Capcom has become unstoppable across all of its franchises, especially its over-the-top horror juggernaut, Resident Evil. Despite having issues that I could never shake, I do look forward to every entry. Its first-person take from 2017 was a bold move that shows that it’s never afraid to change things up. Village finds a pocket to balance both new and nostalgic flavors that work beautifully for a tasty action-horror experience. Whether you are a veteran of killing terrifying abominations or a newcomer to this weird universe with an evil pharmaceutical company, it is a must-play.
Resident Evil Village is available on PS4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X|S, PC, and Google Stadia.
Story – A familiar adventure
Ethan Winters (Todd Soley) continues to have the worst luck with women in his life. After finding peace with his wife Mia (Katie O’Hagan) and their baby Rose, everything gets disrupted by Chris Redfield (Jeff Schine) and a mysterious force that lands Ethan in the middle of a haunting village stricken by monsters. He must find his daughter to save her from an evil cult of powerful beings who want her a sinister goal. It might be too familiar as the faceless protagonist (seriously, why do we only ever see at most his nose and jaw?) as he goes on a similar journey of rescuing a loved one in an unknown yet horrifying environment.
Not only does that leave for pretty much the same A plot, but the character development lacks for Ethan. I never liked him, so I was pretty much dreading having to spend more time with the unlikely hero. He does get better compared to Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, as he has more confidence from that experience. The issue is that he continues to say dumb, unnecessary things as Captain Obvious and feels like he doesn’t grow much from where he left off after defeating Eveline. Having a similar goal does not open the door for more depth or dimension to his character.
Thankfully, Soley saves the day. An actor with nothing all that notable on his IMDB or a profile picture, making him faceless like his Capcom character, but with a worthy performance to carry me through this pretty miserably bland father.
The B plot is much more enticing that had me more invested than looking for the Winters’ child. Chris Redfield up to some mischieve and a plague that has created werewolves (sorry, they are called lycons in this universe) with a motley crew of villains pulling the strings: Mother Miranda (Michelle Lukes), Karl Heisenberg (Neil Newbon), Alcina Dimitrescu (Maggie Robertson), Salvatore Moreau (Jesse Pimentel), and Donna Beneviento (Andi Norris). While the last two were unique but less memorable, Mother Miranda, Heisenberg, and the sexy Lady Dimitrescu with her equally as sexy daughters ruled the underworld of the narrative. Accompanied by better writing than Ethan and talented actors, they were some of the best antagonists I have faced in the franchise.
The tall vampire mother, Lady Dimitrescu, and her daughters Daniela (Nicole Tompkins), Cassandra (Jeannette Maus), and Bela (Bekka Prewitt) need to be discussed for how popular they became from the marketing. I can certainly say they met the high bar set by my hype and horniness for them. Despite the attractiveness, I still felt tension when running around from them as they wanted to rip me apart for my tasty blood. Plus, seeing their chemistry and how they played a role in this mess made for one of the best story beats compared to everything that happened during these 8 and a half hours of playing.
The tone keeps up with its predecessor in delivering an experience that is thrilling, scary, explosive, and compelling, with a little bit of levity as the franchise has never taken itself too seriously. The scares face some issues as some hit hard, but most of the time, it is executed by having cheap, uncreative jump scares thrown in out of nowhere. As a whole, the horror never meets the heights of 7, which had a tremendous opening act, but it does transition much smoother to the more action-oriented perspective, later on, to make for a more consistent game whether I am terrified of going down a dark hall or blowing up werewolf heads with a shotgun.
The twist on werewolves and vampires was a welcome new part of the RE universe and to the genre of those monsters. I was skeptical if it would fit with the mold that Capcom built over the last 25 years, and it was far better than what I could have expected. Getting the answers behind these creatures expands the ancient mythos and the world that I have known for so long after playing through so many of these games.
Gameplay – Satisfyingly Violent
The first-person perspective and the RE Engine give a similar feeling to the gameplay, especially as I had played the previous entry of the franchise a few weeks before this one was released to make a proper comparison. New additions mixed with vintage mechanics make for one of the most fun times I have had with one of Capcom’s flagship series. However, many of the new things the heroic father can do are underutilized and often not very meaningful to the core gameplay.
Ethan feels a little bit smoother to control. While walking and running feels the same as before, being able to climb over certain objects is helpful to get through areas. While it is a nice new trick he has learned, it is a bit too restrictive as the fences, boxes, and windows he can vault over are so limited, the feature is rarely showcased.
Another lackluster but fairly cool thing you can do is move shelves to block off doorways or windows from incoming enemies. It is helpful but only really seen early on. Still, it gave more of a survival horror vibe as I would run into a building and block off one of the entry points to funnel the lycons.
Combat is better than what it was in the horror house in Louisiana. Having a wide selection of weapons opens the door for killing possibilities as I explode, knife, and snipe my way through vampires, werewolves, and more. New moves are also available as the blocking is updated with a parrying system, which I found to be fairly useless due to the situations I found myself in.
What really makes shooting and stabbing better than ever is playing on a PS5 because the DualSense is a godsend. The adaptive triggers make every weapon feel unique, whether that is the resistance felt in aiming or shooting. The knife also has a satisfying sensation when I slice through the flesh of my enemies. Outside of slaying beasts, the haptic feedback has given me a feeling in my hands that I have not felt from other games on the fancy current-gen console, like when I hover over an interactable object or person that gives off a click that is addicting to have go off.
The situations presented are not as friendly in allowing me to choose stealth or action. Only a handful of times was a good opportunity presented to try to sneak past someone, which was mostly in the castle where the vampire women were hunting for me.
Enemy variety has not been this good in years. Across the minions of the lead antagonists comes a decent lineup of hostiles. Some will get updated with extra armor or weapons, or new faces will appear in certain areas of the map. It is a huge improvement compared to fighting mold in the south.
The plentiful supply of boss battles felt unique. Whether that was the gimmick of how to defeat them or in the setting, each epic fight had a cool setpiece or an interesting way to defeat them, making it both memorable and fun. Some were in spaces that were more frustrating to deal with and frustrated me, but that was not compared to the enjoyment I had from the majority of them.
The developers made far more intricate and interesting puzzles this time around. Too many in the Baker home were the same with brainteasers that had me cast a shadow with an object to unlock a door, which was a lot less interesting than what this European setting brought me. One example involving bells was a fun obstacle that had me think and look far deeper than anything in the 2017 game.
From the castle to the village, Resident Evil 4 has greatly influenced this game, even with its inventory system. Yes, it is back, and it’s glorious. I found previous backpacks in the franchise to be a lot less fun to manage and more generic. Playing Tetris with my guns, ammo, and healing items never gets old. I am glad that it doesn’t put everything in there as key items and treasures have unlimited space, so I never have to worry about fitting a key or crystals next to my weaponry.
In the space of my inventory is a crafting system. Instead of clicking on chem fluid and combining it with an herb to make a health potion instead, it is all within its own new menu. It is more intuitive to see my ingredients and what I am making. I hope it carries over into future entries as it streamlined the traditional mechanic for more accessible use.
Let’s step back to RE 4 for a second as another returning feature is seen, and that’s a merchant. Duke (Aaron LaPlante) is my man who not only sells me supplies, guns, and attachments for my firearms, but he is an integral part of the narrative. Outside of the tall vampire queen, he is my favorite character for what he delivers, plus his contribution to the gameplay gives me nostalgia when I would do business with a mysterious man who is willing to make a buck despite being surrounded by hostile Europeans.
He has another use, which is cooking up meals for Ethan. Find animals in locations to kill for their meat. Bring the ingredients to the jolly salesman for food that will permanently boost a stat like damage taken or stamina. I felt it would be an intrusive mechanic when I first heard about it, but it does not take away from the classic survival horror elements that I have come to know during my time killing zombies and being chased by Mr. X. It is also more engaging to kill animals than finding steroids to extend my maximum health when I was in Louisiana.
Capcom has mastered the art of level design, unlike most studios in the industry. Whether it was getting from objective A to objective B, finding collectibles, or backtracking for some supplies, the maps are clearly made with love. It is intricate enough to weave together as I go through my adventure and find myself back in older parts or new environments with my old path within eyesight. It serves both the story to fit the world that I am in and the gameplay as I make my way through horrific beasts.
Trying to fend off vicious monsters was not a chore, but it often felt too easy. Where it worked was having enough supplies to live, but not too much where I was overstocked. Enemies dropping ammo, finding it around, or crafting it was useful without making me feel overpowered. It became a slight issue as Standard difficulty is too easy as my foes were not nearly aggressive enough. While they did damage when hits landed, I wish I could change difficulties mid-game. The only way is if I died too much, I would get an offer to make it easier, but I could never make it harder just to satisfy my curiosity.
I have always adored the collectibles when playing a Resident Evil title. Destroying Goat of Wardings, little wooden goat figures, or reading documents that give insight into what is happening is delightful. Whether it is for fun or to add to character depth, I can never get enough of having side content that does not make the game feel bloated. Instead, it is like having a condiment that amplifies the flavor without making me feel overly stuffed.
The Mercenaries is a bonus mode unlocked after beating the game. You go through multiple areas for a level to kill X amount of baddies in a limited amount of time to earn the highest score. Between each part of the levels was Duke to supply me with goods and equipment before I went out. It is an addictive and fun arcadey option after the campaign that adds a little bit of replayability.
Blue orbs allow for boosts like extra pistol damage or no damage taken when blocking. Meanwhile, yellow orbs give more time. I did not feel these were necessary as I was doing quite well with what I had. Still, stacking abilities made me feel powerful as I mindlessly ran around shooting everything in my path.
Finishing a run gives you a score and grade, which offers rewards like new stages and Completion Points. Use CP to purchase cool artwork of characters or new guns if you do your next playthrough of the story, which is another door open for replaying the thrilling journey. Either way, in classic Resident Evil style, you can be playing over and over in new ways.
Graphics and Audio – Drop dead gorgeous
The RE Engine continues to impress. The stellar graphical fidelity shown is already breathtaking, but to add ray tracing and a sweet as hell TV with HDR to play on was a treat. The RT was especially impeccable as I have mostly seen it with brighter, more colorful games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
What takes the cake above the graphics is the art direction. Going through how the village and seeing how Capcom created an atmosphere to it really threw me back at how it was expertly done. Then it goes above and beyond in the castle, which is mouthwateringly delicious to look at.
Faces bothered me in RE 7. It was that uncanny valley vibe that got me off my balance as I looked at people. This time, the performance capture gets tightening up to make everyone look and feel more human. Except for the hair, which not bad by a mile, it still could use some work.
I do wish photo mode was better. It had pretty much every feature I could want, and I was able to take awesome pictures, as you see throughout this review, but the restrictive movement made it hard to get certain angles that I wanted.
The sound design had its issues with the propagation at times but overall was astounding. Hearing Lady Dimitrescu walking upstairs or the meaty gunshots of my weapons was beyond awesome. One of my favorite sound effects was when I gave food for my merchant friend to make me, and a symphony of cooking instruments from a busy kitchen played as I waited to eat. It is all incredibly well made. It enhances the punch of a gunshot, amplifies the power of a lycon’s roar, and makes houses that much more eerie as I heard the floorboards creak.
I wanted more from the score. It nailed the atmosphere and tense emotions that I felt, but while effective, it was musically unremarkable. It was pretty generic for the most part and did not strike me to want to put it on a Spotify playlist to jam out to. Like a worker going to work then coming home to ignore his wife and children as he sat on the couch to watch the game and drink beer before the next day of repeating the same routine.
Resident Evil Village was reviewed on PS5.