The eighth mainline installment of Capcom’s flagship “Resident Evil” series plays like a greatest hits compilation of the series’ best games, but some new ideas and outstanding game design keep it from feeling like a simple retread.
If you’ve followed the “Resident Evil” franchise over the last two years, you know it’s continually reinvented itself. The first few games featured third-person gameplay that was heavy on puzzles and focused on survival over shooting.
Later games incorporated more action game mechanics and an over-the-shoulder camera, while “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard,” moved the series into first-person mode and went heavier on the scares.
Like “Biohazard” before it, “Village” is played entirely in the first-person. Again, you take on the role of the curiously faceless Ethan Winters. The game opens with Chris Redfield, protagonist of some of the better games in the series, apparently gunning down Ethan’s wife Mia and kidnapping their infant daughter Rosemary.
Ethan then wakes up in an unnamed European village overrun with creatures similar to werewolves and vampires as he begins to search for his daughter.
As Ethan scrambles through town taking shots at a horde of werewolves in his first moments in the village, it becomes very clear that while the first-person view remains the same, this game is going to be much more action-packed than “Biohazard.”
And frankly, “Village” is a better game for it. While ammo is plentiful, I still had to be careful not to waste it, creating plenty of tension throughout the 10-12 hour campaign. And early in the game you’ll meet Lady Dimetrescu, a 9-foot tall bullet-proof vampiress who will stalk you from room-to-room in her castle.
It’s this encounter where the influence of prior games becomes most apparent, as Lady Dimetrescu tracks Ethan much like Mr. X in the excellent “Resident Evil 2 Remake,” but the setting is clearly inspired by the beloved action-packed sequel “Resident Evil 4,” which was also largely set in a European village.
I played “Village” on an Xbox Series X, so I could take in all the thrills and chills in glorious 4K, with ray tracing enabled for more realistic lighting and reflections. And it looks very good. Characters animate well, and never once did the frame rate drop, but it’s also not a huge upgrade from the graphics of “Biohazard,” so you won’t be missing much if you’re playing on older hardware. At least the load times were lightning fast though.
Aside from one exception near the end of the campaign, “Village,” never leans into the action game roots of “Resident Evil 4” too much. There are still quite a few jump scares, and one section in particular that strips Ethan of his weapons and traps him in a house full of haunted dolls is actually one of most unnerving in the entire series, requiring some real survival horror skills to escape.
The sequence where you go in guns blazing like a “Call of Duty” game is actually the one section where “Village” falters. After hours of making every shot count and running for your life from the big vampire lady, having essentially unlimited ammo to mow down dozens of werewolves dramatically shifts the tone and takes away from otherwise makes for a very special game.
Coupled with a rather mediocre final boss fight and some questionable story choices in the game’s closing hours, “Resident Evil Village” ends with more of a confusing thud than a big bang. And that’s unfortunate, because while “Village” is definitely one of the better games in the long-running series, it never quite tops the very best games in the franchise that it emulates.
Chris Freiberg is an attorney, gamer and former News-Miner reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Play
Game: Resident Evil Village
Rating: 4 out of 5
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Internet usage: 30GB
Release Date: May 7, 2021
ESRB Rating: Mature