The classic madness of Resident Evil Village
FULL SPOILERS FOR RESIDENT EVIL VILLAGE FOLLOW. THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING.
It's downright charming just how old-school the Resident Evil series continues to be. No matter what kind of advanced technology is used to cultivate the latest instalment of Capcom's seminal series, you can rest assured that fidelity is going to go out the window for the final act. And, indeed, by the time I found myself riding a home-made tank and blasting away at a giant psychokinetic scrap metal kaiju, it felt just like coming home.
2017's Resident Evil 7: Biohazard shifted the series into first-person, but didn't really change things up much beyond that, despite marketing suggesting otherwise. It was still the same medallion-slotting, crest-finding, monster-blasting fun as ever. See, after the original fixed-camera Resis the series got all-actiony in a big way starting with Resident Evil 4. And Village is, very consciously, a throwback to that same title in quite a lot of ways. The pacing is exemplary, constantly seeing you move forward and seeing new areas, fighting new enemies and finding new weapons and items. Locations are stacked with optional stuff to find and do, including full mini-boss encounters that are completely missable.
Despite its full-tilt inorganic gamer's-game silliness and laudable amount of exploration, though, Village is pretty much completely linear and also having something of an identity crisis. It's certainly not to the extent that it harms the game - as noted, its variety of locations are to its credit - but it is a little strange in the way that things play out. Your first port of call is trailer standout Lady Dimetrescu's castle, which is a fairly traditional Resi experience as you puzzle your way through its halls while being stalked by a trio of invincible vampiresses. None of it is especially taxing but it's compelling stuff and claustrophobic enough to induce tension.
Next up is a visit to House Benvenito for the absolute best horror sequence in any Resident Evil game, ever, as you're stalked through the pitch black domicile, completely weaponless, by a horrifyingly distorted giant foetus creature that morbidly drags its umbilical cord behind it, cooing "da da" and laughing. It is, and I don't say this lightly, absolutely effing terrifying.
A shame, then, that it's followed by hideous mutant Moreau and his faintly banal visits to a nearly-empty mine (seriously, I was shocked how quickly I was in and out of that location) and a waterlogged area that saw me hitting switches to raised timed platforms while avoiding a giant man-eating fish. It wasn't bad, but it could have come right out of Resident Evil 6, and that's not ideal (as much as I appreciate that game's combat).
Finally, you face off with Bloodborne reject (and villain with some genuine laugh out loud dialogue) Heisenberg as you battle through an enormous, multi-floor factory. Here the game's combat goes into overdrive as the priority shifts from exploration to precision shooting - the Soldat enemies must be shot in their conspicuous glowing red weak spots. This culminates in the final, ludicrous tank battle, as mentioned above, which definitely delivers next-gen visual spectacle while still being something lifted straight from any given prior action Resi.
There's more, but I'll stop there. Resident Evil Village, despite being extremely erratic at times, is a real treat to play and the closest the series has come to recapturing the magic of Resident Evil 4. It's enough to make me wonder why they're bothering with an RE4 remake when Village kind of is one already.