With The Game Awards 2021 right around the corner, the race is tight for the ceremony's top honor: Game of the Year. Of the six nominees, one of the most popular games in the running is Resident Evil Village. Developed and published by Capcom, Village is the latest main installment in Capcom's long-running Resident Evil franchise and serves as a direct sequel to 2017's Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. By expanding the franchise further into immersive, first-person gameplay and effectively balancing its horror and action tones, Resident Evil Village should be considered as a clear frontrunner to win Game of the Year.
Picking up three years since the harrowing events of Biohazard, returning protagonist Ethan Winters and his wife Mia have since relocated to Eastern Europe and are raising their infant daughter, Rosemary. After Ethan's home is attacked by a strike force led by Chris Redfield, with Mia apparently executed by Chris before his eyes, Ethan must navigate a snowy, remote village for his missing daughter Rose.
This traumatic encounter puts Ethan on a collision course with the town's sinister matron guardian Mother Miranda and her four monstrous house lords. Finding the village already teeming with bloodthirsty monsters, Ethan will not only learn the secret history about this town, but the entire Resident Evil franchise.
Resident Evil Village refines the first-person gameplay and engine introduced by Biohazard, offering more intuitively accessible navigation and combat than its predecessor. Whereas Biohazard deliberately provided players with a claustrophobic, tension-fueled experience, Village veers more into horror-tinged action as Ethan is armed to the teeth with an entire arsenal to fight for survival. While Biohazard's enemy variety was woefully limited to the unhinged Baker family and mindlessly savage Molded, Village boasts myriad enemy types, with werewolves, vampires and mechanical monstrosities at every turn.
Perhaps Village's greatest strength is how deftly it balances its overall tone without compromising its haunting, unsettling atmosphere. In a lot of ways, Biohazard was a return to form for the survival horror sensibilities that made Resident Evil so popular with gamers in the first place, but it was perhaps a bit too scary for casual players.
In that respect, Village is much more accessible, playing out like a bonafide thrill ride. If Biohazard was the haunted house, Village is the rollercoaster. This isn't to say Village isn't terrifying in its own right -- a memorable sequence approximately halfway through the game settles that debate -- but its faster pacing and emphasis on action makes the proceedings a bit more inviting to the average gamer.
Resident Evil Village proves that, 25 years in, there is still plenty of life in the Resident Evil franchise, and a Game of the Year award would clinch this anniversary distinction. The perfect balance between action and horror makes this easily the best Resident Evil game this side of RE4, and Resident Evil Village deserves all the accolades it receives as it charts new ground for Capcom in the survival horror arena by delivering bloody thrills with aplomb.
Developed and published by Capcom, Resident Evil Village is available now for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC and Stadia. The Game Awards 2021 will be presented Dec. 9.
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