The key to enjoying this game as much as possible is of making peace with the fact that
it’s a theme park. Be it through level design, resource management, or complexity in how to
handle fighting enemies, the prior eras of Resident Evil had a mechanics-first core. RE7’s real
defining shift as a new type of Resident Evil brought it into line with more modern AAA offerings:
lots of scripted sequences, a focus on atmosphere and immersion, and it fell on its face after the
first few hours ran out of ideas. Because it didn’t have anything other than its inventiveness and
spectacle, the second half attempts to rely on a mechanical foundation that just is not present
whatsoever, giving it an even more sour final note than prior RE games simply growing kind of
uninspired as they went on.
Resident Evil 8, or Resident Evil VIIIage, or Village, by comparison, shakes itself up
constantly with an insane amount of swagger. The castle is a streamlined take on the aesthetics
and labyrinthine nature of the Spencer mansion crossed with the looming physical presence of
Nemesis and Mr. X, and every section after it feels like an homage to another part of the series’
history with an understanding of the aesthetic and mechanical flourishes required to make them
pop out - with one standout sequence (that is going to be intensely divisive) taking inspiration
from the other big survival horror series instead.
However, each of these shifts is aware of the first-person take on the series, and they’re
all suitably grounded or amplified in their adaptation - the aforementioned homage has an
emphasis on running through a decaying environment, yes, but instead of it being a looping
descent into an unending hell it’s based on Resident Evil’s bedrock of backtracking through a
defined space. The village itself feels like a fusion of classic Silent Hill’s overworld with a very
RE4 outlook on what can be done with that space: it’s all linear, and you face each “dungeon” in
a set order, but you’re going through a physical space to get to each one and can take your time,
explore, fight some unique enemies, and get a scad of collectibles, treasure, and ammunition.
The Resident Evil 4 influences permeate the entire game to an obvious extent, but I think
the core combat mechanics probably could’ve stood to take more notes on it. Perhaps there’s
some tech to it that I don’t know that’ll make this something really special, but my and some
friends testing struggled to find any real interaction you can have with your enemies - staggers
are all you’re going to really get, and they seem to be a pure semi-random chance regardless of
where you attack them instead of having a 4 or 2make-esque limb damage system. Guarding
also has a shove attached to it now that lets you clear some space, but shooting is a pure
measure of bullets being poured into your enemies. This could allow for some reasonably tense
resource management if they didn’t also have RE4’s seemingly dynamic ammunition drops,
ensuring continual tension and assuring accuracy, but there’s no real penalty for fighting
everything in your path *or* running from everything.
Fighting enemies gets you more lei so you can upgrade your weapons more, but
regardless of the approach I took in any section I was always flush with cash. I think the shooting
is serviceable as a way to deliver a sense of tension and escalation, and it’s got enough enemy
and weapon variety to make RE7 feel even more half-baked, but it’s probably the mechanically
weakest RE game I’ve played yet.
However, this game is, as mentioned prior, a theme park. The level design, if viewed from
a strictly mechanical standpoint, is strongest in the castle or the factory, with even those being
fairly linear affairs. But Resident Evil 8 is far more concerned with delivering bombast and thrills
constantly and reliably, and every area is constantly delivering memorable dialogue, amazing
views, or a fun setpiece. The villains only get one chance to interact with each other and are
otherwise solely talking to Ethan, but their relationships are well-defined and their banter with the
protagonist is incredibly entertaining. RE8 is a funnier game than RE4, and accomplishing that
feat is almost as difficult as being a more mechanically solid game than RE4.
Ethan himself is also far more entertaining this time around for me, his deadpan manner
serving as even more excellent comic relief contrasted by his genuine passion for rescuing his
daughter fairly well. The ending is surprisingly heartfelt for this series, and a lot of that rests in
Ethan’s characterization being fairly competent.
The last hour, in general, I found pretty fantastic - definitely absurd, and it speedruns the
inevitable carcinization-esque series curse of continuously turning into DMC, but the sheer
spectacle of its events, the hysterical dialogue exchanges, and the genuine promise of its
post-credits sequence is only matched by the sheer insanity of whatever the fuck Resident Evil 9
is going to be. Definitely a mixed bag, and if you’re not into being wowed by insanely fucking good
visuals (I didn’t have anything too much to say about this game’s looks but it’s easily one of its
strongest points, I had half a gig of uncompressed screenshots after my first playthrough and I
think it eclipses REmake as my aesthetic favorite of the series) and crazy spectacle, probably
just stick to an older game. If you can rock with a theme park that takes you on a continually
inventive and unpredictable course through survival horror’s history, then welcome to the family.