One of the longest running game series of all time, and often credited as the series that defined the survival horror genre, the first Resident Evil game was released in 1996. Over a dozen games later and directly following the last entry in the series, Resident Evil Village continues the tale of Ethan Winters. It takes place three years after the events in Louisiana where Ethan rescued his wife Mia from the clutches of the Baker family.
As you read on, this review is going to focus mainly on the mechanics and atmosphere, while avoiding spoilers. As a quick aside, I’d like to state outright that I enjoyed the characters and plot. Some of the character development isn’t as extensive as I wish it would’ve been, but the game itself has been fun to play from start to finish.
The gameplay of Village can most concisely be described as a mash-up of the best parts of both Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7. Of these features one of the most prominent throughout the game is “The Duke”, a nod to the Merchant from RE4. Much like his prior inspiration, The Duke is both a shopkeep as well as character throughout the game, constantly showing up with new words and wares for Ethan. For the right price of course.
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There are quite a few other similarities to RE4 that come up, but many of those are encounter-based and are better left to be experienced for yourself. That being said, any fan of RE4 will surely be in for a treat when they play Village.
As far as the similarities to RE7 go, many of them are self-evident. Just like it’s predecessor, Village was built using the RE Engine, which means the movement and combat system is going to feel very similar. There is a new blocking mechanic which greatly reduces the damage you take, as well as a pushback move that gives Ethan more breathing room in tight spots. It’s a simple but welcome addition to the gameplay. It allows for combat to be more timing-based instead of simply running backwards and shooting constantly, or just running away when things get too dicey.
Don’t get me wrong, you can and will still do that in many situations, but now Ethan has the option to take the blunt of some blows and keep fighting.
One of the things that I greatly enjoyed was the new user interface. It’s incredibly clean and user friendly, but it is also a bit of a departure from previous games in the series. The inventory now consists of four separate menus; Ethan’s actual inventory, a dedicated crafting menu, a key item menu, and a valuables menu.
The inventory itself works just like it has in past games, where you can move and organize things to maximize space, but the sleek design makes it feel much more open. The fact that key items and valuables get a separate, unlimited inventory space helps. This is a very generous offering compared to prior games that featured inventory management as a major component.
This change is well-justified though, especially when you consider the sheer size of Resident Evil Village’s map compared to others. There is of course the Village to explore, as well as Lady Dimitrescu’s castle (the Tall Vampire Lady), but those aren’t the only two places Ethan is restricted to. Again I won’t get into detail so you can experience the game for yourself, but the amount of backtracking a highly restricted inventory would cause would be unpleasant, to say the least.
The crafting system is also much more straightforward. Common use recipes are now listed directly in your inventory. There is no more needing to match up herbs to create your magic peroxide: just click and create. I like this change because it means I’m not spending all of my time in menus organizing things and tediously crafting them.
The gunplay, weapons systems, and other features will all feel familiar to anyone who has played the games in the past, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I liked the feel of Resident Evil 7 and I’m glad the development team haven’t gone out of their way to change things that didn’t need to be.
As far as the tone of Village is concerned, I’d describe it as a balance between action and horror. There are segments of the game that are constructed very carefully and deliberately to cause tension and put the player on edge.
I don’t know whether I should compliment or curse the sound designer. A rustle in the darkness, a creaking floorboard, or whatever other noise; there were plenty of times where an innocuous sound almost made me jump out of my skin. In all fairness, I can be quite the chicken when it comes to horror games, but there are moments in Village where I think even the most hardened horror fans will be taken aback.
The atmosphere overall is incredibly well-done, making full use of next-gen graphics. From the cramped and terrifying spaces to the magnificent landscapes and epic boss battles, this is a game that looks incredible. Village was marketed that it would have little to no load times on the Xbox Series X and that is an accurate description. There are a few loading screens, but each one lasts no more than a couple seconds. It’s worthy of being called a next-gen game.
Along with that it’s also a highly accessible one too. There is an easy difficulty, as well as a brief recap video that covers the events of Resident Evil 7. Both of those, coupled with the generous inventory system, make it an incredibly easy game to pick up and start playing, even if you’re new to the series. I did my first playthrough on standard difficulty and it wasn’t overly challenging. However, there is a hardcore difficulty, as well as even higher difficulty that is unlocked after completing the game. Both of which should provide ample challenge to anyone who is up for the task.
Along with the main game, Village sees the return of “The Mercenaries” game mode which has been present in a few other Resident Evil games. In this mode you kill monsters as quickly as possible while picking up upgrades that can boost your damage output or speed, as well as grant special abilities. This is a great way to revisit the locations seen throughout the main game. It’s also a great power trip for anyone who wants to run around like mad shooting werewolf monster people with a shotgun. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to do that?
Resident Evil Village is worth every cent. If you loved Resident Evil 7: Biohazard then you’ll be ecstatic about being able to step back into the shoes of Ethan Winters in this new title. This is a game that is worth every penny, offering up a great blend of horror and action alongside some superb character development.
Resident Evil Village will be available from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S from May 7th