For months now, Resident Evil Village has had the internet frothing with excitement, the reveal of Lady Dimitrescu filling people’s heads with giant vampire lady perversions. The glimpses given before release are just a minuscule portion of the madness that comes in the full game, though. Resident Evil Village is the lovechild of Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 4, amped up even further to make for one of the zaniest Resident Evil games yet.
Taking place three years after the events of Resident Evil 7, Ethan, Mia and their daughter Rose are living peacefully somewhere in Europe, trying their best to forget that Baker incident. Before you know it, a much better looking Chris Redfield bursts in, shoots Mia and snatches Rose. Trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Ethan finds himself in the titular Village, suddenly having to deal with all manners of crazy creatures, the Four Lords of the Village, and their mysterious leader, Mother Miranda.
The village itself acts as a hub world, gradually opening up through your frequent return visits. Backtracking is not uncommon in this series, but this felt different. You can tell there is a lot to discover and there was never a dull moment, checking each new part of the village as it opened up.
A lot of the game’s charm and character comes from visiting each of the Four Lords and their specific areas. One of these, Lady Dimitrescu, and her three charming daughters cause havoc in the early part of the game, taking you on a trip through the bowels of their Castle home. The tailored decor of each hall, room, dungeon, accompanied by a plethora of notes and dialogue is more than enough to clue you in on these wonderful characters and how they came into being. There’s tons of information to be absorbed, and you’ll want to take it in.
That’s of course, if you can dodge Lady Dimitrescu’s claws! She relentlessly pursues you through the Castle like RE2’s Mr. X, and I ended up having to backtrack multiple times just to avoid her. Fighting her later is an absolute trip, as are all the boss fights in Village.
The pacing is excellent throughout, with the areas that follow on from Lady Dimitrescu’s castle having their own unique charms, weaving together story, survival horror and action gameplay. Some might feel there’s a step back from the sheer terror of RE7, but that’s not to say there isn’t any horror at all and I found one moment particularly traumatic. Still, there are fewer jump scares and less outright horror as Village injects RE4’s action-oriented DNA and gets your pulse pounding in anticipation of what’s coming next instead of a quick fright.
Village ditches the magic item boxes and hands Ethan the Attache Case Manager 2021, again taking cues from Resident Evil 4. If you’re like me, you’ll spend a lot of time reorganising everything neatly to maximise space. You can of course just buy a bigger case, served up lovingly by Villages’ resident merchant, Duke, who offers new supplies, upgrades to existing weapons and the ability to sell any treasure you find. Yes, the treasure feature from Resident Evil 4 and 5 is back too. Duke has another nifty trick up his sleeve: he’s quite the cook! Bring him meat from animals you kill and he can knock up some very swanky dishes which can permanently boost your health and defence.
The first person gameplay has been improved over Resident Evil 7 as well. The shooting feeling tighter, boosted by a soft aim assist if you’re struggling to hit the mark. You might need the help, as enemies feel like the smartest we’ve seen in a Resi game yet. The Lycans in particular are a pain in the ass. They’ll approach you at blinding speed and move out the way at the last possible second, forcing you to miss your shot, before taking a nice chunk out of you. I’ll admit, it was frustrating at first, but that’s only because we’ve become accustomed to basic Resi grunts being slow and shambling.
It’s also nice to see the enemies have a lot of variety in Village. Even the basic enemies are ridiculous, some even come with jetpacks. Yes, jetpacks! I did say this game gets crazy. Things get even tougher on higher difficulties if you are not prepared. You can easily get rushed by several enemies at once. Again, there’s echoes of Resident Evil 4. Ethan is no longer a newbie, but someone who has come out the other side of some craziness and can take on anything. RE4 did the same thing, taking you new places and introducing some crazy fights as the game progressed.
I was enjoying it so much that when it was over, I just wanted to start again, to find things I missed and of course to improve my time. My first run clocked in at 11 hours, which is more than respectable for a game like this, but Village is designed for multiple runs. Like recent Resident Evil titles, there’s a bunch of unlockables and rewards for finishing the game on various difficulties or in certain ways, meaning there’s plenty to keep you going for some time.
The returning Mercenaries mode puts a whole new spin on things, as always. You’re given a small budget to purchase some arms and then must proceed to complete each level as quickly as possible, scoring points for chaining kills and cleaning up everyone on the map. To help you out, there are abilities jotted around the map which are well worth picking up. Some are generic powers, like increasing movement speed and health, but there are also more targeted upgrades for doing more damage with a knife or with shotguns. Having enemies explode upon death is another fun one!
Once the highest rewards have been achieved, I fear there’s little incentive to go back. It was always fun in RE4 Mercenaries to play as different characters, but here, you only get Ethan and a small selection of weapons. It would be cool if it could put you in the shoes of some of the bad guys, but it’s a minor point on what is a very enjoyable mode.
If you’re lucky enough to have a new generation console, Village runs ever so smoothly on the PS5, and looks gorgeous as it does so. Enabling ray tracing sacrifices a locked 60fps, but it still felt smooth for the most part and I never noticed any major frame dips when playing.
There’s so much fantastic imagery, I would stop every five minutes to take a photo of a moody looking hallway or a sunlit field. Some areas might be a touch too dark, making playing in daylight a problem. There was one point where I turned the brightness up to max and I still couldn’t see in some houses. I ended up just closing my curtains. Otherwise, the general atmosphere and setting is on point. It’s classic gothic horror and I love it.
Also, hats off to the voice actors for doing an incredible job. They all really ham up their parts, adding to the over the top nature of the characters they play. It’s just brilliant.