Like most gamers, I have memories of the first time I played Resident Evil. I was no older than nine years old and frightened of everything unfolding on my screen but I was invested and ready to power through. I was loaned the first game by a relative who enjoyed playing video games and while I was happy sticking to Crash Bandicoot the magic of Capcom’s new (at the time) series was hard to pass up. Over the year, I’d return a bit older and braver but still cautious about what lurked around every corner in Racoon City.
It wasn’t until Resident Evil 4 that I was old enough to work and make money for my hobbies. I experienced one of the best games in the Resident Evil series on my GameCube, which is one of my fondest gaming memories. Over the years, the series has evolved to something entirely new, and 2017’s Resident Evil VII changed the formula. Capcom returns with a new entry in the 25-year old series with something that combines the best of the old and the new Resident Evil, pulling off a spectacular marriage of atmospheric horror with pulsing action set pieces that will often leave you breathless.
Resident Evil Village combines the best bits of older games
You feel the influence of past games the moment you gain control of returning protagonist Ethan Winters. Picking up three years after saving Mia from the mutated Baker’s and their murder house, things are better for the couple. With baby Rose, the three have settled in Europe with the help of Chris Redfield, looking to start over with a second chance. However, the events of the Baker house have taken a toll on Ethan and he suffers from the trauma he suffered while at the same time dealing with Mia not acting like herself. This is where the game begins as Chris offs Mia and steals baby Rose, sending Ethan to a derelict Eastern village.
And this introduction is exactly the bombastic fluctuation that’s propelled the series to some of its greatest heights. A series like Resident Evil can be horrific one moment and then exhilarating the next, but it’s the way the game offers subliminal exploration and creeping horror that this somehow never seems to get old. Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the series, there’s a righteous amalgamation of the outlandish charm of older Resident Evil games and the terror of the previous game.
The village is just as much a character as Lady Dimitrescu or Heisenberg. Capcom clearly took inspiration from Resident Evil 4’s village and for good reason, the idea of not knowing what’s hidden inside these houses is terrifying. By taking that idea and turning the village into a hub, you’re encouraged to go off the beaten path and explore, especially for those who enjoy collectibles. It’s also a bigger game in every way building itself on the back of its predecessor but veterans will find something enjoyable if you enjoy the lore.
A bold direction for the series
Progress is much more fleshed out than it was in the previous Resident Evil. You may miss the merchant from Resident Evil 4 but newcomer Duke gives him a run for his money, serving as a lifeline to surviving the horrors ahead of you. Duke’s store is full of weapons, consumables, blueprints, and upgrades. Capcom’s done a stellar job with the writing, keeping what made Resident Evil VII click while enhancing the lore. And while Ethan had little to say before, he’s much more vocal this time serving as the perfect character to push the story forward. And as the story unfolds you begin to feel sorry for him, he’s a victim and he’s been pulled into this nightmare without any semblance of choice. It’s also a shame we still never see Ethan’s face which has been a talking point for ages.
Level design has always been a strong point for the Resident Evil series and that continues here, with each section of the game feeling meticulously placed and intentional. There’s a thrilling experience when exploring the village because of its Metroid-inspired assembly. You’re encouraged to return and explore the further you get into the story, coming back to open a door you might’ve not been able to open before by incentivizing you to go back.
Resident Evil Village doesn’t try to be an action game and Ethan will never punch a boulder-like Chris Redfield. He isn’t the fastest and he isn’t the strongest so blocking is often a good choice when up against an enemy. Ammo and weaponry are scarce at the start of your adventure but as you navigate the skilfully paced story, things tend to come at you at the best time. Ethan’s arsenal begins with a pistol before the shotgun and rifle are found and for the most part, handle well. Shotgun headshot my favourite and most satisfying kills. Whether it’s an action set-piece, a puzzle-solving section or exploring your surroundings, none overstay its welcome. For those who enjoy collectibles and optional content, there’s enough to go around.
Let the Lords be With You
Ethan’s main goal is to deal with the four Lords, each area in the game has its own unique identity and each area is visually different from the others but also offers different enemy types, mechanics, and boss battles. Mother Miranda is the main antagonist but that doesn’t mean the four Lords aren’t worthy opponents. Lady Dimitrescu serves as one of them and the towering mutant stands at 9’6” tall and runs the Castle Dimitrescu with her three daughters, Bela, Cassandra, and Daniela. Lady Dimitrescu is a phenomenon that’s taken the internet by storm but her presence is short-lived and she’s easy to maneuver around.
The second Lord is known as Karl Heisenberg, an engineer who runs a family factory and carries a giant hammer with him. Heisenberg loves to kill and usually turns that into a game when he tortures people, and we see early on what he is capable of doing. You explore his family factory and it is different from other areas due to being more modern.
The third Lord is Salvatore Moreau and his design is inspired by mermen from gothic-style horror. Unlike the previous two Lords, Salvatore barely resembles a human and he feels more like the monsters you see in Resident Evil. The fourth Lord is Donna Beneviento and her puppet Angie. Both Donna and Angie reside in the House Beneviento, a residence just outside of the village. I’d say Donna is the weakest and least interesting of the bunch, feeling underdeveloped but the entire section is one of the best bits of the entire campaign.
Resident Evil Village is the biggest game in the series with one playthrough taking roughly 11 hours to complete. New Game Plus, bonus weapons, collectibles and much more are unlocked in each subsequent playthrough so going back through the campaign is always a good idea in Resident Evil. Completing the game once unlocks Mercenaries, where you’ll do your best to reach the end before your timer runs out. Along the way, enemies will need to be defeated and the higher your score is the better you do. It’s quite a bit of fun that will pad your playtime given that Resident Evil Re: Verse has been delayed to the summer.
Resident Evil Village pushes the series forward and reaches a new series high. The village setting is a fully realized place that serves as nightmare fuel and the new monsters, enemies and setting add a new layer to the lore. Where the series goes now is anyone’s guess but the series is strong as ever 25 years later. Capcom continues to impress with their output and whether you run through the campaign once or three times, there’s something new to discover. Adding Mercenaries into the mix is a smart choice and it’s a great addition that’s been missing for a few entries now. By combining the best parts of previous games, Resident Evil Village is brilliantly paced and ultimately the best the series has ever been.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]