As more and more tidbits of information, looks at gameplay, and tease-heavy trailers have been released for Resident Evil Village, the impression that it’s taking major cues from Resident Evil 4 has been growing. With a new in-depth look at the eighth mainline entry into the survival horror series, that’s never been more true.
Where Resident Evil 7 was a first-person horror game that seemed heavily inspired by the original, mansion-exploring Resident Evil from way back in 1996, Village borrows more from the action side of the franchise’s history–although it definitely still looks to pack the scares that made its predecessor so effective.
Capcom recently gave GameSpot a look at about an hour of gameplay footage for Resident Evil Village. We didn’t get to actually play, but we did get a very good sense of what an early portion of the game will be like. Essentially, if you can imagine the first-person intensity of Resident Evil 7, combined with the higher action and feeling of being overwhelmed of Resident Evil 4, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
The preview kicks off somewhere after the start of the game, with protagonist Ethan Winters waking up after what appears to be a car accident. He’s lying in the snow near the back of an overturned van; beside him is what looks like a dead soldier. At a guess, this seems like the aftermath of the scene we’ve seen in the Resident Evil Village trailers, where Chris Redfield and some masked goons shoot Ethan’s wife, Mia, and grab Ethan and his daughter. Ethan’s the only one who walks away from the crash, and as he heads out into the darkness, he starts to find his way into a ramshackle wood house with a trail of blood leading through it.
In this early scene, Village leans into the tight, oppressive atmosphere that characterized the Baker house of Resident Evil 7; it’s dark and crowded, and we hear strange banging coming from the floors above, although Ethan never sees anyone. Before long, he gets out of the building as first light starts to creep over the snowy landscape. Ethan follows a forest path until he comes out on a hill looking down into a valley, marked by a small village and a huge, looming castle. He makes his way down into the village, which immediately feels strangely empty and somewhat decrepit; the houses are old and poorly maintained, the yards and streets filled with garbage.
When Ethan slips into a house with an open door, he pushes past a curtain dividing one room from another and is nearly shot by an old man wielding a shotgun. Finally, we get a sense of where everyone is–they’re hiding. A vicious-sounding scream in the distance prompts the old man to shove a pistol into Ethan’s hands. The preview doesn’t show us exactly what happens to the old man, though: after a brief cut, we return to Ethan as he explores a nearby shed. The old man is gone and there’s a huge hole in the wall of his house.
Gee, I wonder what might have happened here.
We get an answer before long as Ethan hears a roar from outside while exploring another house. A werewolf-like creature crashes through the ceiling, slashing at Ethan’s face, but he fights it off with the pistol. Instantly, the whole house is being attacked, with clawed, furry arms reaching through boarded windows. Something’s trying to crash through the front door. They’re seemingly everywhere.
This early moment feels almost exactly like the iconic first encounter in Resident Evil 4, as players discover the European village that served as that game’s early setting and Los Ganados, the murderous townspeople that populate it. Like RE4 protagonist Leon Kenney before him, Ethan is besieged by weapon-wielding villagers, only these are wolf-people. You can make moves to help you survive, however, like pushing furniture in front of doors and windows to block them or shooting explosive barrels to take down multiple enemies at once–more Resident Evil 4 idea brought forward into Village.
Before he’s overwhelmed, Ethan climbs out a back window and makes a run for it, fighting off more creatures along the way. Some of them attack with just their claws; others carry torches or swords. While Village is clearly a bit more action-oriented than its immediate predecessor, Ethan still moves a bit slowly and has to square up to fire his weapon like in RE7, so expect a fair amount of close, intense encounters with enemies. More than once, enemies leaped onto Ethan and clawed away at him before he managed to kick them off. You can mitigate that damage by raising your hands or your weapon to block blows–just like in Resident Evil 7–and you’re unlikely to make many quick getaways in combat, it seems, so blocking to protect yourself is essential.
The fight continues to escalate, and after a while, it seems as though Ethan won’t make it. This becomes especially obvious when a bigger werewolf wielding a huge hammer enters the melee. Before it can finish Ethan off, church bells start to sound. All of the wolves hustle off toward the bells, leaving Ethan alone in the village. It’s another moment that echoes Resident Evil 4 almost exactly.
From there, Ethan continues to investigate the area. He comes across a shotgun, makes his way through more buildings, and smashes a few crates to find various items. In another page taken from RE4, Ethan has to keep an eye on his inventory–how items are placed in your box of goodies matters, and keeping it well-organized makes space for other items. You’ll also have opportunities to craft items from raw materials like in Resident Evil 7, combining items such as herbs and chem fluid to make first-aid medicine, or chem fluid and gunpowder to make ammunition.
Here we also start to see the kinds of puzzles Resident Evil has always been known for. Ethan finds a gate leading toward the castle, but it’s shut and locked. The gate is covered by a relief of a demon and a woman with their faces missing. Not far away in a small church, Ethan finds an altar that holds the Maiden Crest, the first of the two pieces that will complete the relief and open the gate.
The demo starts to hit a big story moment here as well, when Ethan discovers more survivors: a woman and her injured father. Earlier, Ethan heard a radio transmission directing him to the house of Luiza, where other survivors were holed up, so he helps the pair make their way to safety. At first, the villagers at Luiza’s are distrustful of Ethan, but they eventually let him and the others inside. Luiza and the other seem just as confused as Ethan that their village is overrun by monsters. Luiza tells him that someone called Mother Miranda has previously protected the village, but then monsters started to attack them without warning. The survivors say a creepy prayer–you might have heard it in the latest Resident Evil Village trailer–in hopes of regaining Mother Miranda’s protection.
Of course, this momentary bastion of safety quickly crumbles. Ethan escapes, having grabbed a key item–a screwdriver–which allows him to open up a small locked altar outside of the house and claim the second crest for the gate he passed earlier.
Before Ethan gets to the castle, however, he’s accosted by a tall, duster-wearing, bespectacled man. This apparently supernatural guy captures Ethan by slamming him with metal gears and objects, seemingly flinging them through the air with his mind like he’s Magneto. When Ethan comes to, the man is dragging him through a cave-like tunnel.
Here we see and Mother Miranda for the first time and learn this guy’s name: Heisenberg. He seems to be the big hammer-wielding werewolf that showed up earlier. He and Dimitrescu are subordinates to Mother Miranda, apparently. Miranda leaves Ethan to Heisenberg to deal with, but they don’t execute him. Instead, Ethan is tossed into the tunnels to try to survive as something of a show–but the preview footage doesn’t show us exactly what happens, and when we catch up with Ethan again, he’s back outside and standing in front of the castle’s entrance.
Here we get another big Resident Evil 4 moment when Ethan meets the Duke, a recurring character who serves as the game’s shopkeeper. You’ll find the Duke in multiple locations throughout Village, like RE4’s Merchant, and you can buy items from him in much the same way. He sells first-aid items, ammo, and weapons, as well as gun upgrades. You can also sell things to him, like small crystals Ethan finds throughout the game. As in RE4, there are vases, boxes, and other items to smash through all over Resident Evil Village, and it usually pays to check them to find ammo, items, money, and stuff you can eventually sell.
From here, Ethan enters the castle and we see a lot of the same rooms and locations that appeared in Resident Evil Village’s first demo, Maiden. At first, Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters, the black-clad women from Maiden, don’t seem to know Ethan is there–but it’s not long before they find him. As in Maiden, the daughters are particularly frightening as they chase Ethan around, taunting him before disappearing in a swarm of bugs, only to rematerialize and attack. Where the monsters in the village seemed to be werewolves, Dimitriscu and her daughters seem to be classical vampires, as best we can tell.
Ethan is captured and brought to Dimitrescu by her daughters. Again, they don’t kill him, but instead stab him through with hooks and hang him from the ceiling, departing to get their orders about what to do with him from Mother Miranda. The footage doesn’t show exactly what happens, but once again, Ethan escapes. He starts to explore the castle, and as we saw from the Maiden demo, it’s filled with locked doors that require some weird and esoteric solutions. One door has a relief of a woman missing an eye, which opens when you find a ring housing said eye and place it into the door. Another requires you to find several pieces of statues to replace them.
The castle feels a lot more like Resident Evil 7’s Baker house than the village portion of the preview. For much of the footage, Ethan is creeping around the castle, seemingly trying not to get found out. On more than one occasion, he opens a door or slips through a hole, only to find Lady Dimitrescu leaving through another door on the other side. Unlike moving through the Baker house, though, it doesn’t seem like you have to stealth your way through the castle–it’s more like that, at certain points, you might run into enemies, while most of these near-encounters with Dimitrescu are of the scripted variety.
Moving through the castle is still dangerous, though. Sometimes Ethan is attacked by the daughters, who seem more or less impervious to bullets; other times, Ethan might happen across a lower tier of enemy that’s similar to the werewolf creatures in the village area. At one point in the preview, these monsters even had wings, looking like gargoyles or half-bat creatures. Like the werewolves earlier on, though, they’re tough but killable with your conventional weapons, making them seem a lot like RE4’s Los Ganados.
While he explores a lot of the castle, including the cellar and other regions from Maiden, Ethan eventually runs afoul of Lady Dimitrescu. She’s not just a frightening presence for cutscenes–eventually, you’ll encounter her out in the castle’s foyer and she’ll go after you herself. Like the daughters, Lady Dimitrescu gives chase to Ethan. She threatens him with those huge claws we’ve seen in cutscenes, and she doesn’t seem too bothered by gunfire. Ethan’s advantage is that she’s generally a bit slow, especially because she has to duck low to get through doorways, so it seems you’ll be fleeing from Lady Dimitrescu when you encounter her, just like Jack Baker in RE7 or Mr. X in Resident Evil 2. The castle is laid out in such a way that you can circle back to certain locations through multiple pathways, though, so it’s possible to give Lady Dimitrescu the slip. The demo ended not long after as Ethan made his way to the highest parts of the castle, and we don’t know exactly what might happen between him and Lady Dimitrescu.
As you work through the castle, it seems you’ll be doing a lot of running as you search for Ethan’s daughter and try to find the objects you need to open doors and escape. So from what we’ve seen in about an hour of Resident Evil Village, the game is melding different aspects of the RE experience to put you up against different challenges. In the village area, expect heavy combat and fleeing from overwhelming force, using items like shelves and dressers to block doors–but like in RE4, those barricades are only ever temporary solutions during a fight.
In the castle, the situation seems much more tenuous. Fighting isn’t really on the table in most cases, and you’ll need to run away from enemies you can’t handle and try to find your way out of bad situations. There’s still combat in the castle section, especially once you get out into the courtyard or up into the parapets, and you’ll run into the lycan-like enemies from earlier in the game. But when it comes to Lady Dimitrescu, it feels like Resident Evil Village is channeling its predecessor and the other, more survival-horror-oriented entries in the series.
The most interesting thing about the preview footage, apart from its many obvious callbacks to and elements borrowed from Resident Evil 4, is this mixing of RE influences. It seems like, as you move through different areas in Village, you’ll be encountering different brands of the RE experiences, each with its own different emphasis. To some degree, that was true of RE7 as well, but Village looks to be putting that mixture of RE ideas forward even more in its philosophy. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see if that impression is borne out throughout all of Resident Evil Village.
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