A Father’s Duty Is To Kill Werewolves

HIGH Metal Gear Garbage.

LOW An inexcusable plot contrivance.

WTF So… does everyone know about the boulder punching?

There is some debate as to which Resident Evil is the best since its developers gave up on static-angle cameras. Resident Evil 4 (action) and Resident Evil 7 (horror) both make compelling arguments for themselves, and since they’re so profoundly different in presentation and tone, it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges. However, Resident Evil Village exists to settle this dispute once and for all — it essentially splits the difference by taking RE4‘s mechanics and marries them to RE7‘s aesthetics. Offering elaborate plotting and over-the-top action with brutal intensity and strong character work leads to what just might be the ultimate Resident Evil to date.

As a direct sequel to RE7, Village picks up three and a half years after Ethan Winters’ escape from Louisiana. He and Mia now live in Eastern Europe with their newborn baby, with longtime series star Chris Redfield keeping an eye on them. After an unexpected attack, Ethan’s world is turned upside-down and he finds himself on the side of a snowy road with no options but to once again pick up a gun and face a series of increasingly-hideous monsters.

Ethan has received military training since RE7 and that’s reflected in the plentiful First-Person Shooter combat — it’s more polished and there are many intense battles against multiple foes at once, which was a thing RE7 almost never offered. Leaving the claustrophobic hallways and cluttered rooms of the Baker mansion, Village takes place in huge, sprawling areas such as the titular village, fields, swamps, ruins, and a castle. These places are so open, in fact, that it often makes sense to pack a sniper rifle.

Speaking of firearms, the inventory and crafting systems have been completely redesigned to mirror RE4‘s break away from item boxes. Ethan trudges around with a briefcase full of guns strapped to his back, and has to make hard choices about which guns to keep and which to sell to Duke, the inexplicably-omnipresent weapons dealer. This limitation lends a smart strategic element to resource management — the player can’t simply load up on every weapon they want, so they have to re-evaluate their tactical approach combat every time they find a new weapon. There’s a wide variety of handguns, shotguns, and rifles that can be modded and upgraded until they’re impressively deadly. Anyone should be able to find a loadout that satisfies their playstyle.

Village also impresses in how well it’s able to function as a loving homage to Resident Evil 4 without getting bogged down in fanservice for its own sake. Apart from the inventory and weapon management systems, a key thing it cribs is the story structure. Just like in Leon’s adventure, Ethan is introduced to the macro threat early on, and then travels to a series of different locations, each one dominated by a boss that becomes the focus of the game for the next hour (or more) as the player has to figure out how to navigate mazelike areas and defeat their current foe. The adventure goes from a village to a castle, then to ruins and an industrial setting. Village isn’t enormous the way RE4, 5, and 6 were, but it’s around twice the size of 7 and none of it feels like padding.

However, Village isn’t just action. Its running time is filled with a cast of fascinating characters. Much has already been written about Lady Dimitrescu, the tall vampire all over the game’s advertising. Her section of the campaign in which players sneak around a castle while being hunted by bloodsuckers is quite compelling. There are a number of other bosses skulking around, however, and each one is noteworthy in their own right. I won’t spoil any details, but they all find their hopes and fears brought to life with solid writing and great voice acting, with the exception of one weirdly off-putting performance.

Mercenaries mode is a great addition to the contents of the package, melding the combo-chasing of RE4, 5 and 6 with the ‘travel from point A-B’ goal of the original version from RE3. Players start each stage with a lump of cash and a handgun, and they’re free to spend the money upgrading their existing weapon or buy new ones before going out to battle a horde of foes. Each mission is broken up into 2-5 stages built around a themed location. Players can harvest money from fallen enemies and find ammo around the levels before doing more shopping between stages to prepare for the challenges to come.

I find precious little to complain about in Resident Evil Village. The visuals are great, the mechanics are polished, the map is loaded with secrets to be explored and there’s a huge amount of content that only unlocks after credits roll, making this one of the most replayable entries in the entire series. In fact, my only major annoyance is with a bit of a writing at the start which doesn’t seem problematic until the end — it’s one of those bad writing situations where the entire game wouldn’t have taken place if a certain character had said a single line of dialogue. It’s still a wonderful story, I just wish the writers had put a little more thought into how it should begin — having characters withhold information from each other solely to preserve a twist is a frustrating conceit.

Resident Evil Village proves that the developers at Capcom knows exactly what series fans want, and they’re happy to offer it, along with a lot more than anyone was expecting. Resident Evil 7 was a revolution for the series by framing the action in personal, intimate terms that intensified the scares and violence via the first-person perspective. Resident Evil Village proves that the same approach works just as well when removed from the small-scale, southern gothic setting and the action ramps up. Village really is the best of both worlds, and an amazing accomplishment for the series.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by CAPCOM. It is currently available on PC,XBO/S/X, and PS4/5. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 11 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.

Parents: This game was rated M by the ESRB and features Blood and Gore and Intense Violence. They are not kidding about the intense violence. Horrific injuries are shown in closeup, there’s also blood drinking and exploding heads. This is as violent as games get without being banned from sale in stores. There’s also some alcohol consumption and some topless female statues.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played some of the game without audio and encountered some difficulties. It has the normal issue found in most First-Person Shooters in that being surprised by an attack from behind can be crippling at anything but the lowest difficulty levels. There’s also a strange issue where no onscreen confirmation is given when the player picks an item up — just a sound effect — so it’s very easy to miss grabbing an item while moving. there are also audio events during the game which have no visual cues. All dialogue is subtitled and all vital info is provided via text. Text cannot be resized.

Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable.

Daniel Weissenberger
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