Capcom's latest in their long-running horror franchise is here with Resident Evil Village which has proven to be one fine series entry.
Ever since the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the entire franchise has experienced something of a renaissance. Between 7, the amazing Resident Evil 2 remake and the good but not great remake of Resident Evil 3, Capcom has re-established the long-running franchise as gaming's premier horror franchise. Once again, the developers have delivered a new installment and a direct sequel to 7 which may very well be the best game in the franchise since Resident Evil 4.
Taking place 3 years after the events of Resident Evil 7, Village picks up with Ethan living with his wife Mia and his newborn daughter Rose in an eastern European town. Right as Ethan puts his daughter to bed, Chris Redfield shows up out of nowhere with a hit team, kills Mia, arrests Ethan, and takes Rose. Soon after, the convoy that Ethan and Rose were on is attacked by a being known as Mother Miranda and The Four Lords of the Village. In order to rescue his daughter, Ethan must travel throughout the village, defeat The Four Lords and, in the process, discover why Chris did what he did and the tragic story behind the village and its rulers.
What ultimately elevates Resident Evil Village above its peers is that it contains 2 things that previous games generally lack: consistent quality and relatable human drama. While the last 3 installments were otherwise good, they had their ups and downs and their quality was far from consistent. Resident Evil 7 kind of devolved into a mediocre first-person shooter during its last third and failed to live up to the otherwise excellent campaign leading up to that point. Meanwhile, the Resident Evil 2 remake runs out of steam once you leave the police station and the remake of Resident Evil 3 rehashed a lot from the second game.
The plots of all 3 games mainly involved the main characters running around and freaking out while trying to figure out what's going on only for their plots to inevitably slip into the franchise's ever-expanding but always absurd lore. This time around, it felt like the developers set out with a solid plan and a specific story to tell and stuck with it throughout Resident Evil Village's development.
Like its direct predecessor, Resident Evil Village is a first-person survival horror game. You travel around the village, find keys to unlock new areas, and discover new weapons and upgrades to fight your way through its monsters. It's all very standard Resident Evil stuff although it throws you into a gothic horror story and therefore never quite feels like any other installment of the franchise albeit in the best way possible. Throughout the campaign, you battle vampires, werewolves, giants, ghouls, and other grotesque abominations that look like something straight out of Bloodborne which seems to be the aesthetic that Village borrows the most heavily from.
Whereas Resident Evil 7 focused more on stealth and creeping around your enemies, Village is a bit heavier on the action side of things. It's not as jarring as the difference between the GameCube remake of Resident Evil to Resident Evil 4 but the difference is definitely noticeable. Fairly early on in the game, you're given a decent array of weapons that enable you to take on enemies better along with a merchant known as The Duke who will sell you upgrades and additional parts for your weapons. The trade-off is that while you have the weapons and ammo to take on the threats in the village, the enemies are so tough and numerous that it never quite falls into power fantasy territory and will keep you on your toes for the majority of the experience.
The only downside to this is that it's still a little too easy. It's not difficult to trick a group of enemies to follow you down a narrow hallway and take them all out with a mine or a shotgun and you always seem to have the resources to deal with these threats. Later areas find ways to shake this up a bit but at times, it feels like the enemy placement, AI, and level design could have used a bit more work.
Along the same lines, the boss fights are a bit underwhelming, too. They're not terrible but for the most part, they amount to running around in circles in a small arena as you unload clips of bullets into them or blow them up until they die. That being said; the writing, designs, and build-up of these bosses are pretty terrifying for the most part. Lady Alcina Dimitrescu chasing you around her castle is an utterly nerve-racking experience that is only slightly undercut by all the sexy vampire jokes.
Donna Beneviento's section completely depowers you and throws you into multiple chases with horrifying creatures and dolls with one segment easily being one of the scariest things I have ever encountered in a video game. The last of the Four Lords, Heisenberg is just a fun character to be around and is the best boss fight in the game complete with the funniest line of dialogue; you'll know it when you hear it! Mother Miranda and Salvator Moreau are the only ones that are completely underwhelming but they make up for it with their writing. Whereas most Resident Evil antagonists are more or less mustache-twirling nuts, the villains here could not be more different. Just about everything they do is rooted in relatable human emotions and drama and they all have an air of tragedy around them.
This is what also elevates Resident Evil Village's main story into something more relatable. Just like with the visual aesthetics, Resident Evil Village's plot looks and feels very much like a Soulsborne game and any other Resident Evil game probably would have had you take out the village lords just to collect some keys or something and escape. While this is certainly part of it, the added layer of having to rescue your daughter adds a more human element to the drama and a degree of humanity to the whole thing that the other Resident Evil games tend to lack. It also helps smooth things over later on in the campaign as it keeps its focus on the drama even as the story begins to reveal a few twists that could have used more explanations. It's also worth noting that despite all the build-up of Chris Redfield being one of the game's big antagonists, you're going to easily see where the story is going with it right from the start.
In the end, Resident Evil Village is not a perfect experience but it is still an awesome one and easily the best of the recent games in the series. It's scary, suspenseful, grounded in relatable human drama, and an overall blast to play; I highly recommend giving it a shot.
- + Suspenseful and scary with a story rooted in human emotion and drama
- + Consistently high quality throughout
- + Memorable and relatable antagonists
- - Lackluster boss fights and enemy AI
- - Some poorly-explained twists