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Resident Evil Village (PC): Review

Introduction

The Resident Evil series has been a long standing horror staple, starting from the cheesy fun that was the original to elevating itself to survival horror heights with RE 4, inspiring many other games in the process, to mashing up into an over-the-top divisive action game with RE 6 before finally reinventing itself with the First Person Experience that was RE 7. Capcom got plenty things right in RE 7, pushing the Resident Evil series back to mainstream as one of the quintessential horror experiences of the year. They then furthered their stride with the incredible RE2 Remake, though falling a bit short on the RE 3 Remake and the multiplayer experience that was RE: Resistance.

Resident Evil Village, or RE 8, takes the learning from RE 7, and furthers the plot with the protagonist Ethan Winters making a return along with RE regular Chris Redfield. To the most part it is executed with precision albeit falling short in certain sections of the game. Let’s take a look at what makes and breaks this game and how it stands up to the other entries in the series, and if you should get it.

Story

You’re Ethan Winters, the dedicated husband of Mia Winters who went through an absolute ordeal in the events of the previous game in an attempt to save your wife. Multiple endings aside, the canonical choice of successfuly having saved Mia is what is carried over to this game. And now you both have a child, a daughter named Rose. Settled peacefully in Europe under the protection of Chris and some military training thrown in.

But this is a Resident Evil game, not a family simulator (even though family was a big part of the previous entry), and as laws of survival-horror dictate the protagonist must be pushed into life-threatening situations for the game to work. Chris Redfield makes an explosive entry and before we know it, Ethan finds himself in the midst of an unknown snowy location in the middle of the night, looking for his daughter who is now apparently kidnapped.

In general Resident Evil fashion, you gather story elements from your environments, sometimes missable items providing useful extra details. At other times, real-time cutscenes help drive the story forward. The acting and facial expressions in these sections are well done and props are to be given to the actors behind it.

Long things short, you’re now in the midst of what appear to be gothic creatures with Lycans and Vampires making an appearance among various other creatures.

Ethan also carries a personal journal this time around which he occasionally utilises to write down his thoughts on recent events and his feelings. Despite being a staple generic character pre-requisite of most faceless First-Person games (to allow for the player to place themselves in there), Ethan displays a wide range of emotions both in his actions and words. His main driving force being the rescue of his now missing daughter, apart from general survival.

The overall aesthetic and design choices for the game stem from this focus on the Van Helsing like creations and environments and the story largely serves to introduce these elements in a generally well-paced manner. Not everything is equally fleshed out as some parts shine way more than the others and some sections get over too quick. Without giving too much away, the story and in extension the game, take the player through some very distinct locations and scenarios, sometimes appearing to belong in another game entirely. The story really hits its stride near the ending with some unexpected twists which can be difficult to swallow for some players. Regardless, it ends on a high note after suffering some bumps along the way. I for one appreciated these late story beats.

Characters

Ethan Winters – The returning faceless protagonist from Resident Evil 7. Intentionally made generic to allow for the player to place themselves in the first-person view, Ethan seems to have developed an increased sense of sass in this game with tongue-in-cheek retorts and one-liners directed at his general situations or threats in the vicinity. It in fact teeters at the edge of Leon levels of ridiculous badassery seen in RE 4. It would appear the military training provided by Chris Redfield seems to have done more than enhance his physical skills. Personality aside, his convictions are clearly displayed in his actions and words and in the added journal in this game. With a clear objective to save Rose and survive, a step-up from the wife saving in the previous game, Ethan braves through numerous near-death experiences once again without flinching too much.
Notably, the reloading animations and certain movements are indeed enhanced this time, a consequence of the training as an in-game explanation and as simple game upgrades by the devs in real-life terms. Ethan is able to shoot while blocking, as well as push enemies back in addition to simply blocking them. The reload animations indicate a sense of finesse indicating his familiarity with weapons now, having gained experience since the beginning of RE 7 where he was just a normal IT guy.

Mia Winters – The wife of the protagonist. She seems to be holding back a secret. Whatever it is, saying anything more would spoil the fun.

Chris Redfield – If you haven’t seen the trailers yet and want a fresh experience, feel free to skip this part. Chris appears to be the big bad in this game, showing up and making Ethan feel tortured right off the bat. He seems to have gotten a face lift over the three years it’s been and is even more buff, the boulder punching man of RE 5 seeming to be taking form here. His motives, his mission in the game, are something you need to find out for yourself. It’s also worth noting Chris is in fact the poster boy of the game, appearing on all the cover arts.

Lady Dimitrescu – A classy vampire lady over 9 feet tall who managed to make the internet infatuated with her dimensions and bodaciousness. She lives in the castle you eventually get to in the game and provides quite the towering dominating experience. Her patterns largely resemble Mr.X from RE 2 Remake once she starts stalking you. You definitely don’t want to get too close to her in this angry state.

The Duke – A mysterious oversized man who by the end of the game will be everyone’s best friend, for he provides you with all the ammunition, upgrades and money you need for the road ahead. He even cooks up food for you with ingredients you bring him and provides valuable insights to help out the protagonist in the game. What better friend could one ask for in a werewolf infested village with huge vampire ladies walking around castles in the distance.

Heisenberg – A Magneto man who can seemingly control metal around him, yes. He also has a unique accent and certain one-liners which can be an earworm if you’re not too careful. Great pair of sunglasses to boot. There is an in game explanation for you to find out how exactly he can do what he does. One of the most interesting characters of the game.

Moreau– Just a grotesque looking monster thing who provides you with a lot of disgusting puke. When you do get to fight him though, things take quite a fishy turn.

Mother Miranda – The cult leader running the whole show and laughing at you while you’re trying to figure out where your daughter is. Why is she here and what is she doing? That’s a mystery to solve indeed.

Gameplay Elements

The Resident Evil games have always had a satisfying gaming loop with an emphasis on upgrades through exploration and item hunting. Inspired from the RE 4 mechanics, from which the game takes a lot from, RE 8 re-introduces the merchant in the form of Duke. This magic-man of goods will appear wherever you go through the game, stalking you to provide you with the best upgrades possible with the money you have at that moment.

And where do you get this money? The in-game currency called as Lei can be obtained in a myriad ways over the course of your journey. Killed enemies always drop loot which sometimes contain money. You can also sell any item you find in exchange for money, including your weapons, which you will need to strategically replace. But the biggest chunks of money come in the form of treasure hunting. RE 8 has the most fleshed out treasure hunting mechanics of the whole series, with the map allowing you to keep track of which ones you’ve yet to collect. Each treasure has some associated puzzle with it, be it rolling a tiny ball across a miniature platform game to the goal or lighting up some fires in a dark cave. It almost feels like a Tomb Raider game when you do these optional treasure hunts as they’re completely skippable from the point of view of the story. But absolutely essential if you’re looking to max out your arsenal.

Speaking of arsenal, the weapon upgrade system from RE 4 also makes a much appreciated return here. Each weapon has different stats which can be upgraded for a “small fee”, as the Duke puts it. These range from fire-power to reload speed and the rate of fire. Weapons can also be modified with attachments which can either be found across the game or simply bought from the Duke. The prices for these modifications get progressively higher as the game goes on, so you need to pick your upgrades carefully. An upgraded weapon can also be sold for a higher price in exchange for a newer weapon, as the Duke will magically acquire them through the course of the game.

Another interesting and arguably fun mechanic is the addition of cooking. That’s right, you can gather “ingredients” to hand over to the Duke who will then proceed to smash them together with a big smile and serve you a portion. This is not done just for fun though, as each cook-able dish provides a unique and permanent buff to the player. This ranges from an increased health or increased blocking power to increased movement speeds. This is a fun and unique way to upgrade your character’s traits as you go looking for chicken to kill or goats to slaughter. But a rather annoying fact is that these ingredients are limited. Once you gather them in the world, they are gone forever. Woe betide if you were to accidentally sell it, you can’t get it back, ever. The Duke does sell back weapons but not these ingredients. There are also certain areas of the game which get locked off as the story progresses and if you miss these limited ingredients in that part, you may never be able to complete those juicy upgrades.

Fish are notably are hard to find and easy to miss. In my playthrough, a certain section which contained fish, hidden away mind you, was completely locked out. By the time I realised the limited nature of the resources, it was too late. I had to continue my game knowing all I needed was a single fish to complete an upgrade I desired, never to be found again.

Exploration is highly rewarded. As in the recent RE games, any areas you visit will be marked by a certain color indicating the “completion” level of that area. Red indicates there are items yet to be found, blue indicates you’ve been thorough and looted it all. The unvisited areas are shrouded in grey. Loot ranges from simple herbs which can be combined, as we’ll discuss soon, to random scrap. Occasionally you will also come across unique treasure items, money or weapon upgrade parts. The gems from RE 4 also make a return wherein you need to look for shining objects on walls or roofs. Shooting them allows you to collect them once they fall to the ground. There are also destructible goat dolls strewn across the map which can be broken to build up to special rewards depending on how many you collect.

Then we have the inventory system. It’s been upgraded from the previous games and is now even easier to manage. Albeit lacking an auto-sort system, each item can be picked up, rotated and placed in a section of the “box” or inventory space you have. At certain times you may find your inventory nearly full and be unable to pick up larger items, but you can actually move around the items to create space for it. This detail can be easy to miss out on as games usually auto-create space for you. You can always upgrade the size of the inventory for a “small fee” from the Duke’s Emporium as well.

Each item in your inventory can also be examined to provide details about it. Weapons will provide weapon stats in addition to the general description, while also detailing each attachment that has been added to it, in addition to the rotatable 3D model which can be observed. Any combinable items will also provide the option as you click on them.

Examining items in the “treasure” or “key items” section of your inventory can also lead to interesting finds, such as hidden gems or sometimes necessary story items needed to progress. Some treasures can also be combined with each other to greatly increase their value.

The inventory is largely intuitive to use and less clunkier than the previous iterations. The same however cannot be said for the inventory system in Duke’s shop as the way of adding items to sales is a little clunky looking for newcomers.

Crafting, an RE staple, makes a return here. This time you can also buy blueprints from the Duke to increase the number of different items you can craft. Further, the crafting system is much better than the previous games where you had to individually click each item and combine it with another. Here, the number of resources you have is displayed on a bar and the craftable items are shown in white, the un-craftable in red. All you need to do is click on the item to be crafted and the item is ready for use, similar to the system in Alien Isolation. How Ethan accomplishes this in the middle of a fight almost dying to a monster is another question entirely, but hey we’re not complaining.

The movement mechanics and actual combat can initially feel clunky, but seems to be intentionally made so by the devs. This is probably intended to provide a higher sense of dread as Ethan is not a nimble Apex character who can bounce around enemies. You can add up to four weapons of your choice to the shortcuts ranging from 1-4 for easy access, though sometimes having to go into your inventory to occasionally pick out a landmine or pipe bomb could get frustrating. We’re no DoomSlayer but having 1-9 as the shortcuts could have made it easier. Then again, this is probably a design choice to accommodate the D-pads of most consoles which have only 4 options by default.

Ethan can’t jump except in scripted areas or hoppable fences or ladders. He can however crouch and at scripted areas, go prone. Blocking as a mechanic is re-introduced from RE 7, where pressing “space” or your designated button will cause Ethan to hold is hands out in front of him. If he is holding a bigger weapon like a rifle, he will use that instead. This might look silly but is highly beneficial to surviving most attacks. Ethan’s simple hands-out-front technique can help him defend blows from swords and hammers, a remarkable feat indeed. He does take a very slight amount of damage even while blocking though. Interestingly, he can also shoot while blocking with a single-handed weapon in this game. This can probably be explained due to the “military training” provided to him by Chris in the three years since the events of RE 7.

Using the knife is also deceptively effective as the flimsy looking thing can obliterate most enemies if done right. Most enemies can actually be dodged around, with blocking and crouching also helping. This can help save ammunition and an interested individual could even attempt a knife-only run. In fact, slight spoilers, you gain access to a “light sabre” as a reward for completing the game. That’s right, you can go full star wars on it if you want to. Unfortunately though, the mighty knife cannot be upgraded in stats.

The guns work as intended. The only gripe here is that most guns don’t allow you to fully aim down the sights. As a first person game, that can be mildly frustrating but the crosshairs make up for it. Enemies have weak-points and targeting them leads to better results in encounters. Ammunition is limited and is a fine balance between too less and too much. Crafting bullets along the way will be your go to for most of the game.

Ethan can also take no damage at all from his own explosives, similar to previous RE games. This might not be realistic but is pretty useful considering you can bomb enemies one feet away from you without a scratch. Throwing bombs doesn’t seem to have a visible curve-line though so you need to guess the required power.

Solving puzzles is also a staple of RE and it returns here, goofy as ever. Goofy because some puzzles can be ridiculously straight-forward, others quite complicated even involving inspection of items in the inventory. While also being unrealistic at times, such as having to find a jack handle just to lift a tractor to crawl under. Ethan could very well climb the tractor to get to the other side but it’s part of the game logic and frankly is satisfying either way. Key items can be interacted with and will usually open up your inventory for you to choose the item to be used, which is part of the puzzle mechanic as well. Bless these goofy RE puzzles.

The map is easily accesible and shows locations of every visited place. In addition it shows details of whether an area has been completely looted, if a treasure has been obtained or if a place of chicken has been completely obliteretad for your food needs. Key items and doors will also be indicated which are quite useful. There is also a journal which many people could miss, where Ethan writes down his thoughts about the situations he encounters. Any picked up documents or files will also appear here along with game tips and recipes for foods.

Overall most of these elements cohesively bind together to provide for a more than satisfying experience. These are staples of the RE games and the devs have picked the best aspects of RE 4 and RE 7 along with general quality of life updates to provide for a fun gameplay loop. Upgrading your weapons and seeing it’s effects is satisfying and so is going on treasure hunts to finally sell the steals for more upgrades.

Environment

The environments in this game are some of the best seen in the Resident Evil series. Sprawling hills with distant snowy peaks visible amidst the lingering fog, the castle looming in the distance and the RE Engine delivering top notch graphics for today’s standards. There is a sense of scale that is very new to an RE game.

The village feels dead and cold, the castle is one of the best decorated areas with intricate designs lining the walls. The devs have gone through the extra effort to add all these textures which are completely skippable. Some areas may not be equally impressive but the overall environment design is commendable.

The accompanying level design is also top-notch. Areas get unlocked as you progress the story and neatly tie into each other. Admittedly, the involved back tracking and navigation of narrow areas can get confusing, but this adds to the sense of panic when being chased by monsters.

The RE Engine ties it all together with the best it has ever looked. Some textures and water surfaces may look sub par at times, but the global lighting and particle effects highly elevate the mood and tension, especially in the darker sections. This is also the first RE game to feature Ray-Tracing but the effects are barely noticeable with a huge hit on the frames, as expected of RT. Have a look at our in-depth analysis on the effects of RT in this game for a better idea here.

Aesthetic Choices

From the first look of the game shown in trailers, it is obvious the developers intended for a gothic Van Helsing like theme with Lycans, werewolves and vampires replacing the regular zombies. We also find dark-souls-esque monsters and environments throughout the game. As standard in RE games though, all of this is eventually explained in-game with specific lore points. Regardless, I appreciate the unique direction taken by Capcom for the game, ditching regular zombies for werewolves while managing to fit it into the lore of the game. A part wishes that they had gone all in on this aesthetic as there are other sections of the game that deviate from this, but overall it remains noticeable and appreciable.

Replayability

This entry features a high level of replayability with increasing difficulty levels being unlocked as you finish the game along with unlockable weapons and cheats such as infinite ammo. There also exists a “Mercenary mode” which basically involves going through the game with a timer thrown in and Doom-style upgrades available in every new area to grab. Replayability also allows for collecting missed items or achievements for more rewards given in the form of points which can be used to unlock even more weapons or artworks and figures for your collection, apart from trying out different styles of play with different weapon upgrade choices. Overall, definitely worth the replay especially if you like the story and mechanics the first time through.

Audio Design

The audio design doesn’t exactly stand up to the level of graphical detail, but it services the game and is not bad by any means. Environmental sounds are well executed especially in the quieter sections. However, the guns don’t have the punch or variation as in certain other FPS games. The monsters can make repetitive groans. None of this really affects the experience though as these are minor gripes.

The soundtrack is well done, with some tracks providing a sense of dread and tension and others with necessary emotions. The safe room music for example is another re-imagining of the classic RE safe room music and is a calming one to listen to as you take a breather.

Bugs/Glitches

Capcom generally has a good track record of releasing finished games with no major bugs, and it thankfully continues here. Even though some areas of the game feel a little rushed or dropped in quality, the bugs are minimal.

A noticeable bug encountered by me and many players is a certain treasure area failing to open after returning from a boss fight. And it remains locked for the rest of the game as the trigger flag is somehow missed if you don’t visit the area right after the fight.

The flying enemies can also have janky AI sometimes as they start bumping into roofs or glitching through floors or walls. Capcom needs to work on their flying enemies a bit more.

The ball in the rolling puzzles can sometimes glitch through walls as well.

Overall, very minor bugs and is to be expected from a game this big in scope. We expect them to be ironed out in future patches.

Boss Encounters

The boss fights in this game range from grand to a brawl in the alleyway. Certain boss fights feel so well placed in the sequence of events that you may not realise you are in the middle of one. Others are grand and obvious from the get go, the final boss fight being straight out of an RPG game. There is also a very fun and ridiculous fight near the ending which is probably the most over-the-top Resident Evil has ever been. We will leave this for you to experience yourself as it is a sight to behold indeed.

Overall, the boss fights are well paced with noticeable weaknesses and attack patterns providing for a strategic and fun experience, with it being woven into the cutscenes as needed.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, an excellent entry into the Resident Evil franchise. It trips and falls in certain areas but the ending picks it back up and ties it into a neat bundle. It may not be the most consistent with some sections feeling overly short while some being dragged on. The castle for example seems like a wasted opportunity with how less of a time is spent in there while some other sections feel prolonged. There are also jarringly different sections of the game. A certain section for example is reminiscent of a Silent Hill game with an escape-room style scenario. All of this is countered by the extremely fun gameplay loop, visuals, story and characters. This may not be the best in the series, but is good enough that a personal taste might place it as such.

If you like the aesthetic elements show cased in the trailers and are a sucker for fun survival horror with shooting and RPG-like upgrade mechanics, with a good story to boot, this might be the game for you. If you’re put off by some of the elements mentioned above, you may want to wait for a sale, because the game is still worth a try.

Our Rating

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

8.5/10

Capcom continues to deliver with a solid entry in the RE series albeit falling short in certain areas, but tying it up into a very fun first-person survival-horror experience.

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