Thursday, June 17, 2021

[1,000th Review!] Resident Evil Village (Multi) Review

Earlier this month, SuperPhillip Central celebrated its 13th anniversary. Today is another auspicious occasion to celebrate this anniversary month as SPC officially hits its 1,000th review, and boy, is it a big one! Resident Evil Village is the eighth installment of the premiere survival-horror franchise, and it reaches highs never before seen within the series. How high of highs? Let's find out together with this VERY special SPC review!

Come for the survival horror, slay for the action.

4 + 7 generally equals 11, but in the case of the Resident Evil series, if you take the action-packed survival horror elements of Resident Evil 4 and throw in the first-person perspective of Resident Evil 7, you get Resident Evil Village, the eighth numbered installment of the long-running horror game series. Village takes some of the highest highs of past Resident Evil games, adds some streamlining of features, and creates one hellish nightmare of a scenario for our unfortunate protagonist Ethan Winters to survive through. 

Ethan previously battled a family of benevolent backwoods psychopaths in Resident Evil 7 in order to save his wife, Mia. This time around in Resident Evil Village it's another member of his family that he must rescue--his baby daughter Rose. Mysteriously taken after one hell of a shock-to-the-system opening, Rose is somewhere in the titular village's boundaries, and it's up to Ethan to find and rescue her. Unfortunately for him, he'll have to deal with a litany of Lycans, ravenous human-like werewolf creatures, as well as contend with four lords who essentially rule over the village from their four corners. 

Where'd everyone go--bingo?

The village itself isn't just here as a backdrop for the story--nor is it just a way for Capcom to cleverly thrust the roman numeral VIII into the subtitle. No, the village is basically the hub of Resident Evil 8. Ethan returns to the sinister community constantly throughout his macabre adventure, and each time new areas open up, allowing him access to new locales inside. His first foray into the village is reminiscent of Resident Evil 4's, where Leon S. Kennedy was attacked by a cavalcade of grotesque creatures. Similarly, Ethan struggles to survive against the sheer numbers of Lycan that assault him from every corner of the map, and this nod to Resident Evil 4 made me quite giddy. Of course, Resident Evil Village isn't simply retreading old ground from past games to coyly tip its hat and wink at players, but at the same time there is a lot here that has similarities to past games only given a fresh new window dressing. 

As you can probably imagine, within these cornfields rest some unsavory monstrosities! 

For instance, the resident shopkeeper, the rotund Duke, serves as the man Ethan sells various found goods to, whether they be extra unneeded goods or better yet, the immense amount of treasure that the village contains. Oh, yes, the Duke will buy it for a high price, indeed! You can purchase all sorts of items and goods from the Duke, as well, such as additional storage in the series' trademark attach case, ammo, upgrades to Ethan's weapons, and a lot more. Hunted animals such as fish, chickens, goats, and pigs can have their meat used for cooking various dishes, offering new boosts to Ethan's health, guarding abilities, and speed. 

The Duke never fails to mysteriously appear when Ethan needs to do a little shopping. 

No doubt the Duke's goods are very much worthwhile, but they are also quite costly. Thus, the game actively encourages full exploration of its many nooks and crannies to seek out bags of money, as well as items and treasures to sell. Heck, I would have done so regardless since the level design offers so many entertaining puzzles to solve, secret sights to seek out, and places to plunder. It's always fun to find a glint in the environment, perfect for placing a shot or two at it to knock loose a hidden treasure like an invaluable gem or other treasure. Not only is surveying and exploring the environment worthwhile to nab collectibles and treasures, but it's also necessary for scavenging for ammo. You never want to enter a confrontation with a hungry Lycan without a clip in your handgun.

On the subject of scavenging, Ethan comes across lots of different crafting goods, such as gunpowder and metal scraps which can be combined into various ammo types. There's a bit of a strategy in crafting as well. Do you spend your scavenged goods to craft some handgun bullets, which while weaker are much more plentiful to craft, or do you spend materials on crafting more powerful explosives like mines or pipe bombs? The latter two are massively more potent to defeat Lycans, but you only get one shot with each! Perhaps instead of handgun or explosives you opt for rifle ammo, great for picking off foes safely from afar. These tactical crafting decisions can be the difference between successfully defeating an enemy horde or becoming a Lycan's lunch. 

These particular foes emerge out of the bloody water to spook and surprise attack poor Ethan.

One notable thing regarding enemies like Lycans is that when compared to Resident Evil 7, in Resident Evil Village, the enemy variety is incredibly high by comparison. It's always a thrill (whether a welcomed one or not depending on your preparedness) to encounter a new enemy type and to see what the game will throw at you next. From the Lycans that love to bite into Ethan's flesh, to late-game Soldats whose arms are at the ready with drills to plunge deep into Ethan's body, there are plenty of foreboding foes for Ethan to encounter and hopefully defeat. They require every trick and strategy available to survive their aggressive advances.

I'm "Lycan" the end to this particular encounter a lot! I bet Ethan is, too!

Resident Evil Village's most interesting enemies are of course the four lords. Each of their individual sections have incredible variety as well. My favorite was the very first, Castle Dimitrescu, owned and operated by the tall, vampiric Lady Dimitrescu herself. Not only was the area packed with areas to explore, but by the second half of the castle, Lady Dimitrescu stalks the halls in pure Mr. X fashion. As Ethan you must do your best to avoid getting caught by her painfully deadly extended claw as you desperately roam the castle searching for special key items that serve as the way out. 

Face to face and in the flesh with Lady Dimitescu.

Despite the first lord's area, Castle Dimitrescu, being my favorite, that isn't to say that the other three areas occupied by the lords were pushovers, not notable, or failed to entertain me. That couldn't be further from the truth. Whether exploring the flooded reservoir area or entering the insanely creepy and all-time horror highs of House Beneviento, there was something notable and enjoyable about every area in Resident Evil Village.

Castle Dimitrescu serves as my personal favorite locale among Resident Evil Village's
wide assortment of entertaining areas.

Starting off in Resident Evil Village, save for the opening Resident Evil 4-like skirmish, I only had to contend with a single Lycan at once, perhaps encountering multiple foes to eliminate at best. However, by the end of the game, hordes of enemies almost overwhelmed myself and poor Ethan, offering gameplay that felt less like a survivor-horror game and more like something from DOOM or Call of Duty. That said, there was always a feeling of dread while playing Village, despite these more action-intensive moments, especially in the hardest difficulty within Resident Evil 8, the Village of Shadows difficulty, where death's door is easily opened.

After completing the campaign of Resident Evil Village, all 10-11 hours I spent in that delightful hellhole, I was eager to return to the nightmarish place as Ethan. (Poor Ethan, but happy me!) A New Game+ option opens upon beating the game, carrying over all of your money, weapons, and inventory. Further, a bonus shop unlocks, allowing players to enjoy the always-lovely-and-fun Mercenaries Mode. There are also infinite ammo weapons to purchase--though these require a given weapon to be fully upgraded at the Duke's before the option is unlocked for that particular gun--as well as other bonuses like character models and such. The main point to take away here is that there's plenty more to partake in long after the initial credits roll in Resident Evil Village, and I wouldn't have it any other way with how fantastically enjoyable the game truly is. 

There's definitely a haunting beauty to be found within Resident Evil Village's many vistas.

Resident Evil Village looks phenomenal, regardless of what hardware you play it on. Whether last gen consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, or seeing the macabre graphical magnificence on display with the current gen PS5 and Xbox Series of consoles, Resident Evil Village is haunting in its beauty. Character models and the lighting in environments steal the show, but really, everything is so remarkably well done, save for incredibly minor frame-rate hitches that do noticeably happen during gameplay. However, these are so minor that they don't ruin the experience hardly at all. Meanwhile, the musical score is suitably dramatic, tense, and atmospheric. There's seldom anything you'll be humming, of course, but that's not the intention here. The soundtrack's intention is to spook and scare the player, bring out the tension of the game's various thrilling moments, and it no doubt succeeds masterfully at this. 

After the wonderful Monster Hunter Rise, Capcom concludes its 1-2 punch of excellent springtime software with one hell of a haymaker with Resident Evil Village. It's an almost perfect combination of action and survival horror elements, taking the best from past Resident Evil games, most notably Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7. Between the astounding assortment of villains in Village--some of the series' absolute best and most memorable--the wide range of awesome moments that stun and delight to the point that you'll want to replay them many times over, and a combo of gameplay and level design that stand head and shoulders above other modern games, Resident Evil Village reigns as one of the best installments of the series to date. One heck of an accomplishment, for sure, and one treasure of a game--one that the Duke would most certainly buy for a high price.

[SPC Says: A]

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