Resident Evil Village takes a lot from the franchise’s more action-oriented titles and presents them in a nice gift wrap in the form of gameplay taken straight from its immediate predecessor.
Taking place 3 years after the haunting events in RE7, Village sees Ethan Winters return as its protagonist, with the story once again focusing on him rescuing his family from the evil clutches of…weird and scary creatures. The game starts off with Ethan, his wife Mia and their baby Rosemary being ambushed by Chris Redfield. With Mia seemingly killed right at the beginning of the game by Chris and Rosemary kidnapped, Ethan wakes up from his encounter in an unnamed and seemingly abandoned village in Romania. It’s from here that the player gets to explore the titular village and its many scary inhabitants, all the while trying to piece together the puzzle of Rosemary’s disappearance.
Story and Characters
Alright, let’s start with what I’d say are both the strongest and simultaneously weakest aspects of the Village. I won’t spoil what happens in the game, but I will say that I wasn’t a fan of what transpires over its second half. Not only is there a complete tonal shift, but the story also starts to get bogged down by its obligation to tie into the larger Resident Evil canon. Yes, there are some ‘logical’ explanations for the bizarre characters and events that occur, but I wish they didn’t. Sometimes, scary things can just be…scary?
The need to over-explain any aspect of a story that by its own nature kills the suspense is one I’m not a fan of. But I’ll leave it at that.
Alright then, what about the characters themselves? Including the Lady of the castle, these are 4 main ‘bosses’ if you will, who control the 4 main subsections or hubs of the village. The game’s opening few hours till you get through the castle are quite linear, and then it opens up to let the player explore the village on their own.
We were all fans of Lady Dimitrescu even before the game came out, but I’m happy to report that the other villains in the game are also interesting in their own right. I really liked Heisenberg (with a name like that, who wouldn’t?) and the grotesque Moreau had his own charm. Benevento, a creepy lady with a creepier animated doll is a let-down, although her hub section of the game is one of the main highlights in the scare department. And then there’s Mother Miranda, the ever so mysterious main antagonist who falls flat by the time she enters the story properly.
Well, aside from the game’s protagonist, everyone else here is extremely interesting. Ethan Winters is quite annoying as a protagonist. While the decision to take a normal everyday human and push them through horrifying events was a nice move last time, here it just doesn’t work the same way. For one, Ethan has got some good experience with shooting bad guys in the face. Second, he’s not really that scared of most things that happen in the game, especially in the second half. He also acts what I’d say is out of character many times throughout the game, and this puts him at odds with the player’s own immersion.
The last character I want to talk (or write) about is Chris Redfield, whose actions during the game made me question the intent of the writers. While Chris does have his own reasons for acting the way he does, his harsh actions towards Ethan throughout the game are just dumb. Again, I don’t want to spoil his motivations and links to the titular village. It’s like one of those mysteries where at the end once you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, you go “Well, that was a lot of work for quite a simple reason.” The ends here do not really justify the means, and overall I liked Resident Evil 7, or even the recent remakes better in that regard.
Gameplay Mechanics – Resident Evil 4+7 Vibes
Resident Evil Village’s gameplay is a mix of the first-person survival horror of RE7 and that found in the more action-oriented titles like Resident Evil 4. While the game can be quite scary at times, by the second half you’ll feel like a super-soldier who can easily take down any sort of monsters lurking in the dark. For a brief overview, check out what we learned from the game’s multiple demos, and then we can get to the meaty part.
Let’s start with combat – it’s serviceable, and then gets laughably easy. It starts out as a desperate plea for scavenging supplies to save every last bullet, and soon enough you notice bullets littered everywhere around the map. The enemies in RE Village are also relatively harder to kill in combat compared to RE7, largely thanks to their faster movement. Unless you have aim assist on, taking on a gang of Lycans can prove to be quite a challenge in resource management, especially at higher difficulties where they can take more bullets on their face. Movement during aiming is also severely restricted, and combat, in general, includes a lot of slow animations. This looks good at the beginning but can begin to slow you down when getting or giving the smallest of hits from or to the enemy in the long run.
You can buy new weapons and upgrade old ones with help of the handsome Duke, who is found in a safe location at every main area of the game. Here you can sell meat from animals you kill in the village for permanent buffs, sell collectables that are found on killing enemies and bosses, and of course, buy ammunition as well. Straight up, I’ll suggest you don’t spend too much money on ammunition, as you’ll find plenty across the map anyway. Focus on upgrading existing weapons and increasing your inventory capacity. You can move items in your inventory to manage space as well. While many items will seem extremely expensive at first, getting money gets easier the more you progress into the game.
Alright, so combat’s fine. What about traversal? Well, if you’ve played RE7, then you know what to expect, at least for that first mostly-linear section of the game. After the game opens up, you can pretty much explore the village of your own accord. Even so, which bosses you can get to isn’t a choice given to players, though it might seem that way at the start.
Lastly, there are the puzzles that have become a staple of the franchise. I liked them! Picture this – you arrive at a gate only to find it locked, with the game telling you to find one or multiple keys to open it. You then explore the nearby area, returning to the gate blocking you from progressing further into the game. It’s a way to keep the game from feeling too open, taking some control away from the player and giving them the incentive to go and look back at previous areas with new eyes.
Most of the puzzles or ‘fetch quests’ as they turn to be, are quite easy to solve once you really understand the hints the game gives you through pure gameplay. It doesn’t hold your hands, and it’s entirely up to the player to figure out what to do. Sometimes that’s as simple as finding a key, other times you might have to combine your items to forge a key. Looking back, I’ll fondly remember my own stupidity of not understanding how to solve a riddle or open a gate, as the game’s brilliant level design stares back at me with a smile on its face. Look out for House Beneviento! If you really want to get into some freaky stuff, that level has you covered.
Graphics and Visuals
Resident Evil Village looks gorgeous, in a spooky way of course. The RE Engine has proven itself time and again in the past, and this time around includes support for next-gen features such as Variable Rate Shading and ray tracing.
If you don’t have a ray-tracing capable GPU or a next-gen console, don’t fret as the inclusion of RT here is just a subtle improvement to the image. For performance breakdowns, scroll below to our PC performance section.
Variable-rate shading is present in the game, and while on paper it sounds awesome – “yay, another free performance-enhancing feature” – it doesn’t look that great while at it. Turning VRS on just made the individual elements on-screen look worse in my eyes, and I think this could potentially be fixed in an upcoming patch. Or maybe that’s just how it’s supposed to work.
Resident Evil Village Performance Review (PC)
I played the game on a PC with an RTX 2060 Super and AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700X, and the performance was pretty great without ray tracing at 1440p. With RT features (GI and reflections) turned on, the lack of DLSS hurt performance quite a lot, almost halving the frame rate from over 120 FPS at 1080p down to around and below 60 FPS at times.
RE Village is an AMD partnered title, and as such, I was missing the lack of DLSS quite a lot. These recent RE games have partnered with AMD for their FidelityFX features, which are a nice addition. However that also means we have to give up DLSS, and until AMD’s similar Super Resolution feature comes along, I’ll have to recommend most gamers on budget RT-enabled GPUs to stay away from the ray tracing menus.
The ray-tracing menu in Resident Evil Village does have a few hitches. In traditional rendering, we have 2 options in AO – SSAO and FidelityFX CACAO. The latter produces better corner shadows at the cost of slightly increased GPU usage. With ray tracing turned on, these options only return 2 arbitrary values – Off or On. Turing RT on or off will automatically turn off ambient occlusion and kick you back to the top of the menu which is a little annoying. Pop-in is also quite noticeable in-game.
I haven’t played the final game on consoles, but if my time with the ‘Village’ demo on a PS4 slim was any indication, then it should provide a relatively smooth 60 FPS with hitches during more intense sections of the game. The game seems to run really well on next-gen consoles, and with there being no big disparity between those and the PC versions excluding variable-rate shading.
Capcom hits another positive note with Resident Evil Village, with a great premise and setting that are only let down by fewer scares than RE7 and the story’s drastic turns towards the latter half.