Resident Evil Village, set to be released May 7 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows will be continuing the same balancing act of new and classic elements that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard had. 2017’s RE7 managed to walk a fine line between refreshing changes to the series (first person perspective plus a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque setting), while also being a return to roots of sorts (gameplay focusing on conserving ammo and being outnumbered by enemies, shedding the Michael Bay-ish action flourishes of RE5 and RE6). Now Resident Evil Village aims to be a love letter to many elements of Resident Evil 4, while also bringing its own unique identity to the series. In two recent demos released by Capcom, Village and Castle (which were released in a brief window on April 17 and 24, respectively) , Village is looking to provide a balance between the sheer terror of 7 combined with the gothic settings of RE4.
Prior to the unveiling of Resident Evil Village, rumors were swirling around of a Resident Evil 4 remake, and in many ways Village makes a straight remake of 4 obsolete. The Resident Evil series has always cherry picked aspects of horror, sci-fi, and tokusatsu for its motifs and settings, and the latest game, Resident Evil Village, goes for an almost Hammer horror setting, as vampires and werewolves descend on an unspecified European setting. Village features a remote hamlet, where townspeople live in fear of Mother Miranda, her coterie of vampires, and a horde of blood thirsty werewolves which is not entirely dissimilar from RE4, which was also set in a remote village which has been beset by a vaguely aristocratic force that has turned the townspeople into monsters. Though Leon’s adventure in 4 felt more like a horror tinged Indiana Jones, with boulder chases, speed boats, and enormous set pieces. While Village certainly wants to go for a similar grand scale, as seen from some earlier trailers with mines full of werewolves and castles emerging from water, there is a pervading sense of horror and dread that specifically comes with things collapsing around the protagonist, Ethan White.
The first Village demo plops you in a town beset by werewolves, who are a bit more physically active than the zombies from earlier titles. You eventually make your way to a small band of survivors which is when things go VERY bad VERY quickly. This encounter is rather brief, but it does establish a mood that makes Village distinct from 4 and in line with 7. Most Resident Evil games involve the player protagonist being thrown into a situation where things are so far gone, that collapse pervades: the mansion in RE1 is already overrun with monsters and we never see much of Racoon City pre outbreak in 2 and 3. Village gives us this great scene of a small group of survivors, not hardened military type characters, huddled in a house with impending doom encroaching on them. We see first hand how nerves are being frayed and desperation is all these people have left. And just before their own nerves can snap, one of their own turns into a werewolf and slaughters the remaining survivors, leaving the player to escape from the house.
The second demo, Castle, is a bit more in line with familiar Resident Evil territory. We meet with The Duke, an extremely obese shopkeeper that makes Baron Harkonnen look svelte, who plays a more or less identical role to the RE4 shopkeeper, and lets the player upgrade their arsenal. The castle the demo lets you explore is the sort of sprawling, opulent surroundings that feels like a more baroque version of RE1’s Spencer Mansion. We are also introduced to two enemies: Bela, who is one of Lady Dimitrescu’s daughters/underlings who possess the ability to control insects, and unnamed creatures in robes with scythes and other bladed weapons. This segment really emphasizes the sort of Hammer Horror/British interpretation of middle European aristocratic villains with its secret passageways and dark dungeons, alternating between grandiose castle halls to cramped crawlspaces. It's a textbook haunted castle, but the game makes it work. Hopefully the full game can continue to deliver on this atmosphere and tension.
The final game will be released May 7, but for those of you that missed the Castle and Village demos on their initial release, they will be available again May 1 to May 9 on multiple platforms.