PG Score: 8.75/10
Resident Evil Village is available for PC, PS4/5, and Xbox One/Series X/Series S
Resident Evil Village immediately pulled me in and refused to relinquish its hold until well after the closing credits rolled. In fact, it only tightened its grip as I blasted through hordes of Lycan inhabitants, explored the dungeons of the daunting Castle Dimitrescu, and faced off against each memorable villain. The immensely satisfying experience relies on a ridiculously fun, action-heavy playstyle while retaining the signature survival horror elements that are the lifeblood of the franchise.
Set three years after the events of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, you once again take the reins as Ethan Winters as he attempts to lead a peaceful life with his wife, Mia, and newborn daughter, Rose. The respite is shattered by the arrival of Chris Redfield, who throws Ethan’s life into a tailspin and leads him to an ominous village in search of answers.
This time around, the larger focus on combat benefits the game and the series in several ways. First, it takes advantage of the first-person perspective in a manner its predecessor made minimal use of. Other than a few endgame encounters, Biohazard mainly required you to use stealth to slip past enemies rather than head-on confrontation. While Resident Evil Village still implements the evasion mechanics to an extent (avoiding an overpowered foe in the castle section for example), the style has clearly shifted towards a “fight first” approach, and the change is refreshing. The beastly battles feel up close and personal because of the first-person camera, which adds another layer of immersion to an already engrossing experience.
No Lack of Scares
Second, it shows that a generous serving of action can work in harmony with survival horror. Biohazard features some truly terrifying set pieces but is lacking in the combat department. Resident Evil 5 contains some of the best action gameplay in the series, but it is extremely light on actual horror. In Village, the frequent gunplay functions without sacrificing the foundation of frights that Resident Evil was built on. Albeit in smaller doses than past installments, it still delivers genuine scares, and they occasionally surface when you least expect it. Where prior entries have struggled to successfully mix the two genres, Resident Evil Village excels.
Finally, the emphasis on first-person shooting showcases multiple aspects of Ethan’s means of waging war against his many unearthly enemies. The firearm detail, handling, and feel are all among the best the franchise has seen. Every weapon at your disposal feels impactful and the hot keys (which allow you to choose the gun/explosive or knife you would like in each of the four spots and adjust them at your leisure) make it easy to quickly select the best tool for each situation. All instruments of destruction are responsive, and Ethan’s movement is very smooth. Ammunition is scarce so a “guns blazing” approach is not a viable method, which means that making every shot count is paramount. The feeling when a pinpoint sniper round takes a winged monster’s head clean off or when a perfectly tossed pipe bomb wipes out five zombies simultaneously is always rewarding.
Upgrades, Crafting, and Inventory Management
Every firearm in Resident Evil Village includes a vast array of upgrade options and attachable components that can be found throughout each location. While the attachments can be outfitted to their designated guns as soon as you add them to your inventory, all upgrades are handled by The Duke, who serves as a merchant and a central hub of sorts during Ethan’s adventure. The jubilant character also provides the game’s only source of comic relief, and his humor offers a delightful reprieve from the overload of darkness. Lei functions as the game’s currency and can be found on defeated adversaries as well as hidden throughout the environment. You can use it to purchase weapon enhancements, new items, ammo, and crafting recipes. The Duke also peddles health and movement-related enhancements later on, and acquiring these permanent boosts should be treated as a top priority. The ability to sell valuables and unwanted supplies to the jolly vendor is a key feature and one that becomes especially vital on the higher difficulties. It is worth mentioning that I completed the campaign on Hardcore mode, and that is the ideal setting for gamers seeking a greater challenge. Inventory management has always been a staple of Resident Evil, and Village is no exception. It works well here and operates in conjunction with the equally effective crafting mechanics. The menus are intuitively constructed, and the easy navigation helps minimize your time away from the action. As you gather scrap and assorted parts, you can concoct goods on the fly. As materials can be relatively hard to come by, you will constantly be faced with difficult decisions when considering which item to make. Do you play it safe and craft another first aid med or do you go the aggressive route and produce a few precious shotgun shells? These choices can often mean the difference between life and death, and really raise the stakes for the addictive gameplay.
While most of your time will be spent engaged in armed conflict, a large portion will be dedicated to scouring every nook and cranny of the expansive world. As you clear out each room, the color will change from red to blue on your map in the menu. This little feature is of great assistance and is another example of Capcom limiting your time away from the best parts of the game. Thorough exploration is greatly rewarded as there are various treasure chests scattered throughout the village. For players who are feeling bold, optional mini bosses can be found lurking about, and they are a significant threat to those daring enough to oppose them. Puzzles are also waiting in places off the beaten path, and while not brain-busting by any means, they are diverse in design and cleverly involve Ethan’s surroundings.
The dangerous locales are all stunning and truly make the twelve-hour journey a joy to take in. A rain-soaked castle exterior glistening as the moonlight illuminates it, a rickety suspension bridge engulfed in fog, and a dead-silent house littered with wide-eyed porcelain dolls on every floor are just a few examples of what you can expect to see during your playthrough. While each area is noticeably different in appearance, they are all home to plenty of gruesome creatures who wish nothing more than to tear you apart.
The wide-ranging enemy types include humanoid wolf beings known as Lycans, hulking werewolf beasts called Varcolacs, and several variations of mechanical mutants that go by Soldats. Each foe has distinct weaknesses and as such, should be attacked differently. The same goes for the generous offering of bosses, and these one-on-ones consist of some of the best rumbles in Resident Evil Village. Each big bad boasts a unique attack pattern, and some of the lengthier bouts involve multiple stages. The clashes in the climax creep into the territory of pulse-pounding (particularly on the Hardcore difficulty), and it is reassuring that the game finishes as strong as it starts.
One of the Franchise's Best
Blending wickedly entertaining first-person shooting and effective horror, the game capitalizes on its gorgeous, varied environments at every turn. By improving on existing gameplay elements and incorporating welcomed additions into the mix, Resident Evil Village ranks among the best in the series.