The Resident Evil series has often flirted with absurdity, but Resident Evil Village turns it up to 11.
Following on from the events of the phenomenally creepy Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, players are once again thrown into control of the faceless Ethan Winters. Three years after the harrowing events that took place in Louisiana, he’s now living in Romania with his wife Mia and daughter Rosemary. Everything seems good, until all of a sudden Chris Redfield storms in, kills Mia, and then takes Rosemary and Ethan away without any kind of explanation.
As if things couldn’t get any worse for poor Ethan, he then awakes to find that the vehicle that he and Rosemary were being transported in had been in an accident. Rosemary is nowhere to be found. In fact, aside from some dead bodies, he’s all alone. And so he begins to search for his daughter, eventually coming across a village. But even there there’s little hope. Instead he simply comes face to face with monsters – lycans to be exact – and soon he finds that they’re the least of his worries. If he’s going to save Rose, he needs to take on the four lords of the village, each with powers that make them formidable opponents.
Being a follow up to Resident Evil 7, Village once again plays out in first person. On the one hand it’s great for ramping up the tension, as you’re more immersed in your surroundings. Resident Evil Village is much more action-oriented than Ethan’s last outing, however, and so the ho-hum combat mechanics are put under even more strain. Against fast enemies, such as the aforementioned lycans, you feel much like a sitting duck at times. And despite Ethan undergoing some military training during the three years that separate this and his last encounter with the supernatural, his aiming still isn’t great.
To make Resident Evil Village remotely enjoyable to play, you’ll first need to go into the options and turn off aiming acceleration. Then you’ll need to come to terms with the fact that many enemies are bullet sponges, eating up an inordinate amount of ammo before they finally succumb to re-death. Your knife isn’t really an option either, unless you’re playing on casual difficulty. Thankfully, ammo and other supplies are doled to you at a decent rate, meaning it’s rare you’ll be left totally defenceless. Besides, you can now guard, raising your arms to mitigate damage. And there’s also the fact that most enemies can simply be avoided.
If you’re like me though, you’ll want to explore each of the environments presented to you in Resident Evil Village at your leisure. And once you’ve eliminated your enemies, you can do that. Well, generally – there are some areas of the game where you’ll be pursued, forcing you to forgo admiring the scenery and simply run for your life. For the most part though you can stop to take everything in, and thanks to Resident Evil Village‘s sublime art direction it’s a treat. From the village itself that evokes fond memories of Resident Evil 4 to the claustrophobic factory filled with metallic monstrosities that you find yourself in later in the game, you’ll constantly be impressed with the care and attention put into making this world both interesting to explore but also creepy enough to put you on guard.
With the combat being simply perfunctory, it’s perhaps no surprise that one of the best moments of Resident Evil Village strips it out of the equation. In a sequence which finds you removed of your gear, you’ll find yourself exploring a seriously unsettling house, solving puzzles and searching for items to progress. Then, upon hearing and seeing… something lurching towards you in the distance, you’ll flee in pure terror, hoping to find somewhere to hide. It’s just a shame that this part of the game is so fleeting, as it truly is a highlight.
Still, while Resident Evil Village is an uneven experience, frequently throwing you from moments of exploration, true horror, and all-out action, it never never stops being hugely enjoyable. There are times where you’ll be slack-jawed due to the incredulous events happening on screen. You’ll probably also guffaw at the hilarity of Ethan’s plight – the man’s body is constantly being abused. I also really appreciated Chris Redfield being called “a boulder-punching asshole”. Knowing that Chris is now famous for his boulder-punching antics in Resident Evil lore adds a certain charm to it.
As ever, Resident Evil Village‘s set-pieces and boss fights are the highlights of the experience. They’ll put your skills to the test, get the adrenaline flowing and simply entertain you. On the flip side, the game’s plot is likely to be your biggest disappointment. It does a decent job of tying god knows how many games together, and finally makes some things from previous games make sense – well, providing you read as many documents as you can find. As the credits roll, however, something that will likely take about 10 hours your first time around, chances are you’ll have yet more questions in your head. Many of which will pertain to some puzzling plot holes.
Resident Evil Village is a far cry from its more grounded and horror-focused predecessor, but in the end, it’s perhaps just as lovable. At times it feels like a greatest hits collection of some of the best elements of previous Resident Evil games, and while that leads to it not being wholly coherent, it’s not to its detriment. It may not be perfect in terms of combat mechanics and storytelling, but Resident Evil Village keeps you on your toes, with you never truly knowing what’s waiting for you around the next corner. And that’s why when playing it, the hours simply fly by. Will the series ever become stale? Not while it’s being as inventive as this, that’s for sure.
Resident Evil Village Review: GameSpew’s Score