When it was announced that Resident Evil Village would be a continuation of Ethan’s story of Resident Evil 7, I wasn’t too thrilled. I enjoyed Resident Evil 7, but the story and Ethan as a character weren’t as gripping as past titles and characters. However, Resident Evil Village corrects all that by having a better core mystery, more characterization, more profound lore, and just overall fun gameplay.
Set three years after Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil Village has Ethan and his wife Mia living comfortably with their new baby Rose. Unfortunately, things don’t stay peaceful for long (duh, it’s Resident Evil) as series veteran Chris Redfield pops in for a visit and mayhem ensues. Before long, Ethan finds himself alone in a desolate village. Cue title screen.
If there’s one thing that needs to be emphasized about Resident Evil Village, it’s scary in more ways than one. When you get to the actual village section of the game, you’ll quickly realize that it looks and feels a lot like Resident Evil 4. Everyone in the village has turned into these werewolf/zombie-like beasts, and everything has a run-down rural European look to it.
In-between completing a section of Resident Evil Village, you’ll come back to this central hub area and gain access to more buildings, uncover more secrets, and be able to get into more sections of town. It gives the game a great sense of progression because I constantly unlocked new areas, got new weapons, or got new items that helped me survive the night. However, the scares were still there, because anytime I returned and felt safe in the hub area of the village, some new enemy or obstacle would be in my way.
But the way you interact with the world of Resident Evil Village is how it manages to have different aspects of horror. Each area of the game feels like a callback to previous entries in the series or even other horror games in general. For example, the castle section feels eerily reminiscent of Resident Evil 1‘s Spencer Mansion, having you solves puzzles and do a lot of backtracking—classic survival horror.
You’re also pursued by Lady Demitrescu in the castle, much like how in Resident Evil 2 Remake & Resident Evil 3 Remake you’re chased by Mr. X and Nemesis, respectively. It felt like a great blend of Resident Evil history and was easily my favorite area.
The next section of the game, a haunted house filled with dolls, takes away your weapons and shuts off the lights, limiting your field of view significantly. I was terrified during this whole section and rushed to finish it as fast as I could. Lighting and perspective are huge in horror games, and when you’re playing from the first person, simple things like not being able to see well can crank up the spookiness. If I had to compare this section of the game, it felt more like Silent Hill or Outlast than Resident Evil.
There was still a decent amount of puzzle-solving, but a significant portion was dedicated to hiding and trying to get around enemies. I had to use the environment to escape whatever was chasing me while narrowly shuffling around in the dark. I don’t want to give too much away, but it felt like something was crawling in my skin; I was so scared during this part of the game.
Other parts of this game have different atmospheres and use horror differently, but you should experience it for yourself and go in blind. Just know that it all works well, and it’s incredible how so many methods of horror blend to make one cohesive vision and create a game that never gets stale or overstays its welcome.
Despite how terrifying this game can be, I never wanted to stop exploring, looking for items, new weapons, or lore tidbits like journals. I was always rewarded for my curiosity, too, even with a simple item like bullets or money. The exploration aspect of this game is prominent due to probably one of my favorite Resident Evil characters to date: The Duke. The Duke is much like The Merchant in Resident Evil 4 in that he shows up periodically throughout the game so that you can buy all sorts of things from him. You can get the basics like bullets or healing items, but you can also purchase new weapons or attachments.
He does much more than just sell to you, though. You can also upgrade your weapons depending on if you have enough money. You gain money from killing basic enemies, exploring each section of the game, and selling valuable items. Finding said valuable items can be done by completing certain puzzles, killing boss enemies, or even by combining certain key items. This is where I got addicted to the game, as anytime I had enough money or found something I could sell, I’d run to The Duke so I could buy that shiny new weapon attachment I want or upgrade my shotgun once again.
Anytime I got to a new area or came back to the village, and a new section had opened up, I got giddy with the prospect of finding unique items and being able to sell them to The Duke. The upgrade system for weapons is satisfying, and I always had just the right amount of money to get that next upgrade I wanted. The Duke also has a third feature, where if you find animals and kill them, you can harvest their meat and bring it to him.
The Duke will then take the meat from you and cook you a meal that will increase aspects like your health and movement speed. There’s always something to upgrade in Resident Evil Village; there’s always something to find, always a reason to explore, and thanks to its many unlockables and modes, always a reason to play.
Like past titles, Resident Evil Village has multiple difficulty levels, gives you new weapons and upgrades to unlock once you beat the game, and even has side modes. You get points based on achievements and challenges you complete, then use those points to unlock the new weapons and upgrades. You’ll definitely have to play the game more than once to get enough points and unlock everything. Resident Evil Village, and the series as a whole, is such a simple premise for gameplay, but there are so many reasons to play it more than once. I’ve only beaten the game once myself, and I can’t wait to jump back in.
Now, I’ve been saving the story for last because it’s honestly the weakest part of the game. It’s still good, but it’s nothing special. The advertising of this game is very misleading in making you think you understand the plot twists and character motivations of people like Chris when you don’t. I thought I understood what was going on when I started Resident Evil Village, and I didn’t, which I’m incredibly grateful for.
The story wasn’t what I expected, but the central mystery of why Chris does what he does isn’t the most exciting mystery out there. While the plot develops a bit during the actual game, nothing is revealed until the last hour, and the reveal itself is a bit lackluster to me. Some things tie Village to Resident Evil 7 and even past games and characters. Still, it feels like Resident Evil 7 was initially created as a standalone story, not as part of a bigger narrative.
Ethan Winters, as far as main characters go, hasn’t improved much either. I’ll admit that by the end I liked him a bit more than I did when the game first started, but that’s because of how the game ends, not because he has any character development or relationship building. His inclusion in the franchise still feels unnecessary since they could have added any series regular and given them more development. It doesn’t matter if it was Chris, Leon, Claire, Jill—hell, even Barry Burton. They could have easily filled Ethan’s shoes with only minor changes to the story.
I still enjoyed the story for what it was, though. I’m not going into these games expecting a masterpiece, so I’m never disappointed. The village was a tremendous set-piece that felt like more than just a backdrop for a horror game. The main enemies in the game felt a lot more fleshed out when compared to past franchise villains, with some great backstory in journal entries. And it was always a joy when Chris was onscreen as he made it feel much more like a Resident Evil game and even grounded at points (so no punching giant boulders in this one). However, it’s a shame the actual narrative and core mystery weren’t as compelling as I had hoped.
Resident Evil Village was a joy to play with lots of fun callbacks to past entries regarding gameplay. It feels like a good mix of everything that makes the series great and still truly terrifies. The Duke and his upgrading system made me search every nook and cranny despite how scared I was, and I can’t wait to jump back into this world. There are tons of reasons to replay thanks to all the difficulty options, new weapons and modes, and a plethora of difficulty options. Unfortunately, the story isn’t the most compelling in the series, but a fantastic setting and great atmosphere make up for those shortcomings. Resident Evil Village is a must-play for anyone who likes Resident Evil, or just horror in general.