When RE7 was announced, the series was in a rough patch, following the less than stellar RE6 which by many opinions and mine, did not live up to its billing. So as RE7 got released, expectations were a bit low from me, but I still wanted it to succeed, as I love the series, all the way from the Jill-Sandwich days through the the boulder punching shenanigans and everything in between. The fact that it was an FPS experience was also somewhat concerning at the time to some, as the series had been known for some impressive third person and over-the shoulder experiences.
RE7 delivered, and did so very well. A triumphant redemption of the legacy so it would seem. It seemed that all of a sudden, Resident Evil had truly reclaimed it’s spot on the throne as the leading action horror franchise once again. As a longtime fan though, I had to wonder, did it succeed as well because of the redemption? Or was it just that good? While I was biased to the latter, we got news that RE Village was heading it’s way to us. And here we were. Now in a good position to acknowledge truly, how those game decisions applied to RE7 truly fared, no longer able to sneak under lowered expectations, but instead, against higher ones brought by the success of RE7. This was a test to truly determine whether the series earned it’s redemption.
And with what we’ve been offered so far, the series appears to have done well.
The game picks up sometime after the events of RE7, and continues the story of Ethan Winters, whose attempts to settle and blend into a normal, family life with wife Mia and daughter Rose, is thrown upside down during one unassuming night when Chris Redfield, one the main characters of the franchise, shows up, killing Mia and kidnapping both Ethan and Rose. Confused and crazed at what’s going on, Ethan has one goal—to find and rescue his daughter. This serves as Ethan’s motivation as he is forced to stumble across snowy landscapes, a very hostile village, haunting castles, swamps and whatnot. This appears a bit run-of-the mill, and some ‘twists’ are very predictable.
While Capcom did well in creating a fan-favorite in Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters which is further well fleshed out through the gameplay and level designs, the same was not done in consistent measure for the rest of the game’s villain characters. This issue is also extended to the main villain, whose presence and significance is merely passive by comparison to previous counterparts, and feels a bit rushed and pushed.
Ethan’s case however, felt different. While somewhat wanting in character development in the past game, is given a lot more emotional depth in this game. We get to see literally, first hand, his trials and tribulations as he claws his way against seemingly despairing odds to rescue his daughter. His case for father of the year is a good one with this hell of a rescue mission he goes on. So the story, while somewhat predictable, has enough bits here and there. If this is the conclusion for the current arc of characters and story direction, it’s a good one, and possibly for the series if they decide to go that way (which we doubt—they’ll always find a way).
The game will have players experience a variety of themes and tempos across the various acts of the game. The early game has the player access the titular village, reminiscent in look and feel to South European regions, and is very RE4 like. This area acts as the central hub of a larger map that has the player go to various sub areas which are generally designed around a key major form of the horror genre. Some areas like the Castle Dimitrescu is more of the chasing, hide and seek type of play, while other areas like House Beneviento focus more on body horror, jump scares, doll-house themes and so forth.
While this is interesting and impressive, there could have been more consistency in how the levels were fleshed out. The early act including the highly demoed Village, Castle Dimitrescu is arguably the strongest act of the game, with a good range of horror themes and sub-varieties within the levels explored. The theme is consistent and the pacing is well done in these first and early-middle acts. The same cannot be said for some other areas, where level design is a bit generic and comparatively lacking in intricacy.
If the gameplay experience were to be summed up in a spoiler free fashion the experience had elements that jumped across of RE2, Silent Hill/PT, Wolfenstein (not because of the werewolves), and even Call of Duty: Modern Warfare! Was it a good dynamic shift? You tell me. I for one felt that the first act was strong, middle was good, last act was a bit weak, but the final moments were well done.
Much of what’s worked from RE7 is carried forward in terms of gameplay mechanics. The inventory system feels cleaner this time around, and one of the better aspects is that there are better indicators for sorting and item combination than previous entries. There are more weapons to pick and choose from, with a simple but well paced crafting, upgrading and trade system courtesy of The Duke, a welcome addition to the series—not a small feat considering how popular the ‘Stranger!’ merchant from RE4 was to me and many others. The Dualsense’s heavy trigger feel is very satisfying when using heavy weapons against smaller arms that can be triggered very easily, which gives an authentic feel to the usage of various firearms. A new feature is that you can hunt animals to craft food recipes to give permanent buffs to your health and mechanics, which is essential in the tougher battles and runs.
Speaking of battles, there are more enemy varieties to deal with this time around, from werewolves, zombies, metal mutants to..thirsty vampire ladies and a lot more.
The main campaign may seem somewhat seen-it-done it for some from a gameplay point, but what is certain to be new to everyone is the new mercenaries mode. Mercenaries makes an official return to the main series since RE6, and is a lot more different than the previous iterations. It involves more organized preparation, as players need to navigate across stages in each level with various buffs and debuffs that are highly randomized, making sure that each experience is a different one for certain. It’s certainly a challenge, so much more from the main campaign, and is likely a platinum blocker for trophy hunters. On the matter of difficulty, RE Village is probably one of the easier Resident Evil games I have played, clearing the game fairly easily within 3-5 hours in general, and even less if you activate the infinite ammo cheats, which make the whole experience a breeze. The highest difficulty ‘Village of Shadows’ can still be a bit tricky even with this advantage, but still felt not too harsh in general.
Visuals and Sound
It goes without saying, but as one of the major releases for the new generation of consoles, RE Village is visually gorgeous to boot. Throughout the various levels of the game, the environments are brought to life with incredible colors, lighting and contrast effects that greatly complement the overall presentation of each area and their respective themes. The attention to details are greatly appreciated across the levels, particularly in Castle Dimitrescu and House Beneviento, as well as some end-game areas. The character, weapon and environment designs and details are astounding, and incase you miss out on that, one can peruse and view them in the figures section of extra content.
The photo mode is a moderately customizable one (albeit a little clunky initially on the PS5), which is perfect when you get a moment to gaze upon the mountains and man-made landscapes wherein you traverse throughout the game. The in game sounds are both helpful and panic-inducing with the right gear (Pulse, VR) that offer some very hauntingly immersive prompts, snarls, clicks, growls and other unwelcome noises when you play in these set-ups. That said, the spectacle of the late game can sometimes drown out what is a good soundtrack, but nothing groundbreaking.
If you’re looking for a visually polished, simple-to play game with plenty to do, this is certainly worth the buy. While some innovative touches have been put in, Village essentially carries on many of the elements brought in with RE7, which is not entirely a bad thing. The game does feel like a lot of effort went into the earlier parts of it, while it does have some generic dips here and there. Did the game live up to the hype spurred by it’s successful predecessor? Overall, we reckon so, as it certainly didn’t under-deliver. Village is not a perfect experience. But it’s a damn good video game that is a must play for the series and genre fans.