Change is nothing new in the Resident Evil series. Whether it’s the “change” of normal human beings becoming one of the various types of bio organic weapons that the series is known for, or the real world gameplay changes that the series has gone through on multiple occasions, change has always been at the core of this franchise. The first example of the latter came in 2005, when Resident Evil 4 shook up the fixed camera angles and tank controls from the original three entries in the series in favor of the more action oriented third-person, over the shoulder camera. This became, and in the case of the recent remakes it still is, the standard for all new mainline Resident Evil games until 2017, when the series seventh installment returned to the survival horror roots while also swapping into a more immersive first-person view. My thoughts on Resident Evil VII: Biohazard have already been documented in one of my first ever GBAtemp reviews, but to summarize; I’m a big fan. So naturally, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Resident Evil Village and excited to see how Ethan’s story continues. But more importantly, I’ve been eager to see how the changes that Biohazard introduced affect the series moving forward. Well, finally, that wait is over. Let’s dive in and take a look at Resident Evil Village!
Village’s story picks up three years after the events of Biohazard, with Ethan and Mia now living in an undisclosed part of Europe under protection from Chris Redfield, after being presumed dead following the events at the Baker House in the prior game. The two have been adjusting to their new lives well, along with their six-month-old daughter, Rose. That all changes one night when Chris Redfield storms the house with his squad, and kidnaps Ethan and Rose. Ethan wakes up outside of a remote village in Europe, and begins his quest to find his kidnapped daughter, unraveling the dark secrets of the village and its “leaders” in the process. Sound mildly familiar? We’ll get to that.
Starting with Village’s gameplay, unsurprisingly this is very similar to that of Biohazard, both being first-person shooters, but the biggest change comes from not only the number of enemies you’ll be facing at once but also how aggressive they are. It wasn’t uncommon in Village to be facing down a hoard of lycans or other minion creatures all at once, whereas I think the most Molded I ever saw lumped together in the previous game was, like, three. And while sure, there were points where you were intentionally overwhelmed to get you to run, the game also gives you so much ammunition and pieces to craft ammo that fighting back was almost always an option. In that regard, there are definitely parts of Village that feel more like an action shooter; but a really fun one, to be fair. The controls are tight, optimized, and even when I was just fighting creatures and taken out of the “true” Resident Evil experience, I was having a blast… for about fifteen minutes before a cutscene started up. This game has a lot of cinematics to sit through, and they often get integrated seamlessly from the gameplay. This makes for a great storytelling experience to be sure, but I just felt like there were SO MANY of them, and it definitely slowed my momentum to a halt at more than one point. Even the combat “cinematics” that get forced at certain points when an enemy deals damage to you, while not new to the series, feel way longer and way more frequent in Village than in any other Resident Evil game. The gameplay is fun, for sure. I just wish I was able to go more than fifteen minutes without being interrupted to get shown something, instead of experiencing it through the game myself.
As a result of some of these changes, I found myself noticing how far this game strayed from some of the more “traditional” elements of Resident Evil. While I wouldn’t say this is as bad as Resident Evil 6 in that sense, there certainly are elements of Village that play a lot more like an action game than a traditional survival horror. Specifically, there’s some quality of life improvements here such as a single button to break a crate with your knife and all craftables and crafting itself being secluded to a separate menu than your inventory. While these are great for streamlining gameplay and getting you back to the action quickly, it does minimize one of the biggest challenges of traditional Resident Evil: resource management. With crafting of healing items and ammo now relegated to their own menu, it frees up your inventory for more guns and ammo, with barely anything else to take up that room and force you into a tough choice. Combine that with the fact that the game’s titular setting seems to be just raining bullets from the sky, and I never once felt like I was at risk of running out of resources. The game just gives you too much to ever really feel like you’re unprepared, or that you need to sacrifice something to pick up that new weapon you found. In fact the only time I actually felt a stress even close to that was in a portion of the game that seemed to be inspired by P.T., where your weapons were all taken away for the level. In fact, that level is, in my opinion, one of the scariest parts of the entire series as a whole. While there’s still plenty of classic Resident elements like the puzzles, lore documents, backtracking for progression and of course horror, I can’t deny that Village is weighted far heavier into action than it is “traditional” Resident Evil. But even at its worst, this is still a fun action shooter.
So, let’s go ahead and address the El Gigante sized elephant in the room here; taking place in a remote European village with a connected castle and industrial setting, a story revolving around the search for a daughter kidnapped for nefarious purposes, seeing a return to “action-y” gameplay with survival horror elements, a version of the merchant coming back… yes this is a sequel to Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, but another appropriate title for this game might be Resident Evil 4 2: Electric Boogaloo. The influence that the landmark title had on Village is absolutely undeniable, and that’s been pretty well observed since even the first trailer. There’s even cut elements from earlier builds of RE4 that I feel were likely the inspiration for some portions of Village, such as the doll themed boss you confront in the middle of the game. It would be easy to write this off as “the Resident Evil 4 remake that Capcom really wanted to make,” but personally I think that’d be disingenuous. Yes, the influence is there, and yes I spent a lot of time mentally making comparisons to RE4. But even then, I feel like Village does more than enough to set itself apart as its own game: the heavy emphasis on hunting for treasure, for example, had me backtracking through the village for more than just story related purposes. And the addition of the Duke’s cooking menu offering permanent buffs for your playthrough, while certainly affecting the difficulty, brought something totally unique to this entry that I was excited to try. It may be derivative in parts, and the inspiration is undeniable, but Village thankfully manages to stand apart from RE4 and set its own identity.
It took me about ten hours to complete my first pass of Village, and that was while taking my time to not only explore each area, but actively seek out every marked treasure and beast in the game as well as complete all of the labyrinth puzzles for extra treasure. I didn’t manage to see or collect 100% of everything doing this, but I did feel like I saw a good chunk of what secrets the game had to offer. After my first pass of the game, I was awarded a sum of the in-game currency of challenge points, or CP, to spend on collectable digital figures, concept art, weapon upgrades for the story mode, and the bonus game the Mercenaries. Some of these unlockables, specifically some weapon upgrades, are locked behind completing the game at higher difficulties, and infinite ammo specifically requires you to completely upgrade and customize a specific weapon in order to unlock the perk. It’s a lot to go through to unlock something that used to be standard fare in the series, but ultimately I have to admit that I sort of like it; locking infinite ammo behind fully upgrading a weapon encourages replayability in the main game, and ensures that higher difficulty run-throughs have to be experienced at their full difficulty, instead of just cheesed through with the most powerful weapons in the game. Locking it further behind CP purchases does seem like a bit much though, as more CP can only be earned by completing challenges in-game, which often tie to the achievements that some will already be hunting for anyway. I’m hoping that more ways to earn CP will be added eventually, as right now it’s just a bit much to lock everything extra in the game behind this currency. Even the Mercenaries cost a pittance of 10 CP; it’s the cheapest thing in the store, and quite simple to obtain, but the fact that it requires any type of payment to unlock just bothers me a bit when it should be readily available after I complete my first pass of the game.
The Mercenaries should need no introduction to longtime Resident Evil fans; introduced in Resident Evil 4, and also included in Resident Evil 5 and 6, The Mercenaries is a timed game mode focusing entirely on combat, having to take down as many enemies as you can before time runs out. Some changes to the mode-specific to Village include the change of being split into three chapters per game round, having to kill a set amount of enemies before reaching a goal to move on to the next chapter, being able to buy weapons and upgrades from the Duke between each chapter, and most notably only being able to play as Ethan whereas the other games had a wider selection of characters to choose from. Honestly I’m thrilled to see this game mode return after being absent from Biohazard (though the Nightmare mode DLC did act as a sort of Mercenaries successor), if only for Village's incredible combat gameplay. The mode feels so natural in first-person, and I think this is the most fun I’ve had playing in the Mercenaries mode… well, ever.
While some may consider Resident Evil Village a mixed bag, or chastise it for drifting even further from what Resident Evil is known for, I can’t stop myself from loving this game. It’s fantastically fun, absolutely gorgeous on a technical level that makes Biohazard look aged by comparison, and even despite the shift back towards action there’s still plenty of elements that keep me remembering that this is Resident Evil. It’s a game I’m sure I won’t be done playing any time soon, and one that I’d recommend to just about anyone; fans of action shooters, horror, and Resident Evil alike.