Each week in October, feeble-hearted staff writer Andy Brown squares off against the scariest horror games imaginable. This week, Andy faces his most embarrassing article yet in Capcom‘s Resident Evil Village.
I had this week’s column all planned out. When I suggested tackling Resident Evil Village, my editor was more than happy to oblige – on one teensy, tiny condition: there was a certain level I had to play. To be specific, House Beneviento.
The name meant nothing to me, but I had a niggling feeling that I’d read about it somewhere before (I had – in this phenomenal feature from the much-braver Vikki Blake). In my half-remembered state, it had something to do with a giant baby – which sounded like more of a kindred spirit than any real danger.
Anyway – that was the plan. The only hurdle was that I knew this particular area lay behind a big scary vampire lady, and getting to it meant braving her castle. Eh, no problem – I might not enjoy it, but if I’ve proved anything with this series, it’s that I’ll brave anything to get a few laughs.
I should have known the plan was too ambitious within the opening minutes of Village. After seeing his wife murdered and child kidnapped, protagonist Ethan Winters crawls out of an overturned car with only a dim flashlight for comfort. It’s the dead of night, a blizzard screams around you. You’re in a heavily forested pathway and can’t see more than a foot in front of you. And there’s something out there.
At first, it was quiet enough to pretend it was nothing – the soft snapping of a twig, a slight rustle of leaves. But as I trekked through the snowy path, it became harder to keep the lie up: inhuman growls rippled through the forest, which was covered in dead crows, and something suspiciously werewolf-like darted in front of my path. There was something in the woods – and it was hunting me.
By the time a bastard crow screamed in my face – and I should clarify, this is scarcely 15 minutes into the game – I was freaking the fuck out. Partly because I was doubting whether I had it in me to reach the mythical Fear House, but mostly because it felt like Capcom was dangling a jump scare over my head like a rusty guillotine. Unlike the last few horror games I’ve played for this column, the tension of the hunt felt worse than any perceivable jump scare that Village could muster, and I was half-wishing that Village‘s mystery wolf-thing would just get it over with and tear my head off. A lot of this was fuelled by some phenomenal sound design, which uses very little to get into your head – I hated and respected how far an earful of foley had gone toward making me feel like a cornered rabbit.
Even though it couldn’t have been too long, it felt like my trek into Capcom’s eponymous Village took forever – and absolutely nothing happened. The werewolf became far less subtle in its chase, and it felt like I was being toyed with rather than hunted. Ceilings shook as the werewolf seemed to corner me in a basement, only to disappear when I emerged. Bodies were snatched out of sight as I approached them. I hated it.
Eventually, Village‘s powder keg exploded. I finally found another survivor, but a panicked gunshot caused the werewolves to pounce. My new friend was pulled through the ceiling by our attackers, and after a tense few moments, began to dribble back down like wet, meaty confetti. I went in the opposite direction – yanked through the floorboards by a surprise claw – and into a crawlspace choked with mutilated corpses. It had almost been a relief to be face-to-face with my antagonist – even if he was trying to eat my face – but now I was back to skulking about, praying to avoid another encounter.
That didn’t last long. Over the next ten minutes, Village transformed into a supernatural action shooter, as I was squandering every last bullet to take potshots at anything that looked vaguely furry. There was a nightmarish moment where I was trapped in a house besieged by werewolves, but once the dog was out of the bag, nothing touched the first few minutes of terror I’d experienced.
But I soon spotted that Capcom was inching up the tension once again – the werewolves had backed off, and it seemed like even they were afraid of something. Realising I was about to go through the same ordeal all over again, likely with something scarier than a few big dogs, I…gave up. I didn’t have it in me. I shut down the game and sulked downstairs to hug a much smaller dog. It was humiliating. I didn’t make it to any of the lauded “scary” parts of Village, yet I was drained all the same.
However, once the initial fear had worn off (and it took awhile) I couldn’t help but wonder what else Village could have in store for me, if I could just boot it up again. Will I ever reach the fabled House Beneviento? Okay, maybe not. But will I at least pick Village back up? To my surprise, that’s almost certainly a yes.
We’ll be tormenting Andy with a new horror game each week – follow NME Gaming on Twitter to catch the next one.