One of 2021’s most anticipated games and worryingly, most hyped (as we all know what hype does). Resident Evil Village is the latest major instalment of Capcom’s long-running survival horror game series. It is a sequel to Resident Evil 7, continuing the story and utilising many of the gameplay elements introduced there.
We loved Resident Evil 7, thinking it was the restart the ailing franchise needed. The switch to first-person and re-emphasis on horror made for a thrilling experience. It ranks up there alongside the best the franchise had to offer.
A high bar for Village to meet and initially, it does.
A game of two halves, if you played the first half only, you’d come away thinking you had played one of the best Resident Evil games ever. It’s the second half that lets it down. Not massively, we’re talking about a great game dropping to good and it never dips below that.
Before we get into why we think that, let’s talk about the story, spoiler free.
Resident Evil Village takes place 3 years after the events of Louisiana in Resident Evil 7. Ethan Winters, his wife Mia and their 6-month-old daughter, Rose have moved to Europe under the instructions of Chris Redfield and are living a relatively normal life.
The events at the Baker household still troubles Ethan though and his attempts to talk about it to Mia fall on deaf ears. She doesn’t want to think or remember what happened then and can you blame her?
After briefly bickering about it, Ethan puts Rose down to bed and gets ready to have dinner with Mia. Then bullets start littering the house, killing Mia as Ethan hits the ground. Shocked at the murder of his wife, Ethan can barely understand what has happened when Chris Redfield and his men arrive. Chris puts a few more bullets in Mia for good measure before kidnapping Rose, knocking Ethan out and throwing him in the back of a van.
It’s a shocking start and very confusing, not just for Ethan but the player as well. Ethan wakes to find the van he was in, crashed and the men inside, dead. Pitch dark and freezing in the cold snow, Ethan has no choice but to follow tracks that lead him to an isolated village overlooked by mountains and a grandiose castle.
This is no normal village though as the residents are under constant attack by werewolf-like creatures known as Lycans. They are just the start of Ethan’s problems though as he learns that Rose is here, held captive by the mysterious Mother Miranda. A ‘sort of’ deity that is worshipped in the village. To get to her, first Ethan will have to deal with the four lords. The vampiric Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters, the ghostly Donna Beneviento and her dolls, the grotesque Salvatore Moreau and the dangerous and manipulative Karl Heisenberg.
There’s a lot more to the story obviously but this is all about avoiding spoilers and Resident Evil Village’s story is something you want to experience yourself.
Werewolves, vampires, witches… Resident Evil Village takes some brave steps into fantasy that could have been comical. Happily, how and why such things exist in this universe is quite well done. While not at the forefront of the story, there’s a lot of Resident Evil history in this game. Some that even links back to the very first in the series and the creation of Umbrella. Mostly, Village is all about continuing and tying up the threads that were created in Resident Evil 7 and as a sequel to that game, it delivers.
After a shocking and captivating start, the arrival at the village is spectacular and while it’s not as confined as the Baker household was in 7, it still drips in horror vibes. It creates a sense of isolation, loneliness and desperation. Especially when you really don’t have the weapons to fully defend yourself against the Lycans. The early portion of the game is one of the most heart-racing parts as you run from house to house trying to escape the claws of the monstrous creatures. Survival horror? You bet your damn life.
Of course, this is a Resident Evil game and once through that, you’ll start getting tooled up with all manner of guns. Thanks to Duke, a mysterious merchant, ammo and upgrades can be purchased for reasonable prices. What’re ya buyin’? This is far from the only Resident Evil 4 link we’ll make.
You’ll need to be tooled up, to help you take down monsters and start digging your way into each Lord’s territory. Beginning with the tall lady herself, Lady Dimitrescu who should need no introduction, seeing as she was pushed front and centre by Capcom in the advertising for this game.
Does she live up to the hype? Yeah, pretty much. As her opulent castle is exciting to explore and her daughters add some real terror to events before the Lady herself comes after you. It’s a spectacular battle that hits all the Resident Evil notes, from the creep and fear factor of the original game, to the running and hiding of Resident Evil 7 to the full-on monstrous battles of Resident Evil 4.
At his stage of the game, it’s a fantastic experience. One that actually gets better with the next Lord, Donna Beneviento. Possibly the most frightening experience in a Resident Evil game to date. You don’t want to play through her territory with the lights off, that’s for sure.
Unfortunately, it’s following that section of the game that Village’s quality begins to drop as it becomes more action-orientated and less interesting. Locations that are less inspired, waves of enemies that you must just gun through and a trek through Heisenberg’s factory that just seems to never end. This section ends in a boss battle that might even be stretching the believability of Resident Evil, which is saying something. It’s like the first half of the game was a combination of Resident Evil and Resident Evil 7 and the second half is a combination of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7.
It’s no surprise that Capcom stuck to the first-person viewpoint for this game, after all this all about Ethan being faceless. Here though, it’s a bit more troublesome as wider and more open locations makes for more bothersome exploration. Especially when it comes to finding items. Happily, the game gives you a map with buildings appearing in red if you’ve not cleared them out of items fully.
The worst part of the first-person viewpoint often comes with boss battles. Big arenas with enemies who can do sweeping attacks. More times than not, you’ll find yourself running (well, jogging) away, spinning around wildly hoping to unload a few bullets into them before repeating again and again. It’s not exactly a satisfying battle and feels clunky. In the case of the final boss, Ethan’s ‘blocking’ ability is the important aspect to ensure success.
As for puzzles? A mainstay of the series? The less said about this aspect, the better. Simply put… puzzles are supposed to puzzle, and this game doesn’t even attempt to give you a head-scratcher or two. One hilarious example sees the solution to one sitting right next to the bloody puzzle. That’s just lazy.
Here’s the important thing though, it’s still a lot of fun and it speaks volumes about the strength of the franchise these days that these are the sort of things we can complain about.
On first play-through, the game can last anywhere between 8 and 12 hours. There’s plenty of reasons to go back through it again though. Increased difficulties, unlockable weapons that you can use earlier in the game and a returning favourite – Mercenaries mode.
Overall, Resident Evil Village is a really satisfying entry in the franchise that falls just a bit short of being great. It has plenty of great moments though and it’s those that stick in the memory come the end.
Resident Evil Village
The Final Score - 7.5/10