Editor’s Note: There will be some light spoilers in this review as Village is so dependent on the plot that it would be impossible to objectively review without revealing some details, but we will keep those as sparse as possible, and mostly confined to the first part of the game.
Resident Evil is one of those series of games that go back for decades, with a rich history and deep lore to pull from as the series continues. Alongside its close cousin, Silent Hill, it’s probably the most recognizable game series in survival horror. And if you have been playing the RE games for years, you know about the evolution of the series from cartoon-like graphics in the early days to the photo-realism of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The latest game, Resident Evil: Village is the eighth title in the series, and continues both the graphical level found in Biohazard as wall as the main character and several plot points from that game.
Village is set a few years after the events of Biohazard. You again play Ethan Winters, who starts the game living with his wife who he rescued at the end of RE7. They now have a child named Rose, and things seem pretty idyllic, other than his wife is still a little bit crazy from the events of the last game. (Perhaps a little too crazy?) Ethan is still also affected by the special mold from Biohazard, so you can reattach severed limbs that come off and things like that, although you wont have to do any of that until much later in the game.
The tranquility of the moment is fleeting, as you are ambushed by none other than Chris Redfield in the first few minutes. He shoots your wife, knocks you out, and bundles you and Rose into the back of a transport van heading for a military black site for interrogation. However, you never make it there. When you awake, you find that van has been wrecked, the guards killed, and Rose has been kidnapped (again, I guess). Thus begins your adventures in Resident Evil: Village.
As you stumble into the main part of the game, you will encounter a run-down village in the shadow of a huge gothic castle, with everything surrounded by mists. This otherworldly place to me immediately looked like the Dungeons and Dragons Ravenloft setting. I mean, it’s a perfect description, like the mists reached out and pulled me into here. If the vampire Strad was standing on the balcony it would be a complete picture, but we later learn that other vampires dwell there. Anyway, if Capcom is going to rip something off, Ravenloft is not a bad choice. It’s a favorite of many D&D players, myself included. I was almost giddy when I got there.
Graphically, I have rarely seen a better-looking game. On the PC through the Steam platform, if you crank up the visuals, then everything looks amazing.
The game does a good job of balancing your PCs specs in terms of memory, CPU power, graphics card and other factors so that you get the best experience possible without overloading your machine. The graphics quality is similar to Biohazard, but instead of looking at dingy shacks in the swamp, you have a beautiful castle to explore from the slate-lined rooftops to the luxurious great room and on down to the bloody dungeons underneath it all. Yes, there are shacks too outside, but even then, their interiors are sometimes surprisingly nice to look at. Fire also looks so real that it’s almost mesmerizing, as does pools or rivers of water (and other substances).
In terms of gameplay, many of the elements of the previous games are present, right down to looking for little sparkles in odd places and shooting them to dislodge hidden crystals, which can be traded to a mysterious vendor (named The Duke here) in return for upgrades, ammo and other useful items to aid in your survival. Village has a very good mix of combat, exploration and puzzle solving as the key gameplay elements. Like in previous games, you will need to find pieces of broken statues, special objects and solve a few light puzzles in order to advance to new places in whatever level you are exploring. And as before, there are various monsters that will try and impede your progress from low-level annoyances to mini-bosses, with a big boss battle at the end of each major stage.
The monsters are pretty frightening here, and they all act a little bit differently depending on what they are. Some will surround you like a feral pack, making feints and trying to hit you from behind while others with less intelligence will slowly plod right at you and rely on being unfeeling damage sponges to get close enough to swing or bite. But as long as you are careful and have kept your weapons upgraded, you should be fine. Memorizing the levels and knowing how to retreat and circle back around to places is also helpful.
The bosses in the game are terrifying, and there are a lot more of them than you probably think. Most of the pre-launch trailers pointed out the stellar Lady Dimitrescu, a giant of a woman with a great hat, but she is only one of the terrors who infest this strange land. In fact, I can say that without a doubt, the game gets a lot more creepy and terrifying after you are done with Lady Dimitrescu and her castle. All of the bosses have different powers and potential weaknesses. If you do your research you might pick up a thing or two that will be helpful in some of those fights. They are intense, but not overly difficult as boss battles normally go. I barely ever lost a life playing on normal difficulty.
So, is Resident Evil Village scary? Yes. But again, it’s not so scary for traditional reasons, like how most survival horror titles are. I already said how I didn’t die too much in this game, but that is not what makes Village pretty frightening.
It’s the combination of a dark, gothic atmosphere, a first person interface to pull you into the environment, and actual and tangible threats that can very easily kill you if you let your guard down or make a misstep. Resident Evil Village has a brooding, suspenseful atmosphere like The Shore game I recently reviewed, but also real threats that can reach out and hurt you. You see them walking around, or skulking the shadows. They may even chat you up or tease you, and you better take their threats seriously.
I very much enjoyed my time with Resident Evil Village. Whereas Biohazard was a bit of a letdown for me, Village is just about perfect. It’s got a great mix of brains and brawn, and looks amazing with it’s first person horror perspective. Resident Evil Village is destined to become a classic, spoken of in low whispers around the campfire for many years to come. Do yourself a favor and creep into this deadly and beautiful village if you like survival horror even a little, because Resident Evil Village does just about everything about it right.