The internet might be going wild for Lady Dimitrescu, but Resident Evil Village has more to offer than big, sexy vampires.
The last few years have been kind to Resident Evil. As someone who predominantly grew up with the more action-oriented takes on the series, I always knew the seminal horror property as one well past its prime. But with some cracking remakes and Resident Evil 7 kicking off a new breed of smart and sensationally creepy new iterations of the series, Resi has fast reclaimed its throne as one of gaming’s must-play, flagship franchises.
Through two weekends-worth of PlayStation-exclusive demos for the eighth Resident Evil game, Capcom has shown no intention of ending this miraculous second wind. Set to officially launch on May 7, Resident Evil Village makes a damn good impression throughout its pair of 30-minute previews, once again unleashing a host of atmospheric scares, horrifying villains, and intense set-pieces.
It’s hard to get a read on exactly what the meat of Village’s experience will be like, but the two segments I’ve played so far are enough to convince me that Capcom is putting together something very special. Not only has the sequel found a healthier balance between fights and frights – something the franchise has long struggled with – but the world and characters of Village are perhaps the most intriguing I’ve seen the series conjure to date.
For those who haven’t caught the demos – or are waiting for it to hit PC, Xbox, and Stadia later this week – the preview is split into two parts. The first appears to take place early into the adventure, and sees returning protagonist Ethan Winters venture through the game’s titular village setting in search of his daughter.
It’s immediately clear that the unsettling tension that made Resident Evil 7 such a return to form for the series is still here in spades. Capcom knows how to set a scene, from ominous candle-lit shrines that illuminate the interiors of houses to the lightning-fast werewolf creatures that stalk you from afar. (Don’t worry, they don’t keep their distance for very long.) There’s such a compelling sense of building unease in this initial 20-minute section and it’s proof that Resident Evil Village isn’t ditching the reserved horror despite its heavier action focus.
The entire thing is capped off with an incredible final set-piece, establishing an eerie mystery while offering plenty of grotesque body horror and intense action. The section leaves more questions than answers, suggesting that this twisted tale will be filled with a healthy number of subversive twists and turns.
The second segment is the more revealing of the two, taking players to the castle of the internet’s favourite giant. And Lady Dimitrescu’s home is a much more typical Resident Evil setting. There’s an assortment of trademark escape-room-style puzzles, an array of ammo-filled vases to break, and a horde of walking corpses hanging out in the basement.
It’s here you’ll get the biggest taste of Village’s combat. While it’s still as frantic as Resident Evil 7, Ethan can now launch enemies back when they get too close and buff up his weapons to pack more of a punch. It hasn’t changed that much since the previous game (and the standard pistol is still as woefully weak) but the demo makes clear that Village will have a wider range of enemies and that’s far from a bad thing.
That’s not to say there aren’t some more powerful antagonists lurking throughout this section, however, with players coming face to face with Dimitrescu’s sadistic daughters. If these Mr-X-esque interactions serve to show anything, it’s that the game will focus as much on empowering you in combat as it will making you feel vulnerable in chases, as the teleporting witches shrug off bullets and force you to make split-second decisions while on the fly.
Like its final section, all of this hints towards Village shaping up to be a bold and brilliant new take on the Resident Evil franchise, offering grisly threats to face and tantalizing story beats to pursue.
Half the internet may be champing at the bit to be stomped on by Lady Dimitrescu, then, but it seems Resident Evil Village will have plenty more surprises up its sleeve for when they’re done with the Draculean dominatrix.