Given how 2017’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was called a “return to form,” it should come as no surprise that the sequel would try to follow in its footsteps. But rather than rest on their laurels, and spend their time sipping Mai Tais as the money rolls in, the good people at Capcom have instead decided to progress once again by making Resident Evil Village (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, Stadia) essentially Resident Evil 7 crossed with Resident Evil 4 for a game that — yeah, you know — goes up to 11.
A direct sequel to Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Resident Evil Village finds the previous game’s hero, Ethan Winters, living in Europe with Mia (his missing wife from Biohazard), and their new baby girl, Rose. But their domestic bliss is shattered when their home is attacked, Mia is killed, and Ethan and Rose are taken by…Chris Redfield? Regaining consciousness, Ethan finds that the van he was being taken away in has crashed, but that there’s no sign of Chris or Rose, save for footprints in the snow that lead him to a village that seems eerily like the one Leon S. Kennedy visited in Resident Evil 4.
Like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Resident Evil Village is a first-person survival horror game, and thus, for the most part, plays the same as it and, well, other games in this series. You have a limited supply of ammo, but can find more in the weirdest places; you use herbs (here combined with chemicals) to instantly heal yourself; and save your progress on old typewriters. When not shooting, stabbing, or blowing up monsters, you spend your time looking for the keys and other items that will open the doors and gates to other areas, which often involves some situational puzzles, or locating objects that stretch the definition of the word “key.” You even, as in many of the better Resident Evil games, have to occasionally run away from someone you can’t kill (at least not yet).
As for its connections to Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, while the first-person perspective is the most obvious (given how Biohazard was the first in this series to employ it), what the two really share is a frightening vibe, courtesy of Resident Evil Village‘s sparing use of music and sound effects. Unlike some games (and some movies), Village doesn’t use music to tell you when to be scared. Instead, it uses the background sounds of the world, and some far-off sound effects, to really put you on edge. Its silence, or near silence, is what really puts you on edge. It’s why the game’s occasional jump scares really make you, well, jump.
The same is also true for the visuals. It’s always late afternoon on an overcast fall day, and forcing your eyes to take a moment to adjust when you first walk into a building always has you wondering if someone or something is waiting for you.
But while Resident Evil Village is both a narrative and spiritual successor to Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, it quickly comes to feel much more like a first-person version of Resident Evil 4. And not just because it’s set in a similarly Gothic European village that looks like neither it nor its residents have had a makeover since the 1800s.
For starters, Resident Evil Village pulls from some of the same cinematic references as Resident Evil 4. While most of the Evil games take influence from George Romero’s …Of The Dead movies, and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard took cues from Deliverance, and Village takes cues from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s also strongly influenced by the same classic ’70s Hammer films that inspired Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil Village also, like Resident Evil 4, has an open world, albeit one that’s far more intricate but still segmented like those in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Wolfenstein: Youngblood. It even has a bunch of hidden treasure puzzle rooms, not unlike the secret tombs in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider.
More importantly, Resident Evil Village has more action than its predecessor (though, admittedly, not as much as the more action-oriented installments, Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6), with that action coming much sooner in the story. There’s also more variety in its action (though, again, not as much as Resident Evil 4). While you do spend a lot of time exploring and trying to survive, you also engage in some crime scene investigation and have to escape a deathtrap that would make Indiana Jones remember when he had to survive something similar. (There are other nods to 4 as well, but nothing I’ll spoil.)
Resident Evil Village also recalls Resident Evil 4 in how you’re not just fighting zombies. Though you’re also not fighting the crazed villagers of that game, either. Instead, you have to deal with mutants, bat people, werewolves, Grim Reaper cosplayers, and a family of weirdos who’d make Rob Zombie feel right at home.
These different enemy types are what make the combat in Resident Evil Village feel different than the gunfights of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Resident Evil 4 (and, well, every other game in this series, main and side). While the Grim Reaper-looking guys and the zombies come at you slowly and deliberately, the bird people come at from you above, while the mutants are more frantic, and will jump on you from all sides and at the same time. Good thing that the game’s shooting controls are fluid and intuitive, with aim assist that actually assists your aiming instead of just nudging you in the right direction. As a result, this has the best gunplay this series has seen since the action focused side stories, Resident Evil Revelations and Resident Evil Revelations 2.
Even with all the fun gunplay, though, Resident Evil Village‘s primary mood is a scary one. There are long stretches when you won’t use your gun, but wish you could, and the aforementioned silence is often deafening. Even when in a gunfight, the game will take opportunities to freak you out. The mutants, for instance, will sometimes hide, but still make sounds, making you wonder when their inevitable attack will come, and from what direction. To call this game “nerve-wracking” would be an understatement; stress-inducing is more like it.
Oh, and trust me when I say that this is not a game for gigantasophobics, pediophobics, or new parents.
Together, this mix of engaging action and arrhythmia-inducing scares makes Resident Evil Village effortlessly engaging. While there were times when I had to take a break to give my heart a chance to slow down, I always jumped back in almost immediately, and often found myself playing far longer than I had planned. Not to the same extent as Outriders or Borderlands 3 or one of those other games where time becomes an illusion, and when did it become 3AM, but it is a game that will grab you, and hard.
As for how it stacks up against other installments, it’s as scary as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and just shy of being as exciting as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, putting it a very close third overall.
Having said all that, though, Resident Evil Village is not without its shortcomings. And while none are deal breakers, they are still worth mentioning.
For starters, while Ethan has a flashlight, he doesn’t always think to turn it on, nor can you turn it on yourself. Though at least it’s not one of those cheap flashlights people usually have in video games, the kind that only last three minutes and constantly need to be shook or given time to magically recharge (I’m looking at you, The Evil Within 2).
Resident Evil Village also requires you to equip your knife to use it as a melee weapon, unlike some installments, which had a dedicated melee button. Though it would help if your knife wasn’t so dull that it was pointless as a weapon. Good thing your pistol is effective, unlike in some gun games we could mention.
In addition, while this game is good about where it places checkpoints, it needs more typewriters. Though mostly in the beginning, and when you break into a certain someone’s home, and go through some particularly harrowing moments, so you’d like to take a break and have a good cry, why won’t she leave me alone, but don’t want to risk losing your place and having to deal with her all over again.
And why isn’t Black Sabbath’s “Sleeping Village” the theme song?
But these minor issues are just that, minor; they’re not insurmountable problems or deal breakers or anything that should make you reconsider your decision to buy Resident Evil Village. Well, unless you’d rather not spend hours shooting monsters, solving puzzles, exploring a weird European hamlet, and getting scared out of your wits in the best way possible. In which case, there’s a lady who’d like to have a few words with you…