The Resident Evil series has gone from a spooky zombie game, to mutated monsters, to crazed villagers and more. It seems like the team at Capcom is constantly trying to find new things that the series’ assorted viruses and molds and whatever other bio-enhancements can mutate into. Resident Evil Village is a foray into monster movie classics. The creatures you’ll encounter here are the savage and agile lycans, vampire-like maidens, and even some that meld flesh and metal in a rather Frankenstein-like way. While it’s another bold new direction for the series, Village is also home to plenty of classic Resident Evil comforts, for better or worse.
Resident Evil Village follows the events of Resident Evil 7 biohazard. After what happened at the Baker house, Ethan and Mia Winters have moved to an undisclosed location in Europe and they now have a child, Rose. Things inevitably go south when series protagonist Chris Redfield bursts into their home, guns Mia down, and kidnaps Rose and Ethan. Worse still, Ethan soon finds himself alone in a mysterious village, searching for Rose, and under attack from the mutated lycans. It’s a suitable “WTF” opening that sinks its hooks in and drags the player through the rest of the story it has to tell.
Resident Evil Village’s titular village, Castle Dimetrescu (pronounced dom-uh-tresk), and other environments are rendered incredibly on the PS5. This is a beautiful looking next-gen game, with countless picturesque views and landscapes. Whether you’re crawling through cramped corridors and dungeons or making your way under the lonely open sky, Village looks like a next-gen game every step of the way. It did suffer a few small frame hiccups, mostly during “loading” moments like elevators, but otherwise maintained strong a frame rate and resolution throughout.
Resident Evil Village Review – Next-Gen Visuals, Last-Gen Gameplay
But, for as next-gen as Resident Evil Village’s visuals may be, its gameplay innovations don’t make the same leaps. That’s not to say that Resident Evil Village is a bad game, by any means. But it really doesn’t make the kinds of advancements that I was hoping to see more than four years after Resident Evil 7.
This is still a game with relatively clunky first-person gameplay, which can at times feel like a gelatinous cube with a gun skating around the environment. Sure, Ethan isn’t a soldier, so the game shouldn’t feel like Call of Duty, but it still gives a sense of relative limitations and constraints throughout. Paths are often limited and the environment design, at least in terms of the play space, can often feel like a self-guided theme park attraction. Most things seem to exist simply for decoration and set dressing, with interactive and destructible objects being rather obvious. It’s not something that deviates too much from past games, but for the first Resident Evil game on next-gen consoles, it feels rather limited in scope.
Village is filled with classic Resident Evil-style puzzles—everything from manipulating statues to open secret passageways to metroidvania-like labyrinths that see Ethan doubling back and circling around as he navigates each area. Without going into details for fear of spoilers, there does seem to be a significant imbalance when it comes to combat, puzzles, and traversal, particularly with the middle portion of the game that does away with enemy encounters in favor of a couple of more “funhouse-style” traversal and puzzle sections. Despite Village constantly prompting you to explore, that exploration is rarely rewarded in a meaningful way when the paths become largely linear.
It’s that rigid structure that makes Resident Evil Village feel somewhat formulaic at times, especially obvious when running through the game on second and third playthroughs. Its next-gen veneer masks a game that’s rather rote at its core. That’s part of what makes it feel like it belongs with classic Resident Evil, but also a big piece of what holds Village’s potential back as a next-gen title. Resident Evil Village’s biggest gameplay innovation is “you can now kick enemies back,” which doesn’t seem like it needed the power of the PS5 to do. At more than six months into the new console generation, games ought to do more than simply be visually impressive.
Resident Evil Village Review – Scare Reduction
Resident Evil Village also faces the issue of simply not being quite as scary as past games. Yes, that’s an entirely subjective metric that’s hard to nail down precisely, but aside from some notable moments and elements that get the heart racing—Alcina Dimetrescu hunting you down with a vengeance in her castle comes to mind—or really amp up the tension, Village feels like it pulls back a bit, especially compared to just how creepy Resident Evil 7 and the more recent Resident Evil 2 remake were. The opening is notably atmospheric and tense, and there are a few times when it really ratcheted up the tension, but overall Village felt quite a bit less scary and atmospheric than I was expecting it to be.
However, it makes up for it with the unique biological mutations that take after classic movie monsters, blending the zombie genre with the likes of werewolves, vampires, and Frankenstein’s creations. The village setting, which seems stuck in days of yore without modern technology or innovation, becomes the perfect place for these monsters of legend to haunt. That atmosphere is something it manages to capture perfectly, a moody gothic horror. Some of these creatures are downright horrifying. The wide smile of the mutated wolf-like being, their glowing eyes… I still get nightmares. Still, I wish it was scarier moment to moment.
Part of this is caused by Ethan’s ridiculous dialog, which is often undeniably corny and awkward. He makes absurd comments at inappropriate moments and doesn’t seem as emotionally invested in the goings on of the narrative as the game would have you believe he should be. This is the same series that launched with some of the most awful video game dialogue of all time, so some cheese is to be expected, but there was a lot of thematic friction between Ethan and what the rest of Resident Evil Village was trying to be.
Resident Evil Village has a great cast of characters, many of which don’t feel like they get the screen time or attention they deserve. Part of that formulaic gameplay imbalance I mentioned earlier comes with how Village features its assorted villains—Mother Miranda and the Four Lords. For fear of spoilers, I won’t go into too many details, but things tend to feel heavily sequential rather than woven throughout.
Along the way there are some decidedly fascinating surprises that are simultaneously unexpected and make you go “yup, that’s Resident Evil all right.” If you’re hoping that Resident Evil Village, as the eighth mainline entry in the series, takes some left turns you don’t think it will, think again. The only left turns Village takes is classic Resident Evil left turns, and fans of the series will see its various twists coming from miles away. They are still interesting surprises, and the story’s overall plotline makes fascinating progression from moment to moment, but after more than 20 years making the same left turns, it’d be nice for the series to have a new ace up its sleeve.
Most importantly, however, is that Village is a game for fans of the series, with some definite ties into established Resident Evil lore, and a lot of potential for the future. I’m not going to spoil how Village and its lycans and other creatures play into the Umbrella-created viruses, but rest assured it’s a meaningful piece of the larger picture. Resident Evil Village may be all-new, but it’s also so inherently Resident Evil that it really feels like it almost loops back around to the series’ origins, in many ways.
Resident Evil Village Review – Return Trip
All in all, my first and rather thorough run of Resident Evil Village took nearly 11 hours on the Standard difficulty. As is common with the Resident Evil games, however, there’s plenty more to do once you finish the story. Various challenges let you earn CP which will allow you to unlock additional special weapons and infinite ammo for any weapon in the game. These make subsequent playthroughs much quicker and easier. Following my first completion, I unlocked infinite ammo for a certain gun, bumped the difficulty up a notch, and finished my second playthrough the same day in just over four hours. This is all part of the classic Resident Evil gameplay loop that goes from terrifying players on their first playthrough, to empowering them for payback on future runs.
You’ll also be able to unlock The Mercenaries mode following your first completion of the story. The Mercenaries puts you in Resident Evil Village’s various environments and sends waves of enemies after you. You’re playing against the clock here, while also hunting down blue orbs that grant you assorted abilities and enhancements, as well earning Lei (the game’s currency) to upgrade your weapons and gear between rounds.
The Mercenaries is an arcade shooter twist on Resident Evil Village, taking away the scares and narrative pacing of the main game in favor of just letting you shoot a bunch of mutated monsters. I’ve spent quite a bit of time improving my rank in The Merceneries and unlocking new levels and capabilities. It’s a fun distraction after you’ve completed the story and provides some good additional challenges to overcome.
Resident Evil Village is a good game with a lot of opportunity to have been a great game. And yet, for as many criticisms as I have, it was an experience that I was happy to play through a second time immediately after finishing the first. The new setting, creatures, villains, and story are engaging additions to the Resident Evil canon, even if the gameplay doesn’t seem to have evolved all that much and the scares have been pulled back. It’s still a fun romp in a new setting with new monsters; a great and fitting piece of the broader series that makes me excited to see where it’s all headed next.
Resident Evil Village review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.