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2021 Preview: Resident Evil Village looks like a spiritual successor to RE4
Resident Evil 7 laid great foundations with its change of direction, and Village has a chance to expand its ideas
Resident Evil refuses to let up, as Capcom prepares to hit us with its fourth major release in five years in 2021.
Village, aka Resident Evil 8, brings back the first-person perspective introduced in Resident Evil 7, with all the in-your-face jump scares that entails.
But if the claustrophobic rooms and corridors of 7 reminded us of the atmosphere in the very first game, Village could be more of a spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4, with that eerie village setting and what appear to be some frighteningly mobile enemies.
At this stage, Capcom is officially sticking to a ‘tentative’ 2021 release date, and has confirmed development for PC, PS5 and Series X. But Capcom has only said they’re ‘looking into’ PS4 and Xbox One versions, and clearly the focus is on the new tech. The game’s PS5 listing mentions ray tracing support and use of haptic feedback and adaptive triggers for more immersive traversal and gunplay.
As for what Village is about, we know the story continues from events in Resident Evil 7, with Ethan Winters once again the protagonist. Set some years after he escaped the horrors of the Baker house and telepathic bioweapon Eveline, it seems Ethan and wife Mia have managed to settle into a normal existence.
But in an alarming twist, series regular Chris Redfield turns up at their house, shoots Mia dead and kidnaps Ethan, transporting him to a spooky European village.
Has the heroic Chris gone bad? Is Mia really going to get offed so quickly? We’ve no idea, and Capcom will be keen to keep us guessing until we play the game. Chris helped save Ethan at the end of Resident Evil 7, as part of a Blue Umbrella task force aiming to destroy bioweapons.
So whether something has changed in him or his actions are part of a new Blue Umbrella mission remains to be seen. He’s certainly been made to look like a much darker presence in the game’s early trailers.
The other big mystery is the village itself, and the huge castle that looms behind. It’s these locations that most recreate the air of Resident Evil 4. From the little we’ve seen, the dilapidated state of the village houses hardly implies a thriving community, although some locals are still hanging around (including some kind of merchant).
But unlike Resident Evil 4 the populace don’t all appear to be crazed killers. If anything they’re afraid and in danger, relying on charms and magic rituals to keep a deadly threat at bay.
Indeed, footage so far has played heavily on a supernatural presence, through fairy tale legends, occult symbols and classic Gothic horror. The main adversaries look a lot like werewolves – half-man, half-animal pack hunters that chase over the snow-covered roofs to attack – while the castle may be home to a coven of vampiric witches.
Sure, there’s likely to be a scientific explanation for all this in the end, whether a mutating virus, parasite, fungus or something new. But we hope Village maintains the Victorian horror atmosphere as long as possible.
“With Sato involved, we hope that Village will have more of the memorable side stories we saw in Resident Evil 7 too. The found video tape sequences were one of its cleverest touches”
The game will probably also have plenty in common with Resident Evil 7, of course, using that first-person viewpoint to inflate tension as you tentatively push open doors, pull back curtains or descend stairs into dark basements, never knowing when something nasty is nearby.
But expect the village setting and agile enemies to make for a slightly more open-plan experience. Director Morimasa Sato, previously a writer on Resident Evil 7, has said there will be more freedom to experiment and find your own solutions this time.
With Sato involved, we hope that Village will have more of the memorable side stories we saw in Resident Evil 7 too. The found video tape sequences were one of its cleverest touches, briefly putting you in the shoes of characters who had likely already met an unpleasant end. Perhaps a similar effect could be produced here by letting us play as some of the villagers in flashback interludes.
There are a couple of other things we’d really welcome as well. After a rather slim showing from Resident Evil 3 Remake this year, we hope Village is a bit more substantial.
Recent games in the series have all felt just a little slight, and while we wouldn’t expect anything as lengthy as Resident Evil 4 these days, something in between would be nice. There have been rumours to that effect, so with any luck they turn out to be true. Resident Evil 7 laid great foundations with its change of direction, and Village is an opportunity to really flesh them out.
The other thing we want to see is VR support. This was implemented for PSVR in Resident Evil 7, boosting the fear factor to a whole new level, and would doubtless be a hugely impressive feature again.
There’s been no announcement so far though, and since there are no actual PS5 VR games yet, it may only happen if there’s a PS4 release. Depending on exclusivity issues, there’s also the possibility of bringing Village to other VR platforms, but nothing’s been said there either.
And, finally, while Ethan’s fine and all, surely at some point we’re going to get to play as Chris, right? It’s hard to believe he’ll be the bad guy for too long, and the series has a record of switching characters within a game, so perhaps we’ll learn what he’s up to through his perspective. Maybe even punch a rock or two. We’re looking forward to finding out.