Resident Evil Village has returned, with some first-person survival horror intertwined with the expected puzzles and out-there characters we have seen previously within the series. Reminiscent of Resident Evil 7 playstyle, this new iteration continues the story of Ethan Winters and his wife Mia. The game introduces some twists and turns, and some extremely imposing and interesting character designs.
To give a brief understanding of the plot as it continues from Resident Evil 7: you play as Ethan Winters, who is trying to live a somewhat normal life with his wife Mia. The beginning of the narrative sets the scene in the family home, where Ethan and Mia are discussing life and going through the rigmarole of the evening. We are introduced to Rose, the couple’s baby, who will become the centre of the story and the motivating force that drives Ethan to going through absolute hell to get her back. Thus begins Ethan’s bloody and stressful trek throughout what can only be described as European vampiric castles crossed with horrific dollhouse tropes, eventually turning into a Half Life–inspired factory of horrors. Ethan traverses through these horror-set environments, constantly being poked, prodded, stabbed, and amputated by everything around him. His hands take most of the beating, and may make you flinch out of the pure gory obliteration of his digits along the way. There is a lot of blood in this game, but you would expect this to be so if you are familiar with the series. I don’t want to give too much away; the story is interesting and best experienced throughout the gameplay.
The gameplay reflects what the general experience was in RE7, but the highlight of the game is definitely the wacky characters and the setting. Although teased the most in gameplay releases, Lady Dimitrescu only appears within the first quarter of the game. The first time I witnessed her walking swiftly after me, and then ducking to fit through the doorways within her own castle, that’s when her height was realised; and boy, was it super imposing and terrifying. The way she does not even flinch, even with a bullet to the head, proves her to be an unstoppable force. Even more so, the fact that she chases after you in such a calm manner is somehow more unsettling than if she was running at you with full speed. Her confidence and sheer size make her imposing and threatening, and it is clear why she was featured heavily within early promotional content. Her part of the story, including the setting within the castle, feels very reminiscent of old school Resident Evil.
There are a slew of other interesting characters, such as Heisenberg and Mother Miranda—two of the five antagonists which you will go up against. Lady Dimitrescu and Heisenberg are quite heavily focused upon, and the sections featuring them are well developed. The environments are truly unique to each of their character archetypes, and there were puzzles and small attention to detail given to these areas to make them engaging to play through. There are smaller sections strewn in between for some of the other antagonists, but they felt short and somewhat undercooked. I was excited about the prospect of facing up against Donna Beneviento, the puppet master. It seemed there was so much potential, based upon her creepy residence filled with shaking and talking dolls. Taking her down was anti-climactic at best, as Ethan simply chased her possessed doll around the house and attacked it simply with the press of a button; it seemed like what could have been a cool boss fight was turned into a press-one-button cinematic, and that was the end of that. We moved on.
A distant cry from uniquely designed main characters are the basic enemies within the game. There isn’t much variation within the basic enemies, with Lycans being one of the consistent enemies you will see throughout the game. Later on, when you experience Heisenberg’s chapters, you will encounter more variation—with some enemies having weak spots you’ll need to target, armed with drills for hands. Generally, the combat entails shooting enemies, with the most effective hits to take them down being headshots. The combat and gameplay has not really changed from the known Resident Evil formula, but it did not really have to. The highlight here is the experience as a package, and most notably the continuation of the story in a well-designed environment. If you take a look around, there is a lot of environmental story-telling, and it is done well. Chunks taken out of houses indicating that some monster has smashed through, pots of soup exuding steam and still on the stove top. The village itself feels like life was once there, but was recently chased out.
I was super impressed by Village on the PS5. The visuals were stunning, and I was constantly stopping to admire the textures on walls and the beams of light streaming through windows and cracks. There was no sense that I was missing out on any visual fidelity for picking the PS5 version over PC. HDR enabled, raytracing enabled, and 4K textures made this game a pleasure to look at. And it ran smooth, with not even a stutter during the whole experience. In fact, the experience itself was smooth—there were no bugs, glitches, obvious clipping, or freezes. Our playthrough took us 9 hours and 48 minutes, and that was at a relaxed (not rushed) pace.
Overall, the experience was enjoyable and what we were expecting from the franchise. The game, even though very similar in mechanics to RE7, brought the next part of the story to fans tied in with some new and interesting characters and settings. The game introduces some twists and turns in the plot and keeps the player engaged with some really good pacing and storytelling, intertwined with puzzles which were never too difficult to figure out—after a couple of minutes at most. As a highly polished product, it’s hard not to recommend the game, especially for fans of the series.