Game: “Resident Evil Village”
As a lifelong fan of the Resident Evil franchise, I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t thoroughly hyped for a new entry in the series. And I wasn’t alone – Resident Evil Village was eagerly anticipated the world over, and with rumours swirling that Capcom had taken a more supernatural approach this time, interest in the new game was sky high. The big question is “is the hype justified?”, to which I reply “read on and find out”.
At A Glance
|Visuals||9 / 10|
|Sound||8 / 10|
|Gameplay||8 / 10|
|Overall||8.5 / 10|
|Positives||+ Stunning visuals depicting deep and varied areas|
|+ Merges the best gameplay features of previous entries|
|+ Compelling cast of new characters|
|Negatives||– Plotline causes some eye rolling and sometimes breaks immersion|
|– Ties to previous entries feel forced and a little unnecessary|
|– Some might find the run time too short|
Village takes place three years after the events of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, with Ethan Winters reprising his role as the main protagonist. Ethan and his now-rescued wife Mia have moved to a small town in Romania in the hopes of putting the events of the last game in their rearview mirror and raising their 6-month old daughter, Rose, in peace. Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly and Ethan soon has to set off on a mission to save his daughter from some rather grisly goings-on.
Despite the game being a direct sequel, you don’t necessarily have to have played Biohazard in order to enjoy the new installment, with Capcom offering a solid recap as part of the introduction. And speaking of the introduction – my, oh my, are we treated to a doozy here. Equal parts mesmerising, haunting and downright shocking, I was immediately sucked into the game, overwhelmed with intrigue and curiosity at where things might lead.
It doesn’t take long for all of the weirdness to begin, and I must say that the pacing in the early part of the story is masterfully done. You’re hit with a mixture of tension and frantic action that leaves your head swimming at what’s going on, and it’s not until your first reprieve that you finally take a breath, stop, and think “what on earth just happened?” You’re introduced to the cast of antagonists en masse, and with each designed around a different aspect of popular horror/fantasy, it’s a truly weird, wonderful, and interesting little group you have to fight your way through, for sure.
It was the gigantic Lady Dimitrescu who stole the hearts of all social media prior to release, and I can see why Capcom made the colossal woman in the hat the centrepiece of their promotions. Lady Dimitrescu is bursting with character and stands head and shoulders over the other antagonists as being the most complete and well thought out. And while we’ve had enormous stalking monsters quite recently (see: Mr X in the Resident Evil 2 remake), Lady Dimitrescu leaves a much greater impression, and without a doubt boasts one of the cooler boss-fights in the game.
On a more technical level, even in the PS4 version the graphics in Village are beautifully crafted. The snow covered squalor of the village is perfectly depicted and offers the perfect backdrop to the grisly story laid out before you. Everything seems to be covered in a palpable layer of dust that accentuates the ancient and grim nature of the locations Ethan is forced to fight through, and nowhere is this more noticeable than Castle Dimitrescu, which is stunningly brought to life. There are a few noticeable issues with render distance that might cause more graphically discerning players to turn their noses up, but a couple of slowly loading textures certainly didn’t do anything to spoil my enjoyment of exploring the village and its landmarks.
While Village follows Biohazard in offering a first-person perspective, it’s play style is much more akin to Resident Evil 4 & 5, with an action-heavy approach that emphasises straight shooting over traditional horror. In the best possible way, the controls offer very few points of discussion, as they’re both tight and responsive, with a touch of aim assist to give you a hand where you might need it too. Enemies tend to come in tricky but not unmanageable swarms, and while a few traditional bullet-sponges are thrown in too, they’ve thankfully been lessened from previous entries where they got a little repetitive.
With action taking centre stage it does mean that the scares are few and far between, and I’ll admit that I’d hoped for a few more once it was all over. That being said, the frights we’re given are very well crafted and memorable, giving a ‘quality over quantity’ feel that I can certainly appreciate. There’s one jump-scare in the village that you can see coming a mile away but that works in spite of the warnings by virtue of being perfectly timed; it’s one of my favourite moments in the entire game and, in my opinion, stacks up against some of the best scares in franchise history. There will undoubtedly be a contingent of fans who are disappointed that Capcom seemingly ‘took a step back’ to a more action focused game after the horror masterclass of Biohazard, but Village does very well in walking the fine line between blasting innumerable horrors and creeping through tense emptiness while waiting for the next attack.
And to that end I have to praise the level design in Village, which sees Capcom do a great job in mixing up the environments in a nuanced way, allowing players some variety whilst mostly sticking to their core theme. The one exception is Heisenburg’s Factory which, despite being well designed in-and-of-itself, I personally found incredibly difficult to play through. For me, that level’s theme felt so foreign to everything that comes before or after it that I couldn’t shake the feeling that it belonged in an entirely different game. I can certainly appreciate the Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein vibe that Capcom was going for, but their attempt to bridge the worlds of old and new brought a disconnect in aesthetic and vibe that was just too jarring, and was the games only major miss in my opinion.
And with the emphasis back on action, Capcom revives the travelling merchant concept as well, allowing you to periodically pick up various new weapons, ammunition and health items to help you along the way. The areas housing Duke, as the clinically obese carriage-ridden salesman is known, become something of a safe space in each level, and players will regularly find themselves returning to their rotund friend to sell their occult treasures, purchase some much needed upgrades, and save their game at the ever-traditional typewriter. The simple crafting system from Biohazard also makes a return, allowing you to whip up health items and ammo on the fly should you need to, making ammo management less of a concern than in previous entries and keeps the action fun and (relatively!) stress free.
While I’m quick to offer the gameplay some deserved praise, my thoughts on the storytelling are a little less effusive. After racing through the effective and intentionally befuddling introduction, you’re left with very little idea of what’s going on for the majority of the game. I can understand that there has to be some subterfuge in the storytelling in order to build to a big reveal, but Capcom gives you such tiny scraps of information to work with that you’re given very little purpose to your actions beyond “I have to rescue Rose”, over and over again.
Knowing that the game was based around the theme of the supernatural and fantasy horror, I had expected Capcom to weave Umbrella Inc.’s unscrupulous science experiments into the heart of the mystical goings-on, but with no mention of these ties until the very last moment of the game there’s little to link Village to the rest of the franchise from a story perspective. This lacklustre explanation of the village and its residents makes much of the progression feel incredibly paint-by-numbers and you’re dragged through the game by the regularity of the action instead of the story.
For the most part, I’m able to forgive sparse storytelling in an action-heavy game but there are a few moments, particularly centred around Ethan and his injuries, that definitely required more explanation to help out the audience. We’ve seen injuries miraculously disappear following a quick squirt of ‘First Aid Spray’ in the past, but some of the wounds shrugged off by Ethan in the cutscenes are totally ridiculous and broke my immersion entirely. I appreciate that we’re talking about a series riddled with zombies and secret experiments and that we’re expected to suspend our disbelief somewhat , but this was specifically an area that needed more acknowledgement by the characters so that the laughable nature of the events is given at least some sense of credibility to the player.
As I played through Village I definitely got the feeling that I was playing through a skillful blend of other Resident Evils that came before it. Castle Dimitrescu feels like a modern take on the Spencer Mansion and the original Resident Evil; quirky puzzles and small groups of creepy enemies are set amongst a once splendid, but long since run down venue. The village itself is incredibly reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, and moments filled with swarms of enemies bring flashbacks to being overrun by majini in Resident Evil 5. Pulling together the best aspects of older games and merging them with the updated first-person playstyle is a masterstroke, and one that I can see Capcom returning to in the future with much success.
There’s certainly a corner of the gaming community that expects every AAA release to offer 50+ hours of entertainment for their money, and I’m afraid to say that those people are going to be sadly disappointed here. I have a tendency to dally around when I play games – inspecting the environments and getting lost more than I should, and I finished my first play through of Village in 11 hours on the nose. I’d be the first to leap to Capcom’s defense in this one though, and say that the story and action reach a fantastic crescendo at the perfect time, and that adding even another two hours to the main story might have spoiled the engagement towards the end. There’s some nice post-game content that will keep dedicated players busy for a lot longer than the initial playtime too, including the return of the ‘Mercenaries’ missions and a tonne of both ingame and behind the scenes unlockables.
All-in-all, Resident Evil Village is a fantastic shooter that’s overflowing with grim and grisly visuals that add a flourish of horror to a wonderful repertoire of action. While the move towards a supernatural theme meets with mixed results, it’s impossible to argue with how enjoyable gameplay is, or the effort taken to merge the distant and recent pasts of the franchise into a new monster for the new age. Almost returning to it’s B-Move roots, the latest Resident Evil may have you chuckling in moments where you should be horrified and rolling your eyes at some of the plot, but that’s all part of what makes the experience so enjoyable. With all manner of beasties now thirsting for your blood and a smattering of references to games past, Resident Evil Village undoubtedly sets a new -and successful- blueprint for the future of Capcom’s survival horror franchise.
Last night Capcom released another Resident Evil Showcase, giving us all a further look into the world of Resident Evil Village. There was very little in the way of new information about the game’s plot, but we did get a look at some new locations, details of a new demo and the information surrounding a returning fan-favourite mode.Read On »
Capcom have officially given gamers a look at Resident Evil Village, the next instalment in the survival horror series. It looks as dark, twisted, and scary as ever. It’s coming to PlayStation 5, XBox Series X|S & PC on 7th May. PS4 & Xbox One versions will also be available on the same date. Let’s take a look.Read On »