Resident Evil 8 Village is the latest instalment in Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise and sequel to Resident Evil 7 Biohazard. Like Biohazard, Village uses a first-person camera angle to put the player much closer to the action. It continues the story of Ethan Winters after the events of the Baker house from the previous game. Ethan is now trying to settle down in an eastern European mountain village with Mia and their new-born daughter. One night, a burst of bullets interrupts a family dinner and kills Mia. Previous hero Chris Redfield then comes through the door with a group of armed men and take Ethan’s daughter. The goal of Ethan’s journey is then finding and rescuing his daughter.
Players coming from Biohazard will notice a very sharp contrast in the environments. Where the previous game featured dark Louisiana swamps populated by mold-monsters, Village showcases a bright yet stark European mountainside. The desolate wreckage of the village sharply opposes the wealth of the lords’ homes. The Baker household was very blunt about the disrepair reflecting the family’s descent into madness. Meanwhile, places like Heisenberg’s Factory or Castle Dimitrescu reflect their own delusions of refinement. However, the four lords soon prove to be no less vile than any of the franchise’s previous monsters.
The open areas replacing the often tight and claustrophobic halls of the previous title accommodate the game’s greater focus on combat-based gameplay. The “Lycan” enemies may not have the zombies’ infamous durability, but they compensate by being faster, smarter, and much more aggressive. They will evade fire and rush the player as they reload with a feral intensity that makes them much more engaging. Even with an action-heavy focus, it still retains the classic Resident Evil focus on playing bullet-to-bullet, which makes the shooting all the more satisfying. It is exhilarating to watch the monster rushing towards you collapse with a pulverized skull mere inches from the barrel where you fired your last desperate shot.
However, while open arena-like areas do provide fun shootouts, they make navigating the world less interesting than you’d expect. The areas are massive, and there are an excruciating number of segments where the player simply leads Ethan down an empty path with the urgency of a light jog. The greater focus on crafting materials means visually discerning scrap materials from the regular wreckage and debris can be more difficult than it needs to be, especially with the change to a more realistic looking art style and first-person perspective greatly reducing the field of view.
The puzzles have also been heavily altered. Resident Evil has never been a series to test a player’s deduction skills but now inventory management for key items has been removed. The player still needs to keep track of weapons and ammunition, but can store crafting materials and key items elsewhere. While the concept sounds convenient, scrolling through obsolete keys to find what you need becomes tedious in the second half. It is an odd decision for the franchise that popularized the concept of inventory management to discard most of it. The actual puzzles are not much better, unfortunately. Other than the beginning sequence at the Beneviento house, almost everything is painfully obvious. Most puzzles will have the answer written down less than a few yards away. The optional puzzles are more interesting, but usually have money instead of unique items as a reward.
The story is underwhelming at best. While Resident Evil plots are inherently absurd, things become obnoxious when there is no explanation given for the illogical decisions. This is especially irritating when an already established and loved character like Chris Redfield is given the vast majority of them. This becomes an issue in the final hours where the nonsensical plot is given the spotlight.
At the very least the performance of the cast is good. Todd Soley shows a much greater range as Ethan Winters than he did in Biohazard, and hearing his terrible attempts to quip like Leon Kennedy is oddly charming. Meanwhile the villains are all hilariously over the top, with the highlight being Neil Newbon’s Heisenberg.
Resident Evil Village is not scary. The game lacks the claustrophobic halls that hindered players’ ability to avoid enemies. Its overly large and diverse map lacks a consistent atmosphere to pervade the experience. But above everything else, the game lacks a feeling of dread. Unlike previous games, Village doesn’t give the villains an opportunity to show what they can do. Where Mr. X grabbed a man from behind a wall and crushed his skull like pulp, Lady Dimitrescu argues. Where Jack Baker gleefully decapitated a man with a shovel, Beneviento and Moreau verbally encourage the argument like schoolchildren. The few times it really attempts horror are well-made, but too scripted and unnatural to feel like anything more than set pieces.
The displays of brutality are shocking at first, but almost immediately lose their impact. The sickening and horrifically gory attacks become dull when repeated, especially when the low damage renders them an underwhelming threat. Meanwhile the scripted events contain too many close calls to maintain a sense of tension. The sudden sequence from the previous title that sliced off Ethan’s hand with a chainsaw was perfectly executed in giving the player a shock, but the writers seem to have found their limits and are simply attempting to repeat that sequence. It can often feel like Ethan’s hands go through disfigurement every thirty minutes, but the writers never up the stakes until the very end.
The story is relatively short, with a first playthrough taking around ten hours. Like previous titles, Village relies on its endgame bonuses to keep players coming back. In addition to a “New Game Plus” that retains everything except key items, there is a rewards shop where players can spend points earned through various in-game challenges. The “Mercenaries Mode” makes a return, letting players play an arcade-style gauntlet where they work through waves of zombies. It is enjoyable and getting high rankings will unlock a lightsaber in the rewards shop. Otherwise, there are game models and concept art with developer comments, infinite ammunition for each weapon, and new weapons altogether. It is enjoyable to clear challenges with the newfound advantages you have earned.
Resident Evil Village is an enjoyable game, but it lacks its own identity. While basing each of the four lords on different styles of horror provides for an interesting diversity, it also makes the game’s style a “Jack-of-all-trades, Master of none”. The player feels rushed through each of the locales without having enough time to immerse themselves in them. In turn, the locales themselves are not given an opportunity to show something unique or almost anything to make them more than a very blatant homage to their style of horror.
Despite the flaws holding it back, Resident Evil Village is still a very good and fun game. Blowing away various monsters in beautiful environments is just as cathartic the hundredth time as it was the first. The cast dances between convincing and hammy performances with an almost surgical precision, and the endgame meta progression makes it easy to drop back in for a quick run through the game.
Resident Evil Village is available for PC, Xbox One and Series X, and Playstation 4 and 5. Visit Capcom’s official page for more information. What did you think of our Resident Evil 8 Village review? Let us know in the comments below, or over on our Discord, where you can join our growing community!
Village Of Nightmares? Not So Much...
- Acting Performances
- Wealth of Post Game Content
- Beautiful Environments
- Less Scary Than Predecessor
- Puzzles Are Too Easy
- Weak Story Towards The End