Resident Evil is admittedly a genre I’ve never dabbled in, mainly due to my lack of interest in the horror genre as a whole. After the rather traumatic experience of watching my dad play Dead Space as a kid, I learned to stay as far away from horror as humanly possible. Still, I kept a keen eye on the games that came out of it, with Resident Evil being a particular series of note. After hearing that Resident Evil VII was absolutely excellent, and having the chance to review Resident Evil Village, I felt it was about time I gave a horror title another go. So, what did I think of it? Find out in my Resident Evil Village review below!
A New Beginning…Sort Of
The story of Resident Evil Village unsurprisingly begins where Resident Evil VII left off. The Winters couple had escaped the Dulvey ranch from the evil bioweapon known as Eveline, thanks to the help of Blue Umbrella and one of its operatives, Chris Redfield. Three years later, the Winters couple is living in a beautiful home with their new daughter Rose, under the protection of the BSAA. All goes awry though, as Chris and his operatives breach the home, kill Mia, and kidnap both Ethan and his newborn daughter. Following some unfortunate circumstances, Ethan must survive his trip to a rather peculiar village, infested with terrible creatures and monsters who want nothing more than his untimely death and newborn daughter.
Thanks in part to the research I did into the series past for this review, I found Resident Evil Village’s story to be surprisingly engaging, reeling me in from the get-go. Once again, the series shows that its strongest card comes in its use of questions. The title creates so many questions, answers them all, and creates more in a way that incentivizes the next entry. That’s not to even mention some of the character writing, with figures such as Alcina Dimitrescu (tall vampire lady for those unaware) and Karl Heisenberg being particular standouts. Everyone may pursue the same goal, but each offers their own perspective that feels very fleshed out.
With as many high points as Resident Evil Village’s characters have though, it does make some of the weaker characters that much more apparent. In particular, I felt that the other two lords offered gimmicks to the player rather than feeling fleshed out. Sure, they have their merits in the gameplay variety department (or at least, Donna Beneviento did), but without that depth, you fail to care about them all that much. Wanting to kill Ethan for the sake of killing Ethan isn’t exactly great writing, even if the way they do it is rather unorthodox. This was a bit of a damper, but I still felt that the title’s story was engaging, thoughtful, and satisfying all the way through the end.
Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken
After doing a fair amount of research into the previous titles of the series, Resident Evil Village seems to offer a lot of what Resident Evil VII introduced while bringing in some of the best elements of Resident Evil 4. And I can thankfully say this was done the right way. Opting the route of not fixing what isn’t broken may come across as lazy, but it works in Village’s favor due to just how well that system was designed. Everything was clearly playtested and refined to be enjoyable in the player’s hands, while also offering a fair bit of challenge so they don’t get bored. I was especially a fan of the refreshed inventory system, which offers a lot as far as decision-making if you aren’t careful with your supplies.
While it does stick to its roots, it’s worth noting that Resident Evil Village leans more towards being a thriller title than previous entries did, taking a bit of the focus away from its horror roots. That’s not to say the game lacks in horror aspects though, as I found many sections of the game to be equal parts cringe-worthy and traumatizing. And better yet, the thriller aspects end up working to add a bit of enjoyable action into the mix. It’s just worth noting before you dabble in the game, in case that sort of thing is off-putting for someone like yourself.
Beyond that, I found much of the moment-to-moment of Resident Evil Village to be intense, engaging, and thoughtful. Great attention to detail went into the various systems, puzzle placements, and reward locations to all feel like they’ve dropped in the right places. Oh, and did I mention there are more than enough puzzles to go around? Because trust me, like previous entries in the series, there’s no end to the sheer amount of puzzles. If you want more even (along with some sweet rewards), you can even head off the beaten path to solve a few optional puzzles. You can find guides on a lot of those here.
Gruesomely Beautiful in All the Right Places
By far though, the area that most stood out to me was the visuals, which feel like a masterclass in utilizing artistic direction to enhance your atmosphere. Everything from the snow beneath your feet, aged wood on buildings, and grotesque design of various mutants all play into the horror that Resident Evil Village tries to portray. It all looks so beautifully realistic to the point where it feels as though it’s the beginning of what true horror games will become in the future. With an even great level of realism than this, horror is bound to enter a new age over the next few years.
For some reason though, the visuals are lacking in the hair and facial animation department of all places. While everything else appears shockingly realistic, these two sections often fail to capture how someone in that actual situation would look. Take Mia’s hair for example at the start of the game, which appears so off-putting when placed on the backdrop of her beautiful home. Or even some of the character’s facial animations, which come across as so forced rather than natural emotions. It’s not something you’ll notice too intently, but it’s noticeable nonetheless.
Still, the team did well in terms of audio design which does make up for it a bit. Everything from the gripping soundtrack that plays into emotions in all the right ways, to the simple sound of a shotgun blast, does well enough to service the game where needed. It didn’t always work (though this was more due to bugs within the game than the fault of the audio designers themselves), but where it did work helped to sell the realistic supernatural reality Resident Evil Village is trying to portray. Could it arguably have been done better? For sure, but it wasn’t something that I felt distracting from the rest of the game.
Where I did take issue though is in the sheer amount of bugs throughout the game. Some were rather mundane, such as minor visual glitches here and there, but some did actually take away from the experience. On one hand, it was very rare to hear an explosion make much of a sound at all. There were a few times where that true boom was hit, but some minor bugs often just made a cloud of dust without anything to indicate something more than a bag of flour had exploded. That’s not even mentioning some bugs were game-breaking. As a good example, one press of alt-tab somehow completely broke the mouse inputs until I restarted the game fully. We’re not talking Cyberpunk 2077 levels of unpolished by any stretch, but it doesn’t give Resident Evil Village a pass either.
Resident Evil Village is an engaging horror title that truly does justice to the series’ past, and is one I genuinely enjoyed reviewing. Not only does it continue the story of Resident Evil VII beautifully, but it even borrows some of the series’ best from Resident Evil 4. Even its lean into the thriller sector still offers a lot as far as the genre’s iconic horror is concerned. It does still have its rough edges here and there, but it doesn’t take away that this experience as a whole is fine-tuned, intense, and of course, scary. As either a newcomer or veteran of the series, Resident Evil Village is bound to be a very satisfying horror outing that does justice to its past.