For as long as I have been playing the Resident Evil series, Resident Evil Village hit me in a certain way. Many will remember Resident Evil 4 as monumental shift for the franchise. I enjoyed RE4 thoroughly as well, but I couldn’t help looking at it as the pivotal point where the franchise began a noteworthy turn from survival horror into action. Years later, Resident Evil Village struck me oh so familiar to how Leon Kennedy’s own village and castle adventures played out so long ago. In a similar manner, Resident Evil Village’s journey doesn’t always work to the service of horror, but it does take working parts of previous titles and gives them a gorgeous coat of new paint nonetheless.
Ethan Winters: Somehow RE’s unluckiest schmuck
Resident Evil Village finds us back in the role of Ethan Winters, moving the story forward three years after the events of the Baker Incident in RE7. Going off that game’s “good” ending, Ethan and his wife Mia relocated to Europe and had a child, their baby daughter Rosemary. It’s pretty clear they’re still shaken from the events that tortured them so mercilessly years before, but they try to make the best of it. Keyword is try. It isn’t long before their attempt at a regular family life is shattered by a hail of bullets and the abduction of their daughter. One rifle butt to the head, an unplanned nap, and a crashed military van later, Ethan finds himself stranded on the outskirts of a mysterious village without his wife and daughter.
As should probably be expected, Resident Evil Village’s titular village is not doing okay. The whole town is dead and broken sans a few questionably lucky survivors. The cause? Some very fuzzy rabid humanoids with a penchant for feasting on unturned human flesh. Along the way, Ethan learns that his daughter is somehow in the village and the key to saving her lays with four supernaturally powerful figures and the even more powerful Lady Miranda who once offered protection to the village. Fans should already be well aware of one – the very popular and tall Lady Dimetrescu.
Much like Dimetrescu and her often teased castle, the other “Lords” each preside over a unique domain near the village and Ethan is going to have to pay them all house calls if he means to save Rose. I will give fair warning without spoilers here: If you thought Dimetrescu was going to take up the lion’s share of your time in this game, realize that she’s just one of the Four Lords alongside Lady Miranda and temper your expectations accordingly. Don’t get me wrong, though, her entire presence in the game is a highlight. I’d actually argue every encounter with the Four Lords is pretty great.
Resident Evil Village’s environments are quite varied and breathtaking. The village acts as a connecting hub at the heart of it all and each return to it peels back a little bit of the mysteries hidden within, but the four domains you’ll travel to are also equal parts gorgeous and harrowing. Each is filled to the brim with their own unique blend of action, traps, and monsters, as well as puzzles and secrets you’ll want to unravel if you’re going to gain the means you need to survive each oncoming challenge. The puzzles are passable, though nothing too outlandish or tricky - mostly bringing key items from point A to point B with a few decent exceptions.
The visuals are really where the game shines. Lady Dimetrescu’s castle is a splendid array of lavish décor hiding a ghastly underbelly, whereas the walk to another Lord’s castle took us through a foggy path to a calm and eerie mountainside home near a stunningly beautiful waterfall. It was hard not to notice a little bit of texture pop-in at certain points in regular gameplay, but the places Village worked to direct my eyes to at any given point were often exhilarating, unnerving, drop-dead gorgeous, or some mix of those three elements.
A Village full of beasts and bullets
Let’s get right down to the nitty gritty of gameplay, which I think both does well in a certain light and is cause for concern in another. Most of Resident Evil Village controls as if Resident Evil 7’s POV and movement was blended with Resident Evil 4's action and trading mechanics. By that I mean this game throws creatures and intense situations at you like an unrepentant cyclone and it can feel overwhelming at first, but it also puts so many guns and bullets in simple curiosity’s reach that you can easily feel like you’re the scariest thing in the village.
I kid you not, by hour three of the game I had a shotgun, a rifle, and a part upgrade for my pistol. By hour six I had already gotten some explosives and had the liberty of deciding what weapons I wanted to keep upgrading or sell. There are certain points in Village where it could easily be scary or unnerving if I wasn’t Ethan “Rambo’s scarier brother” Winters, armed to the teeth and ready to pulp any creature dumb enough to get in my face. After the exhilaration of fending off one particular pack of monsters, I even found myself audibly yelling out, “who wants to die next?” It’s a bit puzzling to me to feel that way in a Resident Evil game, though I can’t deny I enjoy the impact and variation of the weapons, their upgrades, and the gunplay.
Similarly, aiding in that feeling is the presence of the Duke who appears throughout the game. This indulgent mystery man is well-acquainted with you, the village, and the mysteries abound for reasons he won’t reveal. More importantly, he hosts an ever-present shop of weapon upgrades, ammo, gun parts, and other provisions. His prices would be off-putting if Resident Evil Village wasn’t also packed to the gills with coin and treasures you can sell to him for even more coin. Much like Resident Evil 4 and 5, there are even special treasures that when sought out and combined will provide a healthy supply of arsenal-strengthening cash. Resident Evil 7’s crafting system even returns so you can collect a wealth of parts like green herbs, chemical fluid, and scrap to make med kits and bullets if ever you run out. All you have to do is be vigilant enough to find the pieces, which the game even helps you with by marking rooms and areas red if they still have items and blue if you’ve cleaned them out.
Your growing array of weaponry and power aside, I will give Resident Evil Village this: Despite arming you relentlessly, the game still has enough threatening elements to make your initial exploration new section unnerving. There’s even sections of Village where it strips you of that power altogether and it easily provides some of the most disturbing parts in the game for a lot of reasons I won't spoil here. More importantly, Resident Evil Village treads a line where its environmental design can pancake you if you don’t look before you leap. I wish it was scarier throughout the whole adventure, but I won’t claim I ever felt invincible in the slightest.
The nightmare continues
One thing I’m happy to share isn’t lacking here is post-game content. After what I would say is about a 10-to-12-hour adventure, those who found the Resident Evil 3 remake’s post-game underwhelming will likely take pleasure in how much there is to do after you finish the main game. For the production buffs, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes movies, concept art, and character models with informational snippets about facets of the game’s design. For those looking for more to play, there are two harder difficulties past Standard, a multitude of unlockable special weapons and gear if you accomplish certain challenges in any playthrough, as well as The Mercenaries extra mode.
The Mercenaries in particular has returned looking more engaging than usual. You choose a level like the village or the castle and clear monsters in a number of areas in the setting as fast as possible. Before each area you have the option to buy weapons and upgrades with a starting amount of money and whatever further cash you’ve collected in rounds. Then, after clearing each area, you get scored based on time you had left and money you collected or kept when you started the area. You can boost your score by racking up combos, slaying foes in short order, boosting your time per kill, and breaking yellow orbs for further time bonuses.
There are also blue orbs that offer you a random set of three perks to choose from like bonus handgun damage or healing per kill. Do well enough and you can unlock new levels and even new perks to enter the rotation of possibilities at each blue orb. I really liked the additions to Mercenaries and feel it will be a great place for players to challenge themselves in a little time attack-style combat, and it does well to round out a wide array of post-game goods after RE3 remake was admittedly lacking.
Am I the real monster?
Resident Evil Village presents me with a conundrum I’ve felt all too often throughout certain eras of the franchise (particularly RE4): If I have the means to kill everything in my way at all times, why should I be scared? There are times it adequately answers this question and times where it does not. But that’s an ongoing issue with the balance of power in a supposed horror game. Perhaps more notably, I feel Resident Evil Village does great as an action game with solid horror elements. The combat is visceral and vibrant, the environments are splendid and mysterious, and the story had decent enough oomph to keep me involved throughout. I wish this was an overall scarier game, but it’s still a thrilling one nonetheless.
This review is based on a PlayStation 5 digital copy supplied by the publisher. Resident Evil Village launches on May 7, 2021 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Google Stadia, and PC via Steam.
Resident Evil Village
- Most of the game is downright gorgeous
- Genuinely scary moments and intense throughout
- All of the Four Lords encounters are great
- Gunplay and combat is a varied, visceral spectacle
- Some of the best elements of Resident Evil 4 and 7 combined
- The Mercenaries extra mode is highly challenging and fun
- Plenty of post-game unlockables
- Less scary as you become more armed
- Occasional texture pop-in
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Resident Evil Village review: I'm not trapped in here with you...
Resident Evil 8 is getting good reviews!! Hype!!
Eurogamer does say it's front half is better than its back half, just like RE7 was.
Capcom hire me as the back half fixer for your RE games
I can't wait to see what the final level is. People seem to really hate it:
the audio options in this game are driving me fn nuts!! i cant even play because i cant decide if what i have setup is correct.. damnit.
2. headphones + virtual surround
4. surround + virtual surround for headphones
* and tempest 3d audio engine running on top all of it
WHAT THE FUCK DO I PICK HERE?!?!
every single person online, and there's like 20 different threads on this, contradict each other with about every available option, so that helps none.
Personally, using HEADPHONE + VIRTUAL SURROUND, on more than one occasion, due to hearing random noises, thinking it was something in my actual house.. i've had to, no shit, take my headphones off and listen to make sure it wasn't real life/in my house.
(just random creaking, popping, subtle things sounded as if they were coming from my real life home and i had to actually take my headphones off and listen.)
dunno if that means RE's built in VRR option is better than Sonys expensive hardware based 3d solution, if it works together or thats how you use the 3D audio, or what... but that's how its been.