Resident Evil 4.
The duke keeps a stock of various useful items including ammo and consumables, although it is always in a limited quantity. He can also upgrade your weapons, sell you new ones, new crafting recipes, and on top of that cook for you. Yes, Resident Evil 8 lets you cook food from ingredients you have to scavenge throughout the map. Ingredients are scarce and despite my regret at having to chase down Mr. Chuckles the chicken down the road, I really needed that health boost for some of the boss fights.
There’s quite a bit of backtracking involved but there’s almost always something new to see, and often places that you have already visited are populated with new types of enemies. Because of the excellent pacing of the story, the backtracking never really became irritating.
The combat in Resident Evil 8 feels tight and well balanced. Every gun has a satisfying kick to it, and the game constantly sprinkled just enough ammo around for me to pick up without my ammo reserves reaching too high of a number to make sure that ammo management is still required. This meant that the game constantly pushed me to be more creative in dispatching my enemies and often forced me to use rather rare items that I would normally horde in other games. Defeating enemies also rewarded me with items, so the game always nudged me towards a more aggressive path without really letting go of that survival horror aspect.
Part of the reason why the game never felt stagnant, aside from the story, is the excellent variation in level design and tone of the gameplay. One moment the game the game is stealth focused with occasional bursts of action, the next it turns into a psychological horror.
Once you’re done with the main story, you unlock a host of new features, including cheats, an extras shop, a new difficulty setting, and the star of the show – the Mercenaries mode. Making its long-awaited return, the mercenaries mode has you gunning down a set number of enemies while being on a time limit. The more enemies you can take down in a combo, the higher your score. Once you beat a stage, you can purchase new weapons ammo, and other supplies. You can also unlock powerful combat bonuses by hunting down blue orbs or increasing the timer by finding yellow ones.
Visuals, Audio and Technical Performance
Resident Evil VIII is a gorgeous game and even though some of the improvements are not marginally better than the recent entries in the franchise to utilize the RE Engine, it is still a very beautiful game. The first time you see castle Dimitrescu in the distance, or the foggy and dense fields of the village, you can’t help but look in wonder.
The world design of Resident Evil VIII is something worth applauding. Capcom has absolutely nailed the look and overall aesthetics of the Village and the surrounding locations. It feels dense and alive in a way, even though it is actually empty save your trustworthy merchant friend and the occasional bloodthirsty werewolf.
Even though the framerate is not all that stable at certain times, the visual candy on offer certainly makes up for it. Characters look and feel lifelike, with excellent facial expressions and details. Enemy variety is also noticeably better than the previous game, with a wide number of monstrosities that all look, and move differently.
The audio design is also excellent, with an admirable performance from the cast that helped bring the characters to life, even though I did find the occasional delivery of dialogue a bit cheesy. The soundtrack is also well designed and meshes well with environmental sounds, and depending on the situation adjusts itself with higher or lower tunes. The soundtrack deserves special praise for making me feel scared, when there was nothing around, and downright paranoid at times. The game mixes the soundtrack with ambient noise to create an excellent immersive experience, that manages to subtly drown itself during the heat of times while still being there at the back of your head.