Before we get into Resident Evil Village, let’s turn back the clock a little.
Dylan: Let me tell you a story about Resident Evil that I haven’t publicly shared before.
When Resident Evil came out on the PlayStation. I was 16, living at home, not working. It had taken all my guile, begging and trade-ins-at-Cash-Converters to build up the money for a PlayStation console, and thereafter I was left in a state of not being able to afford actual games for the thing. I pretty much played the Demo disc that came with it for about 400 hours in total. A local store (who will remain unnamed because of what I am about to confess) had started to hire out PS games and, being a new title, I excitedly rang them up, reserved a copy, and begged my Mum to drive me into town so that I could hire it.
When I got home and opened the hire copy, there were two discs in there, identical. I figured it was a dual-disc game, shrugged, and popped it in. Later that night, after filling my dacks from the dogs jumping through the Spencer Mansion’s hallway windows, I decided to give my heart a rest and popped the other disc in to see what it was. Cue my surprise to find that it was in fact a second copy of the game!
The store had mistakenly given me two copies.
Then a degenerate thought – perhaps I could just return one of the copies and see what happens. After all, my name was only tied to the one copy. How would they trace it back to me? Being 16, this seemed perfectly logical. I discussed it with my Mum, who was not keen on the idea of me committing $100 worth of theft. However, she left it up to me to decide what I wanted to do.
Suffice to say that, being 16, my sense of right and wrong in this situation leaned on the selfish side. I decided to keep one of the discs, returned the hire copy and waited to see if anything would come back on me. I figured if it did, I could feign innocence and just return the disc. All these years later, I wouldn’t even know where to find that disc, and to be honest there’s a measure of guilt that I’ve carried from doing what I did. But I’ve also never forgotten Resident Evil, and a large part of it comes down that experience. Every moment that I enjoyed the game after I ‘returned’ it was a boon, a gift of serendipity that I embraced gratefully. It allowed me to get hooked on Res Evil and planted the desire to stick with the franchise right through to present day.
Cue Resident Evil Village, a very decent continuation of Resident Evil 7 that features more than a little DNA from Resident Evil 4 (AKA probably the best one ever). A safe sequel, for sure, but also one that filled me with relief to play a big-budget, single-player game with no always-online bullshit, no co-op, no daily challenges (well, not for single player anyway), no reason to come up for air into the real world at all. How did you find your opening hours with the game, Barrie?
Barrie: My first few hours have reinforced my passion and enjoyment for the Resident Evil universe.
This love for all things R.E. is much more recent than yours Dylan, and doesn’t involve any petty crimes, that I know of. Back in the day I dabbled with Resident Evil on a mates PlayStation and again on PC but it never really grabbed me. Resident Evil 4 – Wii Edition was my defining moment. More because it was a technical masterpiece for the Wii over me wanting a Resident Evil game. Since then I have enjoyed a plethora of Resident Evil titles on Xbox, including re-releases of the early titles I missed.
So after eagerly devouring Resident Evil 2 and 3 in all their glory and having fond memories of Ethan Winters shenanigans at the Baker residence, I was pretty keen to get into the Village. Greeted with a quick recap of the outcomes in Resident Evil 7 you are then back in Ethan’s boots and living the happy life, for a moment anyway. This opening sequence really brings home the power of the latest generation of consoles. When you have online groups arguing what a baby should have in its cot and what is suitable attire for a baby to sleep in, all because of a game. Well, as a developer I would be pretty chuffed. It all looks that realistic. Except for the copious amount of wine in the Winters household. Then again, with their past I’d be a heavy drinker too.
Without spoiling anything, Resident Evil Village is not only a great sequel but a solid entry in the R.E. universe. One area in particular had me fully creeped out. It was fantastic! Like Dylan, I am always relieved to get my teeth into a solid single player game, with a pause button. Lets face it, life doesn’t stop just because a 3m tall vampire lady is stalking you. It looks stunning, the sound is great with all those horror cues you know to expect, and it plays beautifully. I must admit though, I am playing on Casual difficulty. My gaming time is limited enough without having to spend hours on tactics and game reloads after death. In saying that, all the major encounters have still been challenging enough but still remained fun.
My biggest regret with Resident Evil Village?
Reading the PR embargo notes before playing. There are some real WTF!?! moments in this game. So do yourself a favour and avoid any articles and reviews that might ruin the story for you. It truly is a engrossing journey told in true Resident Evil fashion. The atmosphere and jump scares are all there. If you haven’t already played Resident Evil 7 (included with Xbox Game Pass), I highly recommend it before embarking on your trip to the Village.
Hopefully Dylan is enjoying the Village as much as I am and hasn’t ‘filled his dacks’ on too many occasions. It is a game world I am lovingly exploring and totally enjoying. With only one area left (I think), I really am trying to enjoy the moment. Get amongst it people, it is educational. With Covid this may be the world of our future….
Dylan: I’m playing on normal difficulty and I can feel some background stuff in play.
For instance, when I took on the first boss, I was flailing a bit, wasting ammo and the game still made most of my shots land where they needed to go, even if I felt like my aim was a fair bit off. I’m also thinking that ammo is popping up as I need it, so I’m using my shotgun and sniper bullets as much as I can, with regular discoveries of those varieties in locked drawers and smashable objects.
There’s some excellent pacing at work, at least in the opening few hours. Short spurts of action and scares are followed by large chunks of just exploring spaces and working out environmental or object puzzles. The titular village becomes a space that you return to. With labyrinthine exploration that makes cool re-use of assets, further deepening the environmental storytelling. This feels like a recently abandoned place. With chunks taken out of doorways, furniture hastily pulled across entrances and meals abandoned on cookstoves. The survivors you meet are suitable creepy and evoke further mystery as you try to solve both what happened to the village and its surrounds. As well as discover the location of your missing child.
The highs and lows
Everything does feel a bit simplified, though, a bit like a My First Resident Evil. Puzzles are rarely taxing to the intellect, with solutions literally posted right beside the problems. It also doesn’t feel like there will be much replayability to what is already a fairly short story campaign. Thankfully, the Mercenaries mode returns, to build in some longevity. As players try for faster runs and higher scores, as well as requisite unlocks of crazy-arse weapons.
As the game progresses there is a clear sense that each of the main hubs was worked on by a different team. With the whole thing brought together at the end. This is fine, and probably quite necessary in today’s work-from-home world. The problem Village has is that none of the other areas are as impressive, involved or engaging as the first castle area.
There’s one vignette into a creepy doll house that is the scariest videogame sequence I’ve ever played. Every great moment is so short-lived, by the time you come to the finale. Such an action-packed encounter, it makes the beginning’s fraught and ammo-scarce survival pressure laughable. There’s the distinct sense that the team had problems in drawing a connected line through the whole experience. All this said, the series is onto a good path here. With dripping atmosphere, terrifying creatures and environmental design that is hauntingly beautiful.
I’m dead keen for RE9.