Resident Evil: Village (PS4) Review

Richard Walker

Resident Evil Village makes almost every other Resident Evil game look like a paragon of nuance and restraint. Within its first hour, Capcom's latest foray into survival horror throws everything but the kitchen sink at hapless protagonist Ethan Winters, who returns from a life-altering ordeal in Resident Evil VII, for a new nightmare somewhere in Eastern Europe. Living a new life with wife Mia and six-month-old baby Rose, it's not long before Ethan's world is turned upside-down, and – once again – his fingers, limbs, skin, and any other body part you'd care to mention are on the menu for dismemberment or mutilation. How Ethan manages to get through it at all is beyond us, and often the entire experience beggars belief. Perhaps it's his military training, issued by Chris Redfield, who appears here draped in a pitch-black trenchcoat and permanent scowl.


Unless you've been living under a rock, you know who this is.

With Resident Evils gone by, developer Capcom has managed to marshal a relatively slow-burn opening – the first game made that initial sight of a zombie indelible; the second game made you freak out upon seeing a licker; the third game kept its powder relatively dry before revealing the Nemesis; and even Resident Evil 4 ensured that the tension remained tight and oppressive after introducing you to its plague-ridden, muddy village inhabited by Ganados. In Resident Evil Village (or Resident Evil VIII, if you like), the fuse is lit pretty much from the outset (following a momentary picture of Ethan's domestic situation), exploding forth with vicious, hirsute lycans and a carnival of oddballs all out to kill you at every turn. And, having jettisoned so much stuff into a potent mix of supernatural silliness from the outset, there isn't really anywhere else for Village to go.

Or so you'd think. Once the game opens up, Ethan finds himself on the hunt for a set of four doodads (the grisly nature of which won't be spoiled here), each guarded by one of the village's 'Four Lords'. From this point on, you'll set about assembling an elaborate master key that gradually grants access to each area and a showdown with Resident Evil Village's cadre of 'boss' characters, all striving to stop Ethan at the behest of the mysterious Mother Miranda. There's master of magnetism, Heisenberg, with his round shades, shit-eating grin, and ability to control hunks of metal with his mind; creepy animated marionette Angie and her maker Donna Beneviento; lumpen hunchback Moreau; and, of course, towering bloodsucker Lady Dimitrescu, and her three daughters, who can transform into a swarm of voracious chittering insects.

After a frenetic opening few hours, Village begins to settle into a stride of sorts, and the pace becomes slightly more measured – albeit for a few precious moments – finding time to put a smattering of smart puzzles in your path. Tubs of gunpowder, rusty scraps, herbs, and chemical fluid enable you to craft valuable ammunition and health restoring elixirs, which are seldom in short supply – consequently, the survival horror isn't all that difficult to survive. Factor in Ethan’s guard-and-shove ability, which enables you to block enemy attacks and thrust them away with a hold and subsequent tap of the L1 button, and you’re actually slightly too formidable, at least when playing at the standard difficulty.


During its latter hours, Resident Evil Village also manages to squander its atmosphere and gothic weirdness. A mid-game dollhouse section stands out as a genuinely tense and creepy highlight befitting Silent Hill, although that inevitably soon segues back into almost Resident Evil 6 levels of eye-rolling daftness. After an intro that hints at a folklore-infused Grimm's fairy tale, and the early promise of its snowy village outskirts and cold gothic castle, it's disappointing to see Village fly so spectacularly off the rails. Upon venturing into the factory location towards the end, any hope of the game returning to some semblance of smart or slow-burn horror is hurled unceremoniously out of the window, the tension diminished by some of the stupidest enemies we've ever encountered in any Resident Evil game – enemies you'd expect to find as the result of some sort of hare-brained experiment in Wolfenstein, rather than this.

Resident Evil VII didn't exactly play it entirely straight, but it kept things comparatively grounded, unlike this direct sequel. Eventually, the horror – such as it is – very quickly descends into the realm of the laughable, and any attempt at providing genuine chills or terror are sadly in vain. After the effort made with Resident Evil VII to return to RE's roots, Village manages to flush much of that down the toilet in one fell swoop. We’re certainly a long, long way from Raccoon City.


This guy loves to eat your bullets.

In spite of all that, Resident Evil Village still proves enjoyable, if only to see what bonkers thing Capcom is going to conjure next. It looks positively lovely, too, thanks to the consistently jaw-dropping RE Engine. And even if it often induces a wince, rather than real fear, the art direction - led by Tomonori Takano - is like nothing else. The return of RE4's attaché case and merchant (albeit as the jovial Duke) make resource management an involving aspect of the game, as you hoard currency and treasures to spend and trade. You can acquire new weapons, mods, upgrades, and supplies to aid Ethan in his quest, and deciding the best way to spend your hard-earned coin adds a nice, strategical layer to proceedings.

Upon finishing the game, you can also use the 'CP' (completion points) you've earned to unlock Mercenaries mode. Like Mercenaries modes gone by, you're pitted against the clock and hordes of enemies, each section punctuated by a visit to the Duke to purchase new weapons and other valuable resources. You can break blue orbs to gain new buffs that include increased health, movement speed, health gains when using handguns, or other useful perks, while gold orbs can be interacted with and shattered for time extending bonuses. It's largely predictable, but a decent bonus with adequate replayability that's a more than welcome distraction worth dipping into now and again.

How best to surmise Resident Evil Village, then? If this review were to be presented simply as a cardiogram, the line would be all over the place – the overall experience is a messy, hotchpotch of weird ideas that don't gel, and, while things start promisingly enough, it takes only 2-3 hours before Capcom decides to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. Much of it doesn't. If I were to describe to you some of the segments in RE Village, you wouldn't believe me. In context, they're unexpectedly bizarre, even by Resident Evil standards, and not in a good way. Actor Todd Soley's line delivery as Ethan is also quite poor, failing to engender any sense of danger or peril – take, for example, his dispatching of a massive, grisly boss late in the game, met with a cool “eat shit”, like some sort of cheesy action hero. It's completely out of line with the tone we suspect Capcom was shooting for, although, to be fair to Soley, he doesn't really have much to work with.


Heisenberg is a right arrogant sod.

Resident Evil Village is seemingly the work of fevered, addled minds, and quite possibly the stupidest Resident Evil game since RE6 – and that's a comparison I don't make lightly. There's still a great deal to like here, and anyone who loves Resident Evil 4 (like me) will enjoy the shared DNA in some of the returning mechanics and evocative choice of location. However, the execution is severely fudged, the pace is drastically uneven, the set-pieces are routinely ludicrous, some moments are unintentionally hilarious, and the only sign of restraint or subtlety of any kind is in the excellent dollhouse segment, which is over all too soon. The rest of Resident Evil Village is emblematic of Capcom letting its id run wild, forgetting that great horror often lies in what you don't see, rather than the big monster screaming directly into your face.

[Tested on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X]

Resident Evil: Village (PS4)

Enjoyable in a mad, pantomime sort of way, Resident Evil Village feels like a pretty significant step back from Resident Evil VII, and a toe back into the absurd. It's a game you're unlikely to forget in a hurry, for entirely the wrong reasons.

Form widget
60%
Audio
80%

The soundtrack, composed by Shusaku Uchiyama, provides the right level of chills, even if the horror around it doesn't always fit. Voice work is patchy, but given the daftness of the script, the cast does its best with what it's given.

Visuals
90%

Utterly stunning. The RE Engine once again demonstrates its capacity to deliver awesome visuals without compromise. Even enemies that are silly on paper, are brimming with detail, while the setting and environments look fantastic.

Playability
70%

Somewhat more preoccupied with first-person action over generating tension and scares, consequently, Resident Evil Village isn't the most challenging experience. But, it is a lot more entertaining than it perhaps should be.

Delivery
50%

My first playthrough clocked in at just shy of nine hours, which by Resident Evil standards is rather generous. Bonuses and Mercenaries add replay value, too, but it's whether you'll actually want to relive the off-kilter story all over again that's the real question.

Trophies
70%

A decent set of tasks that cover all of the requisite bases. There are trophies for story milestones, crafting, and other simple objectives. For the hardcore player, completions at the 'Village of Shadows' difficulty, using only four or fewer recovery items, spending 10,000 lei or less, using only the knife, unlocking every character model and piece of concept art, and racking up combos in Mercenaries mode, will keep you playing for countless hours.

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