After eight main entries in Capcom’s long-running series, it is no wonder why fans have been wondering if Resident Evil VIII: Village could actually it its stride the way they’d hope for the series. The truth is? We wondered the same. Find out what we thougth in our review.
+Graphics do impress and offer a rather visceral experience
+Story elements do surprise and leave one hungering for more
+Crafting makes a rather solid return
+New enemies are as lethal as the zombies, mold, and other variants players have experienced
-Performance on PlayStation 5 does take a hit with ray tracing on
-Pacing at times feels a bit off and takes away from the overall immersion
If there was any sense of success in the Resident Evil series after struggling with previous releases such as Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil Revelations. Due to its struggles up to that very point, the series seemed it may not recover, and that fans would remain divided on how the series could re-establish itself.
In 2017, the franchise saw a comeback with one of its strongest stories yet with the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The series would then be changed forever, finding horror-driven aspirations from Hollywood. The result was something that seemed to draw many aspirations from movies such as The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The title would go on to be recognized as one of the most successful titles the franchise had seen in recent days, giving it a chance at a direct sequel with well-established characters such as Chris Redfield and newly-established characters such as Ethan and Mia Winters. The story itself would take a familiar twist, something that, well, actually took noteworthy ideas from Resident Evil 4 while not changing much of anything at all.
It comes from that, you know, that famous quote – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – a practice that worked out rather well for Capcom with their latest title. They instead doubled down on what made Resident Evil 7: Biohazard more noteworthy among its fans and kept on moving forward from there.
So what does that mean for Resident Evil Village when it comes to it as its very own title? Well that’s what we’re here to discuss in this review, right? Right.
Resident Evil VIII: Village is a solid mixture of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
When you ask any Resident Evil fan what their favorite title is, the chances are you are likely going to hear them mention Resident Evil 4, which Capcom is very aware of, and well, that should come as no surprise as Capcom has implemented quite a bit of what made Resident Evil 4 work so well with the overall designs from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard at play.
But you might be wondering: Why am I bringing up Resident Evil 4 in this review? Because it’s a large part of what makes Resident Evil Village work out as well as it does. It takes all of the best parts from both entries, allowing them to work together in a rather cohesive manner. Much like Resident Evil 4, it uses a titular village setting, instead of Spanish, this time we’re seeing one set in Romania.
This time, however, Ethan isn’t exploring dingy hallways, tight, claustrophobic hallways, or the bogs of Louisiana. This time around, however, we’re in a downtrodden village in the countryside, sneaking through fields of tall grass, ancient architecture, gothic castles, and snow-capped mountainsides that serve as the overall setting.
But it gets creepier from there, and to continue, we do need to talk about a small portion of the story, thus, let’s mention that there’s a spoiler warning here.
Lady Dimitrescu, while noteworthy, isn’t the only real threat that the Village has to offer, and that should serve as an idea of what to expect
As you might already know, Lady Dimitrescu and her three daughters served as major plot points, rather, selling points for promotional purposes. It, by now, is a well-known fact that the four of them would be rather troubling enemies that would appear and that they would serve as tyrant-like enemies that players will face off against.
The most formidable of the three, of course, being Lady Dimitrescu and her wrath that players will incur as they explore Castle Dimitrescu. The experience is actually quite grand and you will get some massive Mr. X and Nemesis vibes from her as she pursues you through her castle when her daughters.
They aren’t as apologetic as the tyrants by any means. They are ever-pursuing, unforgiving, and their wrath only gets worse as you progress through the story. Eliminating one boss only makes the situation worse and it is worth noting: They will eliminate anything that gets in their way and that includes their companion enemies that will become a tad bit more frequent than before.
Unfortunately, Castle Dimitrescu is actually only a small piece of a much bigger puzzle, which shouldn’t come as a surprise from all the trailers. Instead, the entire game is broken up into segments, lairs if you will, which are thematic in their own way. Want horror that is a lovestory to other classic Resident Evil titles? Castle Dimitrescu is the right place. Want something that feels a bit more like Resident Evil 4? Well, there’s an area for that, each of these being unlocked with various keys and tasks being completed.
In many ways, each of the lairs also don’t feel as grand as another at times. Sometimes, they feel smaller, less challenging, and shortsided if you will. Some of them, honestly, feeling as if they are meant to break up the pacing, throw you off your guard, and to let you get comfortable once again. Each does come with their own ideals, enemies, and layout that does feel strangely familiar, but at the same time, extremely unique.
The entire experience does make you wonder one simple fact: What happened to all of those that once called the village home? Well, you will need to play through the story to uncover that truth as we’ve already said enough spoilers for our outlet’s liking.
Let’s talk about gameplay and how it actually has improved
Many of you might find that Resident Evil 7 was more survival-horror-oriented. Sometimes, running was the best option, giving you better chances at conserving ammo and supplies. Crafting was extremely limited, giving players only a chance at finding extra equipment. That has changed a little bit with Resident Evil Village.
This time around, you’ll find that crafting is actually a large part of the game, it allows you to better prepare for large encounters, ensuring that you have some form of defense, and leans the game in a bit more of an action-oriented experience with survival horror elements later on. It won’t always be that way, it doesn’t want you to get too comfy on your way through.
In order to ensure you don’t get into anyone rhythm, Capcom ensures that puzzles are a part of your overall experience. You’ll find yourself looking for hidden keys, hidden objects, and uncovering the truth about the inhabitants of the surrounding lands. You’ll even find yourself backtracking while you can, unlocking previously hidden areas, before moving on.
Now, combat itself, is as fluid as you’ll remember. Aiming is smoother than before, giving some idea that Ethan has either trained himself or Capcom has found a perfect middle-ground for their combat flow. Weapons themselves also feel more responsive than ever before. Pistols, for example, feel as if they do have an impact as does using Ethan’s knife. Ethan’s movements also feel more fluid than before, not near as clunky as they were in previous titles.
Even weapon upgrades are rather noteworthy, making each weapon used does make an impact and helps players pave their way forward as the threats get even more lethal with each and every enemy downed and encounter completed. Trust me when I say this: Every weapon has its uses and it’s worth knowing what weapon is best for each situation.
Part of getting used to the combat flow is also getting used to how the environment can work in your favor. Want to use explosive barres? You can do that. Want to use that nearby torch in your favor? Block an enemy and shove them into it. Trust me, it works, and with great efficiency too.
However, don’t expect every zone to have this balance, it isn’t always there, and having to use some stealth elements to your advantage has its perks. Just don’t get used to it always working since it won’t.
Graphics and performance do take a hit in Resident Evil Village on PlayStation 5, which is a damn shame
One of the areas that I’ve become critical of, is pushing next-gen hardware to its limits, which is something that it seems ray tracing is what’s going to cause next-gen consoles, especially the PlayStation 5, to take the biggest hits while developers learn how to maximize the hardware itself.
Graphically speaking, the PlayStation 5 build is leagues ahead of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro builds of the game. While the latter of the two current-gen consoles do take a decent hit, it shouldn’t be odd that the game doesn’t perform as intended, at times, on PlayStation 4 due to the hardware becoming outdated and the RE Engine now focusing on next-gen support.
The graphics themself, are impressive. Resident Evil Village is an exemplary title. It shows what the consoles are capable of, even without ray tracing being turned on. It’s surprising, but to be honest, the game shines the most with ray tracing on and that’s where the performance hits become quite frequent.
You’ll notice texture pop-in’s, framerate dips, and even occasional soft-freezes as the game catches back up to what’s going on. This happened several times in boss fights where the reflective surfaces on textures became a bit much, causing massive framerate dips, and ultimately hindering the game in unexpected ways.
Sadly, while the ray tracign is on, the game aims for 45 frames per second, and nothing really past that. With it off, the game runs at a steady 60 frames, never stuttering, never hitching, or even feeling like it will crash at any time, which fortunately, we’ve never experienced.
Let’s talk about sound-design because Resident Evil Village nails it
Now something I wanted to discuss separately from the rest is sound-design and there’s a good reason behind this very fact. Capcom didn’t hold back at all this time. This is one of the most unsettling experiences that you will have in a Resident Evil title. The reason behind it is that this game has one of the best sound designs out there.
When you’re sneaking throughout the castle, you’ll find that the tap of Ethan’s footwear on the ground is almost as haunting as the creaking of windows, the soft howl of the winds through broken glass or the sound of the Dimitrescu family as they move about the castle in their attempt to hunt Ethan down.
But it goes one step further in the other areas too. In the village, you’ll hear enemies lurking about, the soft brushing of the fields as the wind sweeps through them or the cracking of branches when an enemy steps upon them. There’s even windchimes, it seems, everywhere that will draw your attention, making you pay less attention to the footsteps of nearby enemies who are lying in wait.
One of the most creepy, yet somehow awesome, is the sound of water trickling in nearby streams as Ethan walks near them or the crackling of torches mounted on a distant wall. It’s just an interesting feature and it adds into the overall experience that Resident Evil Village has to offer. Just don’t forget to listen to your surroundings, it’s important, as the game does have tells for when things are about to get rather serious.
When it comes to an all-time high for the franchise, Resident Evil Village pushes the boundaries, it attempts to build on well-established tropes the series is known for, and it does it rather well. Well enough that the series could continue on this way, using the first-person perspective to its advantage and continue delivering the jumps and scares the series is known for.
Resident Evil Village
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
Versions Reviewed: PlayStation 5
Release Date: Available Now
The only drawbacks with Resident Evil Village come in the shape of performance with ray tracing and of course the disjointed experience some fans might have due to how some of the “lairs” – if you will – are designed and don’t keep a flow that is consistent throughout the overall experience.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game we purchased for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.