When it comes to revitalising a series, few have done quite as good a job as Japanese developer Capcom. The remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 are holding up, despite the traditionally campy aspects, while horror took a bold new direction with 2017’s Resident Evil 7. Naturally, fans expect the team to scare the living daylights out of them once more, and with the latest, Resident Evil Village, Capcom remains in form and delivers yet another haunting first-person survival horror chapter in the life of Ethan Winters after RE7.
Ethan returns from his harrowing adventures in the swamps of Louisiana and gets thrust into yet another terror-filled journey. This time, the fogged-filled Eastern European aesthetic reflects another dimension of scares that await our hero.
Having made a life for himself and Mia, the pair were looking forward to a quiet life with their new infant daughter, Rose. Unfortunately, life has a way of screwing with Ethan. With his daughter kidnapped, Ethan must once again rise to the occasion and rescue her from a menagerie of monsters.
There is the Internet sensation Lady Dimitrescu, the tallest vampire anyone has ever seen; Donna Beneviento, a dollmaker that specialises in nightmare fuel creations; and Salvatore Moreau, a repulsive half-man, half-fish creature. There is also the enigmatic Karl Heisenberg, the most normal looking one of the bunch with powers of controlling metal who could prove to be the most dangerous.
At the head of this deranged family is Mother Miranda, the witch that has nefarious plans for the precious Rose. The four Lords are definitely unique and rule over their distinct section of the world in Resident Evil Village, allowing players to experience different kinds of terror.
Along with Mother Miranda, they bring adequate scares and intrigue, although they do pale in comparison to the claustrophobic nature of the Baker house and the psychopathic family in Resident Evil 7 when it comes to true scares. Nevertheless, this collection of villains, their motivations, and their roles in this new chapter provide much impetus for players to dive deeper into the story of Resident Evil Village.
Much of the marketing about the game has revolved around werewolves, and the Lycans are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the meat of the combat in Resident Evil Village. Taking a cue from Resident Evil 4, the intensity and franticness that is even more fully realised in first-person make Resident Evil Village a game that values both horror and combat.
Rather than just depend on one type of enemy like the previous game, variety is indeed the spice of life when it comes to the dangerous foes Ethan will face in this latest entry. There are the aforementioned Lycans that have many variations, ghoul-like Moroaică, flying monsters with wagging tongues, gigantic werewolves, and more.
Not only are players going to enjoy the many different types of combat encounters with the many enemies, but it also lends a strategic depth to the proceedings. Especially when facing groups of enemies, how do you prioritise your targets? Do you go with precision or mass damage? While the creatures may not be too smart about hunting you down, the sheer numbers can occasionally be enough to push players to the brink.
It most certainly helps that Ethan himself is no longer the new kid on the block, so to speak. Having undergone military training between the two games, players have a little bit more freedom to navigate the spaces and make use of his expertise. Explosive barrels can help, windows can be a convenient means of escape, and you can barricade doorways using objects.
Add to that the crafting mechanic in Resident Evil Village, where ammo and healing items can be created at a whim, and we have a formula that makes for a challenging, potent, and enjoyable 10-hour romp through the locations in the game.
There can be no discussion about Resident Evil Village without pointing out that the boss battles against the Lords are both surprising and disappointing. If you are a fan of making your shots count and avoiding damaging attacks, then you will be fine. For those of us looking for showdowns that require some intellectual strategising, only one encounter elevates itself above the rest of them, and you might not even consider it a boss fight.
In fact, when it comes to the puzzling parts of Resident Evil Village, Capcom has made everything extremely accessible. Solutions are often in plain sight, and never too convoluted to require out-of-the-box thinking. That can be a good thing, however, it definitely flies in the face of a game that places a heavy emphasis on the environment design.
On the other hand, a big and pleasant part of Resident Evil Village is The Duke. This morbidly obese merchant is always right where you need him, popping up in rooms and areas to peddle his wares. Players will be able to buy supplies, learn new recipes, and upgrade their weapons to give themselves a better chance at survival.
Killing enemies and scouring the environments can turn up treasures that can be sold for more currency. Capcom has been brilliant in weaving these hidden items into the locales in Resident Evil Village, with the map being a great help to nudge players towards exploration. If you see a room that is highlighted in red, it means something has yet to be found. Keep your eyes peeled for shining gems, or hear the creak of a birdcage that can be shot down.
The way the actual village in Resident Evil Village functions as a hub only enhances the player’s enjoyment of checking every nook and cranny. By constantly backtracking and heading off the beaten path, players are usually rewarded. Items are always useful, and should you stumble upon an immensely powerful foe, you know there is a sweet reward awaiting once you emerge with the victory.
There is also wildlife for Ethan to hunt, and the meat can be turned into The Duke for permanent upgrades. Increased health, better defence, and quicker movement speed can be the difference between life and death. When it comes to spending your hard-earned Lei, you will most certainly need to consider your needs and what is coming up next, just like any good survival horror game.
Perhaps knowing that the story itself will not last players too long, Capcom had the foresight to give Resident Evil Village more replay value once you are done with Ethan’s tale. Completing certain challenges during the story would have earned you Completion Points, which can be spent to unlock several items of interest as bonuses.
Infinite ammo for weapons, concept art, character models, these are all up for grabs. The most interesting of the lot, the Mercenaries Mode, is also found under the bonuses. Returning with a few gameplay changes, this is the perfect way to experience the combat of Resident Evil Village at higher speeds and increased intensity, all for the glory of a high score.
It is important as you take to each stage to identify where enemies spawn, how you are going to eliminate them, and the optimal path through it all. That is the key to getting a good ranking at the end of each multi-area run.
There are also special ability orbs that can grant you perks like better melee damage, exploding corpses, and more. Depending on your playstyle, you could be stacking abilities or going for variety, all in the name of making you a more effective killing machine. Kill everything in sight in the shortest time possible, and keep the combo going, the Mercenaries Mode in Resident Evil Village is an addictive bonus that is bound to keep players coming back for more.
With the two-pronged approach Capcom is apparently taking with the franchise, it is heartening to see that survival horror is still an important pillar of the studio.
Resident Evil Village effectively combines the scares and action into an entertaining and delightful adventure that is full of mystery and lore that will make fans happier. Although it has more action than genuine dread most of the time, and boss fights and puzzles could have us racking our brains more, Resident Evil Village still manages to scratch that itch for a good survival horror experience. Just like the zombies, Capcom keeps coming back with more, and players will be more than happy to pull the trigger every single time.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An entertaining, action-heavy adventure that explores more about the history of Resident Evil and gives Ethan Winters more time to shine.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 9/10