While Resident Evil Village is not the eighth game in the long running Capcom franchise, it is the eighth title that continues its survival horror roots and tries to build on the growing lore of the series. Resident Evil Village is a direct sequel to the amazing, dark and haunting Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. While I will strongly argue that RE7 is ‘close to’ the pinnacle of the series, it is only Resident Evil 4 that has captivated me more, and Resident Evil Village is unapologetic in that it wants to be the love child of these two fantastic titles. While this sounds perfect to any fan of the genre and attempts to recapture those titles, it falls short of reaching the heights of Lady Dimitrescu.
Three years after RE7, Ethan and Mia Winters have moved on from the horrors of Louisiana and the Baker family. Trying to put the past behind Ethan, Mia and their 6-month year old daughter Rose have been assisted by Chris Redfield in relocating to Eastern Europe. With the first few minutes of reconnecting with the Winters family, shit hits the fan in typical Resident Evil fashion. This puts the player back in the shoes of our protagonist Ethan as he tries to recover his kidnapped daughter, unlock the secrets of the Village and understand how it is all connected to the Umbrella corporation.
It is only a matter of minutes when Ethan stumbles into the Village, a Transylvanian rundown and quaint township that looks like it has been recently torn by war. The Village is reminiscent of the opening chapter of Resident Evil 4, down from the architecture to the town’s folk. Also just like RE4, it does not take long for the action to start, sharing other similarities such as barricading buildings and finding a shotgun very early on. It quickly becomes apparent that the action has significantly ramped up in Resident Evil Village. Gone is the slow burn of the grindhouse psychological horror of RE7 which has now been replaced with a type of monster mash action where shooting and running make up the core mechanics of survival. While this major change in direction may be disappointing to the hardcore fans of RE7, the focus is more on its varied locations and the Village itself.
The Village acts as a hub world that links four very distinct locations, a castle, mansion, factory and reservoir. While each location is not available from the start, they each open up after the previous bosses’ location has each been defeated and grant the player an item that not only unlocks new locations, but also secrets of the Village. Each of these locations offer some different experiences and are very distinct from each other. The standout is Lady Dimitrescu’s Castle and the House Beneviento mansion, with both feeling like a more traditional Resident Evil game with puzzles, exploration and action.
This Village is governed by four supernatural lords:
- The 7-foot-tall vampiric Lady Dimitrescu, along with her daughters
- Karl Heisenberg, who leads a group of Lycans and humanoid werewolves
- Salvatore Moreau who inhabits the reservoir and has a hunched mutant like appearance.
- The morning garb wearing Donna Beneviento and her creepy puppet Angie, which both rule their mansion.
Contrary to the marketing tactics of Capcom, Lady Dimitrescu is not the Resident Evil Village’s big bad. While she and her three blood sucking daughters are my standout enemies of the game, they only play a small part of the overall experience. This is a little disappointing, as when Lady Dimitrescu is not in scripted scenes, she comes across as a stronger Mr X or Nemesis that the player runs from until her final moments. Although, when Ethan interacts with her, she is by far the standout villain of the game.
All these lords respond to Mother Miranda, who is a priestess and treated as the spiritual leader of the Village, although as the main villain, she has no real presence and not much time at the fore front of the narrative. This makes her uninspiring and just another grunt to knock over. This decision has left me scratching my head why Capcom did not have the charismatic Lady Dimitrescu, whom steals the show as the main villain.
Each of these lords and Mother Miranda have paranormal abilities and as mentioned offer diverse experiences, although some of the boss fights are a letdown and fall short of RE7 nail-biting encounters. Most do not require much brain power, with some feeling like bullet sponges and one is basically a quick time event. What the lords do bring with them is their evil legions and they fit the theme of monster movies from yesteryear. Different locations bring different rogues, such as vampires, zombies, ghouls, werewolves and gargoyles that are all fitting to the Transylvanian theme.
To take down this large array of enemies is an arsenal of weaponry. While beginning with the trusty knife, pistol and shotgun, Ethan will continue to find a sniper rifle, grenade launcher, magnum, mines, pipe bombs and automatic weapons. Players can also find rare types of these such as a handgun that shoots sniper rounds or purchase updated versions of base weapons. Gunplay is much tighter, and it needs to be with the large number of enemies thrown at the player, especially towards the end of the game. Players could be forgiven for think that they are playing a AAA first person shooter and not Resident Evil in the final sections. While avoiding enemies in some sections is possible, I found that on the standard difficulty I had enough ammunition to take out all enemies and pick up their loot. Ethan also has a block button, which is useful, but in traditional Resident Evil style, if the player keeps a distance between themselves and their enemies it can become a cake walk and too easy on the standard difficulty. I suggest experienced players putting it on the hardcore difficulty on their first run.
A big return that is reminiscent of RE4 is a trading merchant who is known as Duke. Duke pops up in various locations with an assortment of weaponry, mods and recipes for crafting. He can also upgrade weapons and purchase any treasure found throughout, making exploration important, not just for ammunition but for treasure so that the player can afford to make purchases. New to the series is hunting animals, be it pigs, fish or chicken, players can return to Duke to craft meals that provide permanent buffs to Ethan.
Also making a return is the RE4 inspired inventory management system, with juggling and fitting weapons into slots. Upgrading the inventory is required within the first few hours, as once a few weapons are found, it fills up quick. This time around mission required key items do not take up space and neither do items used for crafting ammunition and health.
The visuals are exceptional, with the level of detail being jaw dropping. While the NPC models look very good, it is the extra details, especially in Lady Dimitrescu’s castle, that have risen the bar for games to come. On the Xbox Series X, the game runs at a smooth 60 fps, or a solid 45 fps with raytracing on, which I preferred as the extra gloss and reflection of floors and walls make Resident Evil Village pop. The sound design is also great, as the creaks of doors opening and closing, footsteps from adjacent rooms and growls of enemies had me paranoid and constantly turning around. While nothing was really ever there, it had me on the edge of my seat, especially in those tight corridor moments.
Unfortunately, there are a few reasons why I believe Resident Evil Village does not reach the heights of RE4 and RE7. First of all, Ethan is clueless of what is happening. He literally says things out loud that the player has already worked out or just questions what is going on that many times he nearly convinces the player they also have no idea what is going on. He is close to the worst protagonist in RE history. Next is that Capcom have heavily toned down the scares. Gone is that instinctive fear that the Baker family provided in RE7 and while there are still some shocking moments, I was never dreading moving forward as I did in sections through the Baker house. The lords are campy which fits the monster movie horror tone and some past RE games, but they do not add that intense fear factor from the recent past games in RE7 or that of the RE2 remake. And sadly, while I enjoyed the action, it was a bit too much as the game jumped from action to set piece to action. While some players will prefer this, I would have liked to experience more puzzles and moments just to allow the player to slow down and take in the amazing atmosphere Resident Evil Village devises.
Once completed, players can take their character build, with all weapons and buffs, over to a higher difficulty, which is more than needed for the Shadow of the Village difficulty that is unlocked on the games completion, giving it some great replayability. Mercenaries’ mode, which made its debut with the original RE3: Nemesis also makes a welcomed return. Mercenaries Mode is a time-trial mode where the player earns high scores with the most kills in the least time. It is a fun distraction and I have happily sunk a few hours into it.
Adam Potts, for Adam’s full profile click here.