Four years after a formidable Resident Evil VII Biohazard, which operated a return to the roots of Survival Horror, Capcom releases in the arena the 8th opus of its indestructible franchise. For a solid result, but imperfect.
The cult video game license resident Evil this year celebrates its 25 years, and almost as many games that have emerged. Resident Evil first of the name, in 1996, helped to lay the foundations of the genre Survival Horror. A mixture of exploration, action and thrills, the first part of the saga sold 2.75 million copies at the time.
Over the episodes, the Resident Evil saga explored different paths, variations of Gameplay, on the unchanging theme of horror. If the episodes follow each other, they do not look alike, and sometimes dare to break up: this was the case with the extraordinary Resident Evil 4, in 2005, which will stand out from previous opus by offering Gameplay with a handheld camera to accentuate the player’s feeling of immersion.
However, the more the saga progressed, the more the games became titles oriented above all on the action, with horrific elements, to the detriment of what makes the salt of a Survival Horror, that is to say a real feeling of vulnerability. A shift that angered many fans of the franchise, even with the 7.1 million copies sold of Resident Evil 5, the best-selling episode of the saga.
In 2017, the release of Resident Evil VII – Biohazard was precisely the occasion for Capcom make a 180 ° turn by returning to the basics of the Survival Horror and reinvent itself, the better to reconcile with its early audience. The result ? Fantastic, absolutely terrifying, and damn immersive: for the first time in the history of the Resident Evil saga, the game was fully in first person view, also reviving some form of sensory and visceral fear.
If we take the time to take this little step backwards, it is also to better underline the extent to which Capcom was expected when he announced his Resident Evil Village, the 8th canon of the franchise. Between a new upcoming film, thought of as a reboot, an animated series and another live on Netflix, the license is more alive than ever.
At a time when the saga recently passed the 100 million copies sold worldwide at the start of the year, the publisher is pulling out of his wallet a solid and very effective, hybrid episode, largely under the influence, but sometimes struggling to find their own identity. It’s also difficult to constantly reinvent yourself …
If you missed the start …
Although it is not necessary to have wrung out the previous component, it is more than strongly recommended to do so. Because this Resident Evil Village was conceived and conceived as a direct continuation of the previous opus.
Opening in the form of a very original macabre tale for children, whose superb visual approach, recalling the technique of Stop motion, is reminiscent of that of Henry Selick and his formidable Coraline or even that of a Tim Burton, RE Village begins its story three years after the dramatic events in Louisiana, which saw a new character, Ethan Winters, and his partner, Mia, grapple with the Bakers, a degenerate family living deep in the bayou.
Taking off to settle somewhere in Central Europe, the couple are trying to rebuild themselves and had the joy of having a little baby named … Rosemary (do you have the reference?!). But the traumas of their past experience have left their mark and still give rise to strong tensions between Ethan and his wife.
It was then that tragedy struck them again. Chris Redfield, one of the main characters of the Resident Evil series who made a cameo in the previous installment, bursts in again, shoots Mia, and takes little Rosemary with him and his team …
Stunned and taken aboard a van, Ethan wakes up concussed in the twilight, lost in the midst of the threatening woods. His path then leads him to a small hamlet, nestled in a wild valley, at the foot of an imposing castle which cuts out its disturbing silhouette in the distance in the mist …
We will unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on …) not say more about the scenario of the game. In sending the title, Capcom had conditioned the articles to a content restriction list; a list as long as a day without bread. So complicated to further develop the subject of the plot. And even if these embargoes were lifted at the time of the game’s release, on May 7, and a number of walkthroughs are already popping up on the sites, we will nevertheless remain faithful to these recommendations, if only to avoid you. spoil the pleasure of discovery.
The village, hub of adventure
The fact remains that this village, thought of as a hub from which Ethan explores the surroundings, has become the playground for creatures of a new type. Exit the zombie, make way for the lycanthropes who hunt in packs, tracking down the villagers who hide in what remains of their habitats. Strong, with sometimes unpredictable behavior, they give Ethan a hard time, at least within 2 hours of the start of the adventure.
If some purists have been able to chatter their teeth in front of this manifest absence of “old-fashioned” zombies, the fact remains that these enemies of a new kind, to name but these, bring new blood, if we dare say, in the license. More broadly, we also feel that the team behind Morimasa Sato, the Game Director of the game, imagined his bestiary and a large part of his characters by working with an illustrated manual on the knees of the tales and legends of Central Europe; like the one surrounding the witch Baba Yaga or the Boginka.
The first of these environments to explore is precisely that of Lady Dimitrescu’s imposing castle. Very charismatic character if there is one, imposing, and that Capcom did not hesitate to widely promote over the weeks before the release of his game. It was rather well seen, as this one remains in our eyes one of the most successful antagonists of this new adventure. Even if, alas, it is far from occupying a place as preponderant as suggested by the various trailers …
True video game of the fatal countess Elizabeth bathory, this one lives with her three daughters in a castle bathed in a macabre Gothic straight out of a production of Hammer. In a deliciously old-fashioned and deadly atmosphere, Ethan walks from the cellar to the attic (even the roof in fact …) this immense building, the exploration of which is modeled on the same principle as the architecture of the Bakers manor in the previous section. , which very often made the player go back to areas that unlocked as the plot progressed.
Bathed in a superb chiaroscuro, the different sections of the castle are a great pleasure to explore, while regularly flattering the retina with an acute sense of detail that commands respect. However, it is in outdoor environments that the RE Engine, the engine of the game, gives the best of itself. From the rocky outcrop lost in the mist of the house where Donna Beneviento (one of the antagonists) hides, on the outskirts of the gigantic Heisenberg landmark factory (already featured in a trailer), passing of course through the village , to name just a handful of examples, the game’s visual setting is splendid.
More action than raw terror
These semi-open environments, as successful as they are and justified from a scenario point of view, unfortunately also evacuate all the incredible feeling of claustrophobia present in Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, and by extension the feeling of fear and vulnerability which ensued, even though one felt Ethan Winters always at the mercy of his tormentors. In RE Village, never, or very little, this approach Survival is present, despite a few peaks in tension here and there.
The reason is also largely due to the choice of gameplay made by the development team. A very action-oriented gameplay in the main character, who also knows his acme in the very last third of the game (which we will obviously avoid spoiling), with an impressive arsenal and moreover improving, through ‘an enigmatic character regularly crossed, responding to the name of The Duke. There too, a reminiscence of Resident Evil 4…
A final third of the game which clearly appears as the least successful segment of this new chapter. It is all the more unfortunate that the arsenal that Ethan Winters carries around transforms almost a part of the game into a journey without real great danger. We have never been totally short of ammunition (manufactured or not), or even of care bottles. In “standard” difficulty mode, ie normal, you will need about 10h30 of play to navigate it quietly. We therefore suggest you, from the start of the adventure, to opt for the hard mode. It will already increase the challenge a little more.
If it will not have escaped your notice that the previous installment of Resident Evil clearly retains our preference, and despite the aforementioned reservations, this RE Village has real assets to showcase: a very solid production and technique, a staging that is sometimes inspired if not always original, he also rather skillfully closes the narrative arc woven around Ethan Winters, here are four years. It is therefore difficult to ignore this chapter and, in fine, to sulk his (real) pleasure.