Resident Evil Village review – Early Game of the Year contender
Capcom promised to deliver the next generation of horror survival with Resident Evil Village, and they’ve succeeded with an incredible game that takes the franchise to new heights, with terrifying frights and delights in equal measure.
Set a few years after the acclaimed franchise revamp Resident Evil Biohazard, protagonist Ethan Winters is once again faced with tragedy when his daughter Rose is kidnapped, leading him on a journey to hell and back to save her from the grasps of the deity-like Mother Miranda and her followers.
Unlike its predecessor, which took place in the cramped Baker household and often relied on quiet exploration and tension-building, Village is a grandiose adventure that delivers gothic scares, devastating boss fights, and a stunning, expansive world full of mystery to uncover.
Resident Evil Village – Key details
- Price: $59.99
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: May 7, 2021
- Platforms: Windows, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Stadia
Resident Evil Village trailer
Environments and enemies inspired by classic horror
Resident Evil Village wastes no time before throwing players into the action. After his horrifying encounters with the Baker family in Biohazard, a relocated Ethan Winters is now settling into family life with his wife Mia and their newborn daughter Rose – or trying to, at least. This peace doesn’t last long, as just a few minutes into the game, series veteran Chris Redfield bursts into the house, kills Mia, and kidnaps Rose, leading Ethan once again into danger as he ventures to a remote location in an attempt to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the mysterious Mother Miranda.
Capcom previously explained that they wanted the village to be a “character in its own right”, not just a simple backdrop for the action. For the most part, they have succeeded. Taking clear inspiration from gothic classics like Dracula, the world on offer here is incredibly atmospheric, offering secrets to uncover and terrifying enemies to take on. There’s a big focus on exploration, as your path will often be blocked by rubble or locked doors, forcing you to go the long way around and discover more of the world as you go – and what a stunning world it is.
While Biohazard largely took place inside a single house, this time we’re introduced to an expansive map that reaches far beyond the village. There’s the towering Castle Dimitrescu, a majestic maze with winding corridors and seven floors to explore; House Beneviento, a seemingly normal cliffside manor that actually contains some horrifying encounters, and is the closest you’ll get to Biohazard’s claustrophobic style of gameplay; Moreau’s Reservoir, a gloomy bog with windmills and drowned houses; and Heisenberg’s Stronghold, a huge building that’s positively teeming with Lycans.
What makes the world so impressive is that every part of it feels necessary. Down in the village, every house contains something to help you on your journey. Up in Castle Dimitrescu, dungeons filled with torture devices and notes left by maidens help you piece together the horrors that took place there. Even the routes between locations tell a story and hint at what’s to come, like the pathway to House Beneviento lined with creepy dolls and a foreboding gravestone. There’s almost zero filler, which makes the experience feel incredibly meaty and satisfying.
More action, still plenty of scares
For many fans, Biohazard was a return to form following the divisive Resident Evil 6. It did away with the fast-paced, guns-blazing action and focused on tension-building and genuine scares, with Capcom themselves admitting the game may have been too scary. While Resident Evil 6 and Biohazard sit at either end of the spectrum, Village finds a comfortable mid-way point, re-introducing action to the franchise while still retaining some of the survival-horror elements that made its predecessor so beloved.
Upon arriving at the snow-capped titular village, you’ll find it mostly abandoned, but there’s danger lurking in the shadows – and sometimes on the rooftops. It’s here that you’ll quickly meet the primary cannon fodder, the Lycans. These werewolf-human-hybrids have wiped out most of the local population, leaving the few remaining villagers in a state of fear. They’re the game’s equivalent to zombies, and act as a looming threat in the game’s overworld, sometimes sneaking up on you through the village’s wheat and snow-covered areas, other times watching from above and biding their time until they attack. Taking them out isn’t too hard, but they’re fast and often hunt in packs, always keeping you on your toes.
Sneaking around enemies is an option in some situations, for example, but when you’re swarmed by hungry Lycans in a tight spot you’ll have no choice but to unload all of your resources into them. Ammo is still in short supply, but being able to craft or purchase bullets leaves you less wary of running out. There are also welcome moments of reprieve, where you’re able to take pause and focus on the mission or puzzle at hand.
- Read More: Returnal review
There’s no denying that Resident Evil Village isn’t as scary as Biohazard, and diehards who loved being in a constant state of fear during that game might be disappointed. But overall, the experience this time around feels far more well-rounded. It also provides some breathing room for the scares that do exist to truly stand out – and trust us when we say there are some nightmare-inducing moments to encounter.
Lady Dimitrescu steals the show
Where Biohazard chose to replicate the grubby, hillbilly tropes seen in horror staples like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, Village goes grand and eccentric with its character design, and it’s all the better for it. This is best displayed through the four heads of houses, Village’s bosses who come armed with bags of personality.
There’s the imposing Lady Dimitrescu, who rules over her three flesh-hungry daughters; Moreau, a being of twisted flesh who lives in the reservoir; the unsettling doll maker Donna Beneviento; and the most dangerous of all, the Lycan-leader Heisenberg. They’re all memorable in their own right, and deliver really unique boss fights that feel satisfying to complete. Each head of house has its own heavily-detailed environment to explore, too, which helps add to the world-building and storytelling that Village does so well.
Of course, the real star of Village is Lady Dimitrescu, the embodiment of glamor and camp who’s managed to gather a loyal following months before the game’s release. While the thousands of memes that have flooded the internet might have dampened the fear factor that surrounds her, once she sets her sights on Ethan, she’s actually a truly terrifying enemy – and one of the best we’ve seen in the entire Resident Evil series.
Those 9 feet and 6 inches are put to good use as she relentlessly pursues you through the Castle’s winding corridors, similar to iconic Resident Evil enemies Mr X and Nemesis. Attempting to escape Dimitrescu’s grasp while constantly looking over your shoulder to see her ducking under low archways and wiggling her razor-sharp talons at you is heart-pounding stuff, and it all culminates in a truly show-stopping face-off.
Survival horror at its finest
In order to beat all of the horrors Village throws your way, you’ll need to be prepared. That’s where the Duke comes in, a larger-than-life traveling merchant who pays homage to Resident Evil 4 in more ways than one. He’s a mysterious character who appears to know exactly what’s going on, but merely offers clues to help Ethan on his journey. You’re never sure if he’s friend or foe, but you’ll need him to stock up on ammo, upgrade your weapons, and purchase extra slots in your inventory.
- Read More: Nier Replicant review
Later on, you’ll unlock a recipe system called the Duke’s Kitchen. By offering up meat farmed from various animals like pigs and chickens around the village, you can craft meals to permanently upgrade Ethan’s health, speed, and defense. These upgrades are totally optional, so those looking for a hard-as-nails experience can go without if desired.
Out of respect for both Capcom and the fans, there are loads of surprises and story details we’re leaving out for players to discover themselves, but rest assured there’s plenty of shocking moments in store for Ethan on his journey through Village, including a major twist that changes the course of the game. We’ve been sworn to some degree of secrecy, but what we can say is that it’ll please Resident Evil fans who’ve come to expect huge, standout moments that tie into franchise lore.
It may be a cliche to say, but Resident Evil Village really is like a blockbuster movie experience. With huge set pieces, a genuinely enticing storyline, and some of the most memorable characters we’ve ever seen in the iconic franchise, it’s got all the makings of a modern classic. While Biohazard was the foundation-laying origin story, Village is the juicy main event – and we’re hungry for more.
Resident Evil Village provides a perfect mix of action, exploration, and scares, bringing all of the best parts of the franchise’s history into one incredible experience that’s full to the brim with unforgettable moments and horrifying enemies. If this is what the next generation of survival-horror games looks like, we’re sold. It is outstanding.
Reviewed on PS5
Resident Evil Village guides:
How to defeat Lady Dimitrescu | Wolfsbane revolver location | Finest Fish location | M1911 and Jack Handle locations | Five bells of the chamber guide | How to defeat Moreau | Resident Evil Village mask locations | Resident Evil Village review | Resident Evil Village monsters and enemies list | How to get more money | Weapons list