Would it continue the claustrophobic horror of 7, build on the traditional success of 2 Remake, or embrace the action focus the series has dipped into at times?
As it turns out, Village has a little bit of everything, both to its success and detriment.
A Simple Story
Capcom’s game once again follows Ethan Winters, the same fool who gets himself caught up in all manner of strange situations, with little to say in reaction beyond “that’s weird!”
This time he’s heading to a mysterious village (shock) where his daughter has been kidnapped by a strange cult of sorts.
Through exploring the castle’s grounds, the decaying village at the foot of its hill, and the surrounding areas, your job as Ethan is to find Rose and escape. It’s a simple enough premise.
Creepy, Beautiful World
For the most part, Village is a brilliant Resident Evil adventure. The first few areas are perfectly creepy, seeing you tiptoe around dark corridors and tentatively open majestic doors.
I wouldn’t say it’s as scary as 7 for example, with the jump scares toned down in favour of all-out gore and violence.
Instead, it’s consistently unsettling, just as Resident Evil should be. You’re being chased, all while trying to solve wide-reaching puzzles that require knowing a whole location like the back of your hand.
This is also where you meet Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters. People have been obsessed with them ever since Village’s reveal, and for good reason.
They’re some of the highlights of RE 8, and are comfortably some of the most memorable characters in the series. It’s just a shame that they don’t play as large a role as the trailers make out.
Inventive Puzzles & Level Design
Through the next few sections of Village, the tone and level design continue to be phenomenal.
The puzzles are so intricately designed, taking advantage of the setting, that you’re engrossed into finding every hint and secret possible.
The metroid vania level design sees you turning back on yourself constantly after finally finding the item you’ve been searching for for hours. That “ah-ha” moment when you finally figure out what an item for is so satisfying.
If something doesn’t make sense, you want to know why, and that’s simply down to how fun it is to simply explore Village’s world.
All of that puzzle-solving is interspersed with some jump scares and more combat than you might be used to from a Resident Evil game.
This isn’t a 2 Remake situation, ammo isn’t tough to get your hands on in Village. You’ll be thankful for that; you’ll need plenty of it.
The shooting mechanics are far from the best, however. You can improve them with a few settings changes, but fighting in Village is often a fight with the camera.
Movement is wooden, shooting takes far too long to happen, and the DualSense’s haptic triggers are more of a nuisance than an additive feature.
It’s never frustratingly bad, since ample resources mean you don’t have to aim for headshots with quite so much precision as in other entries, but it’s not exactly a highlight.
Losing Its Identity
It’s after these puzzle and character-focused sections that Resident Evil Village begins to lose its footing, however.
It decides to abandon pretty much everything ‘Resident Evil’ about the first three quarters in its final two hours.
The latter areas are heavily combat focused (pitting you against bullet spongey enemies), are set in uninspired locations, and progression isn’t framed around particularly interesting puzzles.
And that’s before you get to the boss fights, which are somewhat the same throughout, only asking you to shoot different body parts while running around different parts of the town.
At one point, Village goes into full shooter mode, losing all of its identity and what made the earlier sections so compelling.
It would be fine if the shooting mechanics were better, but they’re not good enough to be what Village should focus on, and it doesn’t really fit into the series’ story and lore.
Couple that with Ethan Winters’ increasing dumbness and overall blandness and you get a story that somewhat whimpers to a close.
Yes, any normal being would have bled to death countless times in the first hour of his adventure, but that’s not really the issue.
It’s just difficult to care about him. He’s not amusing, he’s not charismatic, and he’s in many of these situations due to his own doing.
It’s therefore tough to really care about his story and any attempted emotional moments. Resident Evil is full of memorable characters, and Ethan certainly isn’t one of them.
In short, Resident Evil Village is a great showcase of what makes the series special and what it should avoid going forward.
Capcom needs to embrace the atmosphere led exploration, complex puzzle-solving, and fan favourite characters. That’s when the series is at its best.
When the combat is serviceable at best, it shouldn’t try to be a 90s shooter impersonator. That’s when, as is the case in Village, you’re left with a sour taste in your mouth after what is, for the most part, a brilliant survival horror game.
RealSport Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
We reviewed Resident Evil Village on PS5 & Review Code provided by Capcom.