I wasn’t really sure about Resident Evil’s switch from third to first person when 7 was first revealed to the world.
I’d grown up with those clunky old tank controls, I was used to seeing the back of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine’s heads. I didn’t need yet another game to put me inside the guise of the character.
Fortunately, it suited the franchise really well and it even opened it up to a larger demographic of gamers. And now it’s to the point where I didn’t even think about it diving straight into Village’s chaotic first hour.
In fact, being able to gaze out at the lush, snowy scenery, appreciating the grandiose scale of the castle in distance, seeing the detail in Ethan Winters hands, really showed me another side to the franchise.
Village is a game that leans a fair bit on what’s made the series so successful over the years, but it is also the most stunning and possibly action-packed iteration in the mainline series yet.
There’s a lot to unpack narratively as well, particularly in the game’s opening and closing hours. Not to say the rest is filler – the game’s self-contained narrative is certainly interesting enough – but things really start to come together during the key moments.
All that said, I would strongly recommend not playing Village until you’ve completed Resident Evil 7 and all of its DLC. Many of the criticisms I’ve seen about the game’s story actually tie in quite neatly with the Not a Hero DLC Capcom put out post-game.
Turns out, it was more revealing than we might have expected.
Village is set three years after the Baker Incident, and takes place near Romania. Ethan, Mia, and their newly born daughter, Rose, are seemingly living happily ever after in domestic bliss. To the point where my mentioning chaos earlier will make you raise an eyebrow as your first task is to put Rose to bed!
Mia is still struggling from the events of 7, desperately trying to forget them, while Ethan is still keen to bring it up and discuss it over dinner. Because, well, Ethan.
What follows is a sequence of events that will make you gasp, grit your teeth, look away from the TV screen, desperately try to find somewhere to hide and make you flutter your eyelids (for when big vampire lady shows up!)
But it absolutely sets the tone for what’s to come and it immediately has you invested in a world that seems both familiar and mysterious. Because it does feel like you visited a place like this with Leon Kennedy once upon a time, but there are twists and turns along the way that combine other adventures and even manage to distance it from any previous adventure you’ve seen before.
The thing Village captures better than Biohazard did is the fantastical element. To the point where I’d say this is less of a horror game, and more of a spectacular showcase of some of the Resident Evil team’s most creative ideas.
We’re no longer quietly traipsing along corridors, hoping Jack Baker doesn’t kick a door down and slice our head open with a shovel. Nor are we hiding from Margarite’s hordes of insects. Sure, you’ll be chased around a castle by Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters, but I wasn’t filled with quite the same dread.
I really didn’t want the Bakers to catch me. I had nightmares thinking about being fed whatever was in that horrific stew. In Village, I actually found myself running nearer my enemies and getting up-close with a shotgun. I felt more bold and brazen.
The environment definitely has its role to play in that as well. The Bakers house was, shall we say, a bit worse for wear, whereas the Dimitrescu castle is absolutely glorious. Beautiful paintings, extravagant staircases, wealth around every corner.
We’ve seen plenty of that castle though, between the demo and video reels, and what comes after it is where Village arguably becomes more interesting and leans more into the horror element the franchise is renowned for. Each of the four individuals you track down offers a different scenario to follow, and there’s some really disturbing sequences that lie ahead. One, in particular, definitely stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the franchises’ most horrifying moments.
But Capcom’s approach is fascinating because at each point, Village seems to reinvent itself a little bit. One moment it feels like Resident Evil 4, next it seems to feel closer to the original, then it darts back to 7. It even slips into other franchises, with a dash of Half Life and Call of Duty. But the best part of all is that the game stays cohesive and interesting right through to the end.
The game takes around 8 hours to beat, so it is a relatively quick finish, but there’s lots of optional extras to uncover and later this summer a multiplayer mode to dive into. With no side quests to speak of, or alternate paths to follow, though, the narrative itself is pretty much a one and done. Hopefully we get some DLC for some of these other characters.
Here’s the thing, though, – and I never expected to say this – Resident Evil Village is one of my all-time favourites in the franchise. Capcom have an incredible knack for creating iconic and interesting characters that stay memorable. It’s not just Lady Dimitrescu, either, though she absolutely steals the show.
I remember starting 7 not particularly caring much for Ethan, but I came away from Village ranking him up there as one of the series best characters. His quippy one liners grew on me, his persistence in the face of certain death was kind of inspiring, and then there’s another element entirely which will absolutely make you sit up and pay attention.
I’ll be honest and say my anticipation for Resident Evill Village wasn’t on the level of some other titles this year, but with the story now behind me, not only am I absolutely ravenous for the final part in this latest trilogy, but I am now completely invested in this style of play for the series.
Village is a hit, and a more than worthy sequel to Biohazard. Without doubt, the best showcase yet for just how dazzling the RE Engine truly is and most importantly, a great Resident Evil game that will stand the test of time.
+ The most beautiful, breathtaking Resident Evil yet.
+ A creative cast of villainy well suited to the series
+ Great weapon variety and moment to moment action
+ Fascinating and unexpected plot points
– Can be finished in around 8 hours, though more to discover
– If you didn’t like the feel of 7, not much will change your mind here.
Resident Evil Village is now available on PC, PS4/5, Xbox, and Stadia
Code kindly provided by Capcom