How 'Resident Evil VIII' Could Move Beyond Zombie Horror

'Village' offers the series a chance to revitalize classic monsters like werewolves and vampires in the same way it did for the undead in 1996.
'Village' offers the series a chance to revitalize classic monsters like werewolves and vampires in the same way it did for the undead in 1996.

When it comes to Resident Evil we’ve seen zombies, Tyrants, Nemeses, Las Plagas, the Baker Family and a range of alphabetized viruses. We’ve seen what the series has had to offer, and have familiarized ourselves with evils born of the Umbrella Corporation. But we’ve never seen anything like Resident Evil VIII: Village. Announced during Sony’s PlayStation 5 presentation Thursday, Village looks to break new ground, literally, within the Resident Evil franchise, just in time for the survival horror franchise’s 25th anniversary. Not only does the latest game boast a new setting, a snowy village in what appears to be Europe, the trailer also showcases the return of a familiar face, new enemy types, and most surprising of all: werewolves.

Resident Evil VII: Biohazard gave the long-running series the push forward it needed. It’s not that Resident Evil had ever really gotten stale, but that the franchise had largely departed from its horror roots and ventured further into the realm of action, with no shortage of ammo and no sweat-inducing moments of terror. Biohazard, with its RE Engine introduced a first-person perspective for the first time, along with a new protagonist, Ethan Winters. What initially appeared to be a reboot of the series offered surprising connections to the prior games while opening up a new world of horror. Village looks to follow suit and according PlayStation’s blog post, this latest game, set several years after Biohazard, will explore the realities behind the myths and legends that drove our ancestors with a greater emphasis on exploration and combat.

Resident Evil’s horrors have always stemmed from the realm of science rather than the supernatural. So the idea of myths and legends being incorporated into Resident Evil opens up some interesting possibilities in that regard. The series now has a chance to revitalize classic monsters like werewolves and vampires in the same way it did for zombies in 1996. While the trailer seems purposefully misleading, presenting itself as a new IP rather than a sequel, even toying with that notion during the title reveal, there will undoubtedly be familiar threads that tie this entry to the previous ones, including the presence of Chris Redfield and Blue Umbrella who showed up at the end of Biohazard.  

The trailer opens with the subtitle “his story comes to a close,” and this likely refers to Chris Redfield, who has been a protagonist in the Resident Evil series since the very first game. It seems that this time around Chris is no longer the protagonist, but the villain who disrupts Ethan’s life, kills his wife, Mia, and throws him back into a world of horror. If this is indeed the end of Chris’ story, and presumably not the end of Resident Evil as a franchise, then there are larger implications to his presence as well, such as whether or not his sister Claire Redfield, or his former S.T.A.R.S. partner, Jill Valentine, will factor into the game. While Ethan’s encounters at the Baker Plantation in the previous game didn’t rely on pre-existing Resident Evil characters until its finale, Village may see him brought further into that world.

With Resident Evil VIII: Village seeming to hold the promise of saying goodbye to familiar settings and characters, and entering uncharted territory and new threats, the upcoming entry potentially increases the longevity of the franchise. As zombies have somewhat faded in popularity over the past decade and given rise to new monsters and voices within the genre, Resident Evil has the opportunity to evolve and become more than a zombie series. There’s arguably nothing more viral than stories, and Village looks to take that to heart and deliver an all-encompassing exploration of our horror legends in the way that only Resident Evil can.

  • Richard Newby