I wouldn’t describe myself as a Resident Evil fan, or even really a horror fan. It’s not that I have anything against the Resident Evil series or the horror genre, it’s just not usually my cup of tea. Consequently, if you’re really big on the series or on horror in general, I’m probably not the right person to look to for impressions on this game. That being said, I actually really loved the game, and I think it’s partly because the developers decided to tone down the horror elements a little bit after getting some player feedback about Resident Evil 7- but we’ll come back to that.
For now, let’s talk about what Resident Evil Village actually is. It’s the latest entry in the Resident Evil series, serving as a direct sequel to Resident Evil 7. Ethan and Mia are together again, and they have a baby named Rose. Predictably, things go bad pretty much right away, and Ethan is thrown into yet another horrific situation, much to his dismay. You start off in a mostly destroyed and abandoned town which serves as a bit of a hub area throughout the game – at the start it’s almost entirely closed off, but you see all the spots you can come back to later with the requisite item to explore. As you play through the game and complete each main “area”, you’ll return to the village hub again and again, each time able to explore a few more of those spots. It’s a really clever and enjoyable system, particularly because it avoids a big issue I often have with metroidvania games – having to remember all these obscure little spots to trudge all the way back to later on. Instead, the flow of gameplay and exploration here is much more natural – you go off to complete part of the story, and always return with something new in hand you can use to unlock more of the hub, which in turn better prepares you for the trials you’ll face as you go back to chipping away at the main objective.
This part is super subjective, but for me (read: somebody who normally isn’t huge on horror, the only horror game I’ve beaten is RE2: Remake), Resident Evil Village strikes the perfect balance between horror, action, and comedy. I know there are a substantial number of people out there that absolutely loved Resident Evil 7 (which apparently was significantly more scary), but I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this game nearly as much if the horror dial had been turned up many more notches. I felt like it struck this amazing balance of throwing in a lot of spooky moments and using a wide variety of tools to really build up the suspense and tension on the way there, but also cleverly spreading those out a bit between moments of rest, development of the plot, and points of extreme silliness. The restraint was absolutely critical to my enjoyment of this game – the developers were really clever about knowing when to really amp up the pressure and when to ease off and give you a chance to reset.
Another thing I really love about Village is how it (apparently) treads more in the footsteps of the more action-heavy Resident Evil 4 as opposed to some of the more horror-heavy games (presumably like 7). Conservation of ammo is still somewhat important, but you’re not necessarily expected to leave things alive, and in most cases doing so will actually put you at a disadvantage. Killing enemies costs you a few bullets, but they also drop treasures that you can sell for money which you can use to get better stuff. This might come off as though the horror-level of the game has been significantly dialed down (if you can just kill everything, how is it scary?), but don’t worry – I assure you it is not that simple. There are plenty of enemies that are not so easily dispatched.
There are so many other things about Resident Evil Village that I love – the quality of life improvements such as the attache inventory system (and key items not taking up space), the map marking areas of interest and rooms changing colour when you’ve found everything they have to offer, and the generous save points all contribute towards a significantly less clunky Resident Evil than some of the others I’ve messed around with (such as the recent remake of 2). On top of that, the game is absolutely gorgeous, and runs like a dream – I had no problem getting a smooth framerate on 1440p with the settings cranked up pretty high. Lastly, the sound design is just as good as you’d expect from a Resident Evil game.
In all seriousness, I could go on for ages about all the things I love about this game. Resident Evil Village feels like the culmination of the developers working hard to understand a lot of the issues people had with previous entries in the series, and doing their best to correct those things and keep the game out of its own way. The story is awesome and silly, the graphics are gorgeous, the sound design is amazing, and there are plenty of suspenseful and horrific moments to enjoy. Oh yeah, and the boss fights are actually a ton of fun too.
The game clocks in at about 10-15 hours long if you’re not completing absolutely everything, which for me is actually a big plus. It comes in with a bang, stays fresh throughout, and goes out on a really high note without overstaying its welcome. If that sounds too short for you, completionism will amp that up to at least 25-30 hours, and there’s also the mercenaries mode for some extra fun.
Of course, no game is complete without its flaws, and Village has several – the most prominent of which being that the puzzles are a bit of a joke. I solved most of the puzzles in seconds, and it feels like a better balance could’ve been struck here between making them easy enough for people not to get stuck on and making them interesting and challenging – as they are, I don’t really see what the point of including them was. There are some other minor gripes, too, I just don’t really care – the rest of the game more than makes up for any little annoyances I might have had.
Take it from me, somebody who doesn’t even usually play horror games – Resident Evil Village is a must play. Don’t miss out on this amazing experience. It’s easily my favourite game of the year so far.