Resident Evil Village Review on PS5
The release of Resident Evil VII in 2017 marked a return to form for the storied series. Although it swapped over to a first-person perspective and some drastic changes in overall design, the game was undoubtedly true to the survival-horror roots the franchise is best known for. Whether or not Resident Evil Village would keep up this trend, though, had perhaps been a point of concern for many fans, especially since Capcom had not been shy in teasing a departure from series norms ahead of its release.
Fortunately, though, those worries were mostly misplaced. While it may stumble at the finish line, Village is another strong entry into the survival horror mainstay and demonstrates how capable Capcom is in its ability to innovate and improve the series for the better moving forward.
This is something readily apparent from the get-go, too, as Village introduces a bold new story premise that involves vampires, werewolves, and other creatures unfamiliar to the RE franchise. In a brief cinematic, players learn that Ethan and Mia have been relocated to Europe by Chris Redfield after the events of the first game. They’ve had a daughter named Rose, and all seems to be peaceful for the couple.
Or at least, it is until Mia is gunned down by Chris and his men, and Ethan and Rose are taken into their custody for unknown reasons. Shortly after this, the squad transporting them is attacked, leaving Ethan stranded on the outskirts of a nearby village beset by a wide variety of horrors out of European folklore. Not only that, but Rose is nowhere to be found, having been taken by whoever attacked Chris’s men.
Ethan then has to sort through what is happening in said village, uncover how it’s tied to the sudden tearing apart of his family, and fight the monstrosities that have taken his daughter.
Although the introduction may sound abrupt and frantic on paper, Village’s story is surprisingly well-paced and easy to become engrossed in. I was drawn into each new revelation or plot point in a way that feels natural, and almost every new plot thread felt like it fit with everything else the game had presented.
It’s also chock-full of scares, gore, and everything else Resident Evil fans could want. For every bit of intrigue and moment where Ethan unravels what happened to his daughter, there are scenes where he has to face down mutated monstrosities and creatures eager to rip him to shreds.
As stated before though, these monsters aren’t the usual infected or mold men from past entries. Resident Evil Village draws heavily from western monster and horror influences, providing a more varied cast of enemies in the process.
One area throws an army of lycans at you, each one swift and ferocious enough to tear you apart. Another has shambling ghouls wielding medieval weapons and blood-sucking vampires, while yet another is filled with unnerving puppets that could spring to life at any moment.
It’s a big departure from Resident Evil norms and might take a little getting used to for longtime fans of the series. At the same time, it’s a godsend for anyone who was tired of killing yet more zombies or tearing through hoards of Resident Evil VII’s generic mold creatures.
Of course, none of this would matter if Resident Evil Village wasn’t fun to play. Fortunately, the latest entry’s gameplay is fantastic and goes a long way toward proving the shift to first-person was a worthwhile decision.
Gunplay is more fast-paced and frantic than in VII, with each weapon touting its own strengths and weaknesses to account for. Likewise, each enemy has its own behavioral patterns and variations on attacks to make note of, forcing the player to study them and attack with the best possible weapon from their arsenal.
In a single five minute stretch of gameplay, I had to pepper a lycan enemy with handgun fire, snipe a flying enemy out of the sky with the sniper rifle, and blow away generic ghouls with the shotgun in quick succession. This was all while sprinting around to make sure I was in the best position for the next attack.
The game can admittedly veer further into action than horror as a result of this, but not in a way that abandons the tense and oppressive atmosphere in exchange for an adrenaline boost. There were still plenty of segments that managed to make me feel like I was up against nearly-insurmountable terrors, and like I’d need to choose between fighting or fleeing.
Puzzles, meanwhile, run the usual gamut of Resident Evil fare. You’re still required to track down certain items and objects, combine other items to create special keys, and solve riddles to decipher the way to move forward. They often require a fair bit of contemplation to figure out, and hide deceptively simple solutions in plain sight.
While you may run into stretches where you’re at a loss on how to progress as a result, this serves to make solving them that much more rewarding.
Bolstering this is the game’s side quests. In addition to progressing the main story, you can freely explore the game’s pseudo-open world for optional treasures and special items to collect. Many of them will only be obtainable after finding specific tools, or solving puzzles that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the game.
Taking the time to find them can get you heaps of currency and items to improve your overall stats with, while also providing more puzzles and content to enjoy.
It’s another addition that, while not something people might associate with the Resident Evil series, fits in splendidly. Likewise, it shows how the series could successful incorporate modern gameplay norms without losing its identity.
Rounding out the game’s strengths – and bolstering every other part of the title in the process – is the audio and visual presentation. On the graphical front, Resident Evil Village is a joy to look at. Its environments are all detailed to an exceptional degree, with lighting effects that help amp up the realism and creepiness of its striking gothic locations.
These effects are further enhanced when playing on next-gen consoles. While I can’t speak to how it looks on Xbox Series X, the PS5 version was a beauty to behold whether the game was played at standard HD or pushed to the limit with its native 4K resolution.
The sound design, meanwhile, is expertly crafted. Every creak, growl, and shriek from enemies is a feast for the ears and helps create a terrifying ambiance that’s utterly intoxicating. The music always fits the situation to a tee, too, and the voice acting is expertly handled no matter how hammy or overblown the writing may get.
With all that said though, Resident Evil Village isn’t without its flaws; or rather, late game flaws that come together to create a somewhat lackluster finale.
In its final few hours, Village’s gameplay loses a lot of its momentum due to an obtuse and rather tedious final area. It does manage to gain some of this momentum back as things build back up to the final boss fight, but it never quite recaptures the same excitement of the first three quarters of the game.
The fact that the story suddenly ups the pace doesn’t help matters. While the gameplay drags, the story begins moving at a quicker pace than it does throughout the rest of the game. While this does help wrap things up neatly, it also speeds through moments and plot points that could have used more room to breathe in order to land better.
To top this off, both the gameplay and story veer more into Resident Evil’s sillier side by the end. It’s nothing new compared to the rest of the series – save for one particular fight with a key antagonist that no one in their right mind would have expected – but it’s a departure from the more serious tone Resident Evil VII established.
It’s not enough to drag down the overall experience, but it does serve to weaken what could have been an exceptional ending to an otherwise fantastic game.
And yet, even with these flaws accounted for, there’s no doubt that Resident Evil Village is a great title by its own merits and a fantastic entry into the Resident Evil franchise. Longtime fans will find plenty to love about the game and the innovations it brings to the table, while newer fans will discover more than a few reasons to stick with the series moving forward.
- Great gunplay.
- Interesting and engaging puzzles.
- Well-implemented exploration mechanics.
- Varied enemy design.
- Game loses steam in the final act.
- Story rushes to the conclusion.
May 7, 2021
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC