Resident Evil games are violent. Folks get their parts ripped off, limbs get eaten, entrails spill across the floor on a regular basis. The gore and violence on display are deliberately intense, designed to make you feel upset, and has been increasing exponentially since the series began. In the original, you had zombies playfully biting your neck, but by the seventh instalment, your hand was getting severed by a rusty chainsaw—one of several atrocities committed against your unfortunate appendage. With Resident Evil Village now upping every ante when it comes to horrific depictions of brutality, you might wonder what point there is to any of it. Does the violence in the Resident Evil series serve any purpose at all, beyond shock value?
Horror stories—particularly about the undead—have always been vectors for some kind of message; we’re drawn to the genre because it highlights unconscious fears and allows us to confront ideas we would normally avoid. Night of the Living Dead is often viewed as a critique of Cold War politics, American racism, and societal norms in the 1960s. Earlier stories about zombies and zombie-like creatures play on existential fears about death and disease, as well as xenophobia.
Resident Evil, being conceived in the 1990s, has always had a particular bone to pick with big business. Late-stage capitalism secretly eating away at the juicy flesh of society. The Umbrella Corporation is the classic evil force in the series—an incalculably massive pharmaceutical corporation that looks all nice and helpful on the surface but uses its wealth and research to make monsters and plagues. Early games were not at all subtle about this, stating explicitly that this obviously bad company did very naughty things and now everyone is a zombie. Players are confronted with the immediate aftermath of corporate interests gone feral, forced to gun down ordinary people who got in the way, attacked by inside-out versions of formerly good dogs.