PlatformOVERALL
PlayStation8.70
Overall 8.70
It has been quite the roller coaster following this incredible franchise over the years. Resident Evil 7 was the return to form the series desperately needed after losing its way with RE6. After a hugely successful remake and another decent but forgettable one; RE Village follows in 7s footsteps to push the series forward with some new elements and continue the story of Ethan Winters. Village manages to carve out an identity for itself while maintaining the mix of action and horror the series is known for. It wears its influences on its sleeve touching on the foundations of the two major types of RE games while not committing to either one. This leads to a game that I feel didn’t live up to the potential it could have but there is no denying how well made this varied game is. It’s a new balance, there isn’t quite a RE game like it; with some incredible production values and a good sized adventure; RE Village is another great entry.

The titular Village is the true star of this game, a central hub which is fully explorable which leads to the major areas of each of the four main villains. Director Sato had said he wanted Village to feel like a horror amusement park and that’s exactly why this game is so great. Each section of the world is different from the next. Never have I seen a RE game have such varied gameplay sections. One moment you are in a grand castle hunting for keys while being chased by the internet famous Lady Dimitrescu, the next you are in a location that feels like it’s PTs little brother. The best part of it all is how open the game is, the four bases are locked away after you complete them but the entire Village and surrounding areas can be explored at will oftentimes revealing secrets and even optional bosses. It’s almost a metroid like structure where new items gained in these bases unlock previously inaccessible areas. This scratches that exploration itch; to have surprises around every corner, returning to old locations and finding a new gigantic creature waiting to eat you is inspired design.  

One of the biggest critiques of RE7 was the poor enemy variety, RE8 takes that to heart with some great new creature designs. Enemies come in different shapes and sizes, the lycans are fast and agile, constantly moving around to make getting a clean shot difficult. Like the ganado some carry weapons, some shoot bows and arrows, some are armored. Later in the game there are new kinds of enemies with new strategies needed to defeat them. Above all I enjoyed the mini bosses scattered about, this kept me on my toes as I explored and while a few of them repeat I was always thrilled to find a new battle. This rogue gallery is memorable and makes combat as interesting as the mechanics allow; they are dangerous, they can crowd you at inopportune times, it’s a big improvement over 7.

Developers made no effort to hide the RE4 influence with action that is far more prevalent. That being said it is not structured like the action RE games, it’s still horror focused with more focus on exploring and solving puzzles while having a good amount of enemies to shoot. This is where the game starts to show cracks as the action is missing important elements that made the action RE games so amazing. For one it still feels much like the slow moving RE7. This game is in first person but lacks the fast twitch aiming of the more traditional shooters and for good reason, it’s supposed to be horror focused so slowing down the character is key in creating tension. But when you up the enemy movement, increase the amount of guns, and force players to shoot a whole lot more while not changing the movement and aiming speeds well it opens the game up to criticism. I’m used to these horror paced games so I personally didn’t have much issue with the feel of the combat but I can’t blame others for not liking it.

My main issue is with the viewpoint, 7 always had the excuse of VR and the focus on horror so a first person viewpoint was chosen to enhance that; 8 has neither of those. When you focus on action, especially if you are going for a more methodical action style, then third person is a far better viewpoint. There were a few bosses that felt very ill designed for first person where the player has to constantly run away forcing you to not see where the boss is or whether its attack is in your range.

Like RE7 there is a block button to mitigate damage, a new shove is added which is activated by pressing block right after a successful block. Strangely this is the only form of melee there is, I feel action RE benefits greatly from having stunned enemy contextual melee attacks, this adds a whole layer to the combat that is missing. The extra mode Not A Hero had Chris punching enemies in RE7, what happened to that?

The merchant and weapon economy perfectly compliments the more open nature of the game as most all backtracking the player does is to acquire a valuable treasure or gun upgrade. The better weapon selection greatly helps the feel of the combat introduced in RE7, having options always helps making combat more varied. These weapons can be upgraded in various ways which adds a layer layer of strategy to how to use the money earned. Though it’s a shame that pretty much every weapon is outdated by a new model you find later, RE4 did a better job of offering similar guns that excel at different aspects. While this merchant system was inspired by RE4, down to a mysterious NPC merchant, I feel the true reason to include upgrading is to appease the masses, people love upgrading gear. It also allowed them to remove the managing of items, making for a much more accessible game. It’s a good balance they found, they didn’t go all in on action which would aggravate the horror fans and they didn’t go the RE2 route and go full classic RE which can be difficult for many. I feel RE Village checks so many of the boxes to make a game everyone can enjoy while retaining the story, creatures and locations that the series is known for.

The first major action sequence of this game harkens back to the village attack of RE4 as Ethan must survive an onslaught of enemies for a few minutes while running from house to house, pushing bookcases over the doors, shooting lycans out of windows and then being chased by a huge hammer wielding monster. At that point I felt this game would be the spiritual successor to RE4 but sadly those moments are not the norm. The majority of the game is actually more like classic RE design; it has enemies act as obstacles in your path without much thought put into the level design. A lot of the game's combat takes place in hallways or village passageways where enemies simply appear four or five at a time and you battle them without any real strategy outside managing ammo. Later in the game there is a section called the Stronghold where finally there is a level with proper action design and the contrast from that section to others is staggering. RE4 is a series of non stop well designed action scenarios, that’s not what this game is at all, it far far more RE7 in level design while having just more action.

Castle Dimitrescu is the location that got the most pre-release buzz and it’s the largest of the four enemy bases. It’s a large castle with many winding hallways and locked rooms. There are keys to be found, puzzles to solve and some enemies to dispatch all while occasionally Lady Dimitrescu chases the player like Jack Baker did back in 7. While this section had the potential to be an all time great RE location I felt it was a bit weak because it’s missing the key ingredient for RE locations to work, the limited inventory. The reason why old RE worked and why RE2 remake is award winning is because those levels are made to force the player into constant decisions on what to carry, how much ammo to save, and which areas to clear; all decisions that can lead to death if things go wrong. This castle is too empty and without that constant layer of strategy missing it feels like a bland level with the occasional enemy appearing. Exploring it is still fun and when Lady Dimitrescu starts to give chase it can be a bit nerve wracking, though the castle is so big losing her was much much more easy than Jack or Mr. X. The best parts of this section, and all sections in Village, are the scripted moments that put you into a dangerous situation.

After each section Ethan returns to the village to slowly open more areas of the game world, this is where most of the optional content lies. Returning with new items, that open locked homes or gated areas, can lead to optional boss battles for treasures or weapons. Speaking of bosses, Village has a great collection of them. I wouldn’t say it has the best bosses of the series but from top to bottom I enjoyed all of them, no stinker in the bunch. Each of the major boss battles have the epic spectacle I have come to expect from this series. While the optional bosses aren’t as bombastic, they serve as a risk reward decision as they could be difficult to kill, meaning you will lose ammo and maybe health but can earn a nice reward to further enhance Ethan.

Each of the major areas feels different from one another which leads to a game that never feels repetitive. It’s a lengthy game for this series, about 12 hours if you fully explore the optional areas. I always want a game to keep surprising me, keep the gameplay fresh and interesting and Village excels at that. There seems to be some rumblings of players who do not like the final areas; I do not understand those complaints as I feel the final area is one of the best in the game and feels more like classic RE than any previous area. There is always a mad dash of action at the end of these RE games and Village is no exception, I don’t understand why everyone gets upset time and time again when the ending turns into an action movie... that’s the series you are playing!

I would advise any experienced player to play on hardcore on the first go. The initial area might seem extremely hard but the game soon evens out and on hardcore managing ammo is more important and the danger is such that each encounter requires attention. On standard you will have mountains of ammo and hardly be in danger, fun only for those that like a stress free ride. There is an unlockable super hard mode which remixes some enemy placements and is a very worthy challenge, this is also a great reason for having new game + and using all those upgraded weapons.

Mercenaries mode makes a triumphant return as a bonus mode once the game is finished. I find this iteration of Mercs to be one of the worst as it trades the free form kill as many enemies as possible in a certain amount of time to a more structured level approach. This removes any of the creativity players could have in how they approach killing enemies. In this mercs there is one correct path and a very limited selection of weapons. Learning the best route and simply using the shotgun is the way to beat the first four levels. Finishing those unlocks hard versions of those same levels now with basically only a pistol and a few bonus weapons with limited ammo to use. Only Ethan is playable which is a big departure as Mercenaries is always filled with multiple characters to choose from . It feels like a half baked mode but I am still pleased it’s included as getting SSS ranks is a solid challenge, more extra content never hurt anyone.

The story of Village takes place three years after RE7 and it’s one of the few games in this series to be a direct sequel to the last (hell it might be the only one). This means faceless every man Ethan Winters returns and he is as bland as ever, basically serving as a proxy for the player though he does show more personality in this one. For the most part he is there to just comment on what’s happening with reactions like “holy shit”, “what’s happening?!”. He is still a bottom tier RE hero but at least this game injects more human traits by giving Ethan easy connection points to the audience, mainly his search for his kidnapped daughter and that intrinsic emotional connection makes it easy to root for him. Chris Redfield returns (this time with his correct face) in a much larger role but still just a secondary character. I really liked his portrayal in this as short as it was. The stars of the game are the motley group of lords, the two stand outs being Dimitrescu and Heisenberg. Both are great villains but Heisenberg is the one that steals the show as a cheesy arrogant asshole who never shuts up. For a RE game the story is above average mainly because each of the lords keeps things interesting throughout. For series vets there are some ties to series lore in the files but most of the game is a self contained sequel to the last one. I feel the story and the way the story is presented in general is better in this game than 7.

The RE engine continues to impress with its beautiful environmental details and great character models all while running buttery smooth on the PS5. Village is beautiful to look at, the artists at Capcom have outdone themselves creating memorable locations and disturbing monstrosities. No one plays a RE game to get great acting but as far as this series goes everyone does a great job, it’s a memorable cast with a special nod toward Heisnberg. Oh and play this game with the 3D audio on a headset if you can, fantastic sound design as the game is packed with creepy noises to add to the apprehension of entering the next foreboding area. Top to bottom RE8 is the definition of a finely polished AAA game.

Village wrestles with not having the best elements of old RE and not having the incredible combat design or even the mechanics of action RE. Essentially a new style of RE is born, one that I feel is actually kind of traditional AAA in feel, which is to say a game filled with setpieces and some meaningful exploration. This game just feels fun to play, it’s constantly pushing the player to the next event. I never knew what was going to happen and while not all sections are fantastic I don’t think there is one bad area in the bunch. Enemies provide just enough of a threat to keep the ammo count low, enough to get a tinge of panic to start, though there is always that next ammo box or ingredient needed to make ammo around the next corner. I find this game to be beautifully paced, when I wanted more action it came. When I felt it needed a new weapon there was one. Big moments like boss battles come almost every other hour. So while the core mechanics aren’t the deepest it all comes together as a fun engaging action horror romp.

All in all Village is a big success for Capcom as I believe they will have a huge hit on their hands that will please fans and newcomers alike. Personally some of the game design decisions felt like they sacrificed having deeper focus on one design philosophy for something more inviting to all players. Still at its heart, Village absolutely still feels as authentic a Resident Evil game as there is. To me this game and 7 form a pair of sorts which I will rank next to each other though I can see myself flip flopping on which I like better over time. I believe 7 has the better singular vision and execution of that vision while 8 I feel is more fun to play. Resident Evil Village is simply a great game from top to bottom and one of the easiest RE games to recommend to anyone.

Overall Score: 8.6


SPOILERS

Now I’m going to get into deep commentary on every location in the game so major spoilers ahead. The village itself is the heart of the game and while it isn’t visually the most interesting location I loved the constant changes each time you return after defeating a lord. There are sometimes subtle changes like a locked door that is now open which leads to a basement you might miss entirely. Optional bosses roaming old areas, the best being the giant Varcolac in the corn field.  I had no reason to go there but I had seen enemies spawn differently before in that same area so I always made it a point to recheck if something new was there and when I saw that beast roaming around I got so excited. The village layout also allows for decent strategy in handling enemies with homes to barricade, rooftops to get on and narrow paths to create choke points. The bulk of the players freedom comes from exploring the village and those were some of my favorite moments. It also is the most unique aspect of this RE game as no RE game before this really had a central hub that you return to many times over.

Castle Dimitrescu was a larger version of the Baker house, like the Baker house it’s mostly devoid of standard enemies and has a stalker chasing you around. Because of the added size at least the castle adds the daughters as fun mini bosses. Early previews were saying that these daughters had multiple ways to take them down so I expected much more from their fights. The strategy is exactly the same with all three with only minor change which is how you make the room cold. Lady D herself is not that dangerous mainly because the castle is very spacious, in 7 when Jack finds you in a hallway you aren’t getting around him, this means you have to run back and find a hiding spot. Now I generally hate that mechanic so I was thrilled to simply be able to out maneuver her to the point where she was basically an afterthought. This game fails to learn the lessons of RE2 and why Mr. X worked to perfection because of that I feel the stalker aspect and the castle in general is really missing any urgency or quality gameplay.

Let’s talk a bit about how much of RE7s structure is actually deep within this game. The village is really the only major deviation from the RE7 flow. The first major area is a large mansion with a stalker. That mansion generally is lacking in enemies until you are forced to go down into the basement where enemies roam. There is a set path throught the mansion/castle that takes you to scripted moments of combat in between the running around a big empty area. It culminates in a large boss battle which leads to the next section. Again removing the village segments from this analogy, the next area would be Beneviento which is sort of the Lucas section, a heavily scripted escape room like section. There isn’t really an equivalent to Marguerite Baker’s house as that was just a smaller scale Jack section, so I like that they did away with that redundancy. Stronghold can loosely be compared to Lucas’ gauntlet of enemies. Then the ship and Heisenberg’s are similar late game areas that have winding hallways and tons of enemies to dispatch. It follows with a heavy action run through the mine/Chris village and ends in the final boss. I enjoyed the ebb and flow of RE7 and it’s even better paced in 8 but I was hoping for a more RE4 like structure and there is none of that to be found here.

House Beneviento was unique, interesting, clearly a section made to go viral and I think it succeeded in that regard.  It’s heavily inspired by PT and I like that there is nothing like it in any other RE game. The most talked about moment is of course the baby which is the stuff of nightmares, a generally surprising scary moment that made me “nope” so hard I almost got whiplash. That being said it’s only good once due to the heavily scripted nature of this section and how there is only one way to complete it. There is no combat at all so difficulty changes have no effect on this section. On replays this becomes a 15 minute slog right smack in the middle of the game that takes no skill whatsoever. Why couldn’t they flesh out this section by letting the baby be a true threat, add some element that allows the player to actually experiment or develop a strategy to avoid it.  The doll “boss fight” is a joke as well, they could have done much more to make it a puzzle situation rather than just memorizing the spawn points of the doll. MGS4 had a boss battle with Laughing Octopus where she hides in different locations in the boss area and the player has many tools and tricks they can use to get the drop on her, that’s how I would approach a boss like this. Give us clues and elements that we can then piece together to figure out where the doll is. Not even the sound of her laughter was that good of an indicator, so it becomes mindless running around and later memorization.

I enjoyed the Moreau section, I’ll say it. It’s also heavily scripted but at least it’s in the style of a big action setpiece. Once you learn exactly what to do during the windmill phase it becomes rather easy, it is just avoiding him when crossing the bridges but at least that’s something involving player interaction. There is the one puzzle with raising the bridges and another later on with turning on the pumps which are simple but effective. It’s a nice section that serves as a proper build up for what I think is one of the better boss battles in the game. Moreau’s boss area is shaped like a grid, like say Vulcan Raven from MGS. The battle evolves by limiting the paths the player can take, this creates good escalation of difficulty. He stalks you through these paths which have well placed red barrels to shoot creating a tried and true method to defeat it. Sheltered areas from the rain are well placed so that you have just enough time from when Moreau starts his acid rain attack for you to reach one of those areas. It’s a well designed fight, huge in scale, exactly what I love from RE bosses.

If you notice the first three lord bases don’t follow any of the classic RE structures. Yes the castle has the feel of a traditional main location in an old RE game but without any of the item management so it totally misses the point of an area like that. If not for the village interludes a lot of the game would be scripted or running around empty locations; strange design for a game that is supposed to be the action heavy version of RE7. It’s not until the stronghold and the factory when you see flashes of RE4 and old RE design. Stronghold is probably my favorite area in the game because it’s clearly the most inspired by RE4. Finally there is an action sequence that takes place in a location designed to create an interesting battle. Lycans can attack from above and afar with arrows, there are strategically placed barrels that can be used, staircases and zip lines to get around the battlefield. There is also a fantastic mix of heavy armored enemies, range enemies, the in your face grunts, and then a boss battle to top it all off. When the developers started to say RE4 was an inspiration this is what I pictured in my head.

For whatever reason the factory has plenty of detractors, I never understand why people don’t want a difficult gameplay heavy section toward the end of their game. The entire point of building up your character and stockpiling ammo is for the final gauntlet. I loved the factory, first of all it is oozing in personality with its gritty sci-fi horror aesthetic. A sort of mad scientist stronghold where the unsettling experiments have escaped and run rampant throughout. It introduces a whole new group of enemies, some which take inspiration from the regenerators of RE4 with the tank like nature of them and specific weak points that need to be targeted. I felt claustrophobic navigating the maze like darkened halls, not knowing what the hell is going to literally drop out of the ceiling to kill me.

The level layout is open enough to feel like you can get lost but the path to victory is actually quite straightforward. Again it’s missing the item management of classic RE which makes the running around grabbing molds to carry around rather pointless, but the constant threats do make ammo management a key component. RE7’s ship segment was a small-scale representation of old RE, with its managing item slots, and that’s why for me it’s one of the strongest areas in RE7. It falters a bit by having the player do that section essentially twice, gladly RE8 does away with any of those “tape” segments so the factory is paced far better. Still it’s missing that extra layer of management that makes the classic games so great and made RE2 remake an instant classic. This game removes any decision making like “should I pick up that herb and bullets, or save space for the key I will need to carry around” or “Is the extra trip to the item box worth it”. Without those decisions a section like this is only as interesting as the combat moments within, what items you are looking for and where you are going doesn’t really matter. That in a nutshell is what is holding RE8 back for me from being in the top tier RE games.

The alternative way for RE8 to be a top tier game would have been to go all in RE4 style and the final hour of this game attempts to do that but ends up feeling more like RE6 than 4. Now don’t get me wrong I love stupid action, the bigger and dumber the action the more excited I get, I just ask that the gameplay isn’t sloppy. Thankfully it’s not here, it’s just not that great either. The Heisenberg boss is a gimmicky battle, no dispute there but in the context of the game it provides a really cool moment that’s unlike anything that comes before and is a fun traditional “turret” battle this time in the form of a tank. Yeah they could have gone a hundred different ways with a Heisenberg boss battle, I’m sure it could have been better but I will take the gimmicky FUN action moment as it serves the story well.

Right after a very drama heavy story moment we get the Chris segment which is where all semblance of old RE is thrown out the window and we are straight call of duty. This section isn’t particularly well designed as it’s basically Chris running down a long straight line shooting everything in his way and let’s face it, the core shooting isn’t interesting enough to support such a segment. A game like this needs the level design, it needs the lack of ammo to feel dangerous. Once again I am split where I appreciate the over the top thrill of finally letting loose on all these bastard monsters but feeling that the level design is woefully under developed. The segment ends with a boss battle against a new version of Urias which is more annoying than fun. It’s an extremely small area to fight such a big enemy. The whole use of the marker to blow up the monster has been done in previous games in the series better than this.

We end the game with heartless Ethan battling Miranda who as far as RE final bosses go isn’t half bad. Tell me I wasn’t the only one that got huge Saddler vibes when she is in her spider form. You can maybe say the same about her flight form with Alexia in Code Veronica. The changing of forms worked, it keeps the battle fresh as she has all kinds of attacks and no real gimmick to succeed. It’s a traditional skill based boss battle that can play out differently depending on how well you saved up on firepower, and that to me is the RE way. My only complaint would be that I wish there was a better build up to the final, the game gets disjointed with all the character swapping and location jumping.

So those are my thoughts on RE Village, right now I am finishing up my fourth playthrough and have beaten Mercenaries fully. Like all RE games, being able to replay the game for unlockable goodies is a big part of the appeal and I find Village to be mostly a fun game to replay, more so than 7. I think as time goes on I might like this game more and more where a game like RE3make has my opinion diminishing the more I think about it. I hope some of the new elements like the more open hub area remains, can you imagine a game like that but every area the hub leads to is amazing RE4 style combat areas, that would be the dream which could maybe happen with RE4 remake. For now I am more than satisfied with Village, it's not the home run I hoped for but it’s going to be a RE game I enjoy playing for years to come.
Posted by Dvader Fri, 21 May 2021 22:30:37
 
Fri, 21 May 2021 22:37:41
Good details on the first half of the review. I'll get to this game before the year is out, as it's pretty high on my list and then I shall return to read the rest of your thoughts.
 
Sun, 23 May 2021 16:21:44
Yours will be the only review I'll read.
 
Sun, 23 May 2021 17:51:02
I’m raising the score by huge .1 just cause the super hard mode was so much fun. Every battle created tension, every choice of shot mattered, managing ammo mattered. It’s what I love.
 
Sun, 23 May 2021 21:10:00
Loved reading your review. I feel somewhat shut out of the RE discussion these days as none of the newer ones have made it to a platform I own. I'm still a little perplexed as to how the new ones feel and play like. I've played a few first person horror games and they always feel a little lacking in personality.
 
Sun, 23 May 2021 21:16:12
Try it, this one in particular is very accessible, a really fun ride. RE7 in contrast is very foreboding and stress inducing.
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