Resident Evil Village Review

Ethan Winters. Welcome.

Resident Evil Village, the much anticipated follow up to Ethan Winters’ story in Resident Evil 7, manages to build on the foundation of the previous entry while maintaining excellence in story beats, level design, and tense gameplay.

At the time of writing, I have played through Resident Evil Village three times: My first run was on standard difficulty with an eight hour timestamp, my second on hardcore with five and a half hours played, and my third being a knife-only sub-three hour speed-run on casual mode. I have played Resident Evil Village a lot over the past few days, and i’m still planning on playing the hardest difficulty, Village of Shadows. Until then, I am wrapping up other achievements and trying my hand at the Mercenaries mode. With my credentials out of the way, let’s get into this meaty game.

Story

Resident Evil Village opens up with Ethan and his wife Mia peacefully settled down in Eastern Europe with their six month old daughter Rose, three years after the events at the Baker Estate. This uncharacteristic sense of peace quickly dissolves into chaos once Ethan and Mia’s daughter Rose is taken, which propels Ethan to eventually arrive at a mysterious village overrun by Lycan. After an introductory section reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, Ethan is introduced to the four lords of the village: Alcina Dimistrecu, Donna Beneviento, Karl Heisenberg , and Salvatore Moreau. These lords all operate under their fearless leader, Mother Miranda, whom of which we know very little about at the time. The story unfolds from this initial meeting of the minds, with each lord and their respective areas driving the story forwards. This formula is executed in a fashion similar to Resident Evil 7, which had unique sections and set-pieces for each member of the family.

I won’t spoil anything about the story, but I walked away satisfied with the ways the story answered questions raised during Resident Evil 7, added to the mystery of Ethan and his family, and set up a potential Resident Evil 9. I thought Ethan’s character fell flat at times, especially in his delivery of lines, but thought had significant character growth throughout the story that didn’t necessarily exist in the previous entry. We get to see Ethan’s compassion for his daughter and family, which becomes increasingly desperate throughout the story. We also get to see just how much he can endure in his attempt to save his daughter. If you thought Ethan had it bad in Resident Evil 7, think again.

Chris Redfield plays a role in the story’s progression and fueling Ethan’s purpose, but maybe not as much as it might seem. Despite him being a focal point in the marketing of the game, we only catch up with Chris every once in a while throughout the story. Thematically this makes sense, since Ethan is mostly riding solo throughout the events of Resident Evil Village. Overall, I cherished the moments with Chris and thought his character was a standout whenever he showed up.

My main concern is how Capcom is going to integrate “IX” into the next title.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Resident Evil Village is a mix between Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 4. It’s similar to Resident Evil 7 in its mechanical, moment-to-moment gameplay, except this time the gunplay and overall movement feels more refined. I’m not sure if it was my immediate choice to turn off look acceleration, but controlling Ethan felt like it had much less resistance than it did in Resident Evil 7. Similarities to Resident Evil 4 exist in the game’s hidden treasures throughout the map, merchant, inventory system, and weapon upgrades. I thoroughly enjoyed searching for hidden treasures throughout the rather extensive village and sub-locations, and always felt rewarded in my exploration, whether that be through finding treasures that I could sell for Lei (Village’s currency) or finding weapons and weapon attachments that would aid in the good fight. This was something I felt was sorely missing from Resident Evil 7; there was an abundance of tension with none of the serotonin hits from clearing an area and finding well-deserved treasure.

In terms of actual combat, the game feels more refined and quick compared to the slow pace of Resident Evil 7. You are frequently handed hordes of Lycan and are expected to use every piece of your arsenal to take them out. Larger hordes are tense and action-packed, but don’t undermine the more subtle moments of facing off against one or two enemies at once. Village has a good sense of scale, and only ramps up the action when it expects you to be ready for it.

In regards to difficulty, I believe standard difficulty is a bit on the easier side and would recommend hardcore for series veterans. Even playing through hardcore on new game plus is understandably easier, as new game plus allows you to carry over your weapons and weapon progression. Take it from me and have a swing at hardcore on a new save file, which may make the experience more tense overall.

Let’s talk about arguably the most fundamental character of Resident Evil Village, the Duke. The Duke is the merchant of Resident Evil Village who will seemingly follow Ethan from one area to the next and offer his increasingly expansive selection of goods. Upon Ethan’s first encounter with the Duke, Ethan is able to purchase weapons and items, make weapon upgrades, and sell any valuables. Having a merchant in a survival horror game is always a welcome addition, and one that provides the player with a sense of safety after traversing a tough area. There’s a very satisfying feeling seeing the Duke after an hour’s worth of killing enemies and collecting treasure, knowing you can use your hard-earned Lei to further upgrade your arsenal. Interestingly, the Duke also plays a pivotal role in the story as well, helping push Ethan from one area to the next while providing insight into what exactly it is he’s doing. Keep listening, because the Duke always has something to say.

The inventory system operates similarly to Resident Evil 4, with key items / treasures having their own space and your main inventory being used for weapons, ammo, first aid, and meat. Speaking of meat, in Resident Evil Village, you can “hunt” various animals and bring their respective meats to the Duke for permanent buffs. This is a welcome addition, and one that adds a bit of variety and excitement to exploration. Outside of new additions like the simple hunting system, the player will spend their time combining treasures, shuffling around inventory, and examining key items for clues. One small addition to the game is if you pick up a piece of treasure than can be combined with another, the game will clearly tell you that it’s combinable. It’s a small, but thoughtful addition for those completionists who don’t want to miss out on anything. Another welcome item for completionists is the map, which, similar to previous entries like Resident Evil 2 remake, will clearly indicate if you have collected every item from a house or area. Overall, Resident Evil Village is rather thoughtful in its transparency around player progression and works to respect the player’s time. I enjoyed the inventory system, even if I didn’t spend as much time re-arranging items like I did in Resident Evil 4. Again, this may change once I try a dry run of hardcore or try out Village of Shadows difficulty.

Graphics / Performance

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the actual look of the game. To put it bluntly, Resident Evil Village is absolutely beautiful and takes full advantage of the Xbox Series X’s capabilities. Village on current gen consoles and PC also offers ray-tracing, albeit at a cost of 45 frames-per-second compared to the standard 60. I played my first two playthroughs with ray-tracing off and the third with it on, and didn’t notice much of a difference outside of Castle Dimitrescu, which is lush with lighting and beautiful decor. It’s a cool addition, but not worth the 15 frames decrease.

On all three of my playthroughs, there were not any noticeable dips in frame-rate. I haven’t tried the game on previous gen consoles, but can confirm it runs extremely well on current gen. No complaints here.

Level Design

One thing I want to address is the horror aspect. To those who loved Resident Evil 7 for its horror elements throughout the entire game, I have bad news for you. Outside of a few select areas that i’ll soon mention, the game itself just isn’t that scary. That’s not a bad thing, however, since I didn’t think Resident Evil 4 was particularly scary but consider it to be my favorite Resident Evil title. Resident Evil Village has its moments, and I believe the game’s excellent sound design helps increase the tension, but it’s simply not as terrifying as its predecessor.

Throughout Resident Evil Village, the village itself acts as a sort of ever-changing hub that will evolve and provide more to explore as you progress through the story. For instance, one door that was closed before a boss encounter will open up afterwards thanks to the persistence of a few Lycan. Because of this, the village section always feels fresh upon re-entry, and is designed to reward the player for revisiting certain areas. Like classic Resident Evil, finding certain items will create a metroidvania-like revelation for the player. These moments always give a rush, knowing you can go back to an area and discover something new.

Outside of the village itself, you’ll visit various biomes that all belong to their respective lords: Lady Dimitrescu’s castle, Donna Beneviento’s house on the hill, and so forth. Each area is rather diverse and intricate in their own way, with each offering slight differences in gameplay. Donna Beneviento’s house is one area in particular that drastically changes the gameplay formula and provides for a horrifying PT-like experience throughout it’s rather short existence. Beneviento’s house was an exciting and terrifying ride on my first playthrough, but one that quickly grew old and predictable on subsequent playthroughs by design. The one problem with this section is there is only one way to things, and since Resident Evil Village pushes you to replay it multiple times, sections like this can get a little stale.

I feel like the Resident Evil Village hit an extremely high point with Lady Dimistrescu’s castle, but failed to expand on some of the other areas in similar manners. I didn’t dislike any of the areas of the game, but felt some of them could’ve had some more meat on them. To elaborate a little, during my knife-only speedrun through the game, I had finished Castle Dimistrescu around the one hour mark and then finished the remaining lord’s sections by the two hour mark. A speedrun may not be a great example, but does show the shorter length of some of the other lord’s areas.

One exciting addition to the level design is optional areas, which can hold additional treasure or lore and allow for a quiet break between story beats. There are also optional encounters with mini-bosses throughout the map, which I found rather exciting for a series that has been mostly linear by design. The addition of the hub-style village lended well to these optional areas, and made the world feel dense and lived-in. I always found myself returning to areas with the excitement of finding something new or opening a locked chest I had forgotten about previously.

Also, let’s not forget about the action-packed last section. In my my opinion, this section was slightly overblown with other outlets comparing it to Resident Evil 6 and other first person shooters. Yes, it relies heavier on action moments than the rest of the game, but does so in a way that makes sense to the story and helps further drive the plot. It was not my favorite section of the game, but one that was so short lived that I didn’t see the harm, and it didn’t take away from the experience. Outside of this last section, I felt Resident Evil Village did a fine job at increasing the chaos in alignment with Ethan’s expanding arsenal. Once you have more weapons, the game throws more complex enemies at you.

Unless you were to strip Ethan of his weapons…there’s not a realistic way to replicate the same level of tension that existed in the early game due to Ethan’s general progression. That truth may turn some players away, but the the addition of weapon upgrades and a merchant system outweigh my desire to constantly feel underpowered throughout the game. But hey, let’s see if I still feel adequately powered during my Village of Shadows playthrough.

Replayability

One thing I can always count on with the Resident Evil franchise is its replayability, and Resident Evil Village certainly doesn’t disappoint. The amount of endgame unlocks and challenges kept me coming back for more, and Mercenaries mode adds a little bit of variety if you aren’t looking to play through the story again. I found myself actively trying to get every achievement and complete every challenge, and will continue my journey after completing this review. If I haven’t been playing Resident Evil Village, I have certainly been thinking about it. It’s one of those games where i’m now thinking of how I can challenge myself outside of achievements; whether that be a pistol-only run, a sniper-only run, or something of that realm. Resident Evil Village is incredibly fun to play through.

Conclusion

Overall, Resident Evil Village is an amazing entry in the long-running series and one that stands out amongst the rest. What it lacks in continuous horror it makes up for with exciting moment-to-moment gameplay, character progression, tense combat, and one of the scariest sections of the Resident Evil franchise.

I would recommend Resident Evil Village for fans of the survival horror genre and fans of the Resident Evil series, especially Resident Evil 4 and 7. I would highly recommend playing Resident Evil 7 before Village, but will note there is an option to watch a two-minute debrief of the events from Resident Evil 7 before you begin Village.

Pros:

  • Gameplay and weapon progression are outstanding
  • Beautiful environments
  • Engaging story
  • Interesting villains
  • High replayability

Cons:

  • A few disappointingly short areas
  • Ethan’s character doesn’t always deliver

9.25/10

To give more insight into my review, i’ve broken down scoring into 3 distinct categories and averaged them together.

Story – 8.5

Excitement / Fun Factor – 9.5

Replay Value / Post-game content – 10

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