Resident Evil 8 Review: Streamlined Journey Through Shadow

SPOILER DISCLAIMER: The general review portions of this article will contain spoilers for up to the Factory segment

Let me make one thing clear: Resident Evil Village is 2021’s game of the year. That is not to say that it’s the best game that will come out this year, though it might be. What I mean to say that is that I find it almost unfeasible that any other game this year will conjure the kind of enthusiasm this game has inspired. This piece comprises three different reviews each done by a different writer for this site. The three of us were chomping at the bit when we sat down to talk about who was going to ultimately end up writing the review for the website, and so we decided it would be best for each of us to share our perspectives. In the horrors of that Village each of us found something so inspirational that we couldn’t leave our thoughts on it unsaid, such is the power of 2021’s game of the year.

Jre Best’s RE8 thoughts

I fucking love Resident Evil Village. That’s a bit bolder than I usually like to start my reviews but by far the most honest way I could have, because my admiration for this game is as raw as Ethan Winters hands. I became a Resident Evil fan early last year. I played through a large amount of the franchise and quickly fell in love with it. Right in time for the announcement of Resident Evil Village, which immediately became my most anticipated game of this year. This was a big deal because I’m the kind of game industry grump who begrudges having to say things like “most anticipated game of the year”. It’s rare I allow myself to get excited for a AAA games release and it’s even rarer that that excitement is rewarded. And while my joy is not so enrapturing that I would make the lethal mistake of thanking a corporation, I will say that I am so happy that it’s possible for a AAA video game to be released and for me as a customer to not feel like I’ve been the victim of some con job. 

Resident Evil Village picks up the story of Ethan Winters, the faceless protagonist of Resident Evil 7. After the traumatizing events of the last game Ethan, his wife Mia and their baby daughter Rose are living in a comfortable house in Europe provided to them by the BSAA and Chris Redfield. The family is living a tense but livable life until some paramilitary invades their house, shoots and kills Mia and kidnaps their daughter. A paramilitary team led by Chris Redfield? Ethan is abducted as well, and after a crash kills all of his abductors except our lucky main character, he sprints through a forest to find a village. He quickly finds it’s overrun with monsters and while they seem to share some tether to the horrors he saw in Louisiana years ago, these ones have an unmistakably more traditional bent to them. Yes this time Resident Evil is ditching the Cesar Romero and reaching back into its Criterion Collection because you’re going to be dealing with some of the most nightmarish versions of the universal monsters you’ve ever seen. 

That’s about as much plot as I’m giving but trust me when I say that you have not been told too much. This game’s story takes you for a ride as it is always switching between following traditional Resident Evil narrative traditions and gleefully breaking away from them throughout the whole game. Something that comes to define the whole experience is it’s winking self-awareness. It knows that you come to Resident Evil expecting certain things and takes joy from either meeting your expectations or using them against you. The game has a uniquely infectious tone which drives for a compromise between the camp and cheese that the series has a reputation for and the more straight faced games like Resident Evil 2 Remake attempt. Oddly the comparison I kept coming back to was Get Out, if every once in a while Get Out started daydreaming about how cool a new Castlevania reboot could be. This is the best story this franchise has ever told, with its balance of genuinely remarkable horror, delectable camp and surprisingly effective character writing, all capped off with a tremendously effective final narrative wrinkle. Just unexpectedly great stuff from cover to cover.

It’s time for a little self-flattery; I was able to write about this game for a whole 600 words before bringing up Resident Evil 4. Yes, as anyone will tell you, Village borrows heavily from Resident Evil 4; the vague European setting, the more combat focused gameplay, the transformation of a previously stoic character into a one liner spouting dork. It’s all very intentional and all very welcome though obviously the shift from Seven to Eight is not as radical as the one from Three to Four was. And these references are more than surface-level; one section in particular seems to be an extended nod towards an abandoned prototype of the GameCube classic. The importance of targeting limbs makes its return to the main series with you being able to knock weapons out of enemies hands and shoot projectiles they throw at you out of the air. A lot of the time in big fights the best thing to do is just shoot the enemies in their legs to stun them, though unfortunately Ethan is not skilled in the art of professional wrestling like Leon was. The game also has a way too charismatic shop owner who will sell you weapons for you to put in your Tetris inventory system.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the gameplay. I was worried that the more combat focused faster-paced action would clash badly with the more ponderous first person gameplay Seven introduced, especially since I found the combat in the last game to be by far its weakest element. But thankfully my fears were unfounded. The small gameplay tweaks mentioned above along with a few other things like more accurate weapons and a much wider selection of monsters to shoot, actually managed to capture a similar chaotic energy the firefights in Four we’re so famous for.

Ironically this time it’s the exploration that failed the game at times. The environments are so packed with small details that it can become very hard to find certain items. Thankfully the game has a similar map system to the Resident Evil remakes where it tells you whether you picked up all the items in a certain room or not. Where the problems come is that sometimes these items are hidden so well that I caught myself at multiple times in the game desperately rubbing poor Ethan’s nonexistent face across every inch of a room just hoping to find whatever I was missing. This was something I never really caught myself doing in Resident Evil 7 and while some might like how much of a scavenger hunt collecting some of these treasures and ammo might be I found it rather pace breaking. The last thing I have to say about the game play without actually giving away any spoilers is that I thought all the boss fights in this game were at worst very fun.

One of the best things about Resident Evil 8 is how replayable it is. Replayability has always been something this franchise has done well but this one’s short length and large amount of unlockable content makes it particularly easy to play into pulp. Story Arc’s own Platinum Princess Skeith did a whopping 5 playthroughs of this game to get 100% completion. So here is the completionist perspective on Resident Evil village.

Skeith’s RE8 thoughts

I loved Resident Evil 8! I’ve always been a more casual Resident Evil fan; sure I would play the games and joke around with friends about them, but I never truly loved any of them or felt a need to replay them. With Resident Evil 8 however, I managed to complete five entire playthroughs in the span of a week.

Something about this game just hit the right spots for me in a way that no prior Resident Evil game has. Maybe it was the aesthetics? The streamlined design? The tone? The plot itself? Or perhaps it was all those aspects working in tune. Let’s go over all of those so I can gush about every aspect of this game I loved.

Let’s start with the aesthetics. Very few locations in Resident Evil 8 are unique to the game. Many horror games have done what this game has done before. Heck over half of the game’s locations can be compared to Resident Evil 4 locations. However, if I may be bold, I think this game handles the feel of them better than Resident Evil 4.

Resident Evil 8’s locations all give off an otherworldly vibe. The titular village, although inspired by European towns, feels completely alien. Elevators will lead seemingly nowhere while you barely move on your map, a path down to a house will feel one way as you walk down it and then completely different when you walk back, and the and wind and the sound of the opening of doors makes you feel like you’re always being watched.

The stand out moment for the alien feeling of this world to me was the walk to the factory. Throughout the entire game snow and the color white are prominent. The only times without the color white being the dominant thing in view were when we were in Castle Dimitrescu or going through the mines. However, once we take the abnormally long elevator down to the factory area and walk across the bridge the screen is filled with an almost yellow tint, as if we’re looking at an old photo. This place is unnatural, it’s nothing like the village it’s supposedly attached to. It’s scary.

The sound design in the game is amazing. Like all RE Engine Resident Evil games, you’ll always feel on edge and suspect every little sound of being dangerous. The constant shuffling of enemies as they move around or the sound of claws scratching against the wall send shivers down the spine. Several of the game’s best scares come not from the visuals but the sounds you hear as you walk around.

Speaking of walks, that lets me transition into another thing this game does really well: streamlined design. This game’s level design is always pointing you in the correct direction. You end up moving from set piece to set piece collecting key items along the way. Whenever you pick up an item needed to solve a puzzle you’ll always be within a thirty second walk from where you need that item. 

Castle Dimitrescu does this well in a deceptive way. While Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters may come across as chasers similar to Mr. X in Resident Evil 2, treating them the same way will just end up frustrating you. You are not expected to run back to safe rooms to escape them, instead you are supposed to run to your goal or the nearest door you haven’t unlocked as soon as possible.

One great example of Lady Dimitrescu leading the player down the correct direction is when you pick up the Mask of Pleasure. She spawns in the room in front of the safe room and while you can break immersion and brute force past her into the room, the game instead wants you to go the other direction to the Iron Insignia door you haven’t unlocked yet for some treasure and go around. 

The moment that made me first notice and begin to appreciate this streamlined design came to me during Moreau’s section. After your first encounter with Moreau in the mine he begins to spawn his green goop  and you’re running away, you’re obviously going to go to the first exit you see, which leads you to a boat that is missing a key with a shack next to it. You’re then naturally gonna search the shack for the key and get a note saying it’s back at the mine. Then when you are back to the mine you see the path you came when you were running was in fact one of a two way split. Going down the other path of this split leads you to the key’s location. It’s simple, streamlined game design. The entire game is filled with set pieces like this. None of them feel unnatural and this design makes each section breeze by and never overstay their welcome. 

The game benefits from a second playthrough. There are several details that would just go unnoticed or forgotten by the player otherwise, like the music box in Ethan’s home or the Unborn Key’s symbol being scribbled in the basement of the house on the way to town. Going through these locations a second time made me appreciate the small details like this.

Chris Redfield steals this monkey doll too

A second playthrough also allows you to experience Resident Evil 8’s other side. While that first run keeps you on your toes and has you conserve the little ammo you have, future playthroughs that allow you to start with your fully upgraded weapons, surplus of ammo, and perhaps other bonus weapons you’ve unlocked allow you to transform this game from survival horror to complete action.

Being able to completely rush through areas that filled me with fear with a grenade launcher or an infinite ammo assault rifle filled me with a great sense of catharsis. A New Game+ run of the game only takes about three hours compared to the seven hours my first playthrough took. Future runs also add challenges to your pause menu to keep track of how fast you’ve killed each boss, how many of Lady Dimestecau’s windows you’ve broken, how many hidden goats you’ve found, and many more.

If I were to describe New Game+ runs of this game in a single word it would be “Arcade”. Resident Evil 8 may command your respect on a first playthrough, but any playthrough after that it gives you the respect of allowing you to treat the game however you want, if that’s the antithesis of horror then so be it, you can always just create a fresh save if you want that feeling again after all. 

The change to FPS gameplay in 7 and 8 is something I’m getting more used to and it seems Capcom is as well. There’s a lot of moments in the village sections where you can see things by looking a certain way or get the jump on enemies hiding on rooftops by being perceptive.

Mercenaries Mode in this game is fun, but feels half-baked. There are four stages with hard mode variants, these stages take my Doom comparison from earlier and roll with it. Running along corridors with a fully upgraded sniper rifle shooting whatever enemies are in your path to keep your combo going and seeing how high your score can go is extremely fun. However the low number of stages and there only being one character in a mode that traditionally has several characters for fanservice is disappointing.

Let’s go over some story things now. Protagonist Ethan Winters has gone through a Leon-esque transformation between Resident Evil 7 and 8. In the 7th game Ethan not only had very few lines of dialogue but the ones he did have were nothing more than the occasional statement of the obvious or shouting at the villains. In Resident Evil 8 Ethan is given a more defined personality, even if it’s very similar to the series’ other popular protagonist. Ethan always has something to say at any given moment in the game’s plot whether it be some sort of action movie one liner or a somber moment of expressing disbelief that he has to watch people die again. I don’t know anyone who loved Ethan in Resident Evil 7, but I know several people who either say Ethan is their favorite Resident Evil protagonist or at least equal with Leon after 8

The villains are mixed. Lady Dimitrescu and Heisenberg are obviously the highlights since the marketing was focused on them, they’re fun, eccentric, and their sections being the longest in the game give them plenty of room to shine. Angie and Moreau don’t have nearly as much going for them though. However their sections are just as good as the rest of the game. Angie’s section is especially great

I thoroughly loved this game from start to finish and I still have plenty to say about that finish, but that should be kept to the spoiler section. So for now I shall pass the baton to fellow writer Victiny

Victiny’s RE8 thoughts

     Resident Evil 8 is a really fascinating case study when it comes to horror in video games. Whereas RE7 embraced its newly found first person perspective to really approach the series’ terror roots (they dared to ask the question “what could we do to make the cheesy ceiling descent trope actually scary”, and to a point they succeeded.) RE8 has…very little of this. Rather than becoming a horror streamer reaction darling like RE7 was a few years ago, the game prefers to sweep away those halloween decoration cobwebs to name itself as a proper entry into the series, rather than the soft reboot some have called 7 before. This isn’t to say that the game lacks those moments entirely though. 

Beginning with House Dimitrescu, the player finds themselves encountering both the claustrophobic dungeon and well lit though eerily atmospheric castle itself. Interestingly, unlike the effective presence that the Tyrant was in both versions of RE2, the Lady of the house only has a brief period of actually tracking the player, and even then the scope is far more limited than Mr.X’s purview of the police station. I did find myself jumpscared by the nine foot colossus once or twice while playing, though seeing as there’s enough ammo to rival a light gun game I could easily stave off anything thrown at me. That’s also where these last few years of RE (which I dub “the PS4 era” consisting of the 2&3 game remakes and 7) have reached a sort of melding point in the gameplay. 8 essentially acts as a inheritor of elements of these games (the story/camera from 7, the tight spaces of 2, the ammo dump and action hero elements of 3) and seeks to carve out an identity of its own. 

Our Super Mario World 2 is House Beneviento, and I feel like this is where the big baby in the room should be addressed. This section has been heralded as “shockingly scary” for a game that generally has such even footing. It’s as if the game tells itself “the time for an action game is later, for now it’s time for the losing all your inventory trope, then a huge unkillable fetus will lumber towards you. Capcom you’ve done it again!”. The way this happens does not pause the momentum of the game though, rather I feel it heightens the games prior influences in a way that is unique to RE8. The progression is natural enough that this section never feels forced or out of place, instead it’s like greeting an old friend again of older RE games horror elements. That friend just happens to be an unholy spawn borne of the unconscious fears of parenthood (Lynch warned me about you!). Such is life. 

From there, Moreau’s wacky boating adventure has ties back not just to the PS4 era (namely the sewers of RE2), but also a section ripped straight from Resident Evil 4. The RE4 comparisons are unavoidable, though they do deserve a mention here since the two are so similar (and it isn’t fair to discount an entire game out of sheer spite for its popularity). The boating section is very similar to the Las Plagas fight that 4 had, and the village itself is reminiscent of the Ganado filled town that embodies RE4. This is proof that the game is the amalgam of every game in the series, as a contrast to RE7’s almost abandonment of action sequences that were the result of complaints following RE5/6. The question is though; is it scary? I think elements of horror exist in this section (the bubbling mass that is the Mine interior), though by this point in the game you’re so well versed in firearm combat (or if you’re insane, knife only combat) that the threats become a bit like you’re flowing through the motions.

Last section of the game (at least, in terms of expansive areas) is the factory of dear old Heisenberg. The little brother of Lady Dimitrescu has some nasty roboticisms waiting behind those four walls, though I’d argue that his biggest strength is the unintentional darkness of the area’s interior. Not in the sense of dark content, I just couldn’t see a damn thing! I’m not sure if it was a brightness issue on my end, but regardless I felt as though the reliance on the dark and cramped spaces actually hampered the scariness to a degree. Points also towards how the lab/factory is a mainstay of the series and with this game actually became scarier than it’s previous incarnations, though I also feel this coupled with Moreau’s mid to high section makes me feel as though the game is more front loaded than not, personally. 

From here we’ll transition to the spoiler section, the general portion of the review (which is to say the mechanics and the house leaders) is over. This next section covers the final boss, ending, and implications of the game’s conclusion. Turn back if you’re wary of being spoiled! (or just if you just want to experience the rest of the game yourself, it’s an amazing time that text alone will not justify in its atmosphere, sound design, and general vibe.)


Beyond this image is spoilers, if you wish to avoid then scroll to the next point where you see this image

Victiny’s finale thoughts

Then the finale comes in swinging. Starting with a classic Redfield extraction section, the game from here basically hands to the reins until the very end. With the final boss I could see clear inspirations of the previous games last encounters, though instead of a “shoot the big eyes and you win” button, it feels like a real fight and a struggle on Ethan Winters part. With this fight and the buildup throughout the 10ish hour runtime, RE8 stands up with the best the games have to offer, making for an experience that fans or newcomers can experience in a positive way. With playing the games however, one can appreciate the series growths and all of the call backs on the developers parts in between.

Skeith’s finale thoughts

The ending is so good! Starting off with a major subversion of expectations by not only having Ethan Winters fight Heisenberg in a mecha duel but then to have Ethan die and the protagonist position switch to Chris Redfield isn’t something any of us could have predicted in a million years, and that’s just the beginning of the insanity that is this game’s final hour! Once we transition to Chris the game switches from a survival horror where you conserve ammo to a full on action game where you have 400 ammo and a machine gun. This section is pure Chris Redfield fanservice right down to the BSAA from Resident Evil 5 showing up.

Then we get to the twist of the game, Ethan Winters has been dead since the intro of Resident Evil 7. He has been living mold this entire time. All those times when his hands would get hurt or cut off and he would just put them back on with healing juice? They all make sense now. I’m not usually one for meta things in gaming. However when games can take concepts we take for granted like health bars and make them part of the story I love it. Especially since the internet has latched onto jokes and articles about Ethan’s hands being constantly hurt. Making that a plot point is glorious.

Then we get to the final boss herself: Mother Miranda. Mother Miranda’s design looks like it was ripped straight out of a 90s JRPG, this is one of the most ridiculous moments in the entire RE franchise and that says a lot. I love it, I loved the entire game but this climax makes it stand out from the shadow of Resident Evil 4 in so many ways. 

It is safe to continue reading

Closing section

Skeith here to close things out, Resident Evil 8 is an amazing game and you should all play it. It’s a masterpiece that blends horror and action together flawlessly and finally sold me on the idea of First Person Resident Evil. All three of us agree Resident Evil 8 is easily going to be one of the best games released in 2021, topping it is going to be hard and I’m extremely curious as to where Capcom plans to take the series next.

Thank you for reaching the end of this extremely long review, we hope it was as engaging to read as RE8 was to play

Thank you for reading, if you would like to read another Horror game review Story Arc writer Naa did a review on Silent Hill 4

If you would like to read something else by me read my Prisma Illya analysis

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