REVIEW: ‘Resident Evil Village’ Is a Happy Medium of New and Old (XSX)

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Most Anticipated Games of 2021 - Resident Evil

After two remakes, Capcom is back with a new story and installment in the Resident Evil franchise. A survival horror staple, Resident Evil has had a long and winding history, and with Resident Evil Village the game’s lore expands in interesting ways that both honor and tie in the past while pushing forward to the future by embracing new elements. More specifically, this eighth mainline installment embraces dark fantasy for its horror survival narrative, widening the reach of the Umbrella Corporation, weaving it into Eastern European folklore. The villains and the monsters are different, but the mechanics are wonderfully the same.

Resident Evil Village immerses players into an intense battle to survive the horrors of a remote snowy village filled with a diverse and gruesome collection of monsters. From werewolves and gargoyles to vampires and mechanical humans with power tools graphed onto their bodies as weapons, you continue the story of Ethan Winters that began in the swamps of Louisiana in Resident Evil 7 Biohazard. Having saved his wife Mia, the two are now making their life in the aftermath of the traumatic event with their newborn daughter Rose. But when Rose is abducted, Ethan finds himself playing the hero again. Only this time, he has to face his daughter across multiple locations, all tied to a mysterious village that worships a woman known as Mother Miranda.

Tied together by a storybook Mia reads in the beginning, the game is laid out to mirror that tale. While you only hear the beginning of it in the game’s opening, its dark animation makes it both whimsical and gothic, setting the stage for what you’re about to see. In truth, Resident Evil Village feels like multiple games in one. With the Village at the center, you have to enter the homes that belong to Miranda’s four children, the Four Lords. All with a different horror element and atmosphere, each one focuses on a different element of gameplay. Throw in a mysterious Chris Redfield, and this game has everything and the kitchen sink.

The first focus for the player is maneuvering through the labyrinthine castle of Lady Dimitrescu, discovering its secrets, and avoiding the tall lady of the house and her three daughters. In this area, you use your wit to solve multiple puzzles—learning the map of the house to avoid the mother vampire as she stalks you throughout—with a little action in between. This area embraces the stunning gothic aesthetic that goes hand in hand with vampire tales. Utilizing winding hallways, deadends, and secret passages, this first area maps out Lady Dimitrescu’s story that blends winemaker with Elizabeth Báthory and sets the tone by having to outrun enemies that you can’t fight.

Much like Mr. X, everyone’s favorite vampire mommy is relentless, and while the narrow hallways add pressure, she is the hardest enemy to run away from but still lacks a solid challenge. Sure, this 9’6″ vamp is intimidating, but she’s fairly easy to juke, and once you learn the layout of the castle, she’s more of an annoyance than a fear. That said, the castle, its rooms, and the blood all work to immerse you in a vampire story that embraces camp and feels closer to Coppola’s Dracula in tone than any other vampire legend and helps to balance off the action-focused combat sections of the castle. Now, that isn’t a knock; in fact, camp is Resident Evil Village’s strength. It knows that it is, and it pursues it, even if it isn’t necessarily all that scary.

Second, you head to Donna Beneviento’s house of dolls, which is easily the most terrifying section of Resident Evil Village. The focus here isn’t on combat but on solving puzzles, using clues left on scraps of paper to open new pathways, and somehow surviving a house full of rattling dolls that cackle manically. While I wouldn’t call Resident Evil Village scary overall, this level is enough to make you throw your controller, and it manages to do this with enough puppet master camp rolled in. 

Then you have to face Moreau, a not-so-subtle nod to the literary evil scientist. This Lord is disgusting. With pustules forming on the land, his area of the game pushes you to traverse land and water. With combat thrown in, this area of the game is all about body horror, evil “science,” and running from a water monster that is grotesque personified.

The final Lord you must deal with is the mechanical Heisenberg. While each and every Lord feels more like an early 20th-century folktale, Heisenberg stands out from the rest as a bastion of industry and machines. With the largest area of the game, his factory is confusing. Consisting of multiple levels and winding pathways and stairs, if you’re not good with a map, it’s going to be the hardest to not only fight your way through but also complete. Heisenberg’s factory pushes you back down the same corridors and into the same rooms to find new elements and find your way out. Additionally, as the last expansive level, the level and enemy design take into account everything you’ve learned across the rest of the game. Body horror with some sci-fi treatment, the best way to describe Heisenberg and his creations is to compare it to Overlord‘s zombies—but with more mechanical elements involved.

Outside of the Four Lords, Resident Evil Village offers even more action-focused combat with varying monsters inside the Village and through the forest on your ways to each locale. The best of them are the werewolves. As waves push you through different areas of the village, the most fun to be had combat-wise is when you find yourself in the ruins of a castle taking on wave after wave of werewolves with a boss at the end offering up a fun challenge.

With how short the game is, it’s pleasantly surprising that so much happens in terms of story. While the game’s length can run between 9 and 15 hours depending on difficulty, it’s well worth picking up to play. Not just because of the stunning story that bridges dark fantasy with survival horror but because the game’s replayability is fairly substantial. This replayability comes from actions like unlocking “The Mercenaries” game mode, attempting to run through the game to find all of the treasures you missed on the first run-through, or aiming for that “finish the game in under 3 hours” achievement. Plus, upon completion, you unlock the “Village of Shadows” difficulty setting, which will not only open a path for new achievements but also open up the hardest difficulty for the game.

Resident Evil Village

Now, while Resident Evil Village is unique, it isn’t too far detached from the series. Sure the werewolves, the castles, and the fairy tale quality breaks from previous Resident Evil entries, but the game’s mechanics are the ones we all know and love. In fact, it’s the spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4‘s action combat that I’ve been waiting for in the series. While not every section of the game is filled with action, the parts that are are stress-inducing as waves of enemies come at you, forcing you to count your shotgun shells, craft on the go, and barricade doors for a little bit of breathing room. But combat isn’t the only thing from Capcom’s stunning entry to make an appearance—say hello to a merchant system.

The Duke allows you to prep at key points in the game by allowing you to buy supplies, upgrades, and sell off treasures you collect through your run. Found at the beginning of levels and usually right when you need him the most, The Duke introduces some reprieve from bullet counting so long as you have enough Lei to pay for his wares. That said, the prices aren’t cheap, which keeps what he has to offer from breaking the game.

Additionally, The Duke also introduces a nice food system that allows you to hunt animals found in the world as ingredients for dishes that affect you permanently like reducing enemy damage, increasing health, and other ways to make Ethan even more durable than whatever is in that limb-healing First Aid Med. And of course, the piece de resistance is the inventory system which calls for space management which can get tricky as you find larger weapons and pieces of meat that quickly take up space and makes the expensive storage upgrades necessary.

Overall, Resident Evil Village is a great game that embraces the elements of the series that we know and love while also carving out its own space nestled deep in dark fantasy. In fact, this game beautifully finds a middle ground to please existing fans of the franchise but also serves as a great entry point for new players. With Village offering a quick breakdown of what happened in the previous game, even playing Resident Evil 7 Biohazard isn’t necessary. Sure, existing fans will find moments that mean more with some background knowledge, but those nods to the past don’t cover the entire game and aren’t necessary to find enjoyment.

Resident Evil Village is available now on Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Google Stadia, PC via Steam.

Resident Evil Village
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Resident Evil Village is a great game that embraces the elements of the series that we know and love while also carving out its own space nestled deep in dark fantasy. In fact, this game beautifully finds a middle ground to please existing fans of the franchise but also serves as a great entry point for new players.