The build up to the release of Resident Evil Village made me giddy with excitement, with each plot detail or gameplay reveal leaving me eager to get my hands on the game. A broody and villainous Chris Redfield? Intriguing. A return to Resident Evil 4-style horror, mixed with Resident Evil 7’s first-person gameplay? Totally invested. A tall vampire lady stalking you through an elegant-looking castle that houses dark secrets? I was ALL IN at that point.
I’m happy to report that the full release brings with it a lot more than was previously revealed too. Resident Evil Village is a frightening (and at times outright disturbing) venture in Capcom’s critically-acclaimed series, with it implementing plenty of ideas seen across the previous games with a modernised twist. It’s bloody brilliant and easily stands out as one of the more daring releases in the franchise.
Taking place three years after the events of Resident Evil 7, life seems to have taken a better turn for Ethan and Mia, with them now having a six-month old daughter named Rose and newly settled into their home in Europe to try and forget the horrors of Louisiana. Things seem peaceful and normal, but it doesn’t last that way for long. After saving the family and helping prepare them for their new life in the last game, long-serving series protagonist Chris Redfield attacks the Winters family home, kills Mia (brutally with a TON of gunshots might I add), and kidnaps Rose, with Ethan brought along as a hostage. Talk about a heel turn, right?
Things take a turn for the worst for Chris and his convoy when they end up getting attacked by a mysterious force, leaving Ethan to awaken amongst savaged bodies on the outskirts of a small village. With a trail of footprints etched in the snow behind him, he heads to the village to try and find out what’s going on and how he can save Rose.
What follows is a gripping narrative that’ll keep players hooked in right until the very end as they face off against the four vicious lords of the village, their enigmatic leader Mother Miranda, and try to unravel Chris’ insidious intentions. There were a few moments that felt a bit contrived, but it’s otherwise enthralling – especially for series veterans who will appreciate the nods to previous games. It’s definitely the most emotional game in the series yet, with Ethan growing into a more likable and meaningful protagonist than he did the first time around. There’s more of a human element than before, which is nice given the amount of monsters you face off against…
The village itself becomes the centre point of your journey, with all areas accessible from within it. Like other entries in the series, these areas are often barred by peculiar keys or a crank (of course), with the route of progress typically easy to find given that it’s the only way you can really go. That’s not a complaint by any means, with the more open nature of Resident Evil Village a little intimidating at first – especially when the area opens up and you see the scale of the landscape. Thankfully, it never feels daunting to uncover, with the intuitive map system making exploration easy throughout. Of course, as more areas open up, there is more room for exploration. Optional areas hide special treasures throughout the world, with plenty to discover for those who have a sense of adventure (and aren’t afraid of a few hidden nasties).
As mentioned, you’ll face off against four lords in Resident Evil Village, with each having an area dedicated to them. These areas each bring new challenges to the player, with ideas from previous titles in the series showing up. Take Castle Dimitrescu for example; anyone who has played Resident Evil 2 will be able to relate to the ominous threat of the iconic Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters as they stalk you through the elegant halls, with their relentless pursuit and unfazed response to gunfire certainly feeling like encounters with Mr X.
Then there’s the chilling romp through the puzzle-fuelled home of Donna Benviento that feels more like the original Resident Evil, the Lycan showdown in Heisenberg’s Stronghold that feels like it takes ideas from Resident Evil 5’s more action-orientated approach, or the quick-thinking confrontation at the Reservoir which feels like it could easily belong in Resident Evil 4. In fact, almost ALL areas of the game feel like they could have come from Resident Evil 4 – it’s clear that a lot of inspiration for each locale came from the game’s sense of design.
Between all of these different areas, there’s plenty of variety to be found in Resident Evil Village. Whilst it certainly offers more action than the previous game, it also brings in more ideas to keep the player tested. One moment you might be sniping bat-like creatures in the sky or taking down a giant beast, whilst in the next you might be solving a disturbing puzzle or making a pathway through the water. Either way, there are plenty of different things to do that make sure that time spent with the game is never one-dimensional, whilst the fantastic level design ensures each locale is a joy to explore… in that grim and creepy kinda way.
I wish I could talk about it all in depth, but it’s better for the player to discover themselves. Resident Evil Village is full of surprises across both its narrative and gameplay, with each new discovery strengthening the experience as a whole. Whether it’s with a tricky enigma or a vicious showdown, the game is packed full of spectacular moments. It’s just a well-paced journey that constantly keeps players on their toes.
It helps that combat in Resident Evil Village is so satisfying, whether that’s when facing off against the relentless Lycans, the weapon-wielding underlings within Castle Dimitrescu’s dungeons, or some of the later game’s more ‘mechanical’ nasties. Whilst enemies in the series aren’t necessarily known for being too clever, there’s a sense of intelligence here that sees them actively dodging out of the way of attacks or even blocking their own weak spots in order to make players change up their approach. It’s demonstrated even further in the entertaining boss battles, which really test your combat prowess thanks to their demand for strategy and quick-thinking from the player. Or maybe you can fill them with bullets and hope for the best, it’s up to you.
Combat always feels good though, with the arsenal of weapons at your disposal proving effective at taking enemies down. You can upgrade them by spending the in-game currency with The Duke too (more on him in a bit), with things like the power, reload speed, and ammunition improved the more you invest in them. Some of these improvements may seem small, but believe me, they go a long way in making it easier to take down enemies that may have caused problems earlier in the game.
Need to defend yourself? A quick press of the L1 button allows you to shield yourself from foes and, if inputted quick enough, will allow you to hit them away to clear space in front of you. Some of the enemies of Resident Evil Village can do a LOT of damage if they catch you, so your defensive manoeuvres can be just as important as your gun skills.
Those coming to the game fresh from Resident Evil 7 will find some additional new features in Resident Evil Village, with the Duke standing out as one of the most significant. Like the Merchant from Resident Evil 4, he gives players the opportunity to spend the cash they earn in order to buy supplies, ammunition, and crafting recipes. He’ll also perform the previously mentioned weapon upgrades, whilst treasure found across each locale can be sold for a profit. He can also provide different stat upgrades if you provide him with meat from the animals you find, with The Duke proving to be quite a dab hand in the kitchen. It adds an extra emphasis on exploration in the game, whether that’s when hunting down animals or just looting treasure to earn a bit of extra cash.
Whilst being able to purchase items is great, it’s the Duke himself that stands out the most. Enigmatic throughout, his mysterious presence helps push the story along and guide Ethan to his goals. He’s certainly more than just a ‘shop’, though his muttering of a well-known phrase may bring a smile to the face of those that played Resident Evil 4…
Another addition comes with item management, with the player having to arrange their inventory in a tile-based system. You know… just like in Resident Evil 4 (I’m like a broken record player at this point). Whilst this may seem stressful, it actually works really well in-game. You only ever have to manage your weapons and supplies, with crafting ingredients, key items, and treasures stored within their own unlimited tabs. I never felt like I didn’t have enough room for everything I wanted to carry, whilst the inventory upgrade options will suit those who like to take a few more supplies into battle. It just makes for a neat addition that adds an extra element of organisation to the game. Be warned though: the ‘magic’ items boxes are gone, so try not to let yourself get over encumbered with goodies from the Duke’s store.
One sticking point that came up pre-launch was the length of the game, with some players dismayed to hear that it would only last around eight to ten hours. My playtime came in at around eight and a half hours, with that including the collection of all the hidden special treasures and spending a lot of cash on upgrades. You know what, though? It felt like the perfect length. Whilst I’d have always loved to have more, I felt like the varied locales and storytelling reached a point that felt just right. It’s not a long game, but it’s not too short either.
Those who want more playtime will certainly find the special challenges and the bonuses they offer appealing, whilst the additional difficulties can offer a sterner test. There are a ton of unlockables too, ranging from new weapons and unlimited ammo to concept art and in-game models. There’s definitely enough on offer to warrant additional playthroughs, with Resident Evil Village by no means a ‘one and done’ kind of game.
Those who want a little something extra to invest themselves in may want to check out the unlockable Mercenaries mode. This challenge mode sees players progressing through levels and racing the clock as they kill enemies, with new items available to purchase between stages and upgrades unlocked to improve your chances of success. It’s a neat mode that’ll certainly appeal to those that enjoyed Resident Evil Village’s intense combat, though I couldn’t help but to wish that it offered a little bit more. There are just four levels, after all, so it won’t take players long to get through them. Maybe DLC or even the option of multiplayer could improve it in the future?
I can’t end this review without mentioning the visuals, which look outstanding throughout. Every aspect of the game looks beautiful, whether it’s the haunting yet graceful halls of Dimitrescu Castle, the harrowing snow-filled woods that surround the village, or even the remains of the village itself following the Lycan onslaught. Every area in the game has at least one sight that will blow players away, whilst the enemies that lurk within them are disgusting to encounter… you know… in that beautiful kind of way.
It’s just a VERY pretty game and one of the most impressive I’ve seen on the PlayStation 5. The sound design is absolutely on point too, with the 3D audio making it feel like enemies were coming at me from all corners. Add to that a fairly steady 60fps (though it does see some dips when ray tracing is activated) and it’s hard not to be mighty impressed with Resident Evil Village’s presentation.
Resident Evil Village offers another fantastic survival horror romp that utilises plenty of ideas from the series to make for one remarkable release. It brings together horror and action in the most effective way seen from the series so far, with the all-out action sequences joined by those that’ll leave you on the edge of your seat as you evade relentless creatures or uncover eerie sights.
Add to that a gripping narrative that will genuinely stir up the emotions, outstanding visuals, and plenty of innovative gameplay ideas that improve upon the previous game, and you’ll quickly find that Resident Evil Village certainly lives up to the hype. Some contrived moments in the narrative do see it fall short of perfection, but it’s otherwise another fantastic addition to the series.
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
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