Resident Evil Village is my first go at properly tackling a Resident Evil game. Does it stand up to the scrutiny of a horror-fearing newcomer?
My experience with Resident Evil in the past can be summed up as almost non-existent. I’ve played about 20 minutes of Resident Evil 7, and that was only because I wanted to earn some Game Pass quest points. Once I finished the task, I ducked out and never returned. I’ve also tried the RE7 Kitchen demo for PSVR, and I almost shat my arse out. So, yeah, I’m not a horror fan. I don’t like being scared. I get scared playing Splinter Cell for goodness sake, so proper horror is not really for me.
The job needed to be done, though, so I put on my big boy shorts, lay the waterproof cover on the sofa, turned on all of the lights and got my Woody and Buzz dolls next to me and got on with it.
And you know what? I really enjoyed it, even if I did have to play half the game squinting through one eye.
Resident Evil Village is a direct continuation of Resident Evil 7, which I will be going back to and playing, but not in PSVR, because… well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?
The story follows Ethan, his wife Mia, and their little baby Rose. They are a strange family and the game opens with Mummy Mia reading a really creepy fairy tale to baby Rose. My first job was to take the tyke to bed and then back down for dinner, except dinner didn’t go as planned and Mia ended up smeared all over the kitchen wall as a fella called Chris Redfield came bursting in with his mates and their great big guns.
Cue a loud “what the FLIP” from me, and we’re over to the village side of the game. This is where the creepiness starts but by no means where it ends. Moving through the snowy forest in the pitch black had me and the missus holding our hands to our eyes. We knew something was going to jump out, we just didn’t know when. When the first monster did appear, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Mind you, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be at all. See, despite my job, I’ve not really followed the news cycle around Resident Evil Village because… well, I’ve never really been interested in the games before. I know they’re about zombies and there are a half dozen shite films with the Resident Evil name, so I expected zombies. I hoped for slow shuffling Shaun of the Dead zombies, but instead, I got hobo monsters. I found out later that they’re called ‘Lycans’ but I will keep referring to them as hobo monsters because it makes them less scary and I’m writing this review in the dark on my own. Hobo monsters. Hobo monsters. Hobo monsters.
The hobo monsters were just the start. It wasn’t long before I’d mooched my way around the village into somebody’s house, witnessed a raging fire, and then wandered into a castle of doom, all with a few light puzzles in between. Why Ethan didn’t just turn around and call it quits I’ve no idea. He lived through Resident Evil 7, surely he must know he’s in a horror game again, right? The absolute idiot. Well, to be fair, not all is right with Ethan but that’s a spoiler and I’m not going to ruin what was a shocker, even to me.
The story is what kept me refreshing the waterproofs, not the gameplay. Moving Ethan around is clunky and the controls are definitely missing some finesse, especially when it comes to combat. I’d have been happy to wave the sub-par first-person shooting mechanics away, but Ethan mentions that he and Mia were given training by Chris Redfield, so I’d have expected a bit more competency. Instead, the shooting feels wild and inaccurate, though it does add to the “oh bugger oh heck” of the game’s encounters. I never felt safe, even with a full clip of bullets in my back pocket and a shotgun as backup (plus a sniper, a few mines and a half-dozen pipe bombs).
I always felt that the enemies were just a touch too quick in their movements, despite being really big and clumsy, and that I was a touch too slow in mine, despite being a veteran first-person shooter player. It all came together to make playing Resident Evil Village an uncomfortable experience, which I suppose is what you’re paying Capcom for; nobody is playing this one to feel good, I can tell you that much, especially when it comes to some of the subject matter. No spoilers, but Resident Evil Village goes to some dark places.
Speaking of dark places, Resident Evil Village has a few of them for you to wander around and explore. There’s an old castle of evils, some dungeons, a waterfront and more, each offering their own twists, turns, and horrors. There’s also the titular village itself, which is made up of secret pathways and locked doors that Ethan can’t bring himself to kick down, despite them being made of what looks like rotted wood; he still goes and finds the right keys. What a gentleman.
The exploration I could have done with less of. A lot of it revolved around finding the right key or item to open a door or unblock a passage. Given Ethan is chasing down the bastards who have taken his baby daughter, you’d think he would kick those doors down or jump over locked gates – anything to get the job done quicker. It takes away what little realism the game clings to. Still, I managed to keep an open mind, even after a certain event with Ethan and his hands had me rolling my eyes so hard they knocked my little brain around my head.
That “little realism” the game does cling to comes by way of the presentation. Make no mistake, Resident Evil Village might be filled to the brim with ugly creatures of your darkest nightmares, but it looks damn bloody good, especially on PS5, but even on PS4 Pro. The world is atmospheric, sometimes to a fault – I’d get goose pimples just thinking about entering a dark corridor, and one section of a haunted house-style location had my heart rate going at an uncomfortable level. I still did it, but my goodness did I both hate and admire the developers for their mastery of horror during those moments.
I wandered into Resident Evil Village a clueless newcomer, now I’m leaving as a new fan of the series. If you’ve always wanted to get into Resident Evil but didn’t know where to start, book your ticket to the village and have a bloody good time.
Resident Evil Village PS5, PS4 Review
Resident Evil Village is as good a place to start as any if you’re a newcomer to the series. The game takes pains to open itself up to new players with its action-orientated gameplay, supernatural story, and a cast of great villains to sell the package. I’m sold and Resident Evil now has a new fan.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5, PS4 Pro.