Resident Evil Village Review
Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Genre: FPS, Survival Horror | Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S | Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
When you look back over the course of the Resident Evil series, you come away with a lot of individual feelings and reactions. There’s the corniness of the first few games, the shift to action, tons of side stories that don’t seem to go anywhere, and the recent tonal change to hardcore horror. It’s from all of these disparate elements that Resident Evil Village draws, fusing them into a blueprint from which the series can grow into something new.
In terms of a model for the future of the series, it’s surprisingly successful. While there are elements of almost every major game in the series in Resident Evil Village, the two that the 8th numbered entry draws the most from are Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil VII. If you took those two games and threw them into a blender with a few Gothic horror novels, you’d pour out the basic framework of Village from the mixture that emerged.
Ethan Winters returns as the protagonist here. Following the events of VII, Resident Evil Village sees Ethan and his wife Mia attempting to build a new life after the trauma that occurred at the Baker House in Louisiana. However, when Chris Redfield re-enters their lives, murdering Mia and taking their infant daughter, Rose, away, his life is left in tatters.
From there, Ethan awakens in a snowy field near the local village. Here he meets a shattered group of people who worship a demigoddess they call Mother Miranda. Hanging on to the refuse of their own wrecked existence, they huddle in their homes and point Ethan to a sinister castle that looms in the distance.
If you’re having flashbacks to Resident Evil 4, you’re not alone. From the spooky European setting to the 19th century aesthetic to the rogue’s gallery of Metal Gear Solid-style villains. Honestly, a lot of Resident Evil Village feels like Capcom developers were literally combing over the most common likes and dislikes from Resident Evil 4 and trying to come to terms with a method for reconciling them.
For example, a common criticism of RE4 is that the game loses any tension element the further it goes along. After the castle, plenty of players are just going through the motions until the end of the game. Village wisely sidesteps this criticism by having the titular village become the hub of the game. Players will return to the village over and over again, unlocking new ways to progress and explore as they make their way through the game.
It’s got a tinge of a Metroidvania-style vibe in some ways, as previously unreachable paths and treasures are marked on your map early on to try and solve later, with new items or weapons in tow. There are secret bosses, hidden weapons, and genuine side quests to complete for players who are so inclined. A new take on the RE4 merchant also appears, allowing you to upgrade your weapons, buy ammunition, and even do some cooking and crafting.
As weird as it all might sound, it works surprisingly well overall. Resident Evil Village succeeds at making these changes because they happen gradually. Early on, it feels like a sort of natural successor to VII. With its first-person perspective, returning protagonist, and penchant for body horror, that’s certainly the first impression it will leave on most players. However, as it evolves outward after its first few hours it grows into a sort of amalgamation of several beloved titles and elements of the franchise.
For example, the crank and well wheels from early entries reappear and are consistently utilized throughout the game. You collect keys and artifacts to advance, often with very high concept tasks required to make your way to a new area. There’s a reference to Chris Redfield’s infamous boulder-punching scene in Resident Evil 5. There are even villains made of bugs like in Resident Evil 0. I could go on, but I think you get the gist.
In these ways, Resident Evil Village begins to feel more and more like a love letter to the highs and lows that have made Resident Evil such a unique series since it debuted back in the mid-90s. Rather than hiding from the silliness of past games, it leans into them with a renewed vigor. This allows the game to have an adaptive tone that shifts from outright terror (a sinister house filled with living dolls) to total goofiness (a mech fight with a metal man).
Somehow it all still works, and for that, Capcom ought to be commended considerably. If you were to just read a plot synopsis for the game, you could be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of joke. It’s to the credit of director Morimasa Santo and writer Antony Johnston that Village comes together into such a cohesive whole, despite the inconsistency of its tone.
Of course, it helps that the game looks incredible. The version we played on the PlayStation 5 was jaw-dropping dozens of times during a single playthrough. Whether it be the insanely intricate motion capture work, the astounding elemental and weather effects, or just the scope and majesty of the level and enemy design, Resident Evil Village is truly a sight to behold.
On essentially every level, this production is firing on all cylinders. It helps to accomplish the gargantuan task of making vampires, werewolves, and cyborgs all somehow work as part of the same game, without obliterating the entire Resident Evil storyline in the process. On the contrary, there’s a real emotional center to this game, and by the end, fans will be positively salivating at where the series is going to go next.
While the quality of the boss fights has a bit of up and down to it, they generally work pretty well. The first few may seem a little underwhelming, but the way they break you in slowly to this world and its rules make them still passable. As the insane and extravagant battles begin to shift the game into total action-horror mode, players will again be reminded of Resident Evil 4, especially with the re-introduction of the beloved attache case inventory system.
It’s not all blood-spattered roses, however. One of the few real criticisms we can levee at the game is its somewhat confusing locations. You will be genuinely lost at least a few times in Resident Evil Village, and it can sap some of the tension and fun out of the experience. A late-game factory area will have players checking their maps pretty consistently, and that’s not exactly thrilling. Also, a section that sees players taking on Chris’ perspective late in the game feels really out of place compared to the rest of Village.
Still, overall, Resident Evil Village is an unbridled success. It may not always work but, even with its few hiccups along the way, Village is among the absolute cream of the Resident Evil crop. It expands the RE universe in bold new directions even as it pays homage to its longstanding history. Most importantly of all, though, it shines a light that will lead the franchise to an exciting new future for fans.