This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Resident Evil Village.
Weird question: how often would you say foreign objects get traumatically inserted into your body during an average week? Maybe once at most, and usually with your consent? Well, tell that to Ethan Winters, or as I've come to call him, "The Amazing Human Desk Tidy". It's seriously tarnishing his "average everyman in a crisis" image, the sheer amount of random sharp objects he gets stuck in him in the course of Resident Evil 7 and 8; by the end, it's just gotten silly! I know he doesn't ask for any of it, but you know what they say: if anyone you meet is an impalement weirdo, maybe the impalement weirdo is you.
At the start of Resident Evil Vilililililillage, Ethan "Unluckiest Chump in the Western Hemisphere" Winters is lounging around the house with his wife and baby, thinking his getting-impaled-on-things days are behind him, when, of all people, Chris Redfield bursts in, shoots Mrs. Winters dead, and kidnaps the baby. This, boys and girls, is what we call a "hook", but don't worry; it's like what they used to do with superhero comics where the cover shows Superman about to drop-kick a baby into a volcano or something to force you to buy the comic and discover, oh! Turns out, all along, it was a volcano-shaped sweet shop and it's the baby's birthday. So obviously, there's an explanation for Chris's actions, one that I feel he could've summarized to Ethan easily enough before or during the home invasion without having to beat him unconscious with a rifle butt. Chris just felt like being a real dick about it, for some reason; maybe he couldn't find a boulder to punch that morning.
Anyway, various other things go wrong, and Ethan gets trapped in a weird, isolated village of monsters and must rescue his baby daughter from the monster leaders. Now, Resident Evil has had its ups and downs, in my view: mainly downs, and specifically two ups - Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7 - and Vilililillage is best summarized as what you'd get at the exact midpoint between those two games. So, from 7, we have the first-person gameplay that, again, feels like we're piloting a refrigerator box balanced on a Roomba, as well as essentially the same plot beat-for-beat: Ethan gets toyed with by family of psychos, kills them one-by-one, discovers something near the end that ties it to the overarching Resident Evil story, the way one ties the leash of a perfectly satisfactory dog to the front of a combine harvester. The only difference is the acreage.
And from Resident Evil 4, we take the gothic B-movie vibe, inventory system, quirky merchant character and associated weapon upgrade mechanics, and basically the whole setting: isolated village in open-quotes "Europe". "Europe", eh? So somewhere between Manchester and Istanbul, then? "Hey, we should probably do something to seem like we're not just entirely copying RE4's homework!" "Hmmm... what's the exact opposite of a tiny castle-owning man?" "A giant castle-owning woman!" "Genius! Fish fingers all 'round." Yeah, sorry if you got into that whole meme that arose around Lady Dimitrescu, because whoops! She's only the boss of the first area; she dies, like, two hours in, and then it's back to fantasizing about your high school French teacher in a milkmaid outfit.
So I find myself disappointed by Vililililillage; on broad analysis, at least. The moment-to-moment combat is sufficiently weighty and brutal, although I would say the difficulty feels a bit low on standard level; I somehow never ran out of ammo or items, and yet, simultaneously, never ran low on inventory space. Testament, perhaps, to Ethan Winters' dad-level suitcase-packing ability. But consider it recommended if all you want is another ten hours of Resident Evil-brand distraction to kill time before you collect your "Most Discerning Motherfucker in the Universe" award, but I was hoping for more. "Yahtzee, Resident Evil 4 and 7 were your two highlights of the series! Surely, a game that combines them must be everything you'd want, right?" WRONG! Dirty boy! No mummy milkies for you!
First of all, it's hard to appreciate the creativity on display when so many of its moments and mechanics are copied beat-for-beat from its two main influences, but more importantly, 4 and 7 were good for different reasons: 4 was amusingly camp and action-focused and grand in scope, but 7 was survival-focused and benefitted from a narrowing of scope that made it effectively unnerving; 8, as a result, is a severely mixed bag. How mixed? Put it like this: there was a moment in Vililillage that was the most genuinely terrifying horror experience I've had in a video game for a very long time; there is another moment, sometime later, where you're in a dreary, repetitive industrial environment fighting cyborgs, and it's about as scary and exciting as trying to squeeze past a Borg cosplayer on a narrow staircase, and when I say "moment", I mean about an hour.
This is part of the decline the game suffers after Mommy Milkies has spooged herself out of the game, and after the really effective horror part-- it's the bit in the dollhouse, alright?! I presume it's okay for a review to identify the bit it's praising. I don't know; you people cry "Spoilers!" if I so much as tell you Ethan Winters' inside leg measurement. Anyway, the point is, that's the peak, and there's only one way to go from a peak. The game's all over the place by the end; all the global conspiracy shit leaks in from the other games like brown urine from an overloaded nappy. There's a bit where we have to play as Chris Redfield, and it turns into a military shooter. I didn't even mention that the industrial area ends with Ethan Winters having to pilot a fucking mech suit with a chainsaw arm and an infinite gatling gun, and before you say that sounds cool, you predictable, mouth-breathing, Marvel movie-enjoying fucks, think of the start of RE7 when you're in a shed fighting off a crazy wife in her workout pumps, and how infinitely more effective it was than any of this nonsense.
The sinking feeling I got from Chris Redfield's appearance at the end of 7 has proved entirely justified: the way Vililillage shifts the story's focus to the stodgy old git towards the end feels like a misstep after the breath of fresh air that Ethan Winters has been to Resident Evil protagonists. "Oh boy, someone new, and human, and relatable, who we've not witnessed do something really embarrassing like 'be in Resident Evil 5’!" As a series, Resident Evil just can't seem to kick the habit; every now and again, it pulls its head out of its bum for one game, but just can't resist that wonderful butthole smell, and is six inches deep again by the sequel. So, of course, we discover how the events of the last two games tie into the fucking Umbrella Corporation, and there's a new bonkers global conspiracy to create monsters and sell them as weapons, because it's nice how guns straightforwardly murder whatever we point them at, but maybe if there was a chance your weapon could turn around and suck your eyeballs out, then that'd add enough je ne sais quoi to stand out in a competitive marketplace.
It's like Resident Evil is a restaurant that's been trying to sell octopus burgers, and no one fucking likes the octopus burgers 'cos they're slimy and weird and the eyeballs look like they're judging me, so then they bring out a nice burger with no octopus and it sells really well, and the managers all go, "Great! Now, how do we work the octopus back into this?" Forget about the fucking octopus! The octopus doesn't work; why do you always insist on pushing the octopus?! Are you trying to launder a marine life-smuggling enterprise?!
- An ordinary man pushed to the brink: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Did anyone else wonder why Ethan Winters was lounging around the house eating dinner in his outdoor hiking gear
- More like Piss Redfield