13th May2021

‘Resident Evil Village’ Review (PS4)

by Xenia Grounds

It’s safe to say that Resident Evil Village has been a highly anticipated game for 2021. Many fans spent time coming up with theories and trying to decrypt as much information as they could from the plot synopsis, trailers and gameplay demos. With that kind of excitement comes great expectations especially since Resident Evil Village is a direct sequel to the much loved Resident Evil 7. The question that needs to be answered is whether Village meets up to the hype or not.

Resident Evil Village takes place four years after the events at the Baker Estate. Ethan and Mia have moved to a Eastern European country in order to start fresh with their infant daughter, Rose, but the psychological scars of Louisiana still linger for both of them. However, this all comes to a brutal end when Mia is shot dead by series favourite, Chris Redfield, for reasons unknown and takes Rose away. Not too long after experiencing that emotional trauma, Ethan finds himself in the titular village looking for his daughter but as expected with a Resident Evil game, this isn’t an ordinary village. Its residents are under attack by Lycans, vampires and that is just scratching the surface. So Ethan must once again fight his way through all of this to find Rose and maybe get some answers along the way.

The plot summary already made it clear but this is one of the darkest Resident Evil games in the franchise yet. There are some disturbing horrors to be found in this isolated Eastern European village and there is little levity to be found. Yes, this game still has moments which are hilariously crazy and it has some fun over the top acting from its performers but more often than not, it’s a dark and unsettling ride from beginning to end.

However, the pacing can be more uneven and feels like there are two different games rather than a singular piece. In the first half, it’s more classic in approach. You’re exploring these massive estates, the gothic atmosphere is brought to life beautifully by the RE Engine, you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B without being caught by unkillable enemies, solving puzzles and trying to find as many clues about the history of everything. As the game starts to approach its endgame, this fades away and mostly becomes pure action and some mysteries aren’t all solved in really satisfying ways. It’s extremely evident from Heisenburg’s Factory to right before the final boss. This part can really drag because for the most part, it’s just fighting the same bunch of enemies again and again for a few hours which gets old incredibly fast. In regards to the mysteries, a majority of the answers are delivered in the same way as Resident Evil 7. It’s a case of going into a lab and reading a bunch of files. The one surrounding Chris and his motives can’t be discussed without spoiling it but let’s just say it could’ve been written better.

Now if there’s something Resident Evil Village does considerably better than Resident Evil 7, it’s the characterisation of Ethan Winters. As mentioned in my Resident Evil 7 review, Ethan was a blank slate in his debut game and was mostly disconnected to what was going on around him. It didn’t make him unlikeable but it did make him more unmemorable than previous protagonists. The gameplay of 7 did a better job of showing that Ethan was out of his depth than he did due to his minimal reactions. In Village, this is completely fixed. Ethan is more emotionally expressive, capable in a fight and is genuinely admirable in the love he displays for his daughter. He’s a man on a mission and is willing to literally risk life and limb for family even though he’s more than aware of the danger that lies ahead. The developers have a clear arc with Ethan in this game and it shows. He still won’t be everyone’s favourite and he’s not in the same league as the likes of Leon or Jill. But for me, I don’t think the ending would have been as good as it was if the attachment to Ethan wasn’t there.

The tone of Village is a more divisive matter. Resident Evil Village is not as terrifying as its predecessor was. This may be a relief for those that found 7 too scary to play but for others, 7 was beloved because of its strong horror tone and its atmosphere was unsettling for most of the game. While survival is still the name of the game in Village, it has a larger focus on action. There are definitely horror elements in Resident Evil Village as seen with the Beneviento house which strips away the action entirely and chooses to spend more time genuinely making you scared to wander down corridors in a way similar to the Silent Hills PT. It’s that feeling of vulnerability and fear that makes the Resident Evil franchise what it is but Village rarely makes you feel that way for long in comparison to other entries.

This ties in nicely with the gameplay. Another aspect that has changed is the difficulty. Resident Evil Village is considerably easy. On standard mode, the game is relatively generous with ammo and most enemies are not very hard to kill. The boss fights (minus one which was even easier because it was a simple game of hide and seek) all follow a similar pattern. Keep your distance, wait for an exposed weak point to shoot and the space is pretty large and has a variety of cover spots so bosses and their hits are a lot easier to dodge. The mini bosses also follow suit in this regard but can be defeated in less than five minutes which is a little anticlimactic when they seem more threatening than they end up being. It’s only the final boss that has a notable difficulty spike and can kill you in a few hits if you aren’t expecting it so unless you’re in a real pinch, save your magnum rounds for the final boss. You’ll need it. If you’re a newcomer to Resident Evil then this level of difficulty is fine but if you’re experienced with the series then the hardcore mode will provide a fitting challenge since enemies are tougher, more unpredictable and isn’t as forgiving if you go guns ablazing at everything.

Resident Evil Village has taken more than a few notes from Resident Evil 4. It’s apparent from the setting but from a gameplay standpoint, this is seen with the reintroduction of a merchant character in The Duke who you can buy weapons, ammunition from and even meals that improve your health. Even New Game Plus allows you to retain the weapons and items you had when you completed the game which is something that has been absent in recent Resident Evil games. What Village keeps from RE7 is crafting because you’ll be finding herbs, metal scraps and all sorts to create ammo and first aid med when The Duke is nowhere to be found. While the game makes sure you’re never going to be in a desperate situation with ammunition, you have to choose which guns (or healing item) to prioritise at all times. You can increase your gun’s firepower with modifications or buy a stronger model at Duke’s shop or choose whether to make shotgun shells or explosive rounds with the items you are currently carrying.

Resident Evil Village is probably one of the first attempts that Resident Evil makes towards having an open world environment as you’re given more freedom to explore than ever before. There are lots of optional treasures, areas and weapons to find and they’re all worth your while. It’s not mandatory to do and you’ll still be able to beat the game without a majority of them but you miss out on things like the Grenade Launcher and the Magnum if you don’t go looking for them. A note of caution is to remember that when you start Heisenberg’s Factory, you will be locked into the endgame and backtracking to the village won’t be an option. Also, certain goodies can only be found in a particular Lord’s area and once you beat that Lord, you are also locked out of those areas too.

Resident Evil Village absolutely succeeds in telling this chapter of Ethan’s story and combines the best of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7 in a lot of ways and looks incredibly stunning while doing it. It even recontextualizes a few parts of Resident Evil lore which is a discussion for another time. However, there are some elements with gameplay and storytelling that might be lacking depending on what you want in a Resident Evil game. If you want an edge of your seat, heart pounding horror experience then this isn’t it. However, this doesn’t make Village a bad game. I massively enjoyed it and will happily replay it again because I didn’t get to see everything on my first run. The truth of Resident Evil Village is that its high points are so great that it makes the more underwhelming parts stick out more.

Resident Evil Village is out now.


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