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Resident Evil is one of the most iconic franchises in gaming. Its introduction in 1996 changed horror games forever, and over the last 25 years it has become a cultural phenomenon, selling more than 110 million units and spawning a wealth of movies, comics, shows, and more. When Resident Evil 7 debuted and looked to take the series in a new direction, many questioned how it would fare. In the end, RE7 was very well received critically and became one of the best-selling games in the series.
With Village, Capcom continues the story of Ethan Winters while simultaneously taking the largest risks in the mainline series since Resident Evil 4. After a brief, but shocking, introduction to the current state of affairs, you are whisked away to a remote location to once again uncover a wealth of mystery.
The first-person perspective is maintained, but this is obviously the first Resident Evil developed for new console hardware, and does it ever show! Capcom flexes the muscle of the RE Engine to great effect, with spectacular visual fidelity and lighting effects. Playing at 4K/60fps with some basic ray-tracing was fantastic on the Xbox Series X, and outside of a few incredibly minor hiccups during cut-scenes I experienced no technical issues whatsoever. I’d go as far as to say it’s the best overall experience I’ve had on the new consoles to date. Sound design is also remarkable, with every aspect teeming with clarity from both the enemies and environments which further heightened the action and terror simultaneously.
When compared to RE7, Village presents a more grand experience with stunning vistas and a beautiful mix of environments. While you’ll still navigate a large castle, tight hallways, and dark caves in traditional franchise fashion, the Village itself acts as a center hub for the new world map. I really enjoyed this approach as it provided a little more freedom of exploration while still maintaining a linear storytelling model that kept me focused on the present task. It also gives you reason to revisit previous areas where you can often discover new side-paths, meaningful items, and new enemies or sub-bosses to battle.
As you work through the campaign, you’ll find a story arc that felt somewhat similar to Biohazard in its overall design. Early on, the game sets up four core antagonists, each with their own unique environments and battles that will test you in numerous ways. I also found each of the characters far more interesting and developed than in Biohazard. Lady Dimitrescu stole the spotlight early on, but each offers something unique and interesting.
As you progress through the story, you will also learn how each of them connects to Umbrella and the larger arc of this trilogy. Generally speaking, what’s presented is well written, save for Ethan himself, who continues to utter nonsensical musings at the most inopportune times.
Sadly, with Village the final act is the weakest again, and it was the only point in the game where I thought to myself, ‘I just want this part to be done with.’ Not that it was bad, it just didn’t live up to the rest of the game, and felt as though it dragged on a bit. Regardless, as an overall experience I truly enjoyed the campaign and appreciate Capcom continuing to evolve their approach to the series. In particular, I really enjoyed the ending, which provided a lot more context on where the trilogy is heading. Also, while Village is not necessarily as “dark horror” as other entries, it certainly has its moments of terror. Without spoilers of course, trust me when I say you will remember the Beneviento act.
Just in case you haven’t paid any attention to Village since it was first shown, it expands the horror angle to a broader spectrum. If Biohazard was the series reboot that focused on survival-horror, Village shifts it to action-horror while splashing a heavy dose of bizarre in for good measure. The series has always asked you for ample suspension of belief, and that’s certainly true here as well.
You’ll face a wide array of enemies along the way that you’ve never faced before, which I found very refreshing. They come in all shapes and sizes, and not only include the arena boss battles the series is known for, but several mini-boss encounters that can be just as challenging. I really enjoyed the variety offered here, with every battle feeling unique and requiring different weapons and tactics to be most effective.
To help you tackle the countless monstrosities, you’ll be armed with a diversity of weaponry that you can mix, match, and upgrade to your heart’s content. Naturally the classics are all here, including the fierce magnum, but there are new wrinkles as well. In particular, I found the sniper rifle to be more use than I initially thought it would be. And after beating the game the first time, you can then unlock new weapons to run through the game again, and even unlock special attributes such as unlimited ammo.
Village presents a new character in Duke, a rather large and curious gentleman who has a shop setup for you to visit throughout the game. You earn currency by collecting items, killing enemies, and solving puzzles, all of which can be spent at Duke’s shop. He not only sells weapons, items, and upgrades, but can also cook you meals based on some crafting components you will find on your journey. While a relatively minor component overall, it’s a small touch that gives the game a little more depth, and I appreciated it. Duke will also talk to you intermittently about the history of certain characters and help clue you in to some of the mystery. Again, it’s small touches like these that add up to create an exemplary experience.
Mercenaries returns in Village with timed runs filled with enemies and bonus abilities. The setup here is familiar and fun, with quick rounds of action followed by intermissions with Duke where you can upgrade your gear along the way. As usual, it’s a nice addition to the overall package. It’s also worth calling out that Resident Evil RE Verse is included with Village. While it has been delayed as of this writing, it is another mode to consider. You can see the official teaser video here.
I’ve been playing Resident Evil games since the very beginning (in fact I still have my large, boxed copy for the PS1). In the past 25 years there have been highs and lows, but as a franchise it seems to be in a really good place at the moment. RE7 offered a fresh direction, while the modern remakes have been exemplary. With Village, Capcom kept just enough of the Resident Evil DNA intact while adding engrossing new wrinkles that propel it above RE7 for me, personally. In fact, Village is one of my favorite entries in the franchise so far, and my favorite modern Resident Evil. Now, I’m off to ensure there are no dolls in my house.