Resident Evil Village
Fun, perfectly paced gameplay
Varied, interesting environments
Tense atmosphere delivers scares
In-depth New Game + offers great replay value
Story could be stronger
Some encounters lack polish
Missable collectibles may frustrate completionists
Possibility that Lady Dimitrescu will awaken something deep within you
Picking up where Resident Evil VII: Biohazard left off both in terms of story and first-person gameplay, Resident Evil Village replicates the best of its predecessor while adding a few new twists. At its core, Village is a laser-focused linear survival-horror game that mixes in elements of action-horror. Players will make their way through a seemingly abandoned village in Eastern Europe while trying to piece together the mystery of what happened to their missing daughter. So yeah, the plot isn’t exactly James Joyce—it’s hardly even James Patterson.
But, like Playboy, you’re not really here for the intellectual enrichment, are you? No, you’re here to have a spooky good time, and boy oh boy does Village deliver on that count. The game moves at a perfect pace, shifting seamlessly between horror beats, action beats, and puzzle beats. Switching between these kept gameplay feeling fresh and compelling, effortlessly pulling the player forward to see what was around the next corner. I went into the game expecting mostly “folk horror” environments—think The Vvitch or The Wicker Man (the original, not the Nic Cage one)—but was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of environments. Every individual “level” has a unique identity and conceptual theme, and the game wrings plenty of intrigue out of each without any of them overstaying their welcome or feeling redundant.
Adding to the addictive gameplay is a more fleshed-out character progression system that expands on that of Biohazard. Resident Evil Village largely abandons the every-bullet-is-precious resource-hoarding of Biohazard and instead opts for a system wherein enemies drop cash which can be spent on ammunition, explosives, or straight weapon improvements. Thorough exploration is still rewarded, however: throughout the world are cunningly hidden unique weapon upgrades, treasure that can be exchanged for cash, Easter eggs, and bonuses.
A Powerful, Sinister Atmosphere
Overall, the needle has been moved slightly away from “survival horror” to “action horror.” Before too long, our hapless hero will be blasting through hordes of powerful enemies. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a horror aspect to the game. In fact, without saying too much, the Bienviento Manor section, which borrows liberally from games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, delivers some of the best scares I’ve ever had in a game. Resident Evil Village is a masterclass of atmosphere, and I absolutely recommend playing it in the dark with a pair of quality headphones to feel the full effect of the PS5’s “3D Audio.” While the feature’s name is extremely silly, hearing it in action made me a believer—the wind whickers through stalks of wheat. The eaves of a house moan and creak. A wind chime made of teeth clatters in the breeze. That heavy groan of oak from just a few feet behind you? Was that the mansion settling…or something more sinister?
The absolute best thing about this game is the atmosphere. The art direction is flawless, and the game masterfully weaves a pervasive sense of dread and intrigue I usually only find on late-night public transportation. Despite hero Ethan Winter’s considerable firepower, as I wandered down dark hallways, I often found myself wondering if I had any clean underwear handy should I need a sudden change. The game finds several inventive ways to make you feel vulnerable, including introducing new enemy types and variations. This also leads to a buttery smooth difficulty curve. I think of myself as a very sensitive person who becomes immersed in media, or as my friends call it, “a gigantic coward diaper-baby who has to watch horror movies with the lights on.” Who’s to say which is more accurate? I bring this up to say that, while Resident Evil Village is certainly a terrifying game, nearly all of the fear comes from ambience—a sort of creeping unease of the unheimlich. Jumpscares are few and far between and never feel unearned. I only had to take a few breaks to pet my cat and ensure I wasn’t having a heart attack.
Warts and All
The experience isn’t perfect, however: a few encounters could use a bit more polish. For example, halfway through a boss encounter, the boss became stuck on some weird geometry, so he just stood in place and screamed in powerless futility as I calmly shot him in the face. In a game with such a high level of polish, the few rough spots felt even rougher by comparison. Probably my single greatest frustration was in missable collectables—in one particularly egregious instance when coming to a fork in the road, the right path leads to an item needed for a permanent character upgrade. In contrast, the left path continues the story and permanently locks out that upgrade. No indication is made as to which way to go. I’m the type of crazy where if I miss a collectable, it sticks in the back of my mind like… like… have you ever shaken hands with someone who clearly just put lotion on? So you’re just walking around with goopy, non-consensually moisturized hands, desperately trying to find the nearest sink? Like that.
Luckily, this flaw—as well as the game’s fairly short length—is ameliorated by the game’s New Game+ system, which is excellent. Upon completion of the game, all weapons and upgrades can be transferred to another playthrough. What sets Village’s NG+ apart is its embrace of additional modifiers, which can break the game in delightfully fun ways. Completing challenges unlocks currency that can be spent on a variety of bonuses and unlocks in your next game, which ranges from the fanservice-y to the utterly insane. It’s incredibly fun and feels a bit like a throwback to the N64 era of cheat codes. Remember those? With a little imagination, creatively combining unlocks could lead to some really fun playthroughs. I, for one, can’t wait to unlock infinite ammo for the double-barrel shotgun and the revolver and run through Resident Evil Village in what I’m going to call Cowboy Mode.
From the Store
An Embarrassment of Riches
Beating the game also unlocks Mercenaries mode, which is sort of a mini arcade rougelite race-against-the clock mode where you go through several levels trying to kill enemies as quickly as possible while upgrading guns and grabbing abilities. It’s simple, but I found it really fun and addicting. After cowering my way through the main story, it felt great to turn the tables and blitz through dozens of enemies in just a few minutes, trying to find the most efficient method to my monster-murder. It was a delectable dessert to the hearty main course, an invigorating chaser to the shot that is the game’s campaign.
Resident Evil Village is an action-horror game that does exactly what it sets out to do, nothing more, and it absolutely nails the landing. It’s scary, it’s got character progression even beyond the first playthrough, and it’s a joy to play. Even after beating a cycle and feeling fully satisfied, it’s only a matter of hours before I found myself feeling excited about what my next playthrough would bring.
And, of, course, excited to be strangled by Mommy Dimitrescu again.
If you know, you know.