Resident Evil Village Reviewed

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Resident Evil Village Reviewed

Posted by Lawrence Rennie

11 May, 2021


After 8 main titles and many more side spin-offs and remakes, Resident Evil Village shows off the many learned successes of its storied series. Now the 8th instalment of the main Resident Evil series, Resident Evil Village is the expert combination of some of the best defining features found throughout the franchise.

A Headline Performance of the Hits

Village continues the soft reboot started in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Ethan Winter’s story. But where Biohazard took only the first stumbling few steps in a series adjusting to a new type of direction, Village now confidently strides ahead at complete ease. It’s an action-packed, scare filled thriller guaranteed to show you a good (albeit stressful) time.

Let’s sink our teeth in.

No Luck for Ethan

After the horrifying events of Biohazard and Ethan Winter’s rapid plunge into a terrifying ordeal that had him quite literally picking together his own limbs, you might hope that our intrepid protagonist has had enough monster slaying action to last a lifetime or two. He’s got a new quiet life in some non-descript European wilderness with wife Mia and newborn daughter Rose. But, unfortunately for dear Ethan no, Resident Evil is never that sympathetic to allow any sort of happiness. There’s no settling down here, Ethan.

The serene, idyllic life of Village’s prologue is very quickly cut short after Chris Redfield shatters Ethan’s new parental life in shock fashion. A disaster crash then finds Ethan stumbling his way into a European village reminiscent of the “las plagas” village in Resident Evil 4 where very quickly he is thrown straight back to the wolves—quite literally.

Yes, it’s a Lycan village, and Village is pretty quick here to signal both that this game will be much more action oriented and will unashamedly be picking out the best hits of previous Resident Evil successes—and I mean that as no slight against Village, rather it makes for an excellent game all told. Fans of the series will remember the introductory village fight of Resident Evil 4 whereby the action starts quick with a last gasp struggle for survival against an entire Spanish village flooding into your barricaded houses and cobbled together defences.

Village replicates this frantic survival fight, and it is again one of the player’s first experiences with Lycan combat. You’re overrun with snarling wolfmen in a village setting with only a pistol and very little ammo to defend with. The only message: “survive the fight”. Welcome to Resident Evil Village, there’s no hand holding here.   

This beginning fight sets the tone and sets it well. The action is stressful, and the enemies are utterly terrifying to come up against. You’ll be aghast at the sudden sight of an additional GIANT WEREWOLF charging you down when you’ve only got but 5 bullets to your name. “Surely they can’t be expecting me to fight this TOO!” And it’s here you learn the valued lesson that sometimes being resourceful in survival horror is actually also sometimes known as running away crying like a big baby. Hey, it works.

A vampire, a fish man, and a Brit walk into a bar…

If this stressful fight isn’t enough to have your heart beating out your chest things don’t slow down much after. Ethan is then forced to sit in on a court of the most terrifying jury ever. At his adjudication: Lady Dimitrescu, a giant vampire lady with wolverine claws and a particular lust/hatred for man blood; Heisenberg, a hammer wielding hunter with Magneto like powers; Moreau, a bulbous fish man who would give the Hunchback of Notre Dame a run for his money; Donna Beneviento, a black-clad puppeteer with just the most disconcerting living bridal doll; and the mysterious, feathered Mother Miranda as their figurehead.

The structure to Village becomes very clear here. Each of these thematic figures is going to stand in the way of getting your baby daughter back, so unsurprisingly you’re going to battle way your through each of their own personalised “haunted houses” one by one. It is again similar to the tiered enemies of RE 4, though now only with a more refined and simplified structure.

With the game set out like this it allows Capcom to show off a diverse range of environments and gameplay sequences, keeping the game fresh and engaging throughout. The stately manor settings and dingy dungeons of Castle Dimitrescu are off-set but the dank swamp lands of Moreau’s bulbous lair; the intensive combat action of Heisenberg’s factory is off-set by the slowed down nightmare of Beneviento’s escape room. There are no long-prolonged periods of dullness and tired play since the game does well to switch things up throughout.  

A word needs to be said here too for the impressiveness of Resident Evil Village’s technical aspects. The hallways of Castle Dimitrescu are brought to (cold) life with the attention to graphical detail. It truly feels chilling to walk its rich hallways of deep reds and medieval adornments with how photo-realistic the game presents. The audio is also key, with blood curdling screams and ominous thumps and bumps echoing their way through the wet stonework of the dark dungeons below. The first few hours of play in which you are primarily in Castle Dimitrescu are immensely stressful with just how terrifying atmospheric the whole setting is. I inched my way through at a snail’s pace at first in fearful anticipation of every corner and doorway. The sneering cackling of Lady Dimitrescu’s insectoid daughters didn’t help much either…

Brutish Action

Resident Evil Village is definitely set to be more action heavy than its predecessor. Biohazard took a lot of steps especially in its early to set its atmosphere and create the nightmare as opposed to having you blast your way through it. That made sense for a game that was seeking to re-establish its series after a prolonged hiatus and signal its new direction. But Village assumes that both you and Ethan are caught up now with how this goes so doesn’t need to take the time to tip toe around getting you used to bizarre monstrosities and extravagant villains. It’s Resident Evil; you know what’s coming.

Village destabilises you instead with the quick intensity of its chaotic action. It’s terrifying because you’re so suddenly in the action, but not yet appropriately equipped or mentally ready for it. The early stages of the game are survival horror in every way. You’ve got plenty of enemies, but what’s most stress inducing is that you barely have the means to scrape through them just yet. Every missed shot stings, every hit taken a catastrophe – you’ll be sweating out encounters for at least the first few hours.

As with most Resident Evil games of course the confrontive fear that holds you in place at the start does eventually begin to fade away. By a certain point you’ve got the strong weapons and the money and resources to feel pretty comfortable (especially if you’ve been as anal about exploration and back tracking as I was). With the grounding of a heavy shotgun and the ammo to back it up you’re no longer stressed and terrified by each encounter. Encounters become a thrill to blast through instead.

But to Village’s credit it does it’s best to claw you away from that sense of ease in the middle-latter end stages to avoid any monotony. With Heisenberg’s factory you’re thrown a new type of challenge and soon your resources do begin to be chipped away again by more difficult enemies. The stressful scrappiness starts to eke its way back in just as you’re getting too comfortable making for an all-round more engaging and thrilling experience.  That stress is not all for nought, however, as the game’s final sequences dive in for the climactic all-guns blazing cathartic release.

By straddling both lines of slow horror and heavy action fans get a good taste of all the hallmarks of both old and new Resident Evil styles. It works extremely well.

A Perfect Frankenstein’s Monster

In keeping quite aptly with some of the narrative elements of the game, Resident Evil Village is ironically enough a perfect formulation of so many successful pieces from across the Resident Evil series.

As has been widely recognised even in trailers and concept teases, Village is indebted in so many ways to Resident Evil 4—one of the best and most beloved titles of the series. Not least for its European village setting, Village takes on a similar narrative structuring too—4 had Leon searching for the kidnapped Ashley, Villagehas Ethan searching for the kidnapped Rose—while also bringing back some of its fan-favoured mechanics. The inventory style is reminiscent of the classic cache system of RE 4 and Village too brings back the mystery merchant in “The Duke”. Village makes no bones about its influences; it holds them up proudly. The Duke refers directly 4’s cloaked weapon vendor by at times mocking his voice while repeating one of his infamous catchphrases (“What are ye buying, stranger?”).

Some of the gameplay sequences are resemblant of RE 4’s too. The village encounter we’ve covered, but there is also a brief boat stint with a giant, monstrous fish.

But it isn’t only RE 4. Capcom have learned a thing or two from the wildly acclaimed Resident Evil 2 remake and have pushed its brilliant “Mr X” mechanic into Village. Mr X was an invincible enemy that constantly followed after players at certain segments. In Village Mr X is instead replaced by the equally giant and foreboding Lady Dimitrescu (although the key difference being that a lot of the internet didn’t have a specific kink for X). The map clearing aspect of RE 2 also follows into Village too as rooms and buildings not fully searched are very clearly marked—something which is both hugely welcomed and wildly frustrating for anal resource hoarders like me.

The Angie section of Village too returns back to the more ponderous, inventive style of Biohazard, while also holding a bit of nod to P.T—Hideo Kojima’s legendary demo trailer for the unreleased Silent Hills. It is also fair to say that Angie’s “escape room” is also reminiscent of the excellent demos that preceded Biohazard as well as some of its “Banned Footage” DLC content.

Ultimately, Resident Evil Village is a title that is looking to carve out its own new story and series for the future, but in doing so it remains indebted to and thankful to its predecessors for imbuing it with the gifts to do so. It is the perfect combination of Resident Evil’s best aspects with a touch of its own flavour, and it’s a sure-fire winner because of that.


About Author

Lawrence Rennie

Lawrence is a Scottish-born writer with a love of games and films that he fortunately turned into a career grumbling about online. When not firing away the hours buried in a game or film he also co-writes 'Mechastopheles', an original comic series published by the UK’s leading comic magazine 2000AD as a naturally born-grumpy Scot; however, he asks that you don’t ask him too much about it though! Lawrence’s other musings include podcasts, fitness, his cat, and one day developing his own screenplay.

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