In 2017 when Capcom released Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the developer took a significant risk in shifting the perspective from the franchise staple over-the-shoulder third-person to a more immersive first-person one. The move turned out to be a stroke of genius and helped breathe new life into the series, making it more terrifying and enjoyable at the same time. As such, Resident Evil Village has a lot to live up to.
This sequel to the story in Biohazard has also drummed up quite a bit of interest given the fervour surrounding one of the super tall vampire ladies in the game – Lady Dimitrescu (the “u” is silent for anyone not clued up on their Romanian).
Our more immediate interest, however, is how well Capcom has done in fine tuning the experience in Resident Evil Village, while also improving the overall presentation on next-gen consoles (PlayStation 5 in the case of our review).
Having spent the past week with the game, here’s our verdict. We’re also keeping things spoiler-free here, and only talking about what has officially been shown online by Capcom to date.
Series of unfortunate events
Before you play Village, you have the option of watching a recap of the events from Biohazard. It is compulsory viewing in our books, and the fact that our protagonist Ethan Winters narrates it as if he’s being interrogated adds a nice touch.
Once the recap is done, you’re greeted with another cinematic, with this one involving some Tim Burton-esque animation to a disturbing children’s story that your wife Mia is reading to your daughter Rose. As Mia explains, this story is based on local legend, with your family moving somewhere in Eastern Europe ever since the events of Biohazard.
Then Chris Redfield does a black ops mission on your residence, kidnaps your newborn and all hell breaks loose.
While all this is happening, and for most of the main storyline in fact, we kept on thinking to ourselves about just how unlucky our boy Ethan Winters is.
He’s equally self aware of this, frustratingly pounding his hand against a pillar during one of the opening stanzas of the game and screaming, “Why the fuck is this happening again?”.
Needless to say, Winters is a magnet for bad juju.
A different kind of scary
Now for one of the most asked questions we have received about the game – how scary is it?
We’re the first to admit that horror games are not a a genre we gravitate towards, but even by our low standards, the scariness of Village is tolerable.
In fact, we’d venture to say that is quite a bit less scary that Biohazard. That may have to do with the fact the first-person perspective was new to us on that title for the franchise, but there are also less jump scare moments in general while playing.
Instead, Capcom has turned the dial to 11 in terms of suspense.
We can recount walking during a forest as a snow storm is passing as a good example of this. Armed with nothing but a flashlight that barely illuminates things two feet in front of us as truly helping to set the tone for the game. You can also hear Ethan breathing at points, and depending on what you’re walking on, every sound you hear triggers a heightened level of tension.
Another great example of this is wading through waist level pools of blood in the bowels of Castle Dimitrescu. Each step you take creates a ripple that you feel compelled to watch in case an undead monster decides to breach the surface and attack.
It is something that Capcom has done expertly here and no matter where you are in the game, you feel on high alert for what could be lurking around corners.
Resident Evil Village makes it abundantly clear that Ethan Winters has been weighed, measured and found wanting early on in the game. As a result, key resources are hard to come by. It means you’ll be breaking any wooden box or vase in the vicinity in the hope of finding handgun or shotgun ammo.
It also means you have to be quite sparing with your use of ammunition, as the extra one or two bullets you waste double-tapping a vampire or lycan could come back to haunt you when a group decides to attack later on.
To assist with ammunition, upgrades and other vital resources, a rotund merchant who is called The Duke can be found at various points in the game and on the map. Given the high cost for even the most basic of items in his inventory, which is purchased with the in-game currency Lei, it is highly advised to scavenge as much as possible in order to find valuable objects to sell to The Duke.
Either way you’ll likely turn into a bit of a hoarder during the course of Village.
Playing on rails
Now let’s talk about one of the elements of the game that can prove frustrating – the linear movement of events.
Resident Evil Village feels like it’s on immoveable rails a lot of the time. That is to be expected with this genre of gaming, but the way in which environments are built in-game means there is very little motivation to explore as players are shepherded towards objectives for the main storyline.
It’s a pity too, as the developers have created a rich albeit morose looking world that is certainly worth exploring.
As for boss battles, apart from the ones that involve the four lords as they are termed – Alcina Dimistrescu, Salvatore Moreau, Donna Beneviento and Karl Heisenberg – the other interactions don’t feel as high stakes as they should. The three Dimistrecu daughters for example, are dealt with rather easily, when we thought they would present more of a challenge.
That said, we were playing normal difficulty mode for the purposes of our review, with the two levels above this potentially offering the challenge that some players are looking for.
Resident Evil Village is a well paced and equally well balanced addition to the survival horror franchise. Taking about 14 to 16 hours to complete, depending on difficulty level, the events that unfold here are longer than that of the predecessor.
There is also a larger story at work here that helps to develop the Resident Evil lore even further. Those thinking that Lady Dimitrescu is the only thing that Village has going for it will be pleasantly surprised that Capcom has more to offer.
Added to this is a great blend of terror and tension that does not lean heavily on jump scares to get the job done.
Our only criticism are the rails which drive momentum in the game, as a bit more freedom to explore would have been appreciated.
We have discussed the price of games in the recent next-gen era at length, and at R1 249 on both PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, Resident Evil Village is not cheap. That said it is one of the most polished Resident Evil games to date that fans of the franchise should be happy to pick up.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village feels like a supremely well balanced survival horror game. It does not rely heavily on jump scares to raise the tension and delivers an ominous atmosphere all its own. It also deepens the lore of the franchise while serving up memorable monsters to battle against.
Run Boy Run