Capcom’s Resident Evil Village weaves in fan-favorite elements from previous games while continuing to lean into first-person horror.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of Resident Evil, Capcom’s enormously successful survival horror video game franchise. The series has commemorated the landmark by launching its eighth main installment (All due respect to Resident Evil – Code: Veronica and Resident Evil Zero), Resident Evil Village. Following Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’s protagonist Ethan Winters, the new game continues the first-person perspective from its immediate predecessor while weaving in more action elements and classic tropes from the venerable survival horror franchise to great effect; Village isn’t as scary as Biohazard but it’s a richer, more accessible game that balances new and old to great effect.

Three years after Ethan rescued his wife Mia from the sinister Baker family deep in the Louisiana bayou, Ethan finds himself stranded in a snowbound European village, searching for his missing infant daughter Rosemary. Finding many of the locals terrified and sheltering from the wrath of various monsters prowling across the countryside, Ethan must venture into several different castles and other ominous structures populated with werewolves, vampires, ghouls and other things that go in the night, all bloodthirsty and harrowing in their own monstrous right. Determined to rescue his daughter, Ethan braves unspeakable terrors while investigating the dark mystery of Mother Miranda, the village’s matron figure, as he struggles to survive.

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While Village retains some of the mounting tension and sense of dread as Biohazard, most noticeable when Ethan is forced to fend for himself in the dark, unsure what evils the shadows conceal, the game does revolve around more conventional action elements. Whereas Biohazard primarily focused on Ethan hiding and outmaneuvering the Baker family through the overgrown estate, Village takes more cues from 2005’s Resident Evil 4, and more than just its European town setting: While Ethan does navigate through stealth sequences, the gunplay has been heightened and Ethan can barricade himself in rooms and structures to offer himself a more defensible position. This means the horror and suspense are diminished in favor of combat, with scares largely relegated to the build-up and cinematic sequences.

Fortunately, the combat system is much more refined than it had been in Biohazard to help facilitate that shift in gameplay emphasis. The crafting system from Biohazard returns but there is a bigger variety in weaponry Ethan can use to face the forces of darkness. Ethan can still guard against physical attacks, especially key in the game’s more claustrophobic moments, but as long as ammunition is rationed out carefully, this close-quarters combat doesn’t necessarily occur quite as often as one would think. That sense of variety in the armaments is something that Capcom really emphasizes in several different aspects of Village over its immediate predecessor: Biohazard was focused on Ethan facing one antagonist, more or less, at a time and just variations on the Baker family and how they reacted to that game’s mutative molds. Resident Evil Village is a bonafide monster mash, presumably drawing enough influence from the classic Universal Monsters that it would make Konami’s Castlevania franchise jealous.

Presentation-wise, Village is similarly more varied than Biohazard, with greater attention to detail and a greater breadth in environments to explore. The lighting effects and graphical textures are gorgeously rendered, with significantly farther draw distances and environmental effects than its predecessor. The sound design remains as crisp as ever, helping fuel tension and unease as Ethan hears what’s hunting him before he actually gets the chance to see it. But whereas Biohazard was a stripped-down, dirty departure from the main series, Village is able to weave in some of the more operative and grandiose elements, with a main hub that constantly rewards players coming back for further exploration and different domains linked to it, each visually distinct from each other with the types of enemies within and trappings they’ve built for themselves.

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While the added emphasis on combat and strategy is a welcome one, right down an in-game merchant that feels straight out of Resident Evil 4, the game generally becomes less of a horror title overall as it progresses and is more of a horror-themed action title. Resident Evil fans have been divided by the franchise moving away from its survival horror roots over time and while Biohazard brought the scares, Village‘s gameplay shift will likely reignite the debate in tonal balance. And while Resident Evil Village being more accessible than Biohazard is certainly a smart, logical decision, the game itself is never particularly difficult, especially with its enemy A.I. being one of the more clunky aspects of its overall execution.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, for its occasional flaws, was a game that put the survival back in survival horror, reminding gamers just how terrifying Resident Evil could be after years of more action-oriented adventures. Having grown more comfortable with its first-person perspective gameplay and its eternally hapless protagonist Ethan Winters, Capcom has woven those action elements back in, but not to the point where it overly distracts and takes away from the overall gameplay experience. Resident Evil Village feels much more like a conventional Resident Evil game than its predecessor while keeping enough from Biohazard that it continues to feel like a natural extension to it. Resident Evil Village isn’t afraid to lean on some familiar tropes from games past while building upon Biohazard‘s foundation and, in doing so, Capcom has crafted perhaps the best, purest version of Resident Evil to ever reach gamers.

Developed and published by Capcom, Resident Evil Village is available now for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia.

KEEP READING: Why Resident Evil 5 Is a Masterful Successor to Resident Evil 4

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