Resident Evil Village Review
The Resident Evil franchise has evolved substantially over the last 25 years. From it’s tank controlled, locked camera roots, to the refined mechanics in Resident Evil 4. Then to bonkers, over the top action, and most recently first person horror survival in Resident Evil 7. So I was excited to see where Capcom was going to take us in the newest installment in the franchise, Resident Evil Village. And it turns out they took us on an exhilarating roller coaster filled top to bottom with all of these Resident Evil staples.
Resident Evil Village is the direct sequel of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and the continuation of the story of the worst video game protagonist of all time, Ethan Winters (more on him later). At its core, Resident Evil Village is a combination of RE 7 and RE 4. Taking the first person perspective and story from the former, and the gameplay mechanics of the latter. I loved this decision, and they executed on it quite seamlessly. I liked the jump to first person in RE 7, but wasn’t a big fan of its slower pacing and helpless protagonist feel. Not much needs to be said about RE 4, being one of the most beloved games of all time. So when the best of both of these games came together, it created my favorite Resident Evil experience to date.
The Resident Evil series has historically not been the most fun game to control. Newer players tend to classify the older games as clunky and frustrating to maneuver through. Even RE 4 can feel dated in comparison to modern standards. Each one made minor improvements since the original, slowly building a solid foundation. With Village, it feels modern and fluid while still having that Resident Evil feeling. Controlling Ethan always feels smooth and responsive, and being able to reliably maneuver around the various settings makes the game so satisfying to play. Gone are the days of fumbling around set pieces, coming to a complete halt, and slowly looking around to lock on to your target. Everything just feels smooth which makes the journey much more immersive.
This incredible game feel makes the gameplay loop of Resident Evil Village that much more satisfying. The pacing of the game honestly feels perfect, with my total playtime being just shy of 10 hours, and every moment of it being engaging. Throughout the game, the loop consists of exploring a new area, collecting resources (ie: ammo, crafting components, treasures), and fighting off waves of enemies. Each one of these is satisfying to do, but as soon as it starts to get boring, the game moves on to the next part of the cycle and keeps me fully invested. It also never became too predictable in its patterns. It often surprised me with enemies when I thought I was safe to explore which made me the right amount of cautious for a survival horror game.
The set pieces in Village are truly special and push the game to being over the top crazy in the best way possible. The Village itself acts as a sort of hub area to the whole game, with a handful of different biomes branching off of it that you tackle in a linear fashion. All of the different areas you do go to have very unique vibes to them, each incredibly different from all the others, both in visual design, but also in gameplay styles. I don’t want to go too in depth about these different areas you go to, because they are best experienced blind, but each area gives me a strong resemblance of the different styles Resident Evil has gone through. The easiest example is the castle shown in all of the promo material ruled by everyone's favorite giant vampire lady. This castle feels like its own stand alone RE 1 style mansion, beautifully designed and very satisfying to uncover all it’s secrets. The other areas give similar vibes to the level design of RE 4, the horror aspects of 7, and even the balls to the wall action of 6. Village continuously changing it’s main gameplay structure while still holding the core mechanics that worked so well in RE 4 make it feel fresh and exciting all the way through.
Speaking of the giant vampire lady, Resident Evil Village decided to have another first for the series by straying away from the usual zombies and biological monsters in favor of mythological beasts and creatures. It had never crossed my mind for them to take the series in this direction, but I didn’t know how much I needed it in my life until they did. Lycans, vampires, witches and the like fill the world and bring a new type of terror while exploring the village. Having these monsters of myth being they fodder opens Village up the story to be more fantastical which also allows it to go more weird. And weird is good in Resident Evil.
The characters in Village are all absolutely insane and I love it. The villains in particular steal the show. Each biome has a lord that rules over it and each one is as bombastic as the last. Lady Dimitrescu (the giant vampire lady) rules over castle Dimitrescu and fills the recurring Resident Evil role of giant monster that follows you around hunting you down instilling constant fear in you. Again, I don’t want to get into the details of everyone else you encounter because experiencing it for yourself is a special experience. But be assured, each baddie is as weird / scary as the last and each one is memorable for their own reasons. The most notable new character has to be The Duke, Village’s equivalent of RE 4’s shady merchant. Although The Duke has much more of an impact on the game. This large wandering salesman fills Ethan in on the goings on of the village as well as how to work towards completing his main goal. The Duke is fascinating and a complete enigma, but always a pleasure to run into in the game.
I guess that leaves us with Ethan, the main protagonist of Resident Evil Village. And as I stated earlier, he's the absolute worst. For starters, like in RE 7, Ethan Winters still remains a faceless protagonist, which is a weird choice. It seems like Capcom is trying to have its cake and eat it too by having Ethan be just a shell so the players could put themselves in the world easier, but now they also have him being a stronger focal point in the story than in 7 which makes it feel off. On top of this weird in between, Ethan has weirdly humanless emotions and reacts to things very strangely. Traumatic events unfold right in front of his eyes and he says things like “what’s going on” and “why does this keep happening to me”. He’s just the most generic boring white dude who has no emotion, and no one wants to root for. The game does however end in a very interesting place that makes me have some thoughts about Ethan as a character that I can’t explain here because it is very spoiler heavy. Let’s just say that I am very excited to see where the story is going to take us going forward and the ending could explain a lot about Ethan Winters as a character. I may be so bold as to say it turned my opinion on him around? But it’s too early to definitively say.
From start to finish, Resident Evil Village is an incredibly fun and engaging experience. It’s nearly perfect pacing kept me thrilled and excited to see what was around the corner of every new area. The monsters and main characters of this world are so bizarre and cool at the same time, setting the franchise up to get away from it’s zombie based roots and move towards a more fantastical future. Village is a truly fantastic game that I can recommend to newcomers and Resident Evil Veterans alike.