Resident Evil Village Assessment: Franchise ups and downs in a single bundle

“Resident Evil Village brings together the best and worst parts of the franchise into one diverse, if uneven, experience.”

  • Creative worldbuilding

  • Memorable set pieces

  • Reward for exploration

  • Compactly designed village

  • Uneven structure

  • Weak action

  • There is no tension

If Resident Evil 7 was a return to form for the game’s most iconic horror franchise, Resident Evil Village is a full blown identity crisis. The new part is not satisfied with simply repeating the success of its predecessor, but packs 25 years of history in eight hours. It’s not the best Resident Evil game, but it could be the Resident Evil game.

That’s both good and bad news for fans of the changing franchise. Everything that players loved about classics like the original game and Resident Evil 4 is in the DNA of the new game. This is also true in the opposite direction, as Capcom put together a big, bold franchise retrospective that doesn’t cover up the warts.

Resident Evil Village works best when it offers atmospheric exploration that cleverly extends the roots of the franchise puzzle box. As an action-packed first person shooter, it’s less fun. This style battle represents the entire series in a nutshell.

A horror anthology

Resident Evil Village picks up three years after the events of the 7th Charisma Black Hole. Ethan Winters settled in Louisiana with his wife Mia and baby Rosemary after the entire incident. His home paradise crumbles when Chris Redfield makes a shocking appearance. Ethan is looking for his family in a creepy European village infested with lycans, vampires and more (oh my god!).

Like many elements of the game, the story is a little ubiquitous. It offers some excellent horrors early on as Ethan is overwhelmed by vicious werewolves that make the old zombies of the franchise look cute. The tone quickly gets duller when the game introduces its colorful characters. Structurally, it is a horror film anthology in which each character overwrites their own monster film.

Sometimes that flow really works. The Lady Dimitrescu (“the great vampire”) portion of the game plays out like a mini version of Resident Evil 2, in which players sneak around a large castle, solve puzzles and run away from vampires who persist in the halls . It is a self-contained B-film that summarizes a lot of fascinating world structures in a short two-hour route.

One particular section that I’m not going to spoil features both the best horror and puzzle work the series has ever done in the same breath. The focused brevity only makes it so much stronger.

It’s a happy exploration of genre stereotypes that can spread their grotesque wings and play with something other than zombies.

Other vignettes are not as successful. A later section calls up 90s horror action films like Lake Placid and mostly manifests itself as a car chase, in which suspense is traded for simple platform puzzles. Slide a box, push some buttons, and avoid obvious death traps with scripts. Ironically, the more action-horror-themed the less exciting actually playing it is.

While some ideas fit the game mechanics better than others, it’s nice to see the series’ horror nerd roots here. It’s a happy exploration of genre stereotypes that can spread their grotesque wings and play with something other than zombies.

I’m on my way downtown

Resident Evil Village may look like a dawn for the series on its surface, but most of its new features are a clever iteration of the franchise’s design staples. This is most evident in the game’s title village. It’s more open than a normal Resident Evil mansion, but works the same way quietly. The village is a large puzzle box that players slowly unlock over time.

Some of the game’s best moments simply come from atmospheric exploration sections. There are so many little rewards hidden in different corners of the map. It’s not a sprawling open world, but that’s why it works. It’s a compactly designed village that is worth exploring every little hut.

In a game full of iconic characters, the village itself is the real star of the show.

Every new feature serves the village. A last-of-us style crafting system acts as a clever advancement of the item combination and provides other reasons to clean up. There is a traveling vendor (an intentional reference to Resident Evil 4) who sells weapon upgrades and ammunition in exchange for looted valuables. There are even a handful of small side quests that encourage a thorough cleanup while also telling some micro-stories that explore the history of the decaying city.

Resident Evil Village

Some ideas feel like light experiments auditioning for a full role later. Take the new cooking system that rewards players with health boosts as they hunt animals hidden all over town. With just a tiny handful of recipes, Capcom just seems to be testing the water for a sequel. In general, Village plays like an anniversary poll designed to help the studio figure out where to go next.

It’s not the best version of what it could be, but every little bit helps create a Resident Evil game that highlights the strengths of previous locations. In a game full of iconic characters, the village itself is the real star of the show. Sorry, Lady D fans.

Power struggle

Almost every beloved Resident Evil release has the same problem. While they generally start out as terrifying horror games that take the player out of power, they inevitably conclude with an inferior action set piece. Village commits that sin again, but it’s more frustrating than ever. The back third of the game suddenly turns into a boring corridor shooter that gets to the heart of the most self-serious melodrama (I have to stress this: Ethan Winters might be the most boring hero in any video game).

Resident Evil Village

The guns don’t feel built for quick shootouts with dozens of enemies. They are slow, almost archaic. This works in horror sequences where players have difficulty firing shots on a rapidly approaching Lycan. It is less fun to shoot away waves of enemies with ball sponge later in the game. The same panic-inducing mechanics are used to fuel an action-power fantasy. It just doesn’t mesh.

This is evident in the game’s bonus mercenary mode, in which players have to kill a certain number of monsters within a short period of time. Slow movement and sluggish shooting make the mode feel like you’re running at half speed, like Ethan shooting while sinking into quicksand.

With every dramatic blow that has no lasting impact on the story, any sense of danger is lost early.

This conflict is an ongoing theme throughout the game. Players should feel powerless and powerful at the same time. These ideas collide and weaken both ends of the spectrum. Throughout the story, we see really terrible things happen to his characters that are quickly dismissed as “just a flesh wound”. As soon as the feeling feels that an injury can be healed with magical healing potions, all efforts and tensions go out the window. Body horror turns into slapstick comedy.

It feels like certain scenes are just there for the sheer shock value – and that effect quickly wears off. With every dramatic blow that has no lasting impact on the story, any sense of danger is lost early. The fact that players can simply jump into a menu and craft ammunition during combat also helps. Despite all the gore, nothing really bad never happens. With no consequences, risks or stakes, I played through the entire back half of the game with stony faces, without anything having led me astray. That’s the kind of lukewarm reaction horror films fear.

Is Resident Evil a series about puny people who barely survive terrible situations? Or is it about pseudo-superheroes triumphantly shooting down mutants? Resident Evil Village is idling at this intersection instead of choosing a path.

Our opinion

Resident Evil Village is an uneven collection of horror movie send-ups. Sometimes it offers a really exciting vision of the future of the series with imaginative world building and rewarding exploration. In other cases, it is an ordinary shooter who has difficulty getting real bets or tension. These two tones are often at odds with each other, highlighting all of the franchise’s best and worst instincts in one eclectic package. Chalk it up to a quarterly crisis.

Is there a better alternative?

Many previous Resident Evil games do what Village does, but in a more focused way. Try 2 for exploration, 3 for action, or 7 for horror.

How long it will take?

The story lasts around eight to ten hours, though there are plenty of incentives to replay it to unlock new weapons and art. The mercenary mode also provides additional game time.

Should you buy it?

Yes. It’s a real question. This is still a fascinating entry in the legendary series, even if it is unsuccessful at times. But those who haven’t shopped should steer clear, regardless of how much they want to meet Lady Dimitrescu.

Editor’s recommendations

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