Excitement, joy, relief, fear, terror, these are but a brief summary of the rollercoaster of emotions that I experienced whilst playing Resident Evil Village, Capcom’s 8th addition to one of the heavyweight series from the horror game genre. Ethan Winters embarks on another enthralling trip into one of the most sinister worlds in the franchise, coated in a beautiful sprawling map and fuelled by heart pounding gameplay that seeks to improve on the survival-based mechanics of its predecessor. Some thrilling boss battles, elaborate puzzles and too many jump scares to count really flesh out the environment, keeping you on your toes throughout the entirety of Ethan’s decent into the twisted world of the Village.
The story is a direct continuation of Resident Evil 7 and begins on a much lighter with a scene of domestic bliss, Ethan and Mia are shacked up in their European home with their Daughter Rose to start a new family life. Everything seems good and happy, and just as it begins to feel too nice for a Resident Evil game something terrible happens – I’ll leave this for you to experience but the long and short is that Ethan is soon stumbling around a snowy forest in darkness of night until he stumbles upon the village. Your next task is to set out and explore through the dishevelled dingy streets of the village, until you meet some of the locals from whom you gather there are 4 sadistic over lords and their deity-like ruler plaguing the village and its inhabitants. After what might seem like a bit more aimless stumbling about, you’re presented with the main basis of the story, your daughter Rose is trapped and to save her you need to hunt the lords of the village to their lairs and slay them. The next 15 hours or so will see Ethan embark on a story of constant struggle in a desperate bid to save his daughter against seemingly insurmountable odds, utilising whatever tools and resources that you find along the way to try and defeat the frightening bosses and enemies scattered throughout, and if you’re into action games worry not – there’s plenty of them to kill.
The village itself is one of the most varied, in-depth worlds I’ve ever experienced. Aside from the cold, abandoned outskirts that feel akin to a ghost town, you can explore a giant gothic castle, murky swamplands and isolated mountain estates, each comes with their unique biomes and sub terrains that make the world feel so much more than just all dark, all scary. There isn’t exact confirmation of where the village is located, but there are a few hints gathered of it being set in the cold mountains of Romania, and the environment laid in front of you really plays into this hand; everywhere feels dark and downtrodden, ancient ruins are dotted amongst the weathered dusty homes on the narrow cobblestone streets, from the get go I immediately got the vibe that Ethan isn’t meant to be here, this isn’t his land and the world wants him to know it. As you walk down each street, you’re met with some of the most dynamic and engaging sound design: the crash of furniture from inside an abandoned house you pass, the slam of a gate caught in the wind as you’re tiptoeing through a churchyard, the thud of tumbling rocks or smashing bottles as you creep through a dusty cellar. There is barely a moment in which you feel safe or at ease, the audible cues are scattered in such a way that gives the constant presence of being followed and stalked in the most desolate of areas; there was rarely a moment in which I felt like I could let my guard down in fear of being startled by the next crash or bang to erupt from around me, and it really made the horror aspect feel complete and fleshed out. Capcom really put a lot of thought and effort into the audio and visuals of the environment, pairing the two together to create a concoction of fear and excitement, every winding alleyway or dimly lit foyer leads to a new type of map to experience, and the jarring sounds meant that throughout the entire game I never felt like I had cracked the code of when I’d hear or see the next jump coming from, inciting fear with every new approaching alleyway or room.
Resident Evil Village doesn’t seek to dwell on being having one type of gameplay, it is a dynamic hybrid of stealth, survival and action draped in a cloak of Horror. The game does a great job of being keeping things interesting on the gameplay front as opposed to just utilising one playstyle throughout the entire story, it keeps you thinking and provides a lot of variety; one moment you’ll be sneaking around picking off lone enemies here whilst trying to preserve precious ammo and resources, the next could be an all guns blazing bossfight against one of the many colossal enemies the standing in your way. There are also some puzzle elements of the game thrown in for good measure, but they’re not too intrusive or difficult in most circumstances, some will require a bit of trial and error to complete but I found them to be a nice change of pace rather than an inconvenience. Whilst there is a lot of variation of gameplay throughout the campaign, a lot of the objectives can only be completed in one way, a boss has to be blown to bits no matter what, certain pieces of a puzzle have to be found to unlock an exit regardless. Capcom makes up for this by switching up the gameplay in the most random times and does this frequently, it always comes as a surprise in a pattern that keeps you guessing what challenges you’ll be facing next.
Certain elements of the game will also have you back tracking to previously explored areas of the map in order to collect resources or puzzle pieces, at first glance this may seem like a lazy feature to pad out content, but village handles it in a really clever way but initially barring off certain areas of the map behind locked doors which you can only obtain the keys to right before you need to do some back tracking. Even though I thought I had explored most of the village outstkirts in the first few hours, once I had obtained the necessary keys, I could go back into all the secret cornered off areas to explore those. The game incentivises this by having treasure and rare weapons stored which can be really handy in taking on late game enemies, the amount of extra exploration is completely optional but beneficial if you want some of the best gear or expensive valuables to sell. Throw into the mix plenty of jumpscares, surprise attacks and at times terrifying bosses & enemies and you’ve got a recipe for some brilliant and engaging horror themed gameplay, which is truly one of the game’s best characteristics.
Graphically the game is stunning, and has some of the best raytracing of any new release currently out. Every element of the world is captured in razor sharp detail, from the torn threads of old curtains to the sight of roaring fire lighting dancing light across castle hall, no punches have been pulled on the visuals. As well as the actual objects themselves the lighting in Village is brilliant, for a game that takes a darker than dark tone the lighting doesn’t feel too heavy like a filter has been thrown over it, rays of light peer into dark hallways from the outside, thick layers of mist swooping through trees in forests, and gusts of snow are blown around in the wind on the village streets. Both of these elements complement each other to deliver a visual masterpiece of a game, for being as sinister as it is the world is very easy on the eyes and a joy to explore, the individual biomes are captured in full beauty that allow a free-flowing exciting experience. For the weight of detail that the graphics hold the game performs rather well also, running at 4k native 60fps on the next gen consoles. Playing on PS5 I experienced a few framerate dips when the action got heavy but 99% of the time it runs smooth as anything, and any dips that did occur were so brief that it didn’t feel immersion breaking or too annoying. The previous next gen releases bring the expectation of visually brilliant games and Resident Evil Village ticks all the boxes in this department, it really binds together and adds richness to the gameplay and story, making for a great experience throughout.
After a previous 7 successful releases to the series my expectations were high when it came to playing Resident Evil Village, and I can safely say that they were matched across the board. The gameplay is familiar but the surprise variation keeps it interesting throughout, the world & sound design is truly stunning and makes for one of the most engaging & immersive experiences I’ve had in recent years, all binding together for this grandiose horror theme that leaves your heart racing at even the quietest of moments. The only element which lets it down for me is that the length is pretty short at around 15 hours depending on the amount of side content you do, and without much choice or story branches limiting replayability. This amount may not seem much at first glance, but story driven games as a whole are on the shorter side, and I definitely confirm that there is rarely any idol moments in those 15 hours, exciting gameplay and content fills every second of the story, as well as all of the additional treasure hunts and challenges available. Resident Evil Village isn’t about offering 100+ hours of filler content or having a huge samey may, it’s about building an incredible core experience with a story and setting that pulls you in and keeps you engaged for every second, Capcom have absolutely nailed this and Village has set the benchmark for how future Resident Evil and horror/survival games in general should be, and I would recommend trying this experience to anyone.
GameRev was provided with a digital download of the game for the purpose of this review.