REVIEW: Resident Evil Village

The Resident Evil series has had a long and strange development. Over the past 25 years, we’ve been served an endless array of loosely connected games that lie somewhere on the spectrum between classic survival horror and exaggerated action. Depending on which game you started with, you may have wildly different opinions about what this series is.

Resident Evil 7 was for many a big highlight that saved the series after some less good features. Since then, we have received two solid new versions of the series’ second and third chapters, and much suggests that Capcom has found a good course to take the series further.

Now, with Resident Evil Village , the developer does not take as big course changes as with Resident Evil 7, but still makes a brilliant new contribution to the horror game series.

New family, new problems

Three years have passed since Ethan’s meeting with the Baker family. He now lives a seemingly quiet life with his wife, Mia, and their daughter. We learn that the family has settled in Europe and lives peacefully under the protection of Chris Redfield.

The idyllic existence turns out to be short-lived. After a dramatic attack on the house, Ethan is separated from his family, and finds himself again in a situation where he has to find out what is going on and try to get his family back.

After the opening sequence, you are in a snow-covered landscape. It is clear that something has gone wrong, but it is difficult to say exactly what. Apart from howling winds and rustling from trees, there are few signs of life to be traced. After trawling through the forest, you will find a village that has seen better days.

Between the collapsed houses there is not much other than traces of blood and dead animals. The few that are left of the locals talk about dangerous beasts, and give cryptic hints about where to go next. It all feels strangely familiar.

Mood building another world

From the very first minutes of the game it is very clear that Capcom has made a hard effort on the mood front. The areas feel like a smooth mix of the previous game and elements from previous games. Capcom has made no secret of the fact that Resident Evil 4 has been an important inspiration this time, and it is not difficult to find similarities in the final product. The title of the game may be enough to give associations in that direction, but the parallels do not stop there.

The village acts as a center where you can travel between the main areas of the game. You are free to choose how much you want to explore of each area, and as you get new items, more opportunities will open up. The valuables you find can be sold to afford new weapons and upgrades. To stay alive, make sure you have enough ammunition and health items with you at all times.

Castle Dimitrescu is the area that has received the most attention in the marketing of the game, and it is not difficult to understand why. The large halls and damp basements in the castle constitute one of the most atmospheric settings I have seen in any horror game. During the exploration of the castle, it is completely impossible to feel safe, and the residents do not do much to improve the situation either. It creaks in the floor, and doors slam in the distance.

I would rather not divulge too much about the other areas you come across, but I was mostly impressed with them. Each area has its own identity, with associated enemy types and structure. There is a much greater variation in the areas this time than in the predecessor, and all the parts fit naturally into the existing Resident Evil series.

The cunning puzzles you have to solve are, as always, on the verge of comical, but I would not have had it any other way. You have to collect keys, masks and other items to make progress, preferably with a threatening vampire lady notch in the heel. In other words, there is a lot of Resident Evil in the DNA here.

Difficult balancing act

As I see it, the biggest challenge of this series has always been to keep a balance between horror, puzzle solving, exploration and action. Big, explosive action sequences have been an important part of this series since the beginning, although it was not the main focus of the first games.

Lady Dimitrescu i Resident Evil Village
Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters are no joke Photo: Capcom

Later you are introduced to an ever-increasing number of enemies, spectacular boss battles and more powerful weapons. Some previous games have tended to pull the action band far too far, and my biggest fear for this game was that it would fall into the same trap. Fortunately, Resident Evil Village manages to avoid this.

Like its source of inspiration, the combat system maintains a very satisfying rhythm, where you alternate between different weapons and procedures during the battles, and always have to think on your feet.

The challenge is to keep a cool head against impossible odds, and not lose track of the heat of the match. I have nothing to complain about in the more evocative parts of the game, but to my own surprise I have fallen head over heels for the action sequences as well. God better how good this fighting system has become!

Conclusion

Resident Evil Village is a fantastic Resident Evil game. At times, it feels like one big gift package for the fans, who pick and mix together the best elements from previous games in the series. Village manages something that many Resident Evil games have tried and failed at, and strikes a good balance between horror, puzzle solving, action and exploration. Although the mood and exploration may weigh heaviest on many, it is very fun to see that Capcom dares to let the action sequences kick off as hard as they occasionally do here.

The game mechanics and progression are honed and conducted in a way that only the best games in the series can boast of achieving. I suspect that fans of the full range of previous games in the series will be able to find something to like in Village, whether it’s the hectic battles from Resident Evil 4, or the disgusting atmosphere from Resident Evil 7. I’m simply blown off course how well this game is put together.

Resident Evil Village will be released on May 7 for Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S and Google Stadiums. The review is based on the PlayStation 5 edition.

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