Resident Evil Village Review | Recontextualizing the Biohazard

Resident Evil Village Review

After Resident Evil 6, it seemed hard to believe that the Resident Evil franchise could continue. It was headed on a downhill trend that drove the series away from its survival horror roots and towards becoming a summer blockbuster. Then in 2017, the series took a huge turn into the first-person genre and back towards what made the series so iconic. Resident Evil 7 was a terrifying return to form, and though it did suffer from pacing issues in the latter half, it was one of the best survival horror games in recent years. Now we have Village, the follow-up to RE7 and that comes with a lot of responsibility. How will Village compare to its predecessor? 

Before we get to that, keep in mind that this is a spoiler-free review. If you do want a spoiler-full review, make sure to keep an eye on our podcast. With that said, let's get started.

Resident Evil Village picks up after the events of Resident Evil 7. Ethan and Mia Winters are now parents to a beautiful baby girl named Rosemary. All seems (close) to perfect when Chris Redfield and his team arrive to kill Mia and take Rose and Ethan. One gun-butt to the face later, Ethan wakes up in the middle of a dark forest. He soon stumbles into the titular village, full of Lycans and other monstrosities, that lives under the shadow of the towering Castle Dimitriescu. In the areas surrounding the village, there are four Lords; Lady Dimitriescu, Donna Beneviento, Salvatore Moreau, and Karl Heisenberg. All children of Mother Miranda. Ethan has to make his way through the Lords and get his daughter back. Luckily, Ethan has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over the course of Resident Evil 7. Skills that make him a nightmare for Lords like them.

Resident Evil Village Review

Similar to Resident Evil 7 with the members of the Baker family, each of the four Lords in Village act as bosses. But one of the reasons why Village works so much better than RE7 is in the pacing of those bosses. Minor spoiler for Resident Evil 7, but there's a point in that game where you think it's about to end only for it to introduce a whole new section. In Village, it's established right from the beginning that there are four Lords and you must get through all of them to get to Mother Miranda. Not only is that information set up from the start, but each of the Lords has a distinctive sequence built around them. Lady Dimitrescu mirrors Mr. X in Resident Evil 2 Remake and wanders the castle and its grounds in search of you. The Donna Beneviento section takes inspiration from Outlast, adding in closets to hide in and beds to crawl under. This mix of gameplay styles sometimes results in Village being tonally inconsistent, but it's hard to deny that it's fun.

The Resident Evil Village story has a simple enough setup but it's one of the strongest narratives in the series. The roughly 8-hour campaign, which can be longer if you take your time exploring every nook and cranny, is full of twists and turns, some of which literally (and I mean it literally) made my jaw drop. At its best, Village feels like a reimagining of Resident Evil 4, and fans of the series know that that's absolutely a compliment. It does occasionally stray from the path, which I will get to in a second, but playing through Village and experiencing its story for the first time was a blast. Really, the only negative I have in terms of narrative is the writing for Ethan. As Alexa pointed out on stream, Ethan provides as much insightful commentary in any given situation as Bella Swan from the Twilight movies. I've played a lot of Resident Evil games and though they're always home to cheesy dialogue, Ethan's quips often come off as more dimwitted than funny.

Resident Evil Village Lady Dimitrescu

When it comes to gameplay, Village is pretty action-heavy. I played the game on Standard difficulty expecting to have a similar experience to playing RE7 but there weren't many situations where I had to count my bullets or manage my resources. The closest I ever got to that was in the first half, but after the start of Moreau's section, the gameplay leans away from survival horror. And that's not even taking into account an extended action sequence towards the end of the game that felt like it was ripped out of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign. The gunplay is never as snappy and fluid as other AAA first-person shooters, though it's not meant to be. Weapons are cumbersome, which can take some getting used to at the start, but after that, there aren't too many curveballs to make you relearn the gameplay mechanics. If you played Resident Evil 7, which is highly recommended before you play Village, this should feel familiar. Playing on the PlayStation 5, I noticed some uses of the adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller, although they don't make a huge difference and I never noticed them unless I was using a shotgun. A note of caution, unlike previous Resident Evil entries, Village does not have any storage boxes in save rooms. So invest in storage early.

By now it should be no surprise that the RE Engine is amazing and quite capable of producing gorgeous visuals. In my entire playthrough, I came across one bug, a sickle floating in the air, and considering the state of AAA games in 2021, that's a miracle. One of our team members, Nick, did say that he experienced a lot of noticeable texture pop-in on rocks and grass in the late game, so it may have just been the luck of my draw, but for me, the game ran perfectly smoothly allowing me to take in all the detail crammed into its world without disturbance. The same goes for sound. Village has top-notch sound design, which sets the unnerving tone right from the opening sequence, and it's backed by a fitting score from the Capcom Sound Team. Even when the game isn't trying to scare you, its use of sound to build out setpieces is simply immersive.

Resident Evil Village  Salvatore Moreau

Usually, at this point in my reviews, I talk about trophies or achievements. However, this time I'm not going to talk about the trophies you get for beating the game, I'm going to talk about the content you get instead. Upon completion of the story mode, you are awarded Challenge Points (CP) which can be used in the in-game store. This is actually how you unlock The Mercenaries, a game mode that, while fun for a few stages, has never been a reason for why I play Resident Evil. For those who want a reason to spend more time in the game shooting monsters in the face, the game mode offers a good bit of replay value. As a whole, the CP system really incentivizes multiple playthroughs. You can unlock a plethora of other items in the in-game store as well, including character models (though don't waste your time on getting Ethan because you still can't see his face), concept art, and special weapons for future playthroughs. There are also four different behind-the-scenes movies that allow for a small peek behind the curtain. This sort of post-game content dump is a great reward for beating a game and I wish more developers included stuff like this with their games because I loved checking out each of the boss designs up close and getting to see how they crafted the haunting score for The Village of Shadows animation.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was a tough act to follow but Capcom has delivered. Resident Evil Village takes notes from its storied past and spins a narrative that is more deeply entwined in the franchises' lore than any before it. Village is a great blend of action and survival horror and, in my opinion, it not only manages to be on par with its predecessor but in many ways surpass it. Despite its inconsistencies, Village is one of the best games I've played so far this year. Resident Evil Village is out now PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia, and PC. If you've come here after beating the game, then be sure to check out my Resident Evil Village ending explained article where I talk all about how Village connects to the rest of the series and what that could mean for Resident Evil 9.

Resident Evil Village | 9 | Excellent

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