Resident Evil Village feels like a “greatest hits” style celebration of the franchise’s highpoints from across its 25 year-history. The gameplay style and first person perspective of Resident Evil 7, the aesthetic and mechanics of Resident Evil 4, the heart-pumping action sequences of Resident Evil 5, the palpable horror and layered design of Resident Evil 2, the narrative revelations that connect back to even the very first game in the series. Village takes the best elements that have defined the best games in the series and packages them together in an incredible journey that simultaneously feels celebratory and revelatory. It’s one of the best Resident Evil games Capcom has ever made, even with some flaws, and is yet another highlight in a series that is bursting with highlights.
Resident Evil Village is set a couple of years after the events of RE7. Ethan and Mia Winters have moved to a secluded place in Europe, and under the protection of the BSAA, the two are trying to move on from the incident at the Baker Residence. Though still scarred by memories of those traumatic events, with their newborn daughter Rose to take care of, they’re ready to build a new life for themselves. Things go wrong, however, as things often do for Resident Evil protagonists, when Chris Redfield breaks into their home one night, shockingly shoots and kills Mia, and kidnaps Rose. Determined to rescue his daughter and uncover the mystery of what caused Chris’ drastic actions, Ethan finds himself in an unnamed village brimming with nightmares and horrors, ready to head on another terrifying journey.
"Resident Evil Village tells a compelling story from start to finish, and its characters are hugely responsible for that."
Resident Evil Village tells a compelling story from start to finish, and its characters are hugely responsible for that. In Mother Miranda and the four Lords who rule over the village, it has excellent villains, each with their own personal quirks, personalities, and backstories. The visual design for each of these is also incredibly diverse and outstanding- each of the main antagonists has their own look that helps them stand out, from the imposing figure of Lady Dimitrescu to the delightfully disgusting and mutated form of Salvatore Moreau. Of this group of antagonists, Karl Heisenberg in particular is a standout character. He steals the show every time he’s on-screen, and may very well be one of the best Resident Evil villains in recent memory.
Then there’s Ethan, who has seen significant improvements, and is now much more emotive and personable than his disappointingly bland debut in Resident Evil 7. Village doesn’t elevate him to the same level as fan-favourites like Leon or Jill by any means, but at least it no longer feels like he hasn’t earned his place in their company. Chris Redfield also makes a strong impression, straddling the line perfectly between being a menacing and mysterious antihero and being the boulder-punching soldier we all know him as. In fact, Resident Evil Village is probably one of the best Chris Redfield stories this series has told to date. And then there’s the Duke, of course, the enigmatic merchant who helps Ethan throughout his journey. With a history that is completely shrouded in mystery, memorable character design, and a delightful personality, the Duke is a ray of sunshine in this bleak village every time he shows up.
Resident Evil Village’s story impresses in other ways as well. Serving as a direct narrative sequel to Resident Evil 7, it builds on its predecessor’s events in satisfying ways, revealing new tidbits and details that not only set up exciting things for its own story, but also retroactively further enrich the story of RE7 as well. Longtime series fans will also find plenty to love here. Though past games in the series are by no means required reading (with the exception of 7), if you have any investment in Resident Evil lore and the series’ larger, over-arching story, you will be rewarded with no shortage of delicious callbacks, connections, easter eggs, and revelations.
"Longtime series fans will also find plenty to love here. Though past games in the series are by no means required reading (with the exception of 7), if you have any investment in Resident Evil lore and the series’ larger, over-arching story, you will be rewarded with no shortage of delicious callbacks, connections, easter eggs, and revelations."
Village’s story and storytelling aren’t perfect though- most Resident Evil games have a tendency to get a little silly at times, and sure enough, there are a few plot points and moments here that are a bit too out there and require some suspension of disbelief. Meanwhile, the fact that Ethan is still essentially a faceless character is a little disappointing. Not only is the game’s insistence on not showing his face incongruous with its willingness to give him a much more memorable personality and a stronger character arc, it also feels unnecessarily forced at times, especially in some scenes later on that aren’t shown from a first person perspective. The way these scenes are framed, as if they’re going out of their way to not show Ethan’s face, just feels a little distracting and can take you out of the moment. Another gripe I had with the game’s story was the character of Donna Beneviento, who gets the least amount of screen time out of all of the game’s villains, and ends up feeling the least fleshed out, and in turn, the least memorable.
On the gameplay front, however, Resident Evil Village is an unabashed masterpiece. Level design has always been one of the series’ biggest strengths, and that’s doubly true here. The titular village is an excellent setting, both in terms of design and atmosphere. It serves as the hub for your entire adventure, as a central point that connects to the game’s various locations that essentially serve as dungeons. The village isn’t massive, but it’s quite large, and more importantly densely packed, full of optional objectives to track down and areas to explore. Each time you come back to the village, you’re allowed to explore more of it, with its interconnected design looping in and around itself in typical Resident Evil fashion. You’re constantly rewarded for exploration, whether that’s with precious resources and crafting components, valuable treasures that can be sold for large quantities of cash, or special weapons that can only be acquired via exploration and cannot be purchased from the Duke.
Level design is equally good on a more micro scale, in each of the game’s separate areas and locations, but what really helps these locations stand out is how much variety they exhibit. Each area brings a different flavour and style of horror. Castle Dimitrescu is layered and dense, with Lady Dimitrescu stalking you through the halls for a large portion of it, Mr. X-style. House Beneviento is straight up psychological horror, and feels more like something you’d see in a Bloober Team game than what Resident Evil fans might be used to. Heisenberg’s Factory – which is one of the best Resident Evil locations I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing – is vast and mazy, and constantly throws formidable enemies at you, delivering the kind of tense action-horror that defined the likes of Resident Evil 4 and 5.
"Level design has always been one of the series’ biggest strengths, and that’s doubly true here."
The perfect pacing of the game also deserves special praise. With plenty of exploration, taking my time with things, and tracking down all the optional content I could, I finished Resident Evil Village in roughly eleven hours, and it felt like the perfect length. One particular section – Moreau’s Reservoir – was a little shorter than it needed to be, but by and large, the game felt impeccably paced. Each new area delivers its own peaks and valley, its own memorable moments, its own unique ideas and mechanics, and when the game has squeezed out all it can from them, it immediately moves on to the next excellently executed idea.
Meanwhile, engaging exploration is bolstered by satisfying puzzles that feel right at home in a Resident Evil game, while combat has also seen notable improvements, from a variety of weapons that each feel satisfying to use, to faster movement that allows you to combat threats more effectively. The biggest improvements, however, have been made to the enemy design, as well as the sheer variety of enemies you come across in Resident Evil Village. Fast-moving and aggressive lycans, shambling zombies armed with swords and axes, gargoyles that flit about in the air and dive at you for attacks, mechanical monstrosities with cleverly hidden weak points- each enemy type in the game has their own visual design and unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and each demands different strategies. Meanwhile, tense combat encounters that see you hastily switching between weapons and moving about combat arenas to make sure you don’t get cornered by mobs of enemies feel very Resident Evil 4 in the best way possible.
If there’s one gripe I had with the combat, it’s that on the PS5, the game implements the DualSense’s adaptive triggers in the most annoying way possible, with the trigger jamming every so often and either sending your shots completely off-target as a result, or refusing to fire altogether. I get that it’s supposed to add to the tense nature of each combat encounter, but honestly, it was little more than a nuisance. Thankfully, the game lets you turn off adaptive triggers, which I did barely two hours into my playthrough- after which I had little to no complaints with the combat.
"Fast-moving and aggressive lycans, shambling zombies armed with swords and axes, gargoyles that flit about in the air and dive at you for attacks, mechanical monstrosities with cleverly hidden weak points- each enemy type in the game has their own visual design and unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and each demands different strategies."
Progression is another area where Resident Evil Village feels far more fleshed out than its direct predecessor. The return of a Merchant character means upgrading weapons is now a persistent activity that spans the entire game. Killing enemies and hunting down and selling treasures earns you Lei, which can be used to buy items and ammo, purchase new weapons, or upgrade the ones you already have in your arsenal. Weapon upgrades take a couple of forms as well- you can either upgrade things such as damage, ammo capacity, and fire rate, or you can purchase special mods and attachments, such as an extended mag for your handgun or a scope to increase your sniper rifle’s range. Upgrades and purchases are by no means cheap, which means you have to give careful consideration to what you want to spend money on, to what purchases will suit your play style best. I like to get up close and personal, so I spent most of my money on upgrading my shotguns (which, in typical Resident Evil fashion, are the best weapons in the game).
And weapons aren’t the only thing you’ll be upgrading either. Ethan’s own base stats can also be upgraded. This is done by hunting animals scattered throughout the game’s map, and then bringing back their meat to the Duke to have him cook special dishes for you, which in turn increase your max health, movement speed, and guard defence. Hunting is yet another way Resident Evil Village incentivizes exploration, with animals often being tucked away in hidden or optional areas, and some special animal varieties that can only be found if you do certain optional activities. As the perfect mixture of exploration and invaluable progression, hunting feels like an ingenious addition to the Resident Evil formula.
Outside of the campaign, Resident Evil Village also brings back the fan-favourite and long-requested Mercenaries mode. The time attack mode sees you moving through areas and taking down increasingly more difficult waves of enemies, and is just as much of a blast as always- with added depth this time, thanks to ability pickups that add extra variety to each run and let you tailor your build in unique ways each time you play. With multiple difficulty modes (including the unlockable Village of Shadows), the Mercenaries, and unlocking things such as new weapons and infinite ammo guns with completion points, Resident Evil Village has plenty of replay value.
"With multiple difficulty modes, the Mercenaries, and unlocking things such as new weapons and infinite ammo guns with completion points, Resident Evil Village has plenty of replay value."
On a technical level, the game is, unsurprisingly, an audio-visual delight. Capcom’s RE Engine has never failed to deliver some of the best-looking games in the industry since its debut with Resident Evil 7, and Village is once again technically stunning, with its impressive visuals being backed up by incredible art design as well. Audio design has also always been one of the series’ biggest strengths, which is true here as well- from the excellent music to the percussive blast of a shotgun to the chilling growls and shrieks of monsters, Resident Evil Village’s audio contributes to the game’s incredible atmosphere in significant ways.
2021 marks Resident Evil’s 25th anniversary, and Village is an excellent way to celebrate that occasion. Horror, action, and spectacle come together to create one of Resident Evil’s most ambitious and most impressive outings to date, and with engaging exploration and puzzles, thrilling combat, excellent level design, and a satisfying story with memorable characters, it has plenty to offer to all Resident Evil fans, regardless of which era of this constantly changing series you prefer best. Calling Resident Evil Village a survival horror masterclass would not be an exaggeration in the slightest.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Compelling story from start to finish; Plenty of satisfying connections to past games to keep series fans happy; Excellent cast of characters, with some of the best Resident Evil villains in recent memory; Ethan's character has seen significant improvements; The village is an excellent setting; Impressive variety in tone, aesthetic, and atmosphere across its many locations; Stellar level design; Rewarding and engaging exploration; Nearly flawless pacing; Thrilling combat, thanks to excellently designed and vastly varied enemies; Spectacular boss fights; Engaging and satisfying progression loop; Looks and sounds excellent; Mercenaries is still a blast; Lots of replay value.
Parts of the story are a bit too out there; Donna Beneviento is an under-developed character; Ethan is still faceless; Annoying implementation of the DualSense's adaptive triggers.