Resident Evil Village will be the second mainline Resident Evil game to star Ethan Winters as the protagonist. He’s an unwilling hero in Resident Evil 7, and it looks like that will be the same case in the next game. In Resident Evil 7, Winters is out to find and save his wife Mia. He wants answers about where she’s been, and what happened to her. In Resident Evil Village, Mia is dead, and Ethan’s daughter has been kidnapped. It also looks like he’s been kidnapped and is now being held in this village. If not, he’s gone there of his own will to find his daughter. Either way, he’s out to save his family, not the world. That’s what makes him great.
When you look at the past titles in Resident Evil, the best protagonists have always been there at the wrong time. They just want to escape, and to do that they have to kill a lot of zombies, solve some puzzles, and inadvertently save the world from some atrocity. Those protagonists are the best, because their motivations lie solely in getting out of the location they’re stuck in. Sometimes that means stopping a Tyrant with a rocket launcher, but they always end the day by escaping, not by emerging as a victorious hero.
Later games switched this around, and that’s when the series took a turn for the worse. You can see a similar pattern with other horror franchises. It’s not until the protagonist becomes a hero, out to shut down the evil corporation, that the franchises start to go downhill.
Ethan Winters is perfect because he just wants to survive. All he needs to do is save his daughter, and then he’s out. Sure, there’s a sinister plot about bioweapons going on in the background, but that’s Christ Redfield’s job.
I love the way Resident Evil 7 gave the world-saving job to Redfield, because it meant that the character of Ethan was preserved. He’s still the wimpy office worker who just barely got out of the Baker house by the skin of his teeth. If he ever changes into a powerhouse, then he needs to be killed off. Leave the heroics to Redfield and let us players cower in the dark corners with Ethan.