Resident Evil Village – Lady Dimitrescu is definitely the star of the show (pic: Capcom)
The eighth entry in the Resident Evil saga features werewolves, vampires, and a lot of nods to Resident Evil 4 – but is it any good?
If it weren’t for the pandemic the eighth mainline Resident Evil game would’ve presumably been released on the 25th anniversary of the franchise, back in March. That would’ve been a nice nod to the series’ illustrious history, but in truth this new game features few characters or plot points to tie it to the original games. As a soft reboot of the series, Resident Evil 7 laid some solid new foundations, so the question now is how well Village builds upon it.
Village is a direct story sequel to Resident Evil 7, complete with a short ‘previously on Resident Evil’ catch-up movie before you start. If you haven’t played the last game, it’s easy enough to follow along, as beyond a few references this is essentially a standalone adventure, as Ethan Winters and his family relocate to an unnamed Eastern European country (where everyone talks in American accents and writes in English) in order to try and restart their lives.
As a continuation of the last game, Village maintains the same first person viewpoint but rather than the very first Resident Evil, the main inspiration here is Resident Evil 4. The connection shouldn’t be overstated though, as while there are similarities in terms of the setting and the increased amount of action there are key differences too – the most obvious being that Village is nowhere near as innovative or effortlessly entertaining.
The game’s story begins with Ethan and his family enjoying some domestic bliss, only to be interrupted when Chris Redfield turns up to murder his wife and kidnap his daughter. He offers no explanation for this apparent heel turn and before you know it you’ve been taken prisoner and then wake up on a snowy mountainside, after your captors are killed by unknown assailants.
They don’t stay unknown for long though, as you discover that the nearby village has a werewolf problem. It’s not long before you’re captured a second time and discover that there are four squabbling siblings controlling the area, including internet favourite Lady Dimitrescu. (We had imagined the game would play more with the question of whether what is going on is supernatural or not, but the issue is essentially ignored by the script and left only for you to ponder on.)
Although the game starts off as a slow burn, the plot and characters get increasingly absurd, with Resident Evil 7’s attempts to appear at least a little more grounded than normal soon being abandoned. This seems to be an attempt to embrace the lunacy of Resident Evil 4, with some similar set pieces and a number of impromptu siege situations, but these are quickly abandoned in favour of more generic action.
That doesn’t imply the action isn’t any good, as the gunplay is far better than other games where it’s more obviously a focus. But although ammunition and health is limited, in typical Resident Evil fashion, you’re rarely that short of it as long as you play the game reasonably cautiously. Village isn’t a first person shooter in the Call Of Duty sense but because you’re usually well armed, and given the enemies become so implausible, it is, just like Resident Evil 4, almost impossible to be scared by what’s going on.
That’s not to say there aren’t some tense moments, especially before you realise how limited the artificial intelligence is, but the only genuinely frightening sequence involves a section of the game where you can’t use weapons and there’s a more psychological threat than normal. We’re not going to spoil what happens but while it does go for some low-hanging fruit, in terms of what’s likely to make you uncomfortable, it’s effective and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s also the only time the game really surprises you, with something that hasn’t been done in Resident Evil before.
Conversely, the other most enjoyable section is probably Lady Dimitrescu’s castle, which looks suspiciously similar to the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil 1. It works in a similar manner too, with less straight action than most of the rest of the game, although there’s little need for any real stealth. In fact, the whole game is extremely easy on normal difficulty and we only ever saw the game over screen during a couple of pre-script sequences, where we weren’t sure where to go.
We also hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Lady Dimitrescu isn’t really in the game that much. It’s a shame, as she’s a great character, but her role was obviously defined long before the internet took a shine to her.
In terms of mechanics and atmosphere Resident Evil Village does everything right. The graphics are excellent, even if there is a disappointing amount of object pop-in, and the soundtrack appropriately lacking in subtlety. Tonally though, the game is in a very awkward spot, between the unintended cheese of the originals and the more straightlaced remakes.
There is some truly awful dialogue in the game (an attempt at some fourth wall breaking banter is genuinely so bad it’s good) but while most of it seems to be included knowingly, the game never really plays it up in a way that makes it seem funny.
The bosses are written almost like pantomime characters but they’re never anywhere near as much fun as they should be. Village doesn’t even come close to mimicking the tone of Resident Evil 4, but where it also struggles is in the novelty of its action and set pieces. In Resident Evil 4 you never knew what was coming next but despite all the different environments, and more enemy variety than the last game (although still not that much), you never feel that way about Village.
The core problem is that, at the end of the day, Village is a first person shooter and the world is hardly short of those. However, Resident Evil 4 practically invented the concept of the third person shooter and as much as the controls are criticised nowadays the inability to move and shoot at the same time made the action feel completely different to anything else. That ensured not just novelty but that much of the enjoyment of the game came from learning and refining a new set of skills.
Resident Evil Village – werewolves, vampires, and more besides (pic: Capcom)
Village does nothing wrong, but it cannot complete with the more innovative entries in the franchise. Even Resident Evil 7, which got progressively less interesting as it went on, was a lot scarier and unpredictable than this and there’s certainly nothing in Village that measures up to its predecessor’s opening hours.
One of the issues with Resident Evil 7 is that it only had a running time of around 10 hours and didn’t offer much replay value. On that count though Village is considerably better, as although it only lasts around the same length of time the New Game+ is more compelling and for the first time in almost a decade there’s a proper Mercenaries mode. As usual for the mode, the story locations are chopped up and turned into arcade style time attack levels where you try to get the highest score possible in the shortest time.
Mercenaries is a lot of fun, in part thanks to the cheesier presentation, but it runs into the same problem as the story campaign in that while Resident Evil 4’s take on Mercenaries was made more interesting by its unusual controls the opposite is true of Village and its stock first person action.
Village is a very competently made game, whose ending hints at a new direction for the series, but there’s no way it’s going to go down as a classic in its own right. It’s perfectly enjoyable but it’s also quickly forgettable. At some point it may be seen as a transition step towards whatever Resident Evil becomes in the future but for now it’s perilously close to being Resident Evil by numbers. The series has suffered much worse sequels in its past, but it’s also had a number that were considerably better than this.
Resident Evil Village review summary
In Short: A competent but uninspired sequel that’s unwise to create so many obvious comparisons to Resident Evil 4, although it still manages to find some memorable moments of its own.
Pros: Solid action, some fun enemies, and generally good graphics. Most of the more experimental elements work well and there’s a decent amount of variety. Great soundtrack.
Cons: There’s no real gameplay innovation and too many nods to previous entries in the series. The cheesy dialogue doesn’t really work. Very easy and quite short. Not very scary.
Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Stadia
Release Date: 7th May 2021
Age Rating: 18
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