Resident Evil Village is the eighth mainline title in the long-running survival horror series and to those who have played Resident Evil 4, its influences will be clearly seen almost immediately. It features similar action to what made its predecessor so great. However, does it fit within the universe after the return to horror that Resident Evil 7 was? Let’s find out.
*This review contains no spoilers, so you are free to read on and not have to worry about anything.
Resident Evil Village yet again follows Ethan Winters. It’s been three years since the incident at the Baker House. Ethan, along with his wife, Mia, and their newborn daughter, Rose, have been relocated to Europe by Chris Redfield in order to get a fresh start after the traumatic events of the last game. However, shortly after the game starts, Chris and his Hound Wolf Squad assassinate Mia, and abduct Ethan and Rose. Ethan awakens next to a crashed transport vehicle with Rose nowhere to be found. He eventually discovers that Rose is being held by Mother Miranda and her Four Lords. Ethan must do whatever it takes to get his daughter back.
The story is quite enjoyable and is carried along by an interesting cast of characters. The Four Lords are particularly entertaining and are presented in such a way that makes them seem criminally insane, like something out of a comic book. They weren’t particularly scary but I really did enjoy visiting the different areas that functioned as each respective Lord’s domain. Also, being a Resident Evil title, a lot of the narrative can be found in files littered throughout the game, giving you more insight about the world, the enemies, their motives, and even how the Four Lords came to be. These kept me hooked for the entirety of my playthrough.
If you played Resident Evil 7, then the way that Village controls will instantly feel familiar. The only real difference is that the inventory management has been changed to be more in line with what Resident Evil 4 introduced. You can essentially organise the items in your inventory to your liking, rotating them to fit to maximise the available space if need be. Additionally, key items and treasures won’t form part of your main inventory, so you don’t ever have to worry where you might store those; the same goes for crafting ingredients.
Speaking of which, the crafting also adds to the gameplay experience, requiring you to decide to either craft some first aid or possibly some more ammo for one of Ethan’s guns, if you happen to notice it running a little low.
Unlike the previous game, Resident Evil Village does seem to be more action-orientated and less of a slow, horror game. There’s definitely a fair amount of horror in the game and honestly, some of it is quite terrifying, but the majority of the experience feels quite action-heavy. Surprisingly, it works pretty well for most of the game as there’s a decent balance. However, in the game’s last hour, it goes a little off the rails and tends to feel like you’re just running and gunning, as opposed to making every single shot count. That last bit just felt a little rushed.
Something that hasn’t been present in the past few Resident Evil games is the presence of a merchant. Resident Evil Village welcomes a new merchant known simply as The Duke. He tends to pop up throughout the game when you least expect it, allowing you to buy new weapons, upgrade existing ones and also sell whatever treasures you may have found. Partway into the game, you also unlock the ability to hunt animals found around the village. Their meat can be supplied to The Duke for it to be cooked into a dish, which will unlock permanent upgrades for Ethan. Exploration is also encouraged as there are a host of valuable treasures to be found, which can bolster your finances a bit, allowing you to buy some shiny upgrades for your arsenal. Not to mention that there are also rare animals in locations off the beaten path, which are required ingredients for certain dishes.
Resident Evil Village has a number of different enemy types to throw at you throughout the game. The ones you’re likely to face off against the most, however, are Lycans. These feral and incredibly aggressive werewolf-like creatures are fast and can close the gap between you and them fairly quickly. Headshots are always a good idea though as these can stagger most of the enemies you’ll encounter.
It’s also a given that you’ll face an assortment of bosses and mini-bosses. The main fights are particularly gripping and are quite large in scale. They’re quite typical in their execution though, in that you’re either aiming for a weak spot or damaging the boss enough to expose said weak spot. It’s standard Resident Evil fare but still managed to make me grip my controller tightly with anxiety.
The puzzle-solving aspect of the series is still present in Resident Evil Village, however, it seems to be more watered-down than what fans might be used to. The first few hours of the game, when you’re exploring Castle Dimitrescu felt like the classic Resident Evil experience, both when it comes to puzzles and the labyrinthian design of the castle. However, following that, the puzzles are incredibly straightforward, with their solutions sometimes revealed in one of the game’s files which sometimes could be found nearby. It would’ve been great if there were a few complex ones, just to strike a bit of a balance.
After the story has been completed, you’ll be awarded points for completing certain challenges. These points can then be used to purchase bonus content such as infinite ammo, character models and of course, The Mercenaries Mode. This mode, which made its debut in Resident Evil 3, returns to deliver more of the arcade-style, time-based enemy slaying. There are some changes though. Each area is based on a location featured in the main game and consists of multiple parts and not just one long map. You’ll be faced with an increasing number of enemies during each part, but this isn’t really the main challenge of the mode. The biggest challenge is trying to rack up a long killstreak while also plotting the best path to the end goal in order to score a large number of points. This is made even more exciting with the inclusion of blue ability orbs which litter the immediate area. These provide buffs and perks that range from increased movement speed to enemies exploding when being killed with a gun. You’re given a choice of three different abilities when collecting an orb, allowing you to find what works best for your playstyle. The best part is that these abilities persist until the area is completed, plus they stack, so you can actually make an existing ability even stronger.
The Mercenaries Mode does take some practice though and again, some experimenting to find which weapons are best for making quick kills. I was a little disappointed to find that the Mercenaries only included Ethan as a playable character, whereas previous iterations have featured multiple characters, each with their own loadout. Hopefully, this will get added as DLC in the future.
Visually, Resident Evil Village looks great. It runs incredibly smoothly on the PS5 with no issues throughout the campaign. Also, everything is presented with great detail, right down to the gory head explosions. It also sounds fantastic, thanks to the excellent voice acting throughout. The soundtrack is quite subtle though, featuring little to no music when Ethan is exploring, which sets the atmosphere rather nicely. However, it ramps up slightly when facing off against an enemy or a boss, hitting you with unsettling music that is sure to make your hair stand on end.
Resident Evil Village is great. I actually really enjoyed this latest chapter in Ethan Winters’ story and the near-ridiculous villains that he faces off against. I quite enjoyed the narrative, even if it sprinted to the end during the last hour. The gameplay is also pretty great, so much so that I’m already on my third playthrough. Again, the last hour, where things go off the rails feels inconsistent when compared to the rest of the game. The watering down of the puzzle-solving is a bit disappointing as well. For the most part, however, Resident Evil Village feels like a love letter to Resident Evil 4, which may just give you an idea of how much you might enjoy it. It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes next.
Reviewed on PS5
You can purchase this version of the game here for £54.99
Resident Evil Village is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Google Stadia, and PC.
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