Dreaming of Resident Evil 8

Dreaming of… is a monthly feature that digs deep into unannounced (or barely announced) games, and with some research and a bit of educated guesswork, dreams up what that game might be like when it’s actually released.

Early last year, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard came out and surprised just about everybody. It was surprising how quickly it was released following its announcement the prior June at Sony’s 2016 E3 press conference. It was surprising that it was, for the first time in the main series, a first-person experience. It was surprising how much it focused on horror instead of the over-the-top action that the last few entries had leaned on. But what was most surprising was that it ended up being a pretty darn good game.

Resident Evil 7 did a brilliant job of bringing back the tone and general gameplay loops from the first three PlayStation Resident Evil games, but totally repackaging it in a new perspective. Item management was more important than ever, and crafting first-aid spray, handgun ammo and more became paramount to surviving the Baker Ranch. Its campaign was filled with dread and playing through the game in VR was a downright horrifying experience. Resident Evil 7 got a lot right, but now that Capcom has a sturdy base to build off of, they have a chance to make Resident Evil 8 incredible.

Tales of Terror

Resident Evil 7 took a decidedly subdued approach to storytelling compared to the insane, lore-drenched outing that was Resident Evil 6. Where Resident Evil 6 split its story into four smaller campaigns with seven protagonists that were mostly established characters like Leon Kennedy or Chris Redfield (as seen above), Resident Evil 7 focused on a single, mid-sized campaign with newcomer Ethan Winters at the lead. Where Resident Evil 6 was obsessed with globetrotting and digging deep into the C-Virus’ widespread outbreak, Resident Evil 7 didn’t even reveal its narrative connections with past games until the end of its story, then explored this a bit deeper in its Not a Hero and End of Zoe DLC. The first three Resident Evil games proved to be similar in tone and scope, and the next three became progressively more action-packed and less focused on horror as time went on. Resident Evil 7 returned the series to this initial paradigm of survival horror, placing emphasis on smaller encounters and puzzle solving than its recent predecessors did – in fact, Resident Evil 7 is the first game in the mainline series since the original to primarily take place in an actual residence. Resident Evil 7 was the antithesis of Resident Evil 6, but hopefully Resident Evil 8 continues down the simpler path that Resident Evil 7 began to tread.

There’s little word on what Resident Evil 8 will end up being like, but Capcom has confirmed that the game is in its early stages of development. Executive Producer Jun Takeuchi has said that they want Resident Evil 8 to the be the start of a new kind of survival horror for the series. “Plans for the next title are already in motion and, when you see that game, you may find that it is very different from Resident Evil 7 in some ways while still retaining that core survival horror concept of people overcoming the odds,” Takeuchi said. “Resident Evil will always retain that essence.” So, Resident Evil 8 will be markedly different from its predecessor, but will still be the same at its core. It’s not a lot to go off of, but it’s a decent starting point.

The story of Resident Evil 8 can take two general paths at this point: it can either tell another intimate, small-scale story like Resident Evil 7 did and remove the majority of the narrative from the pre-established Umbrella Corporation (now Umbrella Co., a Private Military Company) or it can pick up where Resident Evil 7 left off – either literally or tonally. This means Resident Evil 8 could once again star Ethan Winters, as he is alive and well, perhaps even long after the two pieces of story DLC for Resident Evil 7 are said and done. What’s more, he’s been rescued by Umbrella, which in its reformed state seems to take those who have former experience dealing with zombie outbreaks, like Chris Redfield, and have them tackle upcoming outbreaks head on. Though Zoe is cured of her infection, The Connections, the group that created Resident Evil 7’s main antagonist Eveline and the psychotropic mold that drives the game’s narrative, is still at large. This mold could very well be a rogue factor in future games, and it may be up to Ethan to stop it once again.

Location, Location, Location

Don’t expect Resident Evil 8 to take place at the Baker Ranch once again – not only would retreading old ground get boring, Joe and Zoe are the only members of the Baker clan left alive. Just like Resident Evil 2 eschewed the Spencer Mansion present in Resident Evil 1 and Resident Evil 5 took to Africa instead of staying in Resident Evil 4’s Spanish setting, Resident Evil 8 will likely move away from the bayous of Louisiana for some place different – but perhaps it will keep to America this time. Resident Evil 1, 2 and 3 were all located relatively close to one another, 4, 5 and 6 went around the world, and maybe the next couple of games will dig deep into Americana like Resident Evil 7 did.

The United States of America has one of the most diverse set of biomes in the world, meaning if Resident Evil 8 did stick to the US, it could take place in the harsh deserts of Nevada, the snowy mountains of Colorado, the pristine beaches of Florida, the dense forests of Oregon, the autumnal beauty of Vermont, or many other places across the country. Of course, not all of these settings are conducive to horror, and much like Resident Evil 7 took inspiration from the classic ’80s horror movie The Evil Dead, which is set almost entirely in a cabin in the American South, Resident Evil 8 could use ’80s horror as an influence as well. The Thing and The Shining are both classic ’80s horror films in cold, snowy, desolate settings – something that Resident Evil hasn’t explored much in a mainline title. In fact, being snowed in somewhere in the mountains could work as an excellent excuse to keep Resident Evil 8’s setting restricted, but unique – much like they accomplished with Resident Evil 7’s Louisiana bayou.

Resident Evil has been keen on making up towns and villages up for zombie infections to overwhelm in a matter of days. Raccoon City, a fictional Mid-Western American town that was overtaken by a T-Virus breakout, succumbed to the infection and was destroyed completely by a thermobaric warhead sent by the U.S. Government within eight days. Then there’s the unnamed rural Spanish village that had been entirely consumed by Las Plagas, a micro parasite used by the Los Iluminados cult to ensnare new members. Most recently, the E-Type psychotropic mold created by the mysterious group simply called “The Connections” found its way into Dulvey, Louisiana – a fictional town that housed the Baker Ranch which was taken over by Eveline, a young girl capable of producing the mold and controlling the minds of those whom it infects. Just like variants of the T-Virus caused zombie outbreaks in the Mid-Western United States in the first three games, and Las Plagas consumed villages outside of the U.S., it looks like the E-Type mold could very well spur the events of Resident Evil 8 – this time somewhere else in the country.

If Resident Evil 8 is set in a fictional American town, and its events are incited by the E-Type mold (or some variation of that mold like gasp an F-Type mold), then there are a lot of routes the gameplay can take. One of the most interesting locations in the U.S. that Resident Evil 8 could use is the Rocky Mountains – or more specifically, a snowed-in mountain town cut off from the rest of society. Keeping the story insulated to one town, or even one building, is often Resident Evil’s strong suit. The first game took place entirely in the Spencer Mansion and its surround areas and the next two were all about the relatively small Raccoon City. Resident Evil 4 had a wider scope but kept it controlled. Unfortunately, the next two games went a bit crazy with the scope and amount of locations they included, and were worse off for it. Resident Evil 7 dialed things back to a single house and its surrounding areas, so if a pattern is forming, a small town would logically be next.

Gorey Gameplay

In this dream scenario, the snowed-in mountain town could be perfectly conducive to horror gameplay. Imagine starting the game as a man in his thirties – let’s call him Seth. He’s stuck in a single snowed-in house, small but littered with children’s toys. After a little digging around, it’s clear Seth’s son has been diagnosed with cancer, and is currently being treated in the town’s children’s hospital. After growing low on food, losing access to water and no longer receiving any information from the hospital about his son, Seth is forced to make his way to nearby houses in order to survive and find his boy. After trekking across the snow, Seth discovers recently built snow tunnels connecting disparate houses. Upon entering the first house, however, not all is well. It’s clear an altercation occurred and the house is in disarray. A standard handgun is left discarded with just a few rounds left in it. There isn’t any sign of life still within the house, but after scrounging a few rations, and possibly finding some spare ammo in the garage, Seth once again leaves the house through snow tunnels.

The tunnels branch out in two directions: the one on the right is spoiled with trails of blood, and the one on the left is littered with inhuman footprints. The player chooses which path to take, and both lead to different houses and scenarios: the left path has a fully-formed “molded” (those deeply infected with the E-Type mold) waiting to strike, and the right path has an injured woman, bleeding badly after fending off the molded inside this home. The woman shoots a shotgun slug in the player character’s direction and warns them to stay away – the player can either choose to fight her, though their chances of becoming critically injured or dying are high, or they can take the other path in order to find more resources to take this woman down. Seth finds a roughly-drawn map of all the interconnected houses, which can help him figure out a path to get into town – or to help him explore new houses in order to scavenge more weapons and supplies. The game has an evolved form of the upgrade system present in Resident Evil 7 – heath is still expanded using steroids and stabilizers can similarly be injected to increase reload speeds for all firearms. Even more weapons are introduced, like a mid-range sniper rifle and more melee options, but many weapons can only be found optionally – sometimes they’ll be hidden deep within a house heavily infested with molded, sometimes they’re locked behind a safe, the combination of which is hidden elsewhere. Physically based weapon upgrades make a return, but options are increased and upgrading one weapon will leave another somewhat underpowered as a result.

Eventually, after traveling from house to house, slowly learning that this infection had originated from the children’s hospital nearly one week prior, Seth makes his way to the town proper filled with shops, restaurants and government buildings. Now he must survive more enemies than ever before, and some are further mutated and more powerful than those found in the houses. He starts to uncover sparse bits of information about The Connections, and discovers a clear link between them and the molded – including some documents on the “Dulvey Incident” in Louisiana one year prior. Seth soon comes across Mia Winters, Ethan Winters’ wife from Resident Evil 7 who secretly worked for The Connections before being infected with mold and mind controlled by Eveline for a three-year period before being rescued. She now works with Umbrella Co., and is decked in body armor and carries a few high-caliber weapons. She’s an extraction specialist and has come to recover Ethan, who also works for Umbrella Co., but lost contact a few days prior, shortly after reaching the hospital.

From this point onwards, Seth and Mia work together, often splitting up over large distances in order to solve puzzles or gain access to new locations – the player can swap between these characters at will, and if both are in the same location, AI takes over for the other. The streets are still piled high with snow, and after a series of obstacles, Seth and Mia discover a snow tunnel that leads directly to the hospital. Once there, it’s clear that one or more of the children, like Eveline, is generating mold and has begun to control the molded. Seth fears his son may be one of them, but after going deeper and deeper into the molded-infested hospital, it appears his son is not one of those children. Members of The Connections have come, however, and are attempting to capture these children and return them to their headquarters: a mansion not far away, up the mountains, accessible only by a single gondola. Seth and Mia are forced to subdue one of the children using the mold, and are almost defeated when Ethan Winters appears at the last moment to administer a vaccine. It’s too much for the child, and it calcifies and dies as a result.

Ethan had been in the mansion and returned once he discovered The Connections were going to extract children from the hospital. One of the children abducted was the Seth’s son. Ethan leads Seth and Mia to the gondola, the access to which is hidden deep beneath the hospital. The three board the gondola and reach an extravagant, oddly designed labyrinth of a house – about half of the game will take place here. Now the three split up in order to solve puzzles, gain information, and attempt to track down the son, the other children, and hope to destroy The Connections experiments once and for all. It’s clear that The Connections are a relatively new organization, but one that was began by a competitor to Oswell Spencer and the Umbrella Corporation long ago. This mansion was designed by a young George Trevor, the same man who would later build the Spencer Mansion and the Ashford Antarctic Base. But his ideas were more extravagant then, less interested in function than form. As such, the mansion is similar to the structure of the first game, and even reminiscent of the Baker Ranch in Resident Evil 7 – but perhaps less conducive to common logic. There are oblique puzzles aplenty and the coin system for additional unlockables from Resident Evil 7 makes a return. The coins seem to do nothing when found in the houses or city, but become useful once the player reaches the foyer of the mansion – there are once again cages holding steroids, stabilizers, weapon upgrades, unique weapons and more.

Within the mansion, molded run rampant, but some appear to fight one another and not all are the simple black versions seen in Resident Evil 7; some include different, murky colors, others have bizarre appendages and act differently than other molded. No molded of the same color seem to harm one another, but different colored ones do, and the trio use this to their advantage when necessary. It doesn’t take long for them to discover that The Connections have developed a new F-Type mold. This evolution of the strain no longer requires the modification of a female human embryo, but can be spread from host to host. The original carrier of the G-Type mold is a doctor working for The Connections and she can choose to allow hosts to control their own G-Type molded, which develops in tandem with each host. This explains why some molded appear and act differently: they’re being controlled and created by different children. The hosts are more receptive to controlling the mold if they are infested with cancer cells, explaining why The Connections had focused so heavily on the children’s hospital.

The three manufacture more vaccines in the mansion and track down each child host. There have been three colored molded in the mansion and so the trio deduce this is how many hosts there are. They encounter them one-by-one, but after brutal fights with highly-evolved molded hosts, the children each die when vaccinated; they had been infected too long and the mold was integrated too heavily into their systems. A fourth color slowly appears as the three split up to take on each host and it becomes clear that this fourth host is the man’s son. Instead of attempting to cure him directly, the trio go after the scientist who infected them initially – they find out she was once a head doctor at the children’s hospital, who specialized in revolutionary cancer treatments. They defeat her, but it does not stop the molded, and doesn’t cure the son. The son, however, is still somewhat in control of his abilities, and instead of killing him, the three extract him on an Umbrella Co. helicopter, setting fire to the mansion in their wake.

Tying Up Dead Ends

In this dream game, Resident Evil 8 uses a modified version of the RE Engine used for Resident Evil 7. Likewise, it retains a first-person perspective, but the graphical fidelity and texture qualities have improved dramatically with iteration. The game employs extensive motion capture and the characters all look more realistic and oftentimes more gruesome than ever before. Like Resident Evil 7 before it, Resident Evil 8 will once again focus on VR, and because of this, remains single-player only. With the extra development time, this VR experience is even smoother and looks better than it did before. PS4 Pro and Xbox One X support will be included, and it runs at 4K with HDR for those devices. Though Resident Evil 7 used the “Biohazard” subtitle in the west, Capcom continues to call it Resident Evil in the west – Biohazard remains a Japan-only moniker. The game will be a bit longer than Resident Evil 7 – somewhere between twelve and fourteen hours for most players. There will be lots of replayability, including unlockable scenarios where you play as Mia and Ethan prior to their meeting with the player. Expect DLC similar to what Capcom cooked up for Resident Evil 7 as well, and assume they’ll spread its release out over about a year-long period.

Of course, this entire scenario is made up fan-fiction, and the eventual Resident Evil 8 will surely be much different. With the plot threads set by previous games in the series, and using clues from throughout Resident Evil’s storied history, however, it’s not a long shot to think the game may incorporate many of these elements. It falls in line with being similar to Resident Evil 7, but still being fresh and new in a lot of places. It has more freedom, more branching pathways and more player choice than ever before, which is a likely direction the team will take with this next game. This is only a brief, simple outline of what Resident Evil 8 could be, and the real Resident Evil 8 will undoubtedly be more complex and nuanced, with far more characters and even more lore for players to dig into. Only time will tell exactly how Resident Evil 8 will turn out, but you can expect Hardcore Gamer to have complete coverage of it when it’s announced – hopefully sooner rather than later.

This has been “Dreaming of…” our monthly feature that dreams up what might be in the world of gaming. If you liked this, check out more of our ongoing features. For all of your news, reviews and more, keep an eye on Hardcore Gamer.