Where Resident Evil 7 was a complete reinvention of what the franchise was and could be, Resident Evil Village is more of a refinement. It retains the foundational elements established in RE7 while greatly expanding on the idea of what Resident Evil is.
Just like Shinji Mikami’s 2005 masterpiece — Resident Evil 4 — Village completely redefines, expands and advances the franchise and the genre. It’s no surprise given RE4 was a clear inspiration for Village. This, the eighth mainline entry in the long-running survival horror mainstay, looks back to the most acclaimed game in the series and isn’t shy about cribbing from its older sibling.
From the vague, somewhere-in-Europe setting, absence of traditional zombies, the inclusion of a merchant and over-arching rescue mission to the general aesthetic, Resident Evill Village so badly wants players to be reminded on RE4.
And so it should.
It may have been released 16-years ago, but Resident Evil 4 remains the most beloved game in the series because it’s so damn good. So if Resident Evil Village wants to attempt to capture lightning in a bottle twice, so be it.
It’s ultimately not entirely successful but it’s pretty damn close and in copying Resident Evil 4 whilst iterating on what was established in RE7, Village is easily one of the best games in the series.
Resident Evil Village Review
Like RE7, Village is played from the first-person perspective. What was a radical shift in RE7, now seems pretty normal; even after RE2 and the Nemesis remakes. Whilst I’m a big fan of the third-person perspective found in the earlier games, the move to first-person has been a smart one by Capcom. The horror of RE7 and Village is far more in your face and more real in first-person. The change in perspective also adds to a far more oppressive sense of claustrophobia.
Where the original games — 1, 2 & 3 — used fixed camera angles to obscure the player’s view and foster a sense of dread and unease, RE7 and Village simply remove peripheral vision from the equation. In first-person, you have a much narrower field of view which, when coupled with incredible 3D sound design, keeps your (virtual) head on a swivel as you constantly scan your surroundings for enemies. Despite being largely set outside, in open areas, you never truly feel as though you’re not being encroached upon just a little bit and although the first-person perspective is the largest contributor to this, Village’s level-design is a close runner-up.
Taking a leaf out of RE4’s book, Village is set, well…in the titular Village. Small, labyrinthine and difficult to traverse, the centrepiece location for the game is exceptional in its design’s function and simplicity. Resident Evil Village creates the illusion of a large, almost open-world space, in reality, it’s very much a classic set of interconnected rooms and corridors; albeit cleverly disguised. Village takes the level-design standards of the series a step further than usual too, giving players not one, or two or even three “mansions” to explore but instead, giving them four. That’s not including the Village itself and the myriad other outdoor areas either.
Advancing the original concept of the “haunted house” several steps, Village is able to toy with players’ expectations, misdirect and deliver some genuine surprises and shocks. After 20+ years, it’s quite the achievement to still be able to scare the absolute shepherd’s pie out of players and on that front, Village delivers. In those 20-some years since Resident Evil first burst onto the scene, like a zombified Dobermann smashing through stained glass, horror gaming has changed drastically and while RE stubbornly stuck to its tank-controlled guns for the longest time, after the disaster that was RE6, Capcom looked outside the series for inspiration. The most successful new wave horror games such as Amnesia and Outlast were used as a template to reinvigorate the series.
With Village, having already reinvented the series with RE7, Capcom has gone back to Resident Evil 4 as a source of inspiration. However, Village also looks to classic horror to elevate things a step further. RE Village is equal parts RE4, RE7, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Poltergeist and while I can’t get any more specific without delving into spoilers, I can assure you that Village manages to make the leap between these different themes and stories seamlessly and all while offering very different kinds of gameplay experiences. With so much being included in Village and so many disparate elements being woven together, it could have been an absolute mess. Thankfully, Capcom has nailed it.
This design achievement is integral in creating the atmosphere which makes Village such a success. Atmosphere is key when it comes to Resident Evil and Village goes ham to make sure players are always getting just the right amount. Whether you’re exploring the eerily empty village, the gothic castle, cave/mine network or any of the other locations, Village always feels creepy. REV is less concerned with B-Grade schlock and more with actual terror and tension. That being said, the voice-acting is terrible, but that’s to be expected.
Like RE4 said adiós to zombies in favour of Ganados, Village uses Lycans as its enemy of choice. Designed to be “proto-zombies” the Lycans are, as their name so subtly suggests, really just werewolves. When I first heard Resident Evil was going to replace zombies with werewolves and vampires I was pretty sceptical, however, the new enemies are a real treat and they’re far more engaging than the molded enemies from RE7. They’re also much more mobile and keep you on your toes in combat. Rather than lumbering towards you and occasionally veering side to side, Lycans will actually attempt to dodge your attacks and try to time their own. It makes for a more tactical experience which ultimately aids the overall sense of survival.
Ammo may be plentiful but so is the number of shots required to take down enemies. If you’re too gung-ho, you’ll wind up strolling around with an empty clip, at risk of becoming wolf chow. The greater challenge presented by REV’s enemies is most welcome, however, it means the game veers dangerously close to outright action-game territory on numerous occasions. One section in particular, late in the second act, can only be described as ‘Michael Baysian.” It is out and out, full-blown balls to the wall action but it still works because it’s a one-off and everything on either side of it is measured, tense and dripping with horror. It’s an earned moment of action-movie glory and delivers a much-needed break from the terror.
Because Village plays, by and large, exactly like Resident Evil 7, the danger of it becoming a proper first-person shooter is non-existent though. Players don’t have enough fine aim control (at least not on console) to be able to nail enemies left and right and character movement is sluggish enough to prevent players from being able to run and gun. You can try, but it’s a sure-fire way of running out of ammo instantly. Village promotes slow and steady movement, taking your time to line up shots and cautiously creeping forward so as to reduce the number of times you’ll be surprised. It doesn’t always work but that’s a good thing. As soon as I got complacent, something new would come at me, get my heart racing and remind me why I love this series all over again.
Thanks to the RE Engine, Resident Evil Village is absolutely stunning, especially on PS5. Being a cross-gen title, Village isn’t able to deliver visually fidelity on par with what we’ve recently seen in the Ratchet & Clank trailers but it’s still an incredibly gorgeous and highly detailed game. The power of current-gen consoles also means the game runs at a consistently, buttery smooth framerate without hitches or hiccups, even when the screen gets crowded with hairy wolfmen trying to tear you a new one.
Working in tandem with the visuals is the peerless audio design. If you want to get the most out of Resident Evil Village, you owe it to yourself to play it with proper surround sound, whether that’s through speakers or a headset. Being able to hear the guttural growls and gurgles of enemies all around you elevates the fear to a whole new level.
Not everything in Resident Evil Village is a slam dunk though. The story, while interesting is a bit of a fizzer and by the end, I couldn’t have cared less about anything that had happened. There is a tiny, microscopic attempt at linking Village with the broader series (outside of RE7) but it’s lip service at best. It’s a nice easter egg but that’s about it. Sadly, while the story is nothing to write home about, the treatment of Ethan, the returning protagonist from RE7 is almost criminal. No spoilers here, but he’s entirely underutilised and totally forgettable, which is a shame since it’s through his lens we see the action.
And finally, speaking of action, the boss fights in Village are, to put it mildly, weak. The monster designs and their character models are fantastic but they’re just way too easy. On my first playthrough, I died only once against any of the bosses. They just never felt really dangerous and I never actually felt like I was going to lose. It’s a shame because Resident Evil has some truly iconic bosses and boss moments and there aren’t any of those in Resident Evil Village.
Minor negative nitpicking aside, Resident Evil Village is a modern-day horror classic. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights set by Resident Evil 4 or, the best-in-the-series, Resident Evil 2, Village is a game very worthy of the Resident Evil moniker. Endlessly replayable and featuring an excellent first-person take on The Mercenaries, Village is most definitely worth your time and money.
Come May 7 when the merchant asks, ‘What are ya buyin’?” your answer should be; “Resident Evil Village.”
Resident Evil Village was reviewed on PS5 using a digital code provided by Capcom.