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access_time May 24, 2021 at 6:00 AM in Reviews by David Poole

Review | Resident Evil Village

Wow. What a strange yet thrilling roller coaster of a game Resident Evil Village turned out to be. What comes off initially as an homage to the iconic Resident Evil 4 quickly ends up being its own beast. Resident Evil has had a lot of identities over the years, from serious, to the utmost ridiculous scenarios. Never has the series embraced the latter so much that it ends up working to its charm. The Resident Evil franchise is continuously evolving, shifting gameplay styles, plot focuses, and even main characters. Now, with Village, we have the biggest monster menagerie in the series to date, and it’s up to common man Ethan Winters to tackle it head-on.

Resident Evil Village takes place three years after the events of Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. Though that game has two endings, they stick with one particularly and carry the story on from there. After moving to an unknown European country, Ethan and his wife Mia start a new life with their child Rosemary. Unfortunately, fate has different plans for the Winters family, as Chris Redfield kills Ethan’s wife and kidnaps his daughter. It’s shortly after this moment that Ethan ends up in the titular village, and he isn’t in for a warm welcome. The story that follows is full of twists, horrors, and plenty of weirdness in a way that only Capcom can deliver. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and honestly, it’s even better for it.

We won’t go too much into spoiler territory, but Ethan essentially has to deal with Mother Miranda and her “children.” Each of her four children are the Lords of their own house, each holding a vital key to Ethan’s quest. Among these Lords, we have the massive internet celebrity, Lady Dimitrescu, who along with her three daughters choose to make life difficult for Ethan. Next up is Donna Beneviento, who lets her doll Angie do the talking. The grotesque and somewhat dim Salvatore Moreau manages to earn a house for himself. Finally, we have Karl Heisenberg, who is perhaps the most dangerous of the four Lords. It takes a similar formula to Resident Evil VII’s Baker family, but on a much grander scale. Each house represents a different “monster” theme, and makes for a different flavor of Resident Evil altogether.

When it comes to gameplay, the game still uses a first-person perspective like Resident Evil VII. While gunplay hasn’t changed much, Capcom managed to find a way to improve the gameplay. As ridiculous as it sounds, Ethan can now block incoming attacks by lifting his hands up. If you time it right, you can even get a perfect block and deliver a follow up kick or push. It’s a small change, but it makes a ton of difference with the combat, and overall makes the game play better. Of course, it does also prove that Ethan’s hands are capable of enduring the most excruciating tortures.

Another huge gameplay change is the new inventory system, which is much like the attache case from Resident Evil 4. Also like Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil Village offers a merchant by the name of the Duke. Throughout the course of the game, players will be able to earn a currency called Lei to buy merchandise. They’ll also be able to find treasures to sell for big payouts, which allows players to afford the best weapons and upgrades. Eventually, players will even be able to hunt animals in the game for meat they can take back to the Duke. With the Duke’s cooking, players can unlock permanent upgrades like more health, better defense, or even faster movement speed. It adds a lot more depth to the game and allows for different options for repeat playthroughs.

When it comes to the enemies, the series has never had this much variety. You’ll face ghoulish Moroaicǎ, brutish Lycans, flying Samcă, and more atrocities and monsters throughout this journey. Ethan is no longer dealing with Mold, but is instead facing creatures that show more sentience. These enemies will react and dodge your aim. They’ll wield weapons and attack in large numbers. You’ll even go up against enemies with immense resilience, requiring you to unload an entire arsenal on them. Luckily, the game grants access to an arsenal to tackle such threats. Of course, smart players will still conserve ammo and use their weapons wisely, but Ethan basically becomes a one-man army by the end of the game.

Players will have multiple options for weapons, from knives to plenty of firearms. You’ll also have multiple explosive options, like pipe bombs and land mines. Each weapon packs a unique punch and has a chance of doing some damage with the right upgrades. Of course, one thing that Resident Evil Village does well is that it gives players more choice. Should the player choose to run instead of fight, there are plenty of options to do so. Some moments of the game allow players to just run to a cutscene, avoiding combat altogether. Obviously, this isn’t the case for boss fights, which take advantage of the setting and make each fight stand out.

Puzzles are a big part of this sequel, giving players more objects to use for progress or even optional paths. There’s the classic Resident Evil crank, well wheels, hidden keys and more. We even have a new puzzling minigame with the ball labyrinths, where players will tilt and rotate a moving maze to get a metal ball to the goal. Many of the puzzles are pretty self-explanatory while others might leave you scratching your head for a bit. You’ll even have multiple treasures that you can combine to make them even more valuable. For those that pay attention to their surroundings, they’ll likely get the most out of these challenges.

Visually, Resident Evil Village is stunning. The titular village is full of hopelessness in every detail, painting a picture of a world wrought with neglect. The set pieces take players from castles to factories, and even a certain house on a hill, offering unique locations. For those playing on next-gen hardware, they’ll even be able to take advantage of high resolutions and beautiful ray tracing. Enemy designs are fantastically eerie and look great thanks to the RE Engine. This is especially the case for many of the enemies like Dimitrescu’s daughters or the Vârcolac. The game does have some moments of stuttering, but it doesn’t hurt the experience overall. There’s also strange choices with the camera movement and motion blur, but it’s manageable.

Like many Resident Evil titles, one of the strongest elements is the sound design. Resident Evil Village uses sound to fully immerse the player, making each environment feel alive. The sounds of enemies lurking behind corners, the roars of a Lycan echoing in the fields, even the sounds of machinery putting in work. It’s much like Resident Evil 2’s sound design that truly makes Village unsettling on the first playthrough. The music is also fitting, ramping up the big moments while also keeping giving a sense of ease in safe areas. With a haunting theme in “Yearning for Dark Shadows,” Capcom really leaned in with the symbolism too.

Voice acting was a sour area for Resident Evil in the early days, but it’s been consistently great for the more recent releases. Village is no different, with stellar performances all throughout. Todd Soley returns to play Ethan, and though he felt relatable in the last game, the quest to save his daughter makes this performance even more powerful. Jeff Schine replaces David Vaughn as Chris Redfield for this game, and he really owns the role. He does well to embody Roger Craig Smith’s rendition while still making it clear that this is a Chris that has endured too much. Maggie Robertson also steals many of her scenes as Lady Dimitrescu while Neil Newbon (Nicholai in Resident Evil 3) gives us a great performance as Heisenberg.

The presentation of the game is also very different from previous Resident Evil games. Starting with a storybook cutscene called the “Village of Shadows,” it immediately gives a different tone. Moving from there, players get more of that immersive and cinematic Resident Evil that they got from the previous game. It’s unfortunate that the game doesn’t have a VR version, but it’s still great nonetheless. Menus are slick, and the map system also gives players an indication of areas that still have secrets to find. There’s also a lot of areas and optional paths to explore, giving players a ton of freedom. It also helps that a lot of puzzle and key items don’t take up precious inventory space too. The game really lets players have a ton of space to build their arsenal.

Finally, finishing the story of Resident Evil Village brings back a fan favorite mode with The Mercenaries. This being the first time the game mode takes a first-person perspective, it’s a bit different. Regardless, it still maintains that classic arcade feel we know and love. To do well, you’ll need to act with speed, precision, and skill. You can also take advantage of the new shop option, giving you a chance to customize your loadout a bit. The enemies drop money while yellow orbs can be broken to increase time. Blue orbs are also around for players to break, granting random abilities that help out immensely. It gives a lot of replay value to the game, and makes for a longer lasting experience altogether. It also helps for buying new weapons and infinite ammo for story mode replays.

Overall, Resident Evil Village is a fantastic entry in this beloved series. While the game leans in on the monster mash theme, it creates a big experience that delivers plenty of thrills. There’s tons of scares, action, insanity, and multiple surprises in store for fans. Some performance problems still arise, but not enough to ruin the experience. With the ending of the story, it’s hard to say what the future holds for this series. Whatever the case, Capcom continues to bring this series forward by evolving it like the bioweapons it has us fight. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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