Resident Evil Village Review

Regular listeners to our weekly podcast will have gotten the hint by now that I’m a rather big fan of the Resident Evil  series. Ever since playing the original on the Sega Saturn back in 1996, I’ve adored the series despite some less than great titles on the 360 (looking at you RE6). So it’d be safe to say I came into Village – the eighth mainline title – with some excitement. Is it great? Absolutely. Is it the new pinnacle of the series? Not quite.

Let’s start with the good, shall we? Resident Evil Village is a Resident Evil game through and through. There are outlandishly campy villains, jump scares galore, and more than a few variants of keys to find that unlock and ever expanding labyrinthian location – this time, a sprawling village and its surrounding areas. When it hits properly, Village is excellent. I’ll keep spoilers out of the review of course, but it’s safe to say that there is much more to the game than any of the pre-release trailers or demos have lead on. At times it threatens to surpass even the mighty RE2 Remake. Especially early on, the pacing, atmosphere, combat, and puzzles are wonderfully enjoyable. I loved finding my footing in this strange new place, and seeking out little hidden extras and side paths that would lead to helpful items or more story exposition. Those that played the demos will find the opening hour or so familiar, yet there’s enough extra that even then I was enjoying re-experiencing it all again.

Ethan is much more capable this time around, which is handy as the combat ratio has been turned up heavily. There are moments of quiet, but enemies are far more numerous than in RE7. I was initially sceptical of the Werewolves (sorry, Lycans) and vampires rumoured to feature in the game. Having beaten Village now, I’m much more inclined to side that they were a good choice in terms of the story however I’ve always preferred when RE has stuck to the staple zombies, lickers, and hunters etc. Fighting the Lycan’s proves quite the challenge mind, and when one grabs hold of us we really know about it. Luckily, Ethan has access to some powerful weapons from the off; even his basic pistol can deal quick damage when going for headshots, while the early shotgun did me well almost to the latter third of the game. Each can be upgraded with Lei – Village’s currency – at The Duke’s shop.

This travelling weapon seller/smith/cook appears at various intervals throughout. He’s witty, full of information, and plays more than his fair share a part of the narrative. Using Lei from defeated enemies or found around the world, he’ll sell us items and weapons or help us make the ones we have more powerful. Again, focusing on upgrading the shotgun worked for me but there are plenty of options to suit the situation at hand. He can also cook up certain animals that we find around the world in order to give Ethan permanent upgrades. It’s worth hunting these out, but it’ll take a keen explorer to find them all.

Other combat scenarios don’t fare quite so well. The vampires are a bit too weak willed to be much of a threat, and later areas offer up some twists on the enemies that barely make a difference. Even a particularly menacing-looking monster type proves to be all too easy to deal with. The biggest struggle was the sheer numbers at times, but that can be dealt with by simply kiting them to a corridor and mowing them down. The boss battles however are quintessential Resident Evil and are fantastic. I don’t think it’s too spoilery to say that they are usually the hulking behemoths found in all RE games, but the scenarios Capcom place us in to fight them are memorable and possibly some of the best in the series. Unlike other entries though, ammo is rarely a concern; a further example of Village focusing more on action this time round.

It’s this focus on the action that has me pause for thought when someone asks how it rates in my list of the series. What I adored about RE7 was the series return to survival horror proper. The Baker household was a terrifying place, and at no point did I ever feel safe moving about even previously cleared areas. The Baker family were also wonderfully intimidating, each offering up their own unique scenarios and challenges. In contrast, outside of a couple of areas, I found myself sprinting almost everywhere in Village. I knew that no matter what, I could handle any threat that might appear. Village still delivers the scares and frights, but in vastly reduced numbers. That’s not to say what is here is bad by any means – it’s still one of the best games I’ve played this year – but it’s just a different type of Resident Evil game than I’d hoped for. I’m almost afraid that we might be heading back down the 4-5-6 route, and we all know how that turned out… But that’s just the old-school fan in me coming out.

Mercenaries Mode Impressions
Mercenaries mode returns in Village, and due to multiplayer mode RE:Verse being delayed by a few months is likely going to be players second port of call after beating the campaign (which you must do to unlock it). I remember spending hours and hours playing Mercenaries in RE4, so was keen to check this out. What’s here is fun enough, though it hasn’t got its hooks in me just yet. Stages are split up into three areas, with each based off areas in the main game. We need to kill about 50% of the total enemy count to clear the stage, but in going for the high score we’ll need to not only take out all of them, but in quick succession to keep the multiplier going.
There are also upgrade orbs dotted about that let Ethan buff himself up for the duration on the run. Each one randomly gives us three to choose from; these can range from extra health, to increasing the damage of a certain weapon, and even making enemies explode upon death. It’s worth hunting them all out on each round and they can also be stacked so we could end up with mega health or shotgun damage, for example. In between each round we get to visit the Duke to buy upgrades, ammo, and health with Lei gained during play.
Much as in the campaign, enemies are best dealt with by simply kiting them towards us, but Capcom are good about chucking in a big boy here and there to keep us on our toes. Only one stage is available to start with; more are unlocked by reaching score thresholds, but getting the maximum points is quite difficult. I’d have preferred if the C rank gave us a new level, while B and above granted extra perks or Lei.
Again though, it’s a fun enough mode and sure to provide some longevity. I’ve had a handful of rounds at this point and while I’ll play some more, I don’t see this hooking me in for the long haul.

There are still loads of classic style puzzles to enjoy (gems and keys galore) and even huge sections where there is no combat at all. The village itself is also a vital part of the game, acting as a semi-hub world to the surrounding locales. Exploring fully will reward us with extra ammo, items and the like, and it is a fairly sizable place to poke around in. A decent amount of side stories can be found to explore, and inevitably we need to return to a specific place later once we’ve found the specific item elsewhere in the game.

I began excited to look around, but after a few hours little niggles prevented me from enjoying this experience fully. Mainly, there are multiple blockades around the village (an overturned cart, or overgrown nettles, for example) but these are not shown on our map. So more than once I found an item that I knew I could use in the village, but the clear route on the map was actually not feasible, meaning I’d have to remember which house I went through or what back door entrance I’d used to get there hours earlier. Thankfully the village isn’t overly massive, but it could still frustrate all the same.

Once more without spoilers, the story here is enjoyably outlandish. Ethan’s plight in searching for his missing daughter is presented in wonderful B-movie style, and while he might not be the best character in the series his second outing warmed me to him nicely. It’s always great to see Chris Redfield, and the new cast (including woman of the hour Lady Dimitrescu) will go down as some of the best the series have had us go up against.

Personally though, Village is too action-heavy for my liking; RE7 hit so well by going back to the survival horror roots, whereas Village seems to follow the series trend of upping the action quota with the follow-up entry. That’s not to say the action is bad – far from it – but very rarely did I feel any suspense or tension. By the time the game ends, it felt like I’d killed more enemies in this game than I have in the others combined – and I still had a ton of ammo left over. If you’re one of the players who prefer this style of Evil (and based on sales, it seems I’m in the minority) then what you’ve got here is an absolutely fantastic adventure. If you’re like me though, you’ll be left wanting at least a little. The latter third is a mixed bag as well; it tries to blend horror and action but comes off as overall a bit of a slog. Things pick up in the final hour or so, but it’s a stark comedown from what had been a well paced title up until that point.

I should mention though just how fucking fantastic Village looks as well. The RE Engine has always been one of the best out there, but in making use of the new Series consoles Capcom have arguably given us one of the best looking titles in recent memory. I played roughly 50/50 on the Series X on my 4K screen and Series S on a 1080p screen, and no matter which I was using it looked incredible. The lighting helps give each location a unique feel (especially with HDR on), while texture and model details are suitable detailed, from severed limbs exposing the nastiness within to exquisite décor and realistic crumbling buildings. Character models are a highlight as well, particularly the main cast. Even when I was getting bogged down by some of the niggles I had, the sheer prowess of the visuals help ease that pain immensely. The Quick Resume function didn’t work very well despite the tag showing up in the guide menu but load times are rapid, with a matter of seconds between loading a save and playing as well.

Conclusion

Overall, there’s a lot to like about Resident Evil Village. The story and characters are great, most of the scenarios are fantastic fun to play, and when it hits best it rivals the top tier of the franchise. It’s a little too action heavy for my tastes, but even so that action is generally a lot of fun. Is it the best in the series? No. Is it still bloody good? One hundred percent. I’m cautiously excited to see where we go from here, and am already looking forward to a second playthrough.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Utterly excellent visuals
  • Highs rival the best of the series
  • Interesting story and characters
  • Village hub has plenty to explore
Bad
  • A big focus on action rather than survival horror
  • Latter sections suffer a dip in pacing
  • Can be a bit fiddly to get around the Village
9
Excellent
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 10
Audio - 9
Longevity - 8.5
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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