Resident Evil Village reviewed on PS5. Also available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Stadia.
Resident Evil Village is a direct sequel to Resident Evil 7, and as such, it has big shoes to fill. After the bestselling but poorly received Resident Evil 6 (and some terrible spin-offs), Resident Evil found itself in a rut. Fortunately, Resident Evil 7 tapped into the franchise’s roots and combined classic survival horror with modern gameplay to revitalize the series.
Since the debut of RE7, Capcom has given us a bit of a mixed bag. Resident Evil 2 remake was one of the best games ever made, while Resident Evil 3 remake and the multiplayer Resident Evil: Resistance were met with a lukewarm reception. Where RE7 tapped into the original Resident Evil to revitalize the series, RE Village is channeling RE4. As such, it’s a faster-paced, more combat-oriented game with a much more expansive setting. The big question is whether or not that’s the best direction for the series.
Village of Shadows
Resident Evil Village continues the story of Ethan and Mia Winters. Several years after the events in Dulvey Parish, Louisiana, the two have established new identities and a new life in Europe. They’ve even settled down enough to have a baby, Rose. Everything is looking up until Chris Redfield leads a raid on their home, shooting Mia and kidnapping Ethan and Rose.
When Ethan awakens, he’s on the outskirts of a mysterious village, which he discovers is under siege by what seem to be werewolves. As he tries to find his daughter and figure out why Chris did what he did, Ethan becomes entangled in the machinations of the village’s leader and religious icon, Mother Miranda, and her “children,” the four heads of the local great houses: Lady Alcina Dimetrescu, Karl Heisenberg, Salvatore Moreau, and Donna Beneviento.
With as much attention as Lady Dimetrescu received, she’s woefully underutilized, as are the rest of the antagonists other than the most boring one, Mother Miranda. The problem is that each of the four house leaders is relegated to its own territory, so each only gets a small bit of screen time.
Instead of being a unified front, Ethan very methodically deals with each of the antagonists one at a time. Because of this, none of them are really given the room to develop as characters, which leaves them feeling very one-dimensional. Dimetrescu is big and angry; Heisenberg is a rebel and angry; Moreau is ugly, dumb, and angry; and Donna is asocial and angry. I never expected a total biographical flashback for each of them, but I did want to know their motivations beyond Mother Miranda’s wishes.
Doing too much in too little time
RE Village’s plot is a lot more tenuous than its predecessor as well. By the time RE7 was over, you knew why the Bakers and Mia went insane, what happened in the three years Mia was gone, Eveline’s history, and who was behind it all. Despite the mold creatures being a bit lame, it was all explained in a way that at least tried to be scientific. I’m still not sure why some of the enemies in RE Village are Lycans, why some are just creepy hairless zombie-type things, or why Lady Dimitrescu is a vampire. There’s a very feeble attempt to explain it, but it’s thin.
Threads pop in and out constantly. First, there’s a creepy cult around Mother Miranda, with a whole village of technology adverse people worshipping her. However, despite being a focal point of marketing, this concept is quickly pushed aside. Things are only explained as to how they fit in the moment, and as soon as they’re offscreen, they’re usually forgotten. The exception to this is Mother Miranda, who I found to be boring compared to her “children.” Her motivation is trite, and she’s one of the weakest antagonists of the series.
The biggest problem is that the game tries to do too much in a short amount of time, so nothing has a chance to have much depth. I finished my first playthrough on Standard difficulty in a little under nine and a half hours, and I thoroughly explored each area, including the optional ones, read every file (except one), and scoured the map for items. Along the way, I constantly felt rushed. Sure there’s an impetus for Ethan to keep it moving since his daughter has been kidnapped, but the pacing never allows you to get too invested in any one aspect of the game.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the game. In fact, it’s the opposite. It could have used a few extra hours of game time to expand the story a bit and tie it back to the rest of the series more. As it is, outside of Chris Redfield’s presence and a few references, RE7 and RE Village feel more like their own separate series than part of a larger franchise.
Ethan the Killer
The game returns to the first-person perspective introduced in Resident Evil 7. Although I love the Resident Evil 2 remake, I think first-person is the way to go for the series from now on. Horror works best when it feels like it’s happening to you instead of an on-screen avatar, and getting behind the eyes of the protagonist enhances that for me.
The combat is very similar to RE7, although the gunplay has been tightened up a bit (with the explanation that Ethan got some BSAA training after he and Mia were rescued). However, for whatever reason, he still can’t figure out gun sights. He’s got a normal hipfire, which is relatively accurate. However, unlike most games, when you press the “aim” button, Ethan just raises his firearm to shoulder level instead of looking down the sights. This makes no sense, especially considering one of the weapon upgrades you can find is a red-dot sight.
There’s a wider variety of weapons this time around, including different variations of the handgun and shotgun. This brings in a bit of strategy as later models of these weapons start off more powerful, but cost more to upgrade. There’s not quite enough cash to fully upgrade each gun, so players have to be smart about where they’re spending their Lei.
The inventory has been changed from item slots to the case system used in Resident Evil 4. However, unlike in RE4, the case never feels too crowded. I was able to carry four weapons, explosives, meat, and ammo, and only occasionally needed to rearrange my items. The case felt more like an homage than anything, which is fine. However, I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on inventory management, as having separate repositories for crafting items, key items, treasure, and then the case made it much too easy to keep a considerable stockpile.
Also channeling RE4 is The Duke. This big boy appears to help point Ethan in the right direction and sell him arms and items to help him on his quest. The Duke also offers gunsmith services to upgrade weapons and, later on, will even cook for Ethan if you bring him ingredients (while taking his own portion, of course). I like the system and the character, but again, having a large man appearing in impossible locations throughout the game detracts from the immersion of the whole thing. The merchant in RE4 was fairly low key, but The Duke is larger than life (literally) and is an exemplar of the game’s strange tone.
Resident Evil Village is a gorgeous game. Capcom has gone above and beyond with the environmental design, crafting a detailed and diverse world full of detail. I really can’t overstate just how good of a job the devs did here.
The village itself is full of creaky old buildings that feel extremely lived-in. You can really picture generations of families being born, living, and dying in this ancient hamlet. Each home has a unique design that highlights the fact that they were all individually designed and constructed.
In stark contrast to the humble village homes is Castle Dimitrescu. Its imposing cold stone hides an ostentatious interior reminiscent of Versailles. Much like its Lady, Castle Dimitrescu’s ornate halls hide sinister secrets, and the dank dungeons below are filled with failed experiments.
Heisenberg’s factory and Moreau’s reservoir also serve to complement their masters. The factory, especially, serves as an excellent contrast to the rest of the game’s bygone locales. However, as much as I loved each individual location, the difference between them seemed too jarring at times. With each antagonist getting their own territory, the game can feel very much like a theme park.
It’s a bit nonsensical walking through a humble village, which could, at the most, house a few hundred people, then visiting the factory, where Heisenberg is cranking out cybernetic monstrosities by the truckload. Style takes precedence over sense, which is acceptable for some works of horror, but not for one that bases its origins in “science.”
Since the game has a fairly short playtime, none of the locales gets much of a chance to take center stage. Giving more backstory on each area and more opportunities for exploration would have gone a long way toward easing the theme park feeling. As it is, I felt rushed through each place and whisked away before I learned anything solid about their history.
Ethan the Merc
Thankfully, Resident Evil Village has a lot more staying power than Resident Evil 3 remake. Capcom’s last title was panned for its low replayability (for good reason). Village has the now-standard Extra Content Shop, which allows players to buy things like infinite ammo, concept art, models, and new weapons for story mode with points earned through in-game challenges.
There are also multiple difficulty levels, but Hardcore and Village of Shadows (Very Hard) only raised enemy health, speed, and attack power and lowered the amount of ammo you get with each pickup. I would have liked to have seen something akin to RE7’s Madhouse mode with different item placement, as making Ethan softer and foes spongier isn’t that interesting.
However, the return of The Mercenaries in Resident Evil Village is the big post-game draw here. In this game mode, players play through a series of levels and earn points by defeating enemies, gathering Lei, all set to a timer. The key to getting a big score is to combo enemies, collect the most cash possible, and hit the end goal with plenty of time remaining. After completing all the stages in an area, the player’s score is tallied, and they’re given a ranking from C to SSS.
I’ve had a blast with The Mercenaries so far. Since you can buy weapons and items before and between each level, there’s a lot of experimentation required to find the best setup for each situation. Enemies spawn in the same place each time, so with each run, you get a little better at memorizing their placement and figuring out what combo of weapons works best.
I struggled to get the A ranking needed to unlock consecutive stages, and I still haven’t figured out how to hit an S, SS, or SSS. I’m going to continue optimizing my route, and I’m excited to see how players perfect their runs. I hope that Capcom supports this mode with post-launch DLC, because it’s infinitely more interesting than RE:Verse.
Resident Evil Village review: The final verdict
I went into Resident Evil Village with an open mind and came away with a decent game. There’s a lot of individual parts of it that I really, really like. The environmental design is fantastic, and I love each of the minor antagonists. The problem is that these things don’t quite mesh together. It’s still a spectacle, and I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, but I don’t believe fans will remember it with the same fondness as RE7 and RE2 remake.
I’ve been a fan of Resident Evil since I played the original RE2 when it was released in 1998. However, I’m not a purist. The increased emphasis on action isn’t Resident Evil Village’s issue. The problem is that it’s taken many elements and smooshed them together with little regard as to how they fit. If Capcom took a little more care with the game’s tone and its place in the series, it could have been a classic. As it is, RE Village is simply a good game with excellent production value.
GameRevolution reviewed Resident Evil Village on PS5. Code provided by the publisher.