More than 20 years ago, Resident Evil burst onto the scene with gameplay and graphics that were revolutionary and even frightening for the time. I was far too young to enjoy it at the time, and familiarity with shinier, newer video games alienated me from what now looks clunky and cheesy. Of course, as an adult I was disappointed to see the series trying to shed these cheesier elements, so when I heard 8 brought a lot of the gooey, gory madness of the series back and I had an opportunity to play it, I did so.
I’m not a game reviewer, but the game’s tone is reflected in its monsters. Resident Evil 8 veers wildly between the campiest nonsense of RE 4 and greater terror than the series has ever managed before, and while that may be jarring to some, I find it excellently balanced, and I adore both angles of this series. It allows for a fantastically diverse cast of weirdo monsters, and I’m happy to make this my first look at the Resident Evil series! Spoilers, of course, follow.
Every Resident Evil game has its own unique monster-maker, from the T virus of the original to the Plagas parasites of 4. 8 has these cute little parasites, composed partially of the deadly fungus from 7 and resembling a moldy fetus. They’re pretty big, bigger than an actual newborn, but apparently they are implanted easily enough in a human body to cause various mutations. Those with low affinity either die or form the most basic of enemy types.
Resident Evil built its reputation as a series about zombies, and it had a big role in popularizing zombies caused by a virus rather than other sources. However, as more recent games improved their controls, regular zombies became less and less threatening, and they have often been replaced. In 8, the basic enemy forming the foundation of horde fights is not zombies but lycans. 8 goes for a more “Universal Monsters” vibe to its cast of critters, and so we have a hairy, vicious wolfman. Lycans are only subtly monstrous, but do gain some charm from their animations, climbing like monkeys and charging on all fours when at a distance. They are immediately overshadowed by their close cousins, however.
Now that’s more like it! An experiment in improving the standard lycan through the addition of actual wolf DNA, the varcolac is a more obvious werewolf, complete with a full body coating of hair, clumsy quadrupedal motion, and my favorite detail, its nearly entirely human face. You can really see how this thing is a mutated human, and those piercing eyes and muppet-like mouth are particularly ghastly.
There’s a bit of obvious Bloodbourne inspiration in RE 8, and I’m definitely not complaining.
The other most basic enemies of the game are a little closer to the classic zombie, slow shamblers reanimated by a dose of parasitic fungus and the new “Cadou” parasite that creates lycans. Their creator Heisenberg goes a step above by nailing a helmet into their skulls, which apparently makes them smart enough to do tasks as advanced as working their creator’s mines. Like the lycans however, it’s the elaboration on the concept that I wanted to share.
There are a few different “Soldat” enemies in the game, upgrades of the Haulers with built-in armor and weapons. As you have probably figured out by now, Heisenberg’s theme is more along the lines of Frankenstein, and my favorite version of the concept, combining dead flesh with mechanics to create surreal monstrosities! Of the Soldats, the jet is my easy favorite. I love that the entire head has been encased in a stabilizing set of wings. It’s ridiculous, like a hammerhead shark, but it’s also pretty threatening bearing down on you, like a hammerhead shark.
Heisenberg’s ultimate creation, Strum is RIDICULOUS. Not only has his head been replaced by (or encased in) an entire propeller plane’s engine block, the plane’s propellers are chainsaws. Beautiful. Apparently he’s dumb too; he doesn’t have any arms cause he got them caught in his own blades, according to Heisenberg’s design notes. This poor beautiful moron. I would hug him if it wouldn’t grind me into paste.
Our basic aerial enemy, the Samca is another derivation of our zombie-type foes. Their arms have completely changed into fleshy, absurd wings, but their coolest feature is that long, pointed tongue, presumably what they use to suck blood. In game you usually can’t see anything under their hood, which I like a little more than that clearly humanoid face. Still, simple but cool!
With our surprisingly small cast of regular enemies worth talking about out of the way, we’re moving on to the bosses, going in order of how interesting I find their designs and surrounding lore. Angie comes last, but she’s still a pretty good haunted doll. I like the seam down her face, and her screw resembling a third eye. She’s got about the personality you’d expect, being a spooky child, but there is the interesting detail that she’s controlled by her puppeteer through a shared cadou parasite, so technically, she’s a living creature. I thought that was the case in the first case, that she was really a tiny biological being that LOOKS like a doll, with a withered little body and a tough exoskeleton, and I still think that’s a more interesting take, but ah well.
Heisenberg is the creator of the cyborgs above, and so of course his monster form is a cyborg in and of itself. I actually find this design a little less interesting than Angie’s, but he gets a lot more personality. Still, it is a well-put together pile of scrap and flesh, retaining just a little bit of a human face at the front, and I do like how he just didn’t bother with legs. I also like that his fleshy parts are more obvious at the joints, clearly helping to hold him together.
Miranda here is the leader of the villains and final boss of the game, but that only gets her this far. Even so, this is a super cool design. She’s like a fungus angel! 8 does so much more with its fungus than 7, I love it. There’s something interesting going on with her face, with her original eyes completely covered, but a new one added to her forehead. The crest on her back also has an eyeball. Is that part of her? Does she have two eyes, just positioned really strangely? Her “wings” are more like clawed arms in this form, used for attack rather than flight, which is always cool. Those wings are the basis of her form-changes throughout her battle.
The first form makes those limbs into proper wings, and pretty cool-looking ones too. They don’t match the wings of any actual creature, just big flappy sheets to fly with. The angelic aspects are extra obvious here, and I’m all for it! What a spooky divine being, a very fitting look for a cult leader to take.
Less thematic, but my personal favorite in appearance, is her spider form, where the claws become limbs to walk around on. I always love it when a humanoid walks with limbs coming from their back.
You all know Lady Dimitrescu. She blew up the internet with her charming, jazz-club design and of course the absurd lust that she spurred in thousands of folks. Of course, what’s really beautiful is her monster form, and what a form it is. I like the simple color pallet, mostly white with some splashes of purple-red, and the squishy fungal texture helps a lot. Alcina here is practically a dragon, but with an ultra-fangly maw with about a dozen jaws and a humanoid torso sticking from the top. Even her humanoid bits aren’t totally normal, what with the withered look, the tentacles coming from her back, and the fact she doesn’t seem to have full arms. The Bloodbourne look is strong here and I love it.
My favorite of the boss characters, Moreau has everything. Not satisfied with just having a gillman, Resident Evil adds a fatty, lumpy hunchback with a few fish eyes thrown in for good measure. Beautiful! His personality really completes it. He’s the most sympathetic of the bosses, filled with a constant desire to prove himself to the other members of their cult and Mother Miranda herself. There’s a childlike innocence to him, but it’s still paired with the fact that he’s the one responsible for most of the experiments done with the Cadou, always trying to make something new and superior that would make them like him. I almost felt bad killing him. I did feel bad killing him. Can’t I just give him therapy and a cozy, unpolluted lake? I hear one just opened up in Spain.
And here we have it, my favorite design in the whole game. It is without flaw. It looks a lot like the monster from The Host if you ran it through a Bloodbourne filter, and that couldn’t be more of a compliment. I love how lumpy and inelegant even his fishy parts are, and the way that even though he gets 6 limbs, they’re all clustered at the front. My favorite feature is that cartoonish gaping grin of too-human teeth, right under a million googly eyes. Moreau’s human form sticking out the mouth is just the icing on the cake, but it does allow him to keep talking, something I like my bosses doing.
So that’s my favorite, but we’re not quite done yet. Let’s talk about the scariest thing in the game, shall we?
In this game, main character Ethan Winters is seeking his daughter, an infant. Upon reaching the Angie’s house, he finds a Silent Hill-esque reflection of her. It’s pretty self-explanatory how horrible this thing is. That yawning, toothless mouth is horrific, and her bulging, half-open eyes take as much from baby birds as they do baby humans, really mashing together the most nightmarish features of multiple clades. Worse than all of that is the fact that it babbles like a human toddler, capable of a few words coming out horribly distorted by its body.
It isn’t my favorite, not due to a lack of quality but because my favorites are just so good. But I give this baby a 10/10 for scaring the hell out of me, something I never thought a series as campy and charming as Resident Evil could ever do. If they can pull it off again, I say we give them Silent Hill. See you when 9 comes out.