It’s early December and there’s a noticeable chill in the air. The days are growing shorter. Dead leaves cover the ground.
Halloween might be over, but the weather can still evoke spookiness. When Resident Evil: Village was originally released in May, with spring flowers in full bloom, I didn’t feel like playing the survival horror game. Now, as fall moves into winter, you better believe I do.
And, fortunately, I’m in good company, with 5 million copies of the game being snapped up worldwide by the end of October.
Set in a snow-covered European village, Resident Evil: Village once again stars Ethan Winters, protagonist of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. In the previous release, he was searching for his missing wife in Louisiana. This time, his luck isn’t much better and he has traveled to Eastern Europe to track down his kidnapped baby daughter. The latest installment draws heavily from 2005’s Resident Evil 4, considered by many fans to be the series’ best, but adds modern first-person, open-world game play. During Capcom’s 2020 Tokyo Game Show presentation, Resident Evil: Village director Morimasa Sato described the latest installment as “a horror movie that you can play.”
To be fair, previous Resident Evil games felt like horror games you could play to varying degrees, even if they’ve never simply been just frightening. In a recent interview with online game publication “Famitsu,” Sato was asked about the appeal of Resident Evil.
“They’re not just, ‘Oh, scary!’, and then they’re over, because there are frantic battles, puzzles to solve and hardships to overcome,” the director replied. “The essence of Resident Evil is how players grow internally through this process.” In other words, Resident Evil games aren’t only played on the screen, but also in your mind.
But what makes Resident Evil: Village stand out is the amount of freedom players are given. Enemies and the in-game world can be approached from different ways, and Capcom actually removed the number of baddies, giving them greater impact when they do show, and focusing more on the underlining feeling of dread. It’s easy to get lost in the game, looking for loot, and that’s why waiting until the weather cooled down has made the game feel all the more enjoyable.
Video games, like movies, are seasonal, with fall traditionally being the best release window with hopes of capitalizing on the holidays. COVID-19 has knocked everything out of whack and has interrupted development schedules. This could explain why a slew of video games will be released next January and February. Some of the games that I’ll buy early next year, I’ll set aside and play later in the year.
If the pace of the game’s sales are any guide, the majority of fans appear to be more than happy to play a new Resident Evil whenever a new release comes out. But just as you might be in the mood for certain types of food during particular seasons, Resident Evil: Village has scratched the autumn itch for something terrifying. The game doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares and, unlike the previous game, it’s not even really all that claustrophobic. In some parts of the game, you’re walking around outside during the day. In other times, you’re in well-lit rooms.
Naturally, there are the dungeon crawls, scrounging around in the dark and grotesque enemies crawling out of the dirt, but in this game, the horror is much more of a mood that’s set by the village itself. In that regard, it’s more reminiscent of a European style of horror than an American one — which makes sense considering the game’s setting. Capcom has said that it wants players to think of the village itself as a character. I would add that the weather — the snow, gray skies and even the setting sun — are as well. For me, it would be much harder to enter this world with blue skies and bees buzzing outside. I’m so glad I waited.
Resident Evil: Village is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC.
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