(Illustration by J. Spencer Jr.)
For fans of the Resident Evil brand, like myself, this is an exciting time. The next all-new entry in the series, Resident Evil Village, is rapidly approaching its May 7th release date. Meanwhile, a remake of Resident Evil 4, arguably the biggest highlight in the franchise's 25-year history, is reportedly in development and on the way.
With survival horror on our minds, we're posing this simple question: Which upcoming Resident Evil game should fans and gamers be most excited for?
To work toward an answer, we'll break down everything known right now about both upcoming entries into this storied (and gory) bioweaponry saga.
Quick plug: You can learn plenty more about the history of Resident Evil and how it stacks up against the other iconic survivor horror showcase Silent Hill, in Chapter 15 of our book, VERSUS: 25 Head-to-Head Battles that Shaped the Evolution of Video Games. It's available to order right now in either paperback or ebook. Okay, onward.
Resident Evil Village vs. Resident Evil 4 Remake
In some ways, this is a philosophical debate. Are you more excited by that which is palpably close, or that which is distant enough to let the imagination run wild?
Resident Evil Village is basically a finished product. It's coming out in two months. We've seen multiple trailers and a bunch of gameplay footage. We know what the game will look like, how it will play, and – for the most part – who will be in it.
The Resident Evil 4 Remake is another situation entirely. It hasn't even officially been confirmed by Capcom, although there's no doubt it is in development. We know because details of turbulence and reshuffling behind the scenes have already trickled out. As a result, the game's release could still be two years away.
Whether or not you've been vibing with the past two RE-make projects (2 and 3), this next one figures to be in a class of its own. Resident Evil 4 was not only a pivotal game for Capcom's iconic franchise, but for video games at large, ushering in a new era of frenetic third-person action from an over-the-shoulder vantage.
RE Village or RE4? It's the new versus the best of the old. Let's examine these two contenders on their own merits.
(Illustration by J. Spencer Jr.)
Resident Evil Village: A Follow-Up on the RE7 Formula
Resident Evil 7 was an excellent game, and very much a return to form for the series. This RE-vival was a desperately needed after things completely spun off the rails in Resident Evil 6, which Destructoid's Jim Sterling (in one of my favorite video game reviews of all time) described as "a coward of a game, afraid to make its own individual mark in the industry and cravenly subscribing itself to every overplayed trope in the book."
By dropping the unbearable action-movie shtick of its predecessor and invoking the claustrophobic tension that defined early Resident Evil hits, this new installment completely RE-juvenated the franchise, harkening back to its roots and fittingly carrying the subtitle "Biohazard." (Biohazard was the Japanese name for the original Resident Evil, c. 1996.)
Resident Evil 7 brought an entirely new dimension of terror, partially due to the surrealistic graphics. It also helped that the game introduced a first-person perspective, immersing players in these vivid environments like never before.
Another novel aspect of RE7 was that, unlike past entries, its protagonist was not a highly trained tactical specialist, but a civilian.
Ethan Winters is an everyman – a software engineer who stumbles into a frightening situation and has to improvise his way out, awkwardly fumbling with lockpicks and shotguns. Here we see Resident Evil giving a nod to its rival in survival horror, Silent Hill. As I wrote of the original game's main character in Chapter 15 of VERSUS:
"Harry Mason was just a standard dude. This wasn’t a space marine commando, like Doom’s protagonist, nor a special operative deployed by Raccoon City PD. Harry runs out of breath quickly when running, and he can’t sustain many attacks. Shooting controls were intentionally made to feel unsteady, reflecting his lack of combat training. It all amounts to a spine-tingling experience."
RE7 managed to capture that sense of spine-tingliness, and Capcom is sticking with the same playbook in Village. Winters returns as the protagonist in a direct sequel that – from all indications – looks to follow an extremely similar formula, powered by the RE Engine.
A few fun facts to get you jazzed up about this upcoming release:
The producers of Resident Evil Village say it will be "much larger" than its predecessor. This is welcome news because, as enjoyable as RE7 was, it was definitely a quick journey, with the playthrough checking in at 8-10 hours.
Village will include an online multiplayer mode called Resident Evil RE:Verse, featuring deathmatch battles in which fallen players can come back from the dead as monsters. It's an intriguing concept but we're not holding our breaths after the firmly "meh" multiplayer offering in RE3's remake.
Asked about the game's title, Capcom's producers told Famitsu, "You could call the actual Village another character in the game, and we did that because we would like players to understand that." (via Kotaku).
Village's primary antagonist, Lady Dimitrescu, has garnered considerable fanfare after being featured in promo materials. She's described by art director Tomonori Takano as a "bewitching vampire" who stands 9-foot-6
(Image via @RE_Games on Twitter)
It's gonna be a good game. Maybe even a great game. But will Village be better than the revamp of the legendary title that – according to its own creators – inspired it?
Resident Evil 4 Remake: Reanimating a Classic
As mentioned earlier, Capcom hasn't even officially announced this game, much less shared any concrete details about it. But most people figured it would be on the way eventually, given the commercial success of the previous remakes, and its development has been a poorly-kept secret.
In April of 2020, VGC reported that the Resident Evil 4 Remake project was greenlit by Capcom, and was entering full production with a targeted release in 2022. More recently, VGC reported of the game's build being overhauled mid-flight, with the role of developer M-Two being scaled back as clashing visions for the project came to a head.
(Image via page 143 of VERSUS)
VGC's Andy Robinson explains that M-Two, a recently-formed company led by PlatinumGames founder Tatsuya Minami, "contributed to the development of 2020’s RE3 remake, with Minami taking on an executive producer role, but the start-up’s main purpose was always to lead the next, bigger remake, Resident Evil 4."
However, during a project review in late 2020, Capcom elected to change course. "It’s believed that the disagreements that led to M-Two’s reduced role involved the studio’s desire to stick faithfully to the template of the original Resident Evil 4, partly influenced by backlash to Resident Evil 3’s remake, which did not include significant portions of the original PlayStation game, much to fans’ disappointment," writes Robinson.
"Capcom’s production team, however, is said to prefer a direction which would see RE4’s remake inspired by the original, but with its own unique take on features, story elements and environments not necessarily confined to the blueprint of the original, similar to Resident Evil 2‘s use of Mr. X."
Without knowing much beyond these vague reports, it does sound like Capcom is of the right mind. M-Two's pivot in response to the reception of last year's Resident Evil 3 sounds reactive and off-base. In my opinion (and not only mine), that game was tainted more by its short length than lack of faithfulness to the source material.
The entire point of updating Resident Evil 2 and 3 is that the originals are now firmly outdated properties from the OG PlayStation. Those games' graphics, and much more so the controls, were in desperate need of modernizing.
Resident Evil 4, meanwhile, was a transformative breakthrough in the series, leaving behind the "human tank controls" and implementing a revolutionary scheme that became a paradigm.
In VERSUS, I reference an article written by Heather Alexandra for Kotaku, Resident Evil 4 Changed Action Games Forever. "I have friends who sometimes joke that we live in a post-Resident Evil 4 world," Heather wrote. "During the time Resident Evil 4 was released, the action genre had yet to completely find a way to fully integrate navigation of a game space and action within that space."
It's true. The up-close, behind-the-shoulder camera angle now standard in third-person action games was popularized by Resident Evil 4. And I gotta say, the controls and gameplay from the original version, first released on Nintendo GameCube back in 2005, still hold up pretty well. I know this because I recently played through the Nintendo Switch port, released in 2019 with minor resolution upgrades.
If the production team at Capcom felt compelled to lean further away from a part-and-parcel reproduction of the original, I commend them, and it enhances my excitement level for the remake. But I'm still both puzzled and pissed that we're not getting a CODE: Veronica remake first.
Resident Evil: Games of Future Past
The whole numbering system in the Resident Evil series is a bit arbitrary, as illustrated by the aforementioned CODE: Veronica not being a main-line entry. (Me? Bitter? Nahhh.)
Nonetheless, Resident Evil Village represents the eighth (VIII) numerical installment, as the logo so cleverly alludes, and that's a congruous milestone to align with an RE4 remake.
(Image Source: ResidentEvil.com)
The fun thing is that Capcom's Peter Fabiano has stated explicitly that Village draws direct inspiration from Resident Evil 4. No surprise; in RE lore, the word "village" has always been synonymous with RE4 and its decapitatious opening sequence. (No, "decapitatious" is not a word. But I'm inventing it to describe that part. That. Part.)
Suffice to say I'm damn excited to check out both of these games. But if I'm being honest, my excitement resides most with the Resident Evil 4 Remake and its mysterious allure.
Curiosity and intrigue, much like fear, are fueled best by the imagination.
In the words of H.P. Lovecraft, eternal master of horrifically beautiful prose: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
In Chapter 15 of VERSUS: 25 Battles that Shaped the Evolution of Video Games, we trace the survival horror genre back to its origins, when Capcom's Resident Evil and Konami's Silent Hill launched interactive terror into the mainstream. Read all about it by grabbing a copy in paperback or ebook form. Oh, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you never miss future posts on the blog!