One conclusion I’ve come to over the years is that I’m not really much of a “gamer” anymore. The community’s mostly left me behind with their extreme opinions and heavy lean toward outrage over pretty much everything, so at a certain point I just kind of accepted that they weren’t speaking to or for me anymore and that was that. One thing I did agree with for a bit, though, was Capcom going off the rails a few years back; it was a tough time to love the company given how they seemed to have abandoned classic staples like Mega Man and Resident Evil.
Of course, they came back in force with the superb Mega Man 11 and Resident Evil 7, and now with Resident Evil Village it’s probably a good time to accept it was all just a phase and the Capcom we loved has returned.
After the events of Resident Evil 7, Ethan and Mia Winters have moved to Europe, settled down and started a family. They’ve even had a daughter, Rose, and the trio are trying to get past all the awful stuff that happened back in Louisiana. Their tranquility lasts about five seconds before their home is invaded and Rose gets kidnapped, with Ethan soon himself in a spooky village searching for her. On the way, he’ll have to deal with the village’s leader Mother Miranda as well as her Four Lords and all manner of other nasties. That’s fatherhood for you.
Village returns to RE7’s first-person style of gameplay, allowing for in-your-face scares along the lines of that game. On the other hand, it hearkens back to RE4, with the rustic village and plenty of combat. There’s even an RE4-style shop and upgrading system run by a similarly memorable shopkeeper. Given that many consider that title to be one of the best in the series, taking it and mixing it up with another favorite in RE7 wasn’t a terrible idea and it pans out pretty well.
The increased focus on combat is certainly a nice touch. Enemies feel just as dangerous as they did in 7, but there’s more of them to deal with and plenty of powerful weapons that you can use to do so. Ethan’s still just a regular guy (right?) so there’s not as much of the boulder-punching, roundhouse-kicking craziness that we saw in some of the older entries of the series, but there’s still some catharsis in blasting werewolves with a shotgun that you’ve upgraded over the course of the game.
Exploring the village and each associated area is improved by the thrill of finding newer and more powerful ways to deal out death. Likewise, the Mercenaries mode that unlocks post-game is especially enjoyable in light of the tightened and refined combat.
That’s not to say Village is perfect. Some things work, some don’t, such as Village being divided up into, essentially, a hub area and four different dungeons that Ethan has to go through looking for MacGuffins to progress the plot. This is great when it’s great, but two of the four dungeons are largely nonexistent compared to the high-quality, game-defining setpieces that constitute the first and last areas you explore.
In particular, the castle that’s shown up in all of the game’s trailers is memorable and enjoyable – especially the giant Lady Dimitrescu, who comes across like Mary Poppins merged with Freddy Krueger – but it’s also the first area you clear, ensuring the rest of the game will struggle to live up to it. Frontloading your best content like that is certainly an interesting strategy, and the only reason it doesn’t have more of a negative impact on the game is because Village only runs about 8 hours or so to begin with.
As for the plot, well, it’s post-RE6 Resident Evil. That means we’re leaning hard on the gore and body horror in particular rather than the action-packed thrill ride that constituted the RE4 era, at least when we’re not fighting hordes of werewolves using giant customized guns. Oh, yeah, there’s werewolves, you might have heard. Vampires, too. Some ghostly possession here and there. Don’t worry, in true Resident Evil style it’s all explained using the finest technobabble by the end, so the canon remains intact for you lore hounds out there.
All that gore and body horror wouldn’t mean much without a high-quality presentation to really get the stomach churning, of course, and Village doesn’t disappoint. Both next-gen consoles and PC versions run like a dream, with special emphasis on the dismemberment and chunkification that you came for. Likewise, the voice actors really capture the sheer goofiness that lies at the core of the game’s plot and milk it for all it’s worth.
A personal favorite was the magnetic menace Heisenberg, who basically serves as a more quaint version of Magneto with all the evil hamminess and cheese you’d expect from this franchise. He’s great, but the whole cast is filled with standouts and nobody really disappoints.
Resident Evil Village doesn’t either, in the end, and fans of the scare-focused RE7 and the more action-focused RE4 era of games alike are going to have a great time. The only real disappointment is the relatively short running time, but playing on a harder difficulty might shore that up a bit. It’s not surprising that the game is short, either, as keeping up this level of quality would be pretty difficult – so it’s worth checking out what’s on offer, as it’s some high quality scares and shooting that should satisfy.