Review – Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil is one of those franchises that is constantly changing and evolving over the years, constantly shifting between genres, and that’s part of the reason I love it. Every single game offers a new gameplay experience. It’s not afraid of mixing things up and breaking the rules, but it’s no lie it has struggled a lot. That was until the release of 2017’s Resident Evil 7, which softly rebooted the franchise and put it back on track. Now here we are with the 8th mainline title, Resident Evil Village, which continues the streak of greatness.
The story picks up three years after the events in Louisiana, where Ethan and Mia Winters survived the terrifying Baker family incident. Now the couple are living together in isolation with their child in Europe. Everything seems to be going well enough until suddenly Chris Redfield kills Mia and kidnaps both Ethan and Rose. Ethan then awakens in a crash with the kidnappers dead and Rose nowhere to be seen. With no other option, Ethan pushes on until he finds a village overrun by Lycans and other monstrosities. Once again Ethan is thrust into a desperate battle to save his family from the leader of the village: Mother Miranda.
Right off the bat, the story is much more interesting than any other Resident Evil game with its superb hook. Ethan himself is much more developed; whilst seemingly living a normal life, he is clearly suffering from the Baker Family Incident. This is apparent by him taking up military training and constantly worried about what’s next. He is still a bit awkward and dumbfounded to what’s going on, but it’s at least an improvement over other installments. I ended up growing to really like Ethan’s character. The story itself though is actually pretty good, with some excellent revelations and bold twists that I really wasn’t expecting. Some of the story beats delve deeper into the lore of the franchise.
As for the village inhabitants, the few survivors you do meet are quickly picked off and I was hoping there would be a few more friendly characters to meet. The village itself it is divided into four houses, each ruled by their own unique villain. There’s Lady Dimitrescu; a tall vampire lady who resides in the castle with here three vampire daughters. Heisenberg; engineering mastermind who has the power to control metal. Then there’s Moreau and the mysterious Beneviento. Finally, there’s Mother Miranda who has all the power over the Village. Each of the villains have their own time to shine in the game, but it’s the Dimitrescu’s presence that really steals the show.
The first person perspective and general controls from Resident Evil 7 make a triumphant return showing that first person adds a great twist to the franchise, but there are big differences. Village takes the core gameplay of RE7 and combines it with the scope of Resident Evil 4. Ethan’s military training becomes apparent in the gameplay. He is faster and is better equipped to handle himself, being able to reload much quicker. The blocking mechanic also returns with Ethan now being able to shove enemies back if they get too close. On standard difficulty I didn’t really have trouble with ammo management, so definitely take that up a notch if you want something a bit more challenging.
As you make your way through Village you will come across multiple locales, each with their own style of gameplay. There’s the village itself, which functions as a sort of central hub; a place you will keep coming back to. It’s a fantastic area that grows the more you get into the game with plenty of secrets to find. Along the way you will also meet Duke, a friendly merchant who will occasionally help Ethan throughout his journey. He’ll allow you to upgrade his weapons whilst also selling ammo, weapon attachments, and permanent stat boosts, which you get by hunting animals throughout the game world and bringing them back. He’s definitely a welcome addition and a sign of safety in an otherwise dangerous village.
Much of the game is split up exploring the four different regions of the village. First up there is the Dimitrescu’s Castle, which is the absolute highlight of the game. It harkens back to the good old days of Spencer’s Mansion, with its many locked doors and puzzles. It makes you ask the question: “who designed this?”, as you traverse the main castle interiors, the dark depths, and even the rooftops. It’s a vast area with tons of dangers and horrors. Lady Dimitrescu and her vampiric daughters will periodically hunt you down certain areas of the castle. You only have two options here: run or hide. This is only a fraction of what Village has to offer as well, with Ethan going to Morau’s Reservoir and Heisenberg’s factory among other places.
Whilst the other areas don’t really hit the heights of Dimitrescu castle, all are still effective in their own unique way. A lot of the more action heavy areas are actually some of the best in the franchise so far. With plenty of tense encounters as dozens of Lycans and other monsters swarm towards your position. Ethan can lay down mines, barricade doors, and shoot bags of flour or explosive barrels to stun enemies. The combat loop is about putting yourself in the best possible position where you can easily escape. It never stops being exciting. The only area that really doesn’t hit the mark for me is Heisenberg’s Factory, which just felt lacking in design and dragged on for a bit too long.
Village may be a more action-oriented Resident Evil title, but that doesn’t mean that horror has been abandoned entirely. Quite the contrary, it’s just used a little bit more sparingly. Encounters are tense and you are constantly on the edge of your seat as enemies begin to swarm you. It’s relentless and fast, but also takes moments to slow down as you creep through the devastated village or the deep depths of a giant castle wondering what’s around the next corner.
There’s no reliance on scripted jump scares and everything is gameplay driven. There were even been a few moments that caught me off guard. Then you’ve got the terrifying psychological horror section provided by Donna Beneviento that the more hardcore fans of the franchise will absolutely adore for reasons I won’t spoil here. Horror is very much still a part of the franchise.
One of the biggest complaints that a lot of people had with RE7 is the enemy variety. The molded felt like wasted potential. Whilst the idea was good, it lacked creativity and variety. Almost every enemy looked almost identical and the few variations of the molded didn’t really introduce anything new. Thankfully, this has been fixed with a huge army of monsters to fight. This time around Ethan will have to deal with hordes of Lycans, werewolves, and other monsters. Whilst the base canon fodder enemies stay mostly the same in terms of gameplay, the visual variety here makes them feel different enough.
Boss fights are your pretty standard affair, often having you run laps around the map and shooting them in their blatantly obvious weak point. They aren’t terrible per se, but lack a level of problem solving that would elevate them to the next level. Some are better than others, but the sheer quantity of them can get draining, especially when the tactics don’t really change. Then there’s also the puzzles. Resident Evil has been suffering on the puzzle design for the last few years, but some improvements are made here. There are a lot more of them this time around and they are fun to solve, but they just aren’t challenging enough. The solutions are either blatantly obvious or just given to you at the start. Still, it’s nice to see the classic puzzle design start to appear more and more.
On my first playthrough I clocked in at around twelve hours on the game’s Standard difficulty. This is with doing most of the side content and carefully combing over each of the game’s interior areas. I have also started Village‘s Hardcore mode and it’s brutal; a true survival horror experience where resource management becomes key. As always, Resident Evil Village is full of replay value with the Village of Darkness difficulty unlocking once you complete the game. It acts as this game’s Madhouse, changing enemy positions and items. You’ll also gain access to Mercenaries mode, which has you running through select areas of the game and defeating enemies quickly to rack up points. It’s an addictive game mode that gets much more challenging the more you play.
The RE Engine has constantly impressed and it’s no exception here with easily one of the best looking games we have ever seen. The eastern European village looks absolutely stunning with the massive Dimitrescu castle towering above it. Multiple times through my playthrough I just stopped to take in the sights and explore every inch of the impressively designed and varied locales. If this is a tease of what the RE Engine is capable of for the Next-Gen, especially with the ray traced lighting, then I’m excited. Though I do wish the PC version had a built in FOV slider which is just a bit too low, especially whilst playing on an ultrawide display. There’s also a few performance issues that needs sorting, but it was never bad enough to cause me to stop playing.
Sound design is also pretty good with some decent enough voice acting throughout. Dimitriscu and her daughters are all wonderfully performed and steal the show whenever they are on screen. Chris Redfield finally gets a bit more character depth than just a generic action hero thanks to a great performance. Plus we have Heisenberg hamming it up old school Resident evil style. The weakest link is perhaps Ethan once again; whilst his character has improved, a lot of the lines just don’t really land. The soundtrack isn’t really memorable, but the overall sound design is generally great and makes the Village feel more alive.
Resident Evil Village doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of my personal favourite game in the franchise: Resident Evil 2 Remake. It does however provide one of the best Action Horror gameplay experiences out there. Whilst it may seem like a successor to RE4, there’s a lot of the other games in here as well, making it one of the most complete Resident Evil experiences to date.
RE Engine continues to impress with one of the best looking games of the generation so far.
Village is constantly exciting with some great gameplay and enemy variety that really recaptures that RE4 feel.
There’s some good voice acting and sound design that makes the world and its inhabitants feel more alive.
Resident Evil Village is a love letter to the entire franchise. Taking elements from all of its best entries and combining them into one glorious package.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Resident Evil Village is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xboz Series S/X, PS4, and PS5.
Reviewed on PC with a RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Played at 3440×1440.
A copy of Resident Evil Village was provided by the publisher.