There are few video game franchises that we’ll go out of our way to drop everything we’re currently doing, in order to play the latest and greatest release. Sorry, not sorry Alundra! Usually, it’s a combination of deep-seated nostalgia and burning curiosity to see what those crafty devs will do next with our most cherished intellectual properties that twists our rubber arms, and you know what, we’re OK with that! Not to say we haven’t been burned in the past because of our tendency to throw caution to the wind, but part of being a devoted fan is only remembering the good things. That’s what we try to convince ourselves anyway!
Now, we don’t typically cover big triple A titles too often because you can’t throw a rock without hitting ten different people’s opinions, but Resident Evil is just one of those series. With that said, and with Resident Evil Village fresh off the presses, our most recent obsession had us inspired to think deeply. I mean, as deeply as is required to reconcile the idea of reattaching a severed hand with rubbing alcohol.
However, will our ironclad devotion to the series be betrayed by Capcom’s persistence at changing things up, or will their new RE concoction blend into a beautiful melody of survival horror bliss?
As much hate as I hold in my heart for the tank controls of the first Resident Evil games in the franchise, that’s how much love I have for the later titles. RE 4 and up, plus the remakes are some of my favorite survival horror titles in the biz and I honestly haven’t been disappointed by one yet.
I really enjoyed the divergent path that VII seemed to take. It had plenty of the well loved Resident Evil mechanics, but some fresh new material to work with as well. Plenty of spooky, gritty horror to haunt my dreams. I may have been a RE late bloomer but I remember eagerly ripping off the plastic when VII came in the mail on release day despite how “different” I was prepared for it to be.
The excitement swirling around VIII’s release was no different in this house. Big Lady day, as we affectionately called release day, couldn’t come fast enough. Though we don’t typically write reviews for AAA games we had to make an exception for our beloved Resident Evil.
I’m sure at some point I’ve mentioned it before, but as I get older I tend to enjoy repeating myself – so I’m right on task! The original Resident Evil was THE game that made me fall in love with horror as a genre, especially in video game form. I loved the terror games like it instilled, purely through the fact that you are the one controlling the character on screen. It wasn’t only that though, Resident Evil had a way of guiding you through its environments by way of solving puzzles, that I found truly engaging! I mean, you fought zombies and mutated monstrosities as well, but that always felt like an obstacle you needed to circumvent, rather than a core focus of the game.
Over the years Resident Evil has evolved, with some having a bigger focus on action, and others a bigger focus on its horror roots, but it has always been a franchise I came back to. With the biggest leap happening in recent years with the move to a first person perspective in Resident Evil VII. I was hesitant at first, but after playing it I was hooked and now with RE VIII in our hands I was excited (and once again hesitant) to see what changes, improvements, and possible back-steps Capcom made with my survival horror comfort food.
As a follow up to Resident Evil VII, Resident Evil Village more than holds up! What RE VII did to bring Resident Evil back to the survival horror limelight, with its gritty atmosphere and focus on tense close quarters encounters, RE VIII did to bring Resident Evil back to its heyday of puzzle based exploration, larger than life narratives, and a focus on replayability. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Resident Evil Village is a culmination of some of the best, and my favorite parts of the franchise. Right down to the tree trunk armed Chris Redfield.
Now, some people may be wary when it comes to the game’s departure from zombie-like enemies, or the more gothic aesthetics, but I can reassure you that if anything it was a breath of fresh air for the series. I mean, you’ll still fight the odd mutant or two, and even zombies, but because we’re also running into werewolves and vampires, we’re presented with exciting new “What the heck?!” moments that the series has been missing for a long time.
On top of it all, Resident Evil has never felt better to play, nor has it been so gorgeous! Every little detail in the environments are stunning, and the first person perspective really makes it feel like you’re immersed in the world. Which when it comes to a horror game, means the intense moments feel that much more, well… intense! The gameplay on the other hand compliments that with its smooth controls and satisfying gunplay.
Heck to the yes it holds up. It’s like they took all the best bits of the franchise and rolled them into one game. There’s emblem doors, lockpicks, an inventory suitcase, and a creepy merchant. What more could you want really? Sure the viewpoint is now first person instead of over the shoulder, but personally I think that suits the persona they were trying to go with when they landed on Ethan Winters as a new main character. Pretty hard to remain a faceless everyman if you have a face and body to look at right?
Even on casual difficulty the enemies could be bullet sponges at times, but the fact that we were given the ability to craft ammo eased the usual tension of having to be overly sparing with your bullets, which I was very appreciative of! So, that was new but it wasn’t something that bothered me by any means.
Gameplay wise I can’t say I have much to complain about really. The controls were solid and responsive, the game seemed well paced with lots of interesting things to collect and puzzle through, and all of the enemies and bosses were fun. However, and I don’t say this often, I found myself a little disappointed in how the story played out. The story ended with a lot of loose ends and I really worry that that’s just going to be the end of the Winters’ part in the narrative. As I mentioned earlier I know Ethan is meant to be a faceless everyman but then they really teased us with some depth of character. They teased us and then the game ended (insert sad face emoji). Maybe they will tie up some ends in DLC or the next game but for now I’m left feeling a little lackluster about how the story topped off.
Truly and honestly, even the best of games have room for improvements. I mean, we wouldn’t have sequels otherwise right? That said, I was having difficulty figuring out what it was that rubbed me the wrong way while playing Resident Evil Village. What I ultimately ended up on, was that I missed the gritty horror aspects of Resident Evil VII. Not to say RE VIII didn’t have some of that, but in comparison to its predecessor it was much more tame. It was more of a horror themed experience than it was a straight up “sleep with the lights on” kind of a situation.
Now, let me preface that with one thing – I don’t think it needs it. In fact, I think that Resident Evil Village as a whole was a fantastic and memorable experience. However, I do think it’s the one thing the franchise has been missing for a long time, and if nothing else, it would just make it that much better.
Nonetheless, what I absolutely loved about RE VIII, is exactly what I love about all of the Resident Evils – its large focus on replayability! I love exploring and finding all of the collectibles hidden throughout the world, I love unlocking concept art, new weapons, and 3D models, and I absolutely adore challenging myself by playing the highest difficulties and trying to beat it as quickly as possible! Ok, I think I found one thing I didn’t like about Resident Evil Village – they didn’t let me unlock costumes for Lady Dimitrescu!
We play a lot of single player games together in the Backlog Odyssey household, and I thought that Resident Evil VIII was great for passing the controller back and forth. Each story segment was nicely self contained, so once you encountered the boss, it was the perfect time to pass the baton. Also, horror games in general are great for playing with a loved one because then you get to experience both sides of playing a horror game. The passive side, where you get to witness second hand your partner’s reactions, and of course the interactive side, where you get to mash that button as fast as you can while waiting for the elevator to get the F down here!
As with most of the Resident Evil games RE VII is an excellent game to play “pass the controller” with a partner. There are nice definable areas so you know when to trade turns. There’s lots of puzzles to work through and more than enough collectables that an extra set of eyes is more than justifiable.
We always have a blast playing through anything this franchise blesses us with and even though this one seemed to take a much more serious story turn, we of course, still managed to insert our brand of unintelligible humor.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Resident Evil series is one that we’ll always be on board to play when a new one is released. However, we also think that even if you’re not a long time fan, or if you fell off the bandwagon long ago, Resident Evil VIII might just be the one to bring you back! It was fun and brought a lot of fresh ideas to the franchise, while also paying homage to what made the series great in the past.
If you want it to scare your pants off, that probably won’t happen, but if what you really want is an experience that balances puzzle solving, exploration, horror themes, and action with a deft hand, then we don’t think you can go wrong!