Resident Evil Village Review
You’ve seen the werewolves. You’ve seen the ridiculously sexed-up memes about giant vampire ladies. Other than giving the internet a new fetish, Resident Evil Village is a worthy new entry in the long-running series – and a great indicator of just what these new consoles are capable of.
The latest Resident Evil seems to have been more meme than game for most of its known existence. Don’t let that put you off. For all the cookyness we already know and love from the franchise, this is a title you just have to play.
Not only is it a visual powerhouse – probably the first multi-plat game that feels next-gen – but it also plays like an evolution over Resident Evil 7. Spooky and interesting, this is a game that in many ways shows what the franchise will be capable of going forward.
Resident Evil – Dead and Loving It
Your wife is probably dead. Your baby has been kidnapped. You’re in a village that even the cast of The Wicker Man would warn you to stay away from. What are you going to do next?
Well, if you answered “find a spatula and spank a giant vampire”, you’d apparently be bang on. Half the Resident Evil Village videos on the internet follow that exact set-up. The 8th numbered entry in the franchise has certainly made a splash, and developers are still pretending to be surprised by it.
When you’re not jiggling computer sprites (if that happens at all), you’re mostly exploring, fighting off enemies and hiding from bosses. The game is certainly an evolution of Resident Evil 7, and not another giant leap. The biggest difference seems to be in the amount of enemies you face and in the slight change in tone. Where Resident Evil 7 felt like a full-on horror, here there’s much more suspense.
That means there are moments you’ll see coming from a mile away, just because of the set-up. For better or for worse, Village feels less scary.
In terms of pure gameplay, that was probably the right decision. It’s not nearly as action-bsaed as the remakes of 2 and Nemesis, but it’s not trying to take all power from you either. You can – and often will – need to fight back against over-the-top odds – and you have the tools to do it.
Exploring The Village
There are times where you’ll be unable to fight back, and in those cases you must run and hide. Village does a good job of letting your “fight or flight” take over, until you realise how to game the system. That’s what leads to the spatula moments mentioned earlier. AI is dumb as a brick, and you can run them in circles as soon as you figure that out.
Resident Evil 8 is split into a number of segments, each with their own feel and boss. There’s enough variety in there that things never feel like they’re getting too old. With that said, the story is a little uneven, and you come to the end with as many questions as answers. If that’s all you’re interested in, you may be disappointed.
With that said, Resident Evil has been cheesing it up since the mid-90s. If you don’t know what to expect by now, that’s on you.
There are two problems with the narrative. The first is that the characters aren’t particularly well drawn out. There’s the traditional “notes tell the full story” thing here, but it’s not enough. You don’t get a full sense of who you’re fighting again, or alongside. This is especially true for the “big bad”, who is mostly spoken about in hushed tones throughout the game. That’s it.
Talking of notes, that is the second biggest problem. The story becomes painfully obvious if you spend even a small amount of time looking for collectables. There are multiple instances where a cutscene shows a big reveal that you’d already figured out from that note left on a bedside table six hours previously.
Wish You Were Here
Collectables are one of the things on offer to help with longevity, alongside multiple difficulties, unlockables and a Mercenaries mode. All of these really help you see everything on offer – and there’s a lot of it. And most isn’t very Survival Horror.
The first-person perspective does a great job of putting you into your character. That’s even true when he’s having limbs lopped off.
While 7 made you feel hunted most of the time, 8 does a better job of balancing that out. You get big guns, which you can customise. You can craft ammunition. The gunplay is pretty good and there’s plenty of it.
Then you kill all the enemies and you’ll find yourself in a very different situation. Suddenly running is the name of the game. Slinking from room to room while hearing the clattering of some deadly killer in the distance.
It’s well balanced, never making you feel too confident. You’re always left guessing what might be around the next corner.
Visuals and Sound
Resident Evil Village is one of the nicest looking games available on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. It’s probably the first multi-plat game that really shows what we’ll be seeing from third parties going forward.
A big part of that is just the design. It’s got this wonderful gothic look throughout. That would be underselling the technical aspects though. The lighting – whether raytraced or not – is gorgeous. But don’t sleep on the raytracing – it doesn’t seem to have a massive impact on performance and does look better.
In any horror game, the lighting is going to be top priority. Here that is clear from the outset. But textures are lush too. Between being stuck in castles, the titular village itself stretches off into the distance, giving you an incredible feeling of really being locked in.
While Demon’s Souls did a great job of giving you these little slices of beauty, Village feels more open, while utilising raytracing. As a result, it’s probably the more interesting game visually. I’d have to go back to compare, but at the very least I’d say the two both make me glad I bought an OLED.
Voice work is strong throughout. Even the weakest aspects have a purpose. Ethan as the everyman isn’t necessarily a bad thing (although some have picked up on it on message boards). Music is fit for purpose, and the sound design elsewhere is top notch. There’s something really creepy about hearing a monster coming from down a corridor, and that’s in a large part down to the tech behind the effects.
Resident Evil Village Review – Conclusion
It’s a little weird to be back in Ethan’s shoes after so long. Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis felt like the opposite of 7, which itself felt low-scale and indie (in the best way possible). After the action-packed 6, it was a surprising change of direction.
In many ways, Village tries to find a middle ground, and it does so successfully. A blind playthrough, played in the spirit of the character, is a beautiful thing.
It’s only when you start pushing the boundaries that you start to realise this is a village built on image. The scariest characters aren’t as scary as you might have thought.
But that’s not too big a fault. Ultimately, it’s that first gut feeling that matters for so many players, and Resident Evil Village has the style, if not always the substance. You see that in that characters, in the gameplay and in the overall narrative.
But it does what it sets out to do, and it does it very successfully. Worth a play, if only to see how beautiful this generation will be.