The Resident Evil series has reached the grand age of 25 years old. Each entry in Capcom's iconic series has, much like one of its many memorable bosses, evolved and mutated each time, presenting something interest and new for fans to consume. But how does Resident Evil Village, the eighth instalment, match up to its predecessors?
A Sum of All It's Parts
With Resident Evil 7, Capcom took the series into the realm of first-person perspective. No doubt inspired by the much-celebrated (and much missed) PT/Silent Hills demo (RIP). And to the joy of long-time fans, Resident Evil 7 also brought back horror elements and focused less on the action. Which made the title more akin to the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2. Resident Evil Village takes what Resident Evil 7 started and runs with it. Creating something uniquely different to the previous title, but no less engaging.
Essentially Resident Evil Village is RE7 mixed with Resident Evil 4. It tones down the slow-paced, survival-horror aspects of RE7 and amps up the action, especially in the late game. The end result is a heady mix of jumps scares, tension and gunfire.
Resident Evil Village picks up on RE7's story three years later. Ethan Winters returns as our protagonist. After rescuing his wife Mia from the Baker house and in turn, being rescued by everyone's favourite boulder punching hero - Chris Redfield. Ethan and Mia have gone into hiding with the help of Chris, and have moved to Europe to start over. Ethan struggles with the trauma he experienced, which is completely understandable as no one would be right after a trip to the Baker House. Mia, on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge the events and wants to focus on the future. They also have a baby daughter called Rose, which is lovely. But before you can say "Why did Ethan stay with Mia?" Chris and his team storm into the Winters' family home to drag Ethan and baby Rose off.
A quick car crash later and Ethan wakes up. The armed guards watching him and all kinds of dead and baby Rose is missing. Being six months old it's safe to assume she didn't walk off by herself. After a tension-filled walk in the suffocating darkness, Ethan finds himself at the titular village. And before long he's set upon by Lycan (werewolves) who have lay siege to the village. It's very reminiscent of the RE4 opening. Rather than facing off against hordes of undead, you're facing off against a more human-like and agile enemy who have weapons of their own. And much like RE4 you'll be barricading yourself in buildings to slow the enemy advance while foraging for or crafting ammunition. So, yes, the opening of Resident Evil Village is a far cry from the slow burn of RE7, but it's no less fear-inducing.
Lord(s) Have Mercy (Potential Spoilers)
This seems to be one of the main themes of Resident Evil Village. It's still tension-filled, it's still scary in places but it achieves these emotions in several different, and clever, ways. This is superbly executed with the use of the four lords that surround the village. Each one is beautifully unique. There's Lady Dimitrescu (the 'u' is silent) - a 9-foot tall lady and the face of the Resident Evil Village marketing campaigns. She and her three daughters are vampires - not the whiny, emo, sparkle-in-the-sun types. No, they're the much more interesting stalk you, torture you, hang you from a hook type. I'm not going to lie, I fell in love with one of the daughters - Bela - who looks like blood-soaked Tayler Momsen, weird kink, I know. They live in a grand castle, whose interior design is much like the mansion of RE1. Not that you'll get to appreciate it much once things get going as, much like Jack in RE7, one of the bloodthirsty quartet are never far behind.
There's also Donna Beneviento and Angie, her living puppet who wears a wedding dress. The third lord is Salvatore Moreau, a rather mutated fellow with an inferiority complex. Finally, there's Karl Heisenberg who has a factory on the outskirts of the village. As the game progresses you'll face off against each of the lords in unique ways. You'll be chased through the halls of one. Solve puzzles in darkness with an unwavering sense of dread with another. Each lord is like a love letter to different horror genres. Although each one is fantastically creative and memorable, it does take away from the scares somewhat.
Whereas Resident Evil 7 had one strong theme, with slight variation along the way. Resident Evil Village deviates wildly from location to location. Depending on what subject matters scares you will affect your time with the game. Personally, creature features don't scare me, so the Lycans, vampires and mutants were just cannon fodder. As were the body-horror inspired enemies of the factory - a late-game section that, much like the tanker in RE7, is a little too long. But being plunged into darkness, scattered movement in the peripherals and giggling ghost children get to me. So going up against Donna Beneviento and Angie was, for me, the most fear-inducing section. I spent my entire time on edge with the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Genuinely, I went cold for the entirety of my time in their house. Personally, I both loved and loathed it.
For some, this variety will keep the game feeling fresh. For others, it may seem thematically jarring and somewhat scattered. I'm certainly in the first category. I loved every moment of the game, the antagonists are all unique, interesting as are the locations. My only gripe would be, because of just how fascinating each character is, the time spent with them feels far too short. You'll be hitting boss fights and rinsing through ammunition before you know it.
Everything in its Place (Spoilers End)
Although you'll be taking on several bullet sponge enemies. Unlike RE7, ammunition is easy to come by, and can even be crafted. To make things even easier there's also a travelling merchant called The Duke. Similar to the merchant in RE4, he has a habit of showing up just where you need him, sadly his catchphrases are lacking. There are also several guns and accompanying upgrades throughout the game. On your way to and from the four houses, you'll revisit the central town repeatedly to scour it for new items.
Everything you get your blood-soaked mitts on has to go somewhere. Village brings back the inventory management system of the first four Resident Evil games. You have a handy suitcase for weapons, ammo, and health items, and you'll find yourself constantly playing Tetris to fit everything in place. As luck would have it, The Duke also sells suitcase upgrades. Also, crafting materials, key items, treasures (which The Duke will buy from you) and items for recipes (which you can give to The Duke and he'll cook you up a delicious meal, which also permanently boosts stats) aren't counted in your inventory. So you're free to make bullets and health items on the fly. This eliminates any serious inventory management or back-tracking to store items that have plagued previous titles.
All in all the rather short story (10 hours in Standard difficulty for me) of Ethan searching for his daughter, unravelling the mysteries of the village and trying to find out why Chris & Co. got trigger happy with Mia is interesting but definitely overshadowed by your interactions with the Four Lords. Not to mention their interactions with one another, you'll really get a sense of history and tensions among them all. Combat is fun, where being tactical has advantages but isn't necessary to come out on top. The Mercenaries mode is always a welcome addition to any Resident Evil game and, for me, serves as a palate cleanser after a visit to the main campaign.
Resident Evil Village also comes packaged with a code to the open beta of Resident Evil Re:Verse. Which is a multiplayer-focused mode in which you fight other players as both Resident Evil characters and monsters. Re:Verse is reportedly coming sometime this summer for Village buyers, but wasn't available for this review, so has been rated 1 in the scores.
All in all, Village is a wonderful reintroduction of the best action elements of RE4. While simultaneously capturing what made RE7 such a refreshing change of pace for the series. The surprisingly emotional climax, something not seen in the series before, makes for an interesting set-up for the future of this unstoppable series.