What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Resident Evil? Is it skulking through the dank halls of the Raccoon Police Department? Battling a masked man with a chainsaw in Spain? Or a very bulky Chris Redfield absolutely going to town on a boulder in a volcano? Resident Evil is much like the genre itself: constantly evolving. We saw this metamorphosis once again in 2017 with the release of Resident Evil 7, which moved players’ perspective to first-person and radically reduced the pace that had accelerated across the previous three games. Now there’s Resident Evil Village. The latest numbered installment not only builds on its predecessor but acts as a love letter to the entire franchise.
Set three years after Resident Evil 7, players once again step into the mundane shoes of protagonist Ethan Winters. Now living somewhere in Europe with his wife Mia and daughter Rose, the family is doing its best to put the events of Louisiana behind them. Unfortunately, Ethan’s world is shattered when Chris Redfield attacks, kills Mia, takes their daughter, and knocks him out. Ethan awakes in an overturned truck and ventures out into a monster-infested town to find his missing daughter and get some answers.
Resident Evil titles typically stick to a singular theme or pace — only changing things up in climactic, boss-heavy endings from time to time. Village diverts drastically from this tradition. It’s instead broken up into four distinct sections, each one wildly shifting both the tone and general gameplay of Village. It almost acts like a “greatest hits” collection of the franchise. Players will go from the slower, tenser gameplay of the first Resident Evil, to the psychological horror of Resident Evil 7, and back to the intense action of the fourth and fifth games. This could create a disjointed experience that can never truly find its footing. That very thing happened in the messy Resident Evil 6. Yet Resident Evil Village weaves all these elements together into a largely enjoyable thrill ride.
It’s all held together by a comforting sense of familiarity throughout the different areas you explore. Take the internet’s favorite tall woman, Lady Dimitrescu, and her castle. The cathedral-like design, hidden passages, Victorian-era furniture, and threatening monsters that stalk its halls cast echoes of the Spencer Mansion from the original game. However, it’s more than a simple copy of past Resident Evil art direction. There’s a palpable sense of danger the first time you explore this location, as you’ll often find yourself low on supplies. It’s a true horror experience, including intimidating, immortal enemies looking to disrupt Ethan’s plans. Lady Dimitrescu’s castle is a superb opener — one that never overstays its welcome before shuffling players off to the next theme park attraction.
It’s this philosophy of never letting a single idea overstay its welcome that truly allows Village to stand as one of the best games in the franchise. Every area offers something entirely new to challenge how players approach encounters. I can’t get into the specifics for fear of spoilers, but the remarkable range of ideas on display kept me engaged from start to finish. This sense of the unknown only enhances the gameplay, even if the overall enemy variety is a bit lackluster when compared to other Resident Evil games.
If Village draws most from any, single game it’s Resident Evil 4. Acting almost as a spiritual sequel, Village pulls multiple elements that can be found in this title. There’s Ethan’s inventory suitcase, hidden treasures, and a mysterious roaming merchant. It even opens with a siege, where Ethan must survive against endless waves of lycans. Resident Evil 4 permeates throughout the entire campaign. This isn’t too surprising. Capcom has been attempting to recapture that perfect blend of horror and action since its initial 2005 release. This venture has always ended with the developer prioritizing action and spectacle over scares. Until now.
Village dodges this issue, largely thanks to a four-act structure that allows the game to experiment with new ideas. The first-person perspective also helps balance out the chaotic gunfights; the monsters are front and center at all times and the perspective is claustrophobic. It’s this blend of new and old that recaptures the Resident Evil 4 tone, creating an intense experience that never feels truly out of place. There’s even a giant fish monster trying to eat you in a disgusting lake. What more do you honestly want?
With that said, Village isn’t perfect. It stumbles during the third section and its final story moments (much like Resident Evil 7 before it). Despite pulling from so many great works, both in and out of the Resident Evil franchise, it fails to succinctly connect them all in a satisfying way. Some of this stems from the main antagonist, Mother Miranda, kinda just existing in the world without actually acting upon it in any meaningful way. Unlike other antagonists, who each get their own moment to individually shine, Miranda is a boring baddie that just looms over the game like a dark cloud.
This was far from enough to ruin my overall experience with Resident Evil Village. As a lifelong fan of the franchise, this was a perfect encapsulation of everything I adore about these games. From the ridiculous boss battles to the campy characters to the quiet moments of terror punctuated by heart-racing action, Village is a superb experience that stands as one of the series’ best installments.