Resident Evil Village Review

Recovering from trauma caused by the Louisiana incident of 2017, Ethan Winters now attempts a peaceful life with his wife, Mia, and his newborn daughter, Rosemary, in the faraway continent of Europe. This all ends one night when Chris Redfield raids his home, killing his wife along with kidnapping his daughter and him. Ethan is subsequently stranded in the snow near an isolated village filled to the brim with horrible creatures doing their best to kill him/you. Follow our editors Luke, Victor and Thomas in their journey through the godforsaken landscapes of Resident Evil Village – this is our Resident Evil Village review from three disparate perspectives.

The Four Lords of the Village (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

VISUALS

LUKE: The RE Engine is an absolute beast. Their system set up for scanning assets to populate a game world helps fill up a massively detailed game world, and the character models along with the fantastical elements make for one amazing looking game.

VICTOR: RE8 is absolutely GORGEOUS! Everything in this game looks amazing, from the scenery to the enemies’ scary mugs. Everything was made with precision and care, you can really feel that when you play it.

The best part, in my opinion, is the design. There’s some real thought behind it all. The enemy designs are actually scary and original, something you’ll notice when they get right in your face while trying to get a bite off of it. The weapon designs, which do a really good job of telling a story, especially with the Magnum ammo being especially designed to hunt werewolves. Everything works wonders here.

However, none of this holds a candle to the character designs. Everyone has their own motivations and traits, shining through the masterfully crafted designs. It’s really a wonder to behold.

Thomas: Prerendered environments in the heyday of Resident Evil were stunning – immaculately detailed environments to set atmosphere (and thus immersion) harmoniously. Here, Capcom has boldly took equal attention to diverse detail that’s no Southern Gothic shack of nondescript ruin as typical derelict rusticism. Each environment in Village is crafted wonderfully for a particular theme with photorealistic graphics: the regel halls of Lady Dimitrescu’s family beckoning a Transylvanian aristocracy, the techno-horror factory of Heisenberg perfectly in tune with the body horror of bioengineering and the vintage 1940’s house of Donna Beneviento as a callback to more traditional horror.

Each environment sets a distinct tone of horror and is beautiful in execution – all objects, textures and interiors consistent to sustain such varied tones of horror. The success here contributes to the player becoming absolutely engrossed in this world as palpable – it is neither repetitive or bland.  I would also like to compliment their standard enemy design- as they made zombies suitably terrifying in appearance despite a cliché, they also achieved this for lycans’ feral look! 

Resident Evil Village Alcina Dimitrescu Daughter
A Daughter of Alcina Dimitrescu (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

SOUND DESIGN

LUKE: I played the PS5 version, which meant I had the 3D sound to work with in theory. In practice, I haven’t actually played with headphones yet for the full experience. I probably should have, though, as this game is set up to make you use your ears. Even just from the dinky little monitor I played RE8 on paying attention to sound is essential for tracking where the nearby threats are. No mini map or radar here, you need to pay attention to avoid danger here and the sound design is a huge part of the horror experience in forcing you to do that.

VICTOR: With so many creatures hunting you down in Village, paying attention to your surroundings is probably one of the most important things you should be doing. Thankfully, the game facilitates this by having some REALLY good sound design. I first noticed it in Castle Dimitrescu after everyone’s favourite vampire MILF started chasing me. When you enter a room in the castle, if you pay attention, you can hear Mommy Alcina’s steps if she’s nearby. This actually saved me quite a lot of trouble! This also applies to other areas and enemies.

Besides all that, the voice acting is absolutely PHENOMENAL in English, although the Brazilian Portuguese version left me with a little bit to be desired in terms of localization.

Thomas: In the notoriously and scariest segment, may I first mention the incredibly creepy composition for the boss fight against the doll, climatically building up as a distorted chanting of kids until the attacks of shuddering dolls is unleashed? How about the score underneath the house while the mutant baby is first prowling – a kind of inchoate hymn that’s the foreboding, festive humming we would normally hear from the folk horrors of Forbidden Siren? Do I also need to mention the perfect screams of the mutant baby, too, which is integral as lighting for being evocative, every word screeched as an anxiety inducing terror? As a contrast from audio to incite fear, the Duke’s theme, too, is a classical track that follows the theme of a fairytale well – it is hauntingly sombre with varied brushes of optimism to signal the chance of a transient sanctuary, a safe room. Capcom has done well overall with the musical style, the sounds of enemies, weapon noises, relativity of audio effects and all the voice acting – none are abysmal.

The OST is available on Spotify and mostly classical with chaotic rifts. My favourite track, however, is ‘The Final Movement’ as an intense, whining techno piece perfect for the upbeat momentum of Mercenaries – oscillating from a mere piercing intonation and into explosive ripples of synthetic screams. A special mention for ‘Descent into the Village’ as a suffocated siren echoes underneath the main tune while violin notes play sporadically – it is a lovely piece.

 

Resident Evil Village Chris Redfield
Chris Redfield as Shadowy Figure Behind The Scenes (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

GAMEPLAY

LUKE: Just as a game? This is some damn good game! The combat isn’t as smooth as the more action-based Resident Evil 4 to 6, but deliberately slow. Ethan is balanced to be plenty competent but not to the point where he’s ever truly safe if you let your guard down. The most basic of enemies will take a chunk out of you if you let them, but you have the tools to take on anything if you stay alert and manage your distance properly. You start much weaker and vulnerable than you end, which really alters the feel of the game as you progress. It doesn’t get easier, the enemies in the Factory are alarmingly more dangerous than those of the starting area, but you transition from a struggle to survive to a military campaign against monsters pretty smoothly as you go on.

VICTOR: Village’s controls are tight, responsive and REALLY satisfying. The game brings back the First Person camera from 7, which defines the current Resident Evil era, with 1 through 3 being the static camera era and 4 through 6 being the third person era. The FPS era will probably end in RE9 which I hope comes out soon enough.

The game sports a new pushback mechanic after blocking an enemy’s incoming attack, which helps put some distance between you and allows you to run away or shoot them in the godamn face. Besides that, Ethan just moves faster, aims more precisely and shoots faster than he did in RE7, which is explained by the fact that he went through military training after the events of 2017.
The game also tries to vary its gameplay in each section with more puzzle focused sections, slow-paced areas and others more focused on exploration and action, keeping you on your feet since you probably can’t anticipate what comes next. Another interesting aspect of the game is the Duke, this game’s version of RE4’s Merchant. He works basically in the same way, but he has an actual personality AND he cooks for you. If you bring him the ingredients, these meals will provide a permanent boost to your attributes.

Thomas: The controls are responsive, ‘robust’ is the adjective I would use- every shot is meaningful and feels a real meaningful impact to have every bullet matter as balanced to the survival horror aspects (i.e. ammunition scarcity, dangerous enemies requiring a methodical approach, claustrophobic environments). A majority of the boss fights are not scripted, too, for each replay to be a pleasure – they mostly unfold in a manner that incorporates the tight combat. As a polished experience of intuitive design, it’s a fun experience in every sequence unfolding- the combat, movement and interactions all perfectly smooth. The features of blocking and timed parries, too, have substituted any more elaborate CQC melee system – it’s back the precisely balanced basics which brought Resident Evil such success.

Combat, which serves as the core experience over narrative horror or mundane exploration, has been restored as tactically sound, exhilarating and tense. It has overhauled the limited mechanics of 7, which afforded few opportunities to enjoy these, and provided the necessary dynamic tools to enjoy every mechanic; Chris’ campaign excursion exemplifies how fun the combat is once it’s fully unleashed from more situational, calculated scenarios. There’s a array of weapons to enjoy and each one has a purpose – upgrading these to appreciate the improvement is amazing as these weapons are the most personal possession which we use for the principal experience of combat. 

Resident Evil Village Tall Lady
The Family of Castle Dimitrescu (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

STORY

LUKE: Resident Evil games manage to be both lore heavy and about as deep as a puddle a lot of the time, the characters and their actions more being a premise than a full narrative. This time out though, there’s some more going on. The game opens on a fairy tale that seeds what’s to come in different ways before taking some time to be domestic with Ethan and Mia of the previous game, along with their baby daughter. From there? Ethan is an absolute punching bag for the game from start to finish. The story takes a little bit of a backseat for a lot of the running, screaming, and hand trauma that follows before kicking back into high gear at the end to really hammer home some themes before setting up the next game (definitely stick through the credits).

As to how scary the game is, that’s a bit of a mixed bag. The emphasis on combat, and enemies dropping items, really takes a lot of fear out of the game. With the tools to defend yourself and an incentive to engage in combat you’re more likely to pick fights than avoid them. Why avoid that giant monster when you know it will drop sick loot? It’s empowering you too much to maintain a suitable fear factor. In general that is, so I happily agree that on average RE7 is scarier.
With one exception…

The Beneviento house, or second Lord location. Hand on heart, that is the absolute scariest sequence in the entire Resident Evil series. Even if your fight-or-flight response is totally broken, you should at least appreciate what’s going on in here. I shall say no more! Not only from a general anti-spoilers standpoint, but also because I want everyone else to suffer as I did, so no hints as to what is coming for you.

VICTOR: The story is very well written with many memorable moments all around. One of them happens right at the very beginning of the game when your wife gets shot to death right in front of you by the very guy who saved your ass back in RE7, which is pretty much the biggest dick move ever.

The plot progresses in a very natural way. Each area presents you with documents relating to the history of the place which include data on the Four Lords, stories from the residents, clues to treasures, puzzle solutions and more details. The ending even got to jerk some tears out of me, but that’s all I’ll say about it.

Thomas: The narrative of Resident Evil Village is much more personal and intimate as a crusade – it’s not merely survival or managing an outbreak. Campy as ever, as I enjoy my experience of these biologically engineered/mutated threats, this fulfils my expectations of sci-fi horror b-movie that’s varied in tone: horrifying, amusing and intriguing.  Ethan must save his kidnapped baby from the rulers of the village and to accomplish this, he must defeat them all – this is straightforward as a plot set piece to explain his destruction of all in his path. There are comprehensive notes and subtle dialogue to all outline the backstory more beyond the relatively straightforward plot – these all embellish the worldbuilding for a tangible lore behind it. 

House Beneviento Doll
The Doll Inside House Beneviento (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

CHARACTERS

LUKE: The titular village itself is near enough a character here. It makes a great hub area you gradually unlock more of to explore, branching out into five major areas and an interesting assortment of smaller optional ones. Those five larger areas are basically horror biomes based around the Four Lords of the game, plus a bonus Lycan nest to have an Aliens moment with werewolves infesting throughout.

Speaking of the Lords, Capcom have created an amazing collection of horror antagonists and their strange matriarch that I want to talk more about but would hate to spoil. Lady Dimitrescu, or “Vampire Mommy”, blew up the Internet ahead of launch but by the end of the game you will have had great moments with all of these villains. The returning Resident Evil cast have more to do here than usual as just being some continuity, the events of the previous game entry (7) matter a lot to what happens here. Ethan actually has more personality this time, although that’s a low bar. Mia is… well, just play the game for that one. Chris Redfield is a strange presence here whose motives only become clear late in the game. Baby Rose is an interesting new addition who sadly inherited her fathers danger magnet. But this pretty large cast of assorted weirdos are a compelling and charismatic part of the game.

VICTOR: The characters are definitely the best part of the game for me. Each and everyone of them has their own story and goals, as well as their own personality, which is highlighted brilliantly through their design, writing and voice acting. Even Ethan gets a glow up to his character in this game, acting more like a person when faced with tragic incidents and horrible occurrences.
However, I have to give all my love to the Four Lords! Professional vampire mommy Alcina Dimitrescu took the internet by storm when she first appeared in a 3 second clip during a teaser for the game and her role in the game proves she deserves the attention she got. Donna Beneviento is complemented by her doll Angie in both design and personality.

If you pay attention, you can notice the Beneviento family crest is etched onto the doll’s face, SUCH an amazing detail! Salvatore Moreau isn’t prominent as much as his “brothers”, but that was probably done on our purpose since he’s basically a dumb yet powerful lackey willing to do anything for Mother Miranda. Finally, we have my beautiful boy, Karl Heisenberg, who is such a fun character you will probably never get tired of him!

Every character in this game shines as bright as the sun and is crafted masterfully with care and attention to detail.

Thomas: As we never personally see Ethan, where he may be acting as an empty vessel for the player, it’s been hard to relate to him on any significant level, but Resident Evil Village characterizes him from all he endures and overcomes against any odds – Ethan is amusingly relentless and focused. We see him on a mission to save his baby and to do so, he must conquer every house ruling the titular village – these are all only obstacles on his path of destruction to do his compassionate deed.

Each of the ‘Four Lords’, too, have unique personalities and appropriately themed dominions – the bosses have character to not be mere cannon fodder (as evident from the viral state of one) and memorable visual design. Steampunk industry manufacturing body horrors? A Gothic manor being stalked with Hammer Horror vampires? A haunted residence containing supernatural dreads? A rural village outback of fairytales? The Duke, too, as our comforting merchant for our quest – he’s an gluttonous embodiment of capitalism with a jovial wit is a respite from any serious terror plaguing one’s adventure.

Our mysterious ally of Chris Redfield is, however, a paradox since the start, existing as a powerful force from the original cast who’s almost a mythical presence due to their status in fan’s imagination. His agenda is unknown, however, and he’s not only a nostalgic throwback, he’s an experienced character of the history in the franchise who will absolutely have vital role likely disregarding Ethan’s mission (which provides an interesting outside perspective of our favourite characters of old). 

Resident Evil Village Ghoul Enemy
Ghoul Enemies (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

REPLAYABILITY

LUKE: Along with the usual extra difficulties a New Game Plus is here, and the return of upgradeable guns along with NG+ weapons only, extra equipment really pushes the replay factor. As with Resident Evil 4 for the first time years ago, I went straight into a new game as soon as the first was done. I was having so much fun. RE8 has also carried over the brilliant unlock system from the Resident Evil 3 remake. Every in-game challenge you complete gives you bonus points that can be spent to unlock new things, either more game content or bonus materials. It’s pretty compelling stuff, the remake of Resident Evil 3 was the first game I got a Platinum Trophy on thanks to this system so seeing that system here again is a pleasant addition.

VICTOR: If you like a good challenge and some treasure hunting, you’ll probably play this game for a LONG time! My first playthrough ended after 9 and a half hours, but I couldn’t get every treasure and document as I wanted to. The fact that the game is incredibly fun to play also helps in this regard.

Besides that, the genuinely absurd number of collectables and the return of Mercenaries are more good reasons to keep playing.

Thomas: The increased difficulties for NG+, where we bring along unlocks and prior equipment, are a challenge to confront once Village is completed – enemies are more aggressive and although there’s no arrange mode (key item relocation), the identical design is a reason to test our knowledge to enhance our time as a ‘speedrun’ or attempt in-game challenges. Challenges all reward points to unlock infinite weapons and special weapons – equipping one for the highest of difficulties as an unforgivingly brutal test: Village of Shadows. Levels are interconnected well and reward knowledge of the design with drastic efficiency – playthroughs will reduce from around 8 hours to a mere 2 for completion times to be a competitive element.

Resident Evil has a history of being structured for speedruns in progression and it’s a noteworthy fundamental of the experience: optimal routes ascertained, combat techniques mastered to boost time and practicing completing objectives all objectives rapidly. You will also enjoy to trial Chris’ full inventory of novelty weaponry and alternately powerful unlocks such as the powerful WCX assault rifle or STAKE magnum. 

Ethan Winters
The Masked Face of Ethan Winters (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

BONUS CONTENT

LUKE: The Mercenaries is back! Part puzzle, as you need to learn the best way through an area, and delivering crazed adrenaline. You need to race around a small blocked off part of a level trying to clear it out of enemies to a timer. Around the level are time extensions and abilities to unlock that will help your entire run on a location. It’s a lot of fun! There’s some more to keep you invested in playing on unlocking, character models and concept art to work through as a feast for the eyes.

VICTOR: Alongside many collectables, such as concept art, models, new weapons, infinite ammo and such, RE8 brings back the beloved Mercenaries mode, missing from the franchise for some time now.

Although I miss playing with different characters, it doesn’t make such a big difference since the execution mechanic isn’t in the game and you can buy your weapons from the Duke before each round, allowing you to make customizations and focus on different weapons and aspects in each playthrough. Getting a good ranking will unlock even more content in the completion shop, which takes replayability through the roof!

Thomas: Mercenaries returns and as my favourite mode in 4/5/6 over any side campaign, it is addictive as RAID mode – string kills into a ‘combo’ without the chain elapsing as a thrilling pressure to keep momentum, both in kills and also movement. You will have to replay until memorizing the ideal routes for spawn placements order and acquiring upgrade/time crystals, achieving the highest score possible from increasingly intense maps which shame the highest difficulty on the main story. The combat has this mode as brilliant fun and the system, although spawns are weirdly hardwired to triggered locations, is not radically different to be fun as usual.

Incidentally, Re:Verse is also upcoming for Summer, free for owners of Village, and although it may be awful as Umbrella Corps and ORC, it might be a fun fan service at the least: a few hours of bemused entertainment. Let’s hope the delay enables Capcom to refine the experience and not have it become irrelevant as Resistance. 

Resident Evil Village Mia
Ethan’s Wife, Mia, Who’s Presumed Dead (© Capcom Co., Ltd.)

CONCLUSION

LUKE: Anyone still worried this isn’t a proper Resident Evil? It’s a really good mix of RE4 and RE7, two of the best entries in the series, plus the story does tie into the main ongoing story in a few interesting ways. It has great horror villains, a pants wettingly terrifying haunted house sequence (did it a second time today and it still freaked me out), plus has a pretty strong layered story to it. It’s going to age very well, I’m still enjoying the postgame content after my first full completion, and I’m very happy to have it!

VICTOR: Yeah, this is not only the best Resident Evil experience I’ve ever had, but the most fun I’ve had with an FPS in a long time. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s fun, beautiful, well written and challenging in just the right amount. I award it 5 silver Magnum bullets absolutely DEMOLISHING a werewolf’s face out of 5, as well as the Vic Seal of Approval!

Thomas: Capcom has redeemed the franchise to me, it has discovered the perfect balance between tactical action, campy narrative and atmospheric horror as an absolute triumph! The art direction is splendid as every other design element, music and enemies to even environments – it is a riveting experience equally charming in the aesthetic. Terrified of disappointment, I was reluctant to purchase this, but I’ve been proved wrong – this has all the fun I have been craving since Resident Evil had an infamous identity crisis. My only sorrow is no third-person to enjoy skin mods, and multiple characters available on Mercenaries to test individual loadouts (or perhaps finally tailor these).

 

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