Warning: this article contains minor spoilers for Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village may technically be a direct follow-up to 2017’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, but at its core, it’s actually the spiritual sequel to Resident Evil 4. And it's the game that we’ve waited more than 15 years for.
Whereas RE7: Biohazard took clear inspiration from the original Resident Evil game, emulating the same sense of tight claustrophobia, Resident Evil Village returns to the mold of 2005’s much-loved iteration.
The comparison goes beyond the eerily similar location of a spooky European village and an imposing castle as well. Both games are almost identical tonally, and also share DNA in how they empower and unnerve the player.
Resident Evil 4 is undoubtedly a classic, not just of the survival horror genre but of video games as a medium. While it’s taken us longer than we probably all expected (not to mention a few failed attempts in the process, hello Resident Evil 5), Resident Evil Village is the sequel to Resident Evil 4 that we truly deserve.
I think I’ve heard this one before
The most striking, and immediately obvious, similarities between Village and RE4 can be spotted just by watching the game’s announcement trailer. Both games are centered around a sinister village, overshadowed by a foreboding castle.
After Village’s explosive opening cutscene, you’ll find yourself gingerly walking through a snow-blanketed European town bracing yourself for whatever bloodsoaked beasts are going to pop out at you. RE4’s opening is also, beat for beat, the same — minus the snow, of course.
In fact, the first big set-piece moment of both games is practically identical. In both Village and RE4, you get overwhelmed by a group of foes (lycans in Village, deformed villagers in RE4), and just as all hope seems lost a church bell rings out and your assailants quickly scarper. It's a clear homage.
Both games also feature a primary antagonist most memorable for their height. The towering Lady Dimitrescu in Village (Who Capcom have officially taken to calling Tall Vampire Lady) and Ramon Salazar in RE4, who takes after Napoleon in the height department.
Furthermore, both Village and RE4 feature a substantially large cast of villains. Rather than you contesting with a single main antagonist for the entire game, each act sees you being taunted and toyed with by a new menacing threat. The structural similarities are too hard to ignore.
Silly but still scary
The above mentioned similar locations and memorable villains include shared traits that have been apparent since Village was first announced. And now that I’ve had actual hands-on with the game, the identical tone is what really stands out to me.
RE4 is a modern classic that still holds up to this day (I played it for the first time in 2020, and still loved it). But let’s be real for a moment, it’s a ridiculously silly game. It's stuffed with cheesy lines and a central character who acts more confused than scared about the nightmare situation he’s stuck in.
Village definitely doesn’t commit to silliness quite as wholeheartedly, but the trait is most certainly present. Ethan reacts to werewolf attacks with little more than a nonplussed comment: “what is going on here.” And while trapped in the labyrinth-like Castle Dimitrescu, he seems barely fazed about the horrors going on around him.
For fans of pure horror, the tonal clash between genuine terror and deadpan humor might be offputting, but it’s a balance that many games in the Resident Evil franchise have attempted to strike (and plenty have failed at). Village and RE4 are two of the most successful at walking that delicate tight rope.
While RE7: Biohazard firmly brought the franchise back to its horror root, giving you a protagonist who was often defenseless and hopefully outmatched, Village gives you a new type of hero.
We learn in the introduction that Ethan has undergone military training since his traumatic experience with the Bakers, and it shows in Village. Throughout the game you are regularly so overwhelmed with ammo that it can feel more like playing a straight shooter than a survival horror — I frequently have 50+ pistol rounds at hand.
The same is very much true if RE4. Neither game is really about being hopelessly underpowered and having to scrape together whatever ammo or blunt weapon you can find to fend off the hordes of hideous creatures around the next corner. The scares in Village and RE4 come more from scripted moments and the oppressive atmosphere than tense enemy encounters.
This is also seen in the inclusion of a merchant in both games. The merchant allows you to buy upgrades and supplies at regular intervals. Though Village’s world is so generously sprinkled with ammo and healing items that you really don’t need to spend currency to obtain more than enough to see you through.
It’s hard for the player to feel agonizing desperation from an empty clip knowing that the shopkeep has an overstocked inventory of bullets for purchase. Of course, that’s not to say that Village’s brand of pulpy action isn’t greatly exhilarating. It most certainly is.
Learning from the best
Ultimately, Village taking so many cues from RE4 is a wonderful thing. After all, if there’s ever a game that’s worth cribbing some inspiration from, it’s one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved games of all time.
Village still manages to do enough to carve out its own unique identity, and it improves upon the template set out by RE4 in numerous ways (not least of all by ditching the escort missions), but the two games share plenty of DNA that players of both will undoubtedly appreciate.
Though let’s hope the next game in the series doesn’t take any cues from Resident Evil 6. That should be left firmly in the past.
Update: Speaking of Resident Evil 4, Capcom has confirmed the original game is being fully remade for next-gen hardware. Pus, the recent Capcom Showcase confirmed new Resident Evil 8 DLC. It's a good time to be a Resi fan.