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Every single game award ceremony worth its salt has a “Game of the Year” category. It’s intended for the game that is the closest to technically perfect, tells the best story, has the best art direction — just the best game to come out this year. But I want to recognize a game that, while I acknowledge it’s not perfect, was the one that actually stuck in my mind the longest: Resident Evil Village.

Resident Evil has had a very confusing few years. First we had the very action-oriented Resident Evil 6, a very hard turn from survival horror. Then the series came back strong with the excellent Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 Remake. The Resident Evil 3 Remake was a bit of a stumble — not as good as it could have been. But really, it was the series’ game to lose this year, no pun intended.

Capcom did not have to deliver the campiest, craziest monster game of the year. But it did, and we’re all better for it. A winning combination of RE7’s first-person gameplay and RE4’s European Gothic setting, Village borrowed from the best of the series and still managed to deliver something new and fun.

The main enemies of the game are RE-style incarnations of classic monsters: Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters are vampires. The village creatures are werewolves. Moreau is the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Heisenberg and his creations are a sort of Frankenstein and monsters pastiche. Every single one of them is up there on the list of memorable RE enemies, with Mr. X, Nemesis, and Jack Baker. Not to mention the game is actually scary and unsettling, particularly the Beneviento section.

No, the game is not perfect — the factory setting late in the game drags on and ends on a ridiculously out-of-place action set piece. Three out of the four boss battles (well, three out of three, if one doesn’t count the Beneviento house as a boss) were repetitive and unexciting.

With so many great games that came out this year, a number of them are probably better, in a technical sense, than Village. But very few of them stuck with me quite like this game did, and I think that deserves an award in and of itself.

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