Resident Evil Village Review: A Nightmare Reborn

Resident Evil Village feels like a turning point for the Capcom franchise. It's a game that embraces the core tenets of Resident Evil even while pushing it forward in new ways, and a confident sequel that builds off of nearly everything introduced in Resident Evil 7 - even if it does stumble only slightly along the way.

Players reprise the role of Ethan Winters in Resident Evil Village, picking up roughly three years after the previous game's events. The game starts with Chris Redfield breaking into the Winters' house and killing Mia. After a string of events, Ethan finds himself in the enigmatic village with no idea what's happening. It doesn't take long for things to go south, and before long Ethan's fighting for his life while looking for his daughter, Rose.

Resident Evil Village features a cast of characters known as the Four Lords. At the heart of the group is the fan-favorite Lady Dimitrescu, who is equal parts terrifying and regal. The other major highlight is Heisenberg, a smarmy mad scientist who's all too happy to play with Ethan. While the four main villains are all compelling in their own way, the game's main antagonist sadly lacks the same gravitas, especially in light of other major troublemakers across Resident Evil history.

Resident Evil Village's story has plenty of twists and turns along the way, and makes for some compelling horror. The game does stumble a bit in the final hour with an ending that feels rushed, however, which is unfortunate given the quality leading up to the penultimate events of its narrative. Even if it sets up some fascinating possibilities for the future, the Resident Evil Village ending is at odds with the rest of the game's pacing and quality.

The village itself is one of the main features of the game, and it's clear that Capcom took inspiration from Resident Evil 4 in this regard. One of the first major combat encounters even has Ethan surviving a horde of enemies until a bell rings in the distance, causing them to leave the village. There's a sense of unease and dread that permeates the village and its surrounding areas, and Capcom does an impeccable job of building a tense tone throughout the experience.

Resident Evil Village isn't exactly open-world, but it does encourage Resident Evil-style exploration more than its predecessor. Environments are more open, and certain areas of the game require exploration to even move forward, like Castle Dimitrescu. Using the map is essential to exploration, and it denotes when all the items in an area have been found by turning the building blue on the map, instead of the red that indicates there's more to be found. Partway through the game, there are even a handful of treasures added to the map that contain valuable items if players can figure out how to get to them.

While the exploration is smooth, Resident Evil Village's combat is where the game showcases some of its best improvements. Aiming and shooting feel markedly different and much more precise than Resident Evil 7, on top of Ethan's moving speed being bumped up. Resident Evil Village also provides a wealth of different tools and tactics to use in combat. Throughout the village, different doorways can be blocked off using bookshelves, and mines can be used to set up traps. Combat feels dynamic, especially since Ethan fights against a variety of enemies, from the quick Lycans to hulking automatons with only one weak spot. Boss battles feel more like a moderate improvement on Resident Evil 7, as they allow for more choice and variation. Even still, a couple of the bosses fall into the same trap as other Resident Evil games where they feel a bit too gimmicky.

Players can acquire weapons two ways: picking them up as they progress or from The Duke, Resident Evil Village's mysterious new merchant. The Duke is a figure cloaked in mystery that appears out of nowhere as Ethan's lone ally, but his shop works the same way as the merchant from Resident Evil 4. A currency called Lei can be found in the world or gained from enemies, and valuable items can also be sold to The Duke. Lei is used to purchase items, ammo, or improve weapons.

Despite the larger action focus of Resident Evil Village, the survival-horror elements are still alive and well. At the start of the game, ammo and healing items aren't hard to come by, but as the game progresses they become scarcer, even while enemies get tougher. A crafting system very similar to Resident Evil 7 provides alternative options, but players need to be smart about what they prioritize, as crafting materials are also limited.

In a way, Resident Evil Village feels like the ideal fusion of the series' two different styles. Combat is snappy and intense but survival elements and inventory management permeate the entire experience. Even though combat is the main focus, some of Resident Evil Village's most effective horror moments come when the game takes away Ethan's ability to fight. The game does a fantastic job of mixing up gameplay elements across its runtime, and some of the best horror moments of the entire series are present here.

Resident Evil Village isn't an overly long experience, clocking in at roughly ten hours, but as is tradition in the series beating the game once unlocks a multitude of options for subsequent playthroughs. New game plus, extra weapons, concept art, and more can be unlocked post-game. The biggest addition, however, is the returning Mercenaries mode. Re-using maps from the main game, Mercenaries mode is an arcade experience where the objective is to kill the requisite number of enemies as quickly as possible. It's the same mode used in past games, however, just enhanced with Resident Evil Village's combat and a power-up system.

The visual design of Resident Evil Village is truly a sight to behold on PS5 and visually stunning at almost every turn. The first time the village and castle come into view is a breathtaking moment that only fuels a desire to dive in and explore. Resident Evil Village is also packed with tiny details like smoke wafting out of a pistol's barrel after it's fired, or the way light reflects off slimy cave walls. Sound design also helps enhance the overall experience, whether it's the unsettling guttural screeches of the Lycans or the clacking heels of Lady Dimitrescu as she stalks the halls of her castle.

Capcom has managed to make a game that feels both familiar and fresh at the same time. It's not a complete overhaul, but rather a refinement of the series as a whole. Resident Evil Village is a gorgeous innovation that preserves the heart of a beloved franchise, and continues a string of excellent mainline entries that will dazzle veterans and newcomers alike.