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[Review] Resident Evil: Village - Will Ya Be Buyin', Straaanger?!

As the eighth numbered entry within the Resident Evil series, Village picks up roughly three years after Ethan's nightmarish ordeal with the Baker family and promises a fresh new take on the series, but does it deliver?

Having survived the events of Resident Evil 7, we find ourselves back in control of Ethan, only now he has a family and the rest of his life to look forward to. That all changes however when series veteran Chris Redfield arrives, killing Mia and causing Ethan's whole world to turn upside down. With Ethan now devastated, heartbroken and furious over the actions of his former saviour, he sets out on his quest for revenge and is determined to find out why Chris did this to him.

Since enduring the events of Resident Evil 7, Ethan is a lot more resilient and combat-capable, and while you shouldn't go into this thinking Ethan too is now ready to punch boulders, the events of Resident Evil 8 will push our unlikely hero to his absolute limits in this freshly twisted nightmare of an adventure.

Keeping in line with all of our reviews here, I won't go into too much detail on the plot, but without spoilers there are plenty of twists and turns throughout Capcom's latest and while you won't be seeing more of the mainline characters here, this is once again primarily Ethan's adventure, and a journey in which he has not only the newly infected to deal with, but also his own personal Demons too.

If only all games were as picturesque as this!
Resident Evil 8 is an interesting game as it takes elements of RE7, the ideas of a remote Eastern-European village from RE4 and smashes them together into a semi-open world map where in true Resident Evil fashion you'll have to familiarise yourself with your surroundings, unlock shortcuts and find the necessary keys and puzzle solutions to progress.

While Village isn't too heavy on the survival mechanics, you'll still need resources to progress, so you'll want to collect all of the scrap metal, ammunition and treasure you can find. Worth noting, I usually play everything on hard difficulty, but with Village I wanted to experience the game as I'd imagine the majority of players would their first time through on standard difficulty.

Now, let me just say that the standard difficulty is still relatively scarce on the resource front and all it takes is one or two bad times with an encounter to empty you of most of your inventory, so you'll want to be extra careful on when to use your healing items, your favourite guns and explosives. Of course, having so many nods to the outstanding Resident Evil 4, it wouldn't be right if there was no mysterious, shady and hard to gauge merchant around to buy, sell and provide helpful information to you during the course of your journey.

"What are ya buyin'?" Reminds me of an old friend.
This time around however it's not the weirdly lovable "Merchant", but instead "The Duke" - a morbidly obese man with a smug and all-knowing demeanour who never seems to leave his merchant cart, and yet he's almost always where you need him the most.

Resident Evil 8 really rewards you for taking the time out to explore and you'll want to do this at every given opportunity, not just for the resources you'll find, but also because treasure and jewellery (alongside the crystallised remains of fallen enemies) are your main sources of income.

Some of these items are worth an absolute fortune, while others can be combined into much more expensive pieces of jewellery, all of which you should sell to The Duke.

So, what makes The Duke so important? Not only does The Duke buy almost anything you want to sell to him, he's also able to upgrade your weapons, sell you new, bigger, better and much more intimidating weapons, recipe's for crafting ammunition and explosives, the occasional selection of ammunition and your more personal character specific traits, such as increased health, faster movement speed and the ability to take much less damage from attacks while blocking (ps. you can now shoot while blocking). The inventory sorting system of RE4 also makes a return and all inventory space upgrades are done via The Duke. Needless to say, he's essential to your success and one of the main characters you'll be familiarising yourself with, but does he have the charm of the Merchant from RE4? Sadly not, but RE4's merchant isn't forgotten about and one comment in particular made by The Duke definitely brought a smile to my face.

The day the internet died of a broken heart.
One thing I should mention is that while Resident Evil 8 will 100% scare some of you out there, for me the series doesn't induce fear, but more suspense. That said, there's a fine blend of Action and Horror here, and while Village takes a lot of inspiration from RE4, this time around things are a lot more grounded, mature and serious in tone. There's almost no trace of the camp moments of RE4 as fights are now crazy, over the top and full on cinematic spectacles. Adding to the tension, you'll often find yourselves low on resources (even after conserving them) and when the next encounter does eventually come along and catch you off guard (because believe me, it will), you'd better have a decent amount of ammo left for your favourite weapon, otherwise you'll have to adapt to the situation, using whatever you have to hand. My personal favourites were the Tactical Shotgun and Sniper Rifle.

Capcom very kindly sent us the PS5 Digital Deluxe Edition of the game which includes Village, the multiplayer only Re: Verse (more on that here, though it's been delayed to an unspecified date this summer), the Trauma Pack (Wesker's Samurai Edge model AW-01, RE7 found footage, RE7 tape recorder save points and safe room music, the Mr Everywhere Weapon Charm, The Baker Incident Report, The Tragedy of Ethan Winters artwork and the Village of Shadows difficulty), plus the Mr Racoon Weapon Charm and Survival Resources Pack that were exclusive to pre-orders. Gameplay changes such as camera filters and the RE7 Tape Recorder save points can be turned on or off from the main menu, though I didn't find a way to switch which weapon the Weapon Charms were attached to.

During my 11 hour run through the campaign, I couldn't help but stop to take in the surrounding visuals. Whether admiring your surroundings, the seductively twisted Vampire sisters, the internets favourite 9ft Lady Dimitrescu, the monstrous character transformations or even the weapon effects, Resident Evil 8 is an outstandingly beautiful game to look at, and with how polished everything feels, it's clear to me that a lot of love, sweat, tears and determination went into the development of this game.

Honestly, I'm so in awe of her beauty I'd be a lamb to the slaughter.
With so many standout and unique buildings, you'll also find navigating the map an absolute breeze - even more so once you start unlocking the many shortcuts within the game, but if for some reason you struggle a little to gather your bearings, the area map does a pretty good job of showing you where you are and where you need to go. My only issue with this is once you reach a certain part in the game, you're no longer able to go back to Castle Dimitrescu, so by the time I was given a treasure map it was sadly too late to go back into the Castle to grab what I'd missed. Still, that's something to grab on a second playthrough.

That said, there's actually a good amount of reasons to replay the game. If you're like me and love to grab all trophies/achievements for your favourite games, there are a ton of challenges you may have missed during your first run which include killing a certain number of enemies within a certain time limit, killing specific enemies during your first encounter with them and so much more, all accessible within the title menu. On top of this you'll find yourselves searching for and hunting down the many Goat statues (Goats of Warding) dotted around the map, and when you're done with them, you can go back and search for all of the items/treasure you may have missed, made easier to find by the colour coded status of each area (red means there are still items to be found, while blue means you've cleared the area). Completing challenges gives you points which can be spent within the main title menu on new weapons for Ethan, character models and a whole ton of concept art (including concept images of Ada Wong, who was originally planned to show up at some point before being cut from the script).

Once you've had your fun with the main campaign, you may wish to test your skills once more in the fan-favourite Mercenaries mode, which Capcom have included at no extra cost (regardless of whichever version of Village you decide to purchase).

This is gameplay. The lighting in Village is incredible!
Having been lucky enough to get my hands on a PS5 at standard retail price only weeks before Resident Evil 8's release, the DualSense is definitely a step up from the old Dual Shock 4, though so far my feelings on it have been mixed. I love the Adaptive Triggers but really didn't think much of the Haptic Feedback. The point being, in RE8, switching weapons and sometimes turning on the spot triggers vibration under the d-pad, only the vibration sounds and feels more like scraping than anything else. RE8 makes great use of the Adaptive Triggers throughout the campaign, with each weapon having been tweaked enough with the controller sensitivity to truly feel unique, but it wasn't until very late in the campaign where I truly felt RE8 utilise the controller functions to their best ability.

Without spoilers, when firing a very specific Heavy Machine Gun, both the Haptic Feedback and Adaptive Triggers work in tandem to recreate what I can only describe as the feeling you get from recoiling guns at the arcades. In the grand scheme of things, while this isn't a must-have feature, it definitely added to the experience and made an already impressively cinematic fight that much more enjoyable and aided in delivering one of my most entertaining experiences yet.

Overall, there's certainly a lot to love in Capcom's latest Resident Evil title and while it's not perfect, it does a fantastic job at pulling you into the unknown with its mysterious plot, creepy Gothic setting, haunting environments, deeply satisfying character/creature design and melancholic sound design. There's a lot to be said about a game that has this much quality content and while it would have been nice to have had a slightly longer campaign to play through, the pacing is good and once you reach the inevitable end, it doesn't feel too short or too long. It's just right and I cannot wait to see what Capcom have in store for us next!

Great Game! is the second highest rating we award and is reserved
for great titles that still have a little room for improvement.

Resident Evil Village (8) is out now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Google Stadia and Microsoft Windows and is available for purchase at all major retailers.

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