After bombing somewhat with Resident Evil 6, the 2017’s Resident Evil 7 release was a turning point in the horror genre gaming franchise. The 7th returned the atmosphere back to the fear factor we fell for in the first place and presented us with a first-person perspective. Fortunately, this was enough to gloss over what came before it and win our hearts back once again. Since then the Series has thrived. Capcom went on to release an impressive remake of Resident Evil 2 and 3. Although it is fair to say the latter was substantially less exciting than the former.

A New Story with the same Characters

The newest release from the series is Resident Evil Village, which may as well be Resident Evil 8. Capcom hasn’t named it that way but the story is a direct sequel that kicks off where the last ended and the logo styling could easily be judged by fans to suggest otherwise. It features the same first-person perspective and the arc centers around series 7 protagonist Ethan Winters. However, as Sam Byford highlighted in his review at The Verge it is more reminiscent of Resident Evil 4. This is inasmuch as the content seems to have veered away from the slow-building horror and suspense of 7 and instead has much more of a focus on the action. This isn’t a bad thing, for many fans, Resident Evil 4 was a zenith for the franchise but is Resident Evil Village short of scares?

The Village narrative takes place a few years after the Resident Evil 7 events. The bland protagonist is now living in Europe and raising a baby with his wife Mia but as you would expect things are about to liven up. Cue the iconic Chris Redfield… and poor Ethan is left to find his daughter navigating a hostile village full of were-like people and we are off.

But the atmospheric tone of this part of the saga is notably different. Despite sharing the camera angles, controls, and leading man with 7 the Village has its own vibe. Players are shoved in at the deep end and left to fend for themselves from the get go. The gradual, tentative start of Resident Evil 7 with its slow horrific reveals is not the start the developers have gone for. Village matches Resident 4’s have some warped antagonists opening.

New mechanics in Resident Evil

And it isn’t just the beginning of Village’s storyline that gives us eerie throwback vibes either. Nor is it the European setting. The game really does throw the player into the thick of it all. You will find yourself fending off multiple enemies rather than going head to head. The action is clearly the focus shift this time around. The inventory system has seen a bit of an overhaul. You now store crafting items separately which simplifies things and gives you more space for your arsenal which you are going to need. Capcom has also tweaked some functions making it more user-friendly and breezier in processes. You no longer need to equip a knife to break boxes thanks to the inclusion of a few new shortcuts. They make the in-game quality of life a little better.

The above game changes are useful but the paradigm shift from scare-factor to fighting and firepower focus is a little surprising. Given that the success of Resident Evil 7 was propelled by its decision to return to the survival horror roots it seems a potentially risky sidestep. The previous game was chock full of grotesque mutant monsters the horrific by-products of bioweapon experiments. You found yourself in a festering Louisiana bayou house of horror in a landscape that genuinely instilled fear in you at every turning point.

Kick 4 out of 4

The Village, on the other hand, is played in a much more open space, navigated during daylight, and aside from a few notable sequences has much less of a fear factor. Players are left to solve puzzles within their environment to unlock other areas in a classic resident evil way. The map itself isn’t vast, it is a hub you can build upon as you take down the initial 4 lords of the mysterious Mother Miranda. First up, you’ll visit Castle Dimitrescu, the home of Lady Dimitrescu, a 9-foot tall villain who will stalk you the entire way, reminiscent of Nemesis.

Resident Evil bosses
Resident Evil village bosses. Image credit: dexerto.com

The Castle Dimitrescu setting and the situation is straight out of the classic Resident Evil handbook. It brings you a familiar rhythm of locked doors and step-by-step progression with a helping of puzzles. But unlike Res 7 the action-focused story feels less frightening. Suspense is tricky to build without space and tension to grow it in. But as you have access to a shotgun and uncover the map wiping out more and more antagonists it seems far less terrifying. Each new area preludes your next showdown and seems less satisfying. You come to expect Miranda’s followers rather than being surprised in any way.

That said, Resident Evil 7 was underwhelming in the boss-fight department and this is one thing Village has well and truly taken care of. Capcom must have listened to fans. Many found that the fights were frustrating and unsatisfying. Village’s biggest battles are by no means epic or complex, but Capcom has instilled enough spectacle to make the memorable if nothing else.

The Village tone of voice

The tone of the franchise isn’t completely lost, Village has its moments and we aren’t complaining. In places, it has more of a psychological horror stance but at times feels more akin to the Metro series rather than Resident Evil. Most of the game is structured as a first-person shooter with fairly straightforward puzzles. With 5 and 6 you often found yourself sucked into the suspense and horrified with the fallout a lot of it was shock-value and with the latest installment the horror atmosphere just doesn’t appear to be the main element. Fighting back against enemies is engaging but rarely super-challenging. Typically you will find that you have all the tools you need to get through the encounters.  

 It is important to remember that Resident Evil 4 was met with controversy for its deviation from the usual. It even lost itself some die-hard fans of the series for its similar shift of priorities at the time. These days it is considered one of the most revolutionary action games. Resident Evil Village is nowhere near as groundbreaking, borrowing a lot from 4 but at its heart sequencing series 7; it remains largely a Resident Evil remix.

Bottom line Resident Evil Village is well worth a playthrough and has a lot of solid core elements of the series as a whole. Enough to call it a sequel even if Capcom is having none of it! It is a fun combination of 7 and 4, the sagas that brought with them two of the most poignant revamps and configurations to date. It is therefore no less meritable. Whether or not you will enjoy comes down to how you feel about the Series as a whole.

If you are an avid fan of the labyrinth levels and crazy character encounters then you will probably be more than satisfied but if you were looking for a game-changer then maybe not.