Resident Evil Village Review
Over the years, Resident Evil has gone from fixed-camera-angle zombie horror to third-person action before finally settling on this new first-person quasi action-horror blend of styles with its seventh iteration. And this eighth entry, Village, feels very much like its predecessor but with a different setting and a more open world. If you enjoyed 7 then you’ll no doubt find yourself having a great time with Village. At its core, though, you’ll find more of the same.
Village is a direct sequel to 7, and even though there’s a catch-up video you should play the previous game for full effect. We’re still with Ethan Winters, the protagonist of the reimagined RE series, but now his family has moved to an undisclosed European location for a new start. You’ve probably worked out from the big vampire woman from the trailers that this doesn’t work out so well, and he inevitably finds himself in the eponymous village looking for answers that involve bio-organic weapons (they always involve bio-organic weapons).
This hamlet settlement serves as the hub area for a semi-open world. Other locations include the castle, derelict houses and a lake among others. Each of these sections has a theme and boss from its cast of ensemble villains that you meet early on: tall vampire, hunched over gremlin-thing, maniac tinkerer, and more. If you’re familiar with the preceding title’s Baker family, Village copies this template and adds more campness and a different setting. If 7 was inspired by American slasher flicks like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then Village is a European gothic-horror like Dracula.
This brings us to the enemies. There’s the vampire and werewolf-inspired minions from the pre-release footage, draugr-esque husks, and mechanical nightmares. And these come in standard and super-size mini-boss varieties, too, so there is a decent variety of enemy types to be fought and run from. But herein lies the problem: it always comes back to bio-organic weapons. In its Resident Evil series, Capcom has painted itself into a corner. Because they’ve explained away the zombies and monsters and creatures with viruses and science, so there’s always an inescapably predictable point in these games where the spooky supernatural gives way to bulbous tentacles and Chris Redfield shows up to destroy them.
Structurally, Village is similar to 7 by introducing you to a bad guy, having a few chase sequences punctuated by some puzzle-solving and exploration, before it all culminates in a boss fight. Rinse, repeat, complete. And some of these chases are frustrating. You have to find the right niche to dodge into or air duct to squat in at the right moment. If you don’t, you’ll have to reload the sequence and start again. This is made harder by the zoomed-in field of view on consoles, which means you don’t have much peripheral vision. Similarly, the cutscenes don’t innovate much. You’ll approach a door only to trigger a cutscene and be grabbed from behind by some nefarious foe who gets in your face trying to spook you.
Saying all this, Village is still a fun game. Its setting is far more compelling than the bayou Bakers, and it’s a tad more action-oriented and less claustrophobic nightmare. There’s more exploration to be had in the various areas, and there are optional side missions that you can complete when returning to areas that reward you with treasures that can be sold at the merchant for Lei, the game’s currency. The merchant sells all kinds of ammo, weapons, upgrades and items, so collecting valuables and selling them is necessary if you want to progress.
In true RE style, backtracking is the name of the game. As you explore more, you’ll unlock shortcuts back to previous areas in the form of elevators and ladders, and you’ll pick up keys that open specific types of door, so you’ll want to note the locations of different door types for when you eventually get their keys. This happens on a grander scale, and you’ll find yourself back in the village often crossing into other sections, this time with an item that opens locks or allows you to use objects previously unavailable.
Village is a beautiful game. Facial animations are a clear step up for the series, and high-resolution textures make all the little details stick out up close, with all the sinewy detail in wood or sheen in rocky cliffs observable. It will be interesting to see what they can do with a truly next-gen sequel in the future.
The story here returns in its full absurd glory, and Ethan Winters remains a terrible protagonist. For example, he seems shocked by what he finds in the village and its surroundings, despite witnessing everything that happened in 7, and the rate at which he loses limbs is worrying. Never has it been more obvious that the series is constrained by its legacy, and as much as cameos from the originals are fun, it might be time they left some of it behind. Village has interesting moment-to-moment story moments with the game’s villagers, but when the weird jar-liquids and science talk starts, you can’t help but roll your eyes for what could have been.
Resident Evil Village is a great game that’s well polished and well worth playing, but it’s more of the same. And if this review has focused on the negatives, it’s because there just isn’t much to say because — setting aside — not much has changed. Combat, exploration, inventory, puzzles: it’s all the same as its predecessor. If you liked 7, then you’ll like Village, but this time the novelty of the first-person view and new protagonist has worn off.
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