Review: Resident Evil Village
With the release of Resident Evil 7 back in 2017, Capcom once again sought to redefine what a Resident Evil experience could be. The series went from an over-the-shoulder third-person view that continues to be an influence to this day, into a first-person perspective that became the talk of the town when Hideo Kojima’s P.T./Silent Hills demo was revealed to the world. This change gave players a more intimate experience while also moving away from the action-packed gameplay of Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6.
With Resident Evil Village, Capcom aims to bring back some of the elements that made a game like Resident Evil 4 so fun and memorable to gamers while still retaining those elements of horror that only a first-person perspective can provide.
Resident Evil Village released on May 7 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Steam, and Stadia. For this review, we played the PlayStation 5 version.
Taking place years after the traumatic events of Resident Evil 7 (of which you can watch an included short recap video if you need a refresher), everyman protagonist Ethan Winters and his wife Mia have recently welcomed their daughter Rose into the world. However, this newfound happiness is paired with some tension as the couple struggles to come to terms with what their lives can be like after experiencing the things they have. From here, we get the setup for the story that has been littered about in all of the trailers leading up to the game’s release. Out of nowhere, series hero Chris Redfield shows up, kills Mia, and then kidnaps baby Rose. Even though I knew about this plot beat leading up to the game, seeing the full sequence play out does a great job of putting the player in Ethan’s shoes and making them feel incredibly confused and panicked about the situation.
That confusion, and the determination to rescue his daughter, is what drives Ethan through his entire journey through Village. Of course, it’s not as simple as a father going to rescue his daughter from her kidnappers. This is Resident Evil after all, so we have to get some kind of monsters to deal with. Forgoing the typical virus-infected zombies or parasitic creatures that have appeared in previous games, the series now has werewolves, witches, and a tall vampire lady to deal with in addition to the rest of the nightmarish creatures that inhabit the village. There’s a scene early on that introduces you to the different antagonists (including said tall vampire lady Alcina Dimitrescu) that you’ll be dealing with.
I found myself completely drawn in by every carrot the story dangled in front of me. Whether it be from documents found in Castle Dimitrescu that helped provide some backstory to Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters, or scenes with Ethan interacting with the games cast of characters, I wanted every last scrap of story the game offered to help fill in the bigger picture. There were also some small, but amazing nods to the bigger Resident Evil world that fans of the series are sure to enjoy.
Do You Have a Gun?
Those that were familiar with the previous entry in the series will likely feel at home when taking control of Ethan. The biggest and most immediate change I felt was that Ethan’s movement speed has been increased from the previous game. I hadn’t realized just how slow he actually moved until I played this game.
While Village keeps its first-person perspective from the previous game, it also reaches further back into the series to bring back some fan favorites. I’ve already mentioned Resident Evil 4 in this review and, sorry in advance, it will continue to be mentioned as there are so many elements that were either directly pulled, or inspired the creation of Village. The first nod that players are sure to notice is the inventory system. Instead of a small box on the side of the screen for items, Ethan has a case to store all of his items, exactly like the attaché case from Resident Evil 4. While I can remember constantly having to go in and arrange my items to make room for more in that game, I rarely had to do so in Village. The upgrades to my inventory capacity were obtainable without too much fuss and once I got my space upgraded to its maximum capacity, I had zero issues. Truly, the only time I was frequently finding myself with issues was during a second playthrough where I had… more weapons than anyone would really need (and the ammo to go along with them.)
Of course, it wouldn’t be Resident Evil without some puzzles littered along Ethan’s path. Ethan will need to collect various keys and items in order to move on from area to area. Rarely are these puzzles complicated, though one in the second area did have my scratching my head quite a bit before I figured out what I needed to do. Many of these puzzles are hooked into the main progression path, but there are also some on the side that you can discover while exploring. These will usually yield a treasure item that can sell to the game’s merchant for a good amount of cash.
Ethan can acquire a variety of weapons to help his fight against the army of creatures in his way. These can be found, purchased, or unlocked post game (more on that later). The weapon types don’t really vary all that much from what we’ve experienced in other more action-heavy entries in the series. You get a handgun, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, and automatic rifles, with different versions of each that can be upgraded in addition to buying mods for them that can enhance and change their appearance.
One feature that will be unique to the PlayStation 5 is the use of the haptic triggers. Depending on the weapon you’re using, the tension on the trigger will change. As an example, readying your handgun by aiming down the sights will require only a small amount of strength, while a shotgun or the sniper rifle while require noticeably more force to pull down. Of course, this option can be turned off for those that don’t want to deal with it, but for me personally, the use of the haptic triggers continues to add a level of immersion that I never realized I was missing from my games.
I mentioned him above, so now it’s time for discussion about the game’s merchant: the Duke! Capcom has taken the idea of a merchant character from RE4 and taken it to the next level. The Duke will provide Ethan with some key information during his journey in addition to offering several services. Defeating enemies, smashing pots and, yes, even shooting crows will yield items and currency that can be spent for a variety of things. Ethan can purchase guns, ammo, recipes to make his own health and ammo, as well as pay to upgrade the stats of his current weapons. Later in the game, the Duke will even cook for Ethan, taking the materials gathered up from the animals in the village and granting boosts to maximum health or movement speed.
If Ethan finds himself low on healing items or ammo for his arsenal and can’t afford to purchase them directly, he can use various crafting ingredients found scattered around the village to make more. The crafting system from the previous game has gotten a bit of an upgrade here, with different types of materials to collect, as well as the addition of having to obtain recipes before being able to craft certain items.
Village offers a few things to work on after your first successful run through the game. The first of them is The Mercenaries game mode which drops Ethan into various areas of the game and let’s him rack up points by killing enemies. When starting out, players will be able to make some purchases from the Duke, deciding what weapons they want to venture out with. After starting a level, Ethan will have a set amount of time to kill all of the enemies in the area. Scattered around the area are orbs that will grant time extensions and abilities. When hitting an ability orb, the player is shown three upgrades that can range from increased damage for a certain type of weapon, or a speed bonus when equipped with a knife. The variety in abilities is good and I rarely found myself disappointed with the RNG that I got with them. While the abilities can definitely help a run, the more pressing matter is keeping up your combo. Your score will increase as you kill enemy after enemy, but if you manage to combo them, the score will rise even higher. You only have a short time before you can kill another one and add it to the combo. It seems simple enough in practice, but it requires knowledge of the level and enemy placement to really succeed.
I played a lot of these extra modes in previous titles and, while I have also enjoyed it in Village, something feels… off. Depending on your scores in each level, you can unlock different things, including additional levels to challenge. The one thing that you can’t unlock, however, is additional characters. One of my favorite parts of previous entries to this extra game mode was being able to unlock a different character that had a different set of weapons. However, with the shift to first person, playing as a different character wouldn’t actually be all that noticeable. To deal with weapon loadouts, the game will change the weapons available at the Duke prior to starting a level which is dependent on the level itself. Ultimately, I’ve enjoyed my time running through The Mercenaries and racking up combos, but the mode simply doesn’t feel as full as it did in previous games.
Also after completing the game, you’re also able to spend challenge points. Challenge points are earned by, you guessed it, completing challenges. These can be things that are achievement/trophy related, or other goals in the game such as killing a certain amount of enemies with one weapon type, or completing a boss encounter under a certain time. These points can then be used to acquire new weapons, infinite ammo for a specific weapon, as well as concept art and character models to view. It’s great to have these challenges to aim for when doing additional playthroughs of the game.
A Theme Park of Horror
A mansion in the middle of the woods, an underground laboratory, a castle in a European village. Resident Evil has always taken players to different locations, and while some appear more than others (I’m looking at you, secret labs!) there’s always a wide variety of environments to explore. While the game uses the village as it’s main destination, the truth is that there are several other areas to explore, each which it’s own theme and environment. Of course the most well-known is going to be Castle Dimitrescu, which has you avoiding the tall vampire lady and her daughters during your visit. There’s also a more water based area, a factory, and… the house in the image above.
This damn house. While the game never fully moves away from its horror roots with things like enemies that stalk you in the hallways or a surprise enemy around a corner, the Beneviento house decides to go all-in on making you have to buy a new pair of pants. This is the section of the game that made me the most tense during my initial playthrough. The lighting, the audio, and all of the other components that made up this area disturbed the hell out of me. If we see Resident Evil Village as a desire to take the first-person games in the series in a more action based direction, this part of the game is the developers saying “Yeah, but what about horror?” and cramming as much as they can into a locale while giving nods to the more horror-focused RE7 and even P.T.
Moving between locales was seamless as there aren’t any loading screens, which means you get to see a lot more of the area as you explore the village and its surrounding areas. To put it simply, the visuals are great, the lighting looks fantastic, and the audio does a great job of adding just the right amount of comfort (or eeriness).
As I played through the game, I found myself always looking forward to Ethan’s one-liners after taking down a tough boss. Truthfully, they’re not all that great in a “I’m a badass video game protagonist” kind of way, but rather, Ethan really hammers home the idea that he’s just a normal guy in an incredible situation. I laughed out loud after Ethan exclaims “Eat shit!” after defeating a boss and I just yell at my TV “Yeah! You tell ’em Ethan!”.
If there’s one negative thing in this game’s presentation, it would likely fall down to inconsistency with pronunciation in the voice acting. Specifically, that of “Dimitrescu”. As many people pointed out during the recent demo, Ethan doesn’t say it quite right… and neither does Lady Dimitrescu, which is… who doesn’t know how to say their own name? Thankfully, the Duke came in and saved the day with the correct pronunciation. It’s a small thing to be sure, but it stands out like a sore thumb to me when I hear it.
Now Do Me and Finish the Job!
Resident Evil Village is what you get when you take the first-person horror of Resident Evil 7 and combine it with the more action-focused gameplay of Resident Evil 4. Ultimately, it ends up being a love letter to fans of the series, or even just fans of specific games like RE4 and RE7; a fitting title to celebrate the series’ 25th anniversary this year.
Clocking in at around eight hours for my first playthrough, I never felt bored as I explored the village. There was always something new to discover and each new piece of the story had me yearning for more. After the story, The Mercenaries mode and completing challenges to unlock weapons and infinite ammo have more than kept me entertained as I work my way through my third playthrough.
Review copy provided by Capcom for PS5. All screenshots taken by reviewer.