Resident Evil Village Review – When Resident Evil 7 Found Resident Evil 4
Losing the surprise, but recovering some of the action of Resident Evil 4, Village is the sequel we expected, neither more nor less.
Enduring a quarter of a century at the foot of the canyon and as one of the most recognizable and popular franchises in the video game industry is not an easy task. Capcom knows a lot about this with Resident Evil, a milestone that since its premiere in 1996 has suffered some ups and downs (* ahem *, Resident Evil 6), but that has undoubtedly had the ability to gradually renew itself to keep its validity intact. In all this time, what may have been its greatest renewal was the one suffered in Resident Evil VII (2017), where the Japanese company did not tremble the pulse to bet on a more intimate terror and a controversial change of perspective, happening from the third to the first person, which continues to thrive today among fans. With Village, the eighth installment of the main saga, Capcom redoubles this bet, but refines the formula of the last game adding more action, more spectacular setpieces and recovering elements of one of the great moments of glory of the franchise, the classic Resident Evil 4 by Shinji Mikami.
As a direct sequel, Village begins a few years after Resident Evil 7 and returns to Ethan Winters as the main protagonist, this time living with his family in an unspecified location in Eastern Europe. Logically this (not so) idyllic situation is ruined in the first bars of the adventure, and Ethan ends up lost in a strange town haunted by a kind of supernatural cult (a dysfunctional Manson family of vampires and werewolves led by Mother Miranda) trying to find his kidnapped daughter. Going into much more detail would bring us dangerously close to the tricky terrain of spoilers, but I must say that at the plot level it is perhaps where this new installment presents – for my taste – more problems. Thankfully, it never reaches the ridiculous limits of Resident Evil 6, but there is an unmistakable feeling that sometimes things get out of hand and border on adventure comedy ™ in a risky way, with some sequence in which one you can’t help but think you are exceeding your suspension of disbelief. Deep down we must also recognize that it is still something that has always been present in a saga that has handled innumerable influences and clichés, but surprises after the sobriety of the seventh installment.
This may be an inevitable consequence for a game that increases in size and scale, and in which there is also a clear intention on the part of the developers to offer a more varied and complete experience, which shines in its first half but declines a bit. in the second. The village that acts as the main nexus is surrounded by several places (Dimitrescu castle, Donna Beneviento mansion, a mill, and a factory) controlled by Madre Miranda’s henchmen, each having a quite different approach. The castle, for example, is a cat and mouse game with Lady Dimitrescu and her three daughters, while the mill part plays more puzzles with elements of the setting and the mansion with ambient narrative and springs of terror.
In this blender of mechanics and influences, where there is no shortage of those puzzles with objects that have characterized the saga, the inventory of all life and crafting, the most omnipresent element is a marked turn towards action (in which there is even a short section – nobody panic, it is very punctual – which would not be out of tune in a Call of Duty) in much of the adventure. Taking clearly Resident Evil 4 as a role model, Village tries to be more dynamic and spectacular by adding more enemies and confrontations, with an Ethan Winters more prepared to face danger. The mechanics themselves are adapted to this, with for example the possibility of shooting enemies in the arms to make their weapons fall, or an AI that takes advantage of the greater verticality of the scenarios.
Another characteristic element of Resident Evil 4 that returns in this Resident Evil Village is the figure of the mystery seller. In the classic GameCube and PlayStation 2 she was embodied by the mythical Peddler, and on that occasion this function is exercised by a plump character called The Duke, whose carriage we can visit throughout the adventure at different points on the map to buy objects (from ammunition to weapons, going through parts for the latter or schemes that allow us to learn how to craft new items), modify weapons and improve different stats (damage, cadence, reload speed and capacity) and sell things that we have in inventory and that we do not we are going to use, as well as valuables with which to receive Leis (the local currency) to acquire others that are more useful to us. The Duke, in addition, has some importance at the narrative level, since sometimes he gives Ethan clues about what is happening and what his next objective should be.
A minor but certainly quirky novelty related to the latter is a little hunting mechanic and recipes to improve Ethan’s athleticism. On the map there are several points with a kind of “preserves” with chickens, pigs, fish and other animals, as well as specific points – marked in photographs that require a good look at the scene – where you can find unique variants of them (Legendary type animals, so we can understand each other). After hunting those required by the recipe we want to make (there are six, being able to increase health, the ability to run or resistance to blows, for example) we must take them to the Duke to cook them and receive the permanent improvement that they have associated with each. As I say, it is a very secondary mechanic, but grateful and that affects that desire of the designers when it comes to encouraging the player to backtrack and explore in depth the mapping of the village and its surroundings.
This turn to action – keeping, yes, much of the horror component that worked so well in RE7 – and recovering certain aspects of RE4 are elements that sit well in the formula, but there is also the feeling that with the increase in scale has missed something, and that the design this time is not so inspired. Capcom has followed with Village the logical step in the evolution of the saga, but that desire to offer more variety and one more work to suit all audiences also makes us miss the firm concreteness and clear ideas that its predecessor had. They are between ten and eleven hours frankly well used and with a remarkable rhythm – it is a little longer than Resident Evil 7, although it has the right duration to never seem artificially lengthened or be tedious – but despite liking and exceedingly complying with His condition as a blockbuster and with what the followers would expect from a new Resident Evil, in the end Village also leaves a small aftertaste that it could have been something more than a very fulfilling sequel that wastes part of its potential.
But the end of the story is not the end of Resident Evil Village. After finishing the game, a store is unlocked in the extras menu in which we can buy different things using credits that are awarded for completing a long list of challenges (which vary from killing a certain number of enemies with a specific weapon, finding collectibles or dispatch bosses in no time, for example). Here Capcom deserves applause, because where in most titles we normally find a small selection of art pieces, here we have a huge amount of sketches, modeling, character designs and documents that offer a very interesting look at the game development process . There’s also a gallery of 3D character and weapon models, and to top it off, special weapon unlocks and infinite ammo cheats. As all these elements are purchased with those credits obtained ingame – and not via microtransactions – there is a real incentive to replay the campaign seeking to achieve the different ones, extending the useful life of the game.
A lifespan that for good measure (or at least until the release of multiplayer Re: Verse, delayed until this summer) lives and dies with the best of these unlockables: Mercenaries mode. Disappeared in Resident Evil 7, but a regular in the main saga since Resident Evil 3, Mercenaries is a frenzied time trial in which we have the goal of obtaining the highest possible score (and rank) by eliminating all possible enemies in a given time. Each scenario (recycled from the main campaign) is divided into several phases of increasing difficulty, with intervals between each one where we can spend Leis at the Duke’s post to improve weapons and acquire improvements with which to equip ourselves for the next wave of monsters. Scattered around the stage there are also two types of orbs with great importance in the development of the game; the gold ones add a few valuable seconds to the counter, while the blue ones grant a boost to choose between three random ones with which to empower Ethan (increase the damage of a weapon type, be more resistant in exchange for sacrificing speed, make enemies explode under certain conditions, etc.). It’s a fantastic addition, because without needing a class system this allows the player to tailor the experience to their taste and preferences, and also vary how the game is played based on the skill combination chosen.
Resident Evil 7 was already a good showcase of the benefits of Capcom’s fantastic RE Engine, and Village repeats that trend … with some small nuances. A very good artistic direction is supported by a solid technical section, combining the sharpness of 4K with the fluidity of 60FPS, but the frame-rate can be a bit unstable on certain occasions, especially with ray tracing activated. . Nothing that is particularly annoying, really, but it is far from that stability like a rock that we have seen in other games that use this powerful graphics engine. Some specific elements are also a bit shocking because they have a somewhat lower quality than the rest; here I am particularly struck by the modeling and general appearance of the lycans (the werewolves of the Village), perhaps in excess of the intergenerational nature of this project. What there is no problem with is the sound; Its implementation and spatiality is brilliant, with forcefulness in action scenes and with a disturbing subtlety in those with higher tension, being one of those video games that are especially enjoyed with good headphones. And on PlayStation 5, it is also worth highlighting the good use of Dual Sense, with haptic vibration to emphasize the immersion and resistance in the triggers to give more realism to the firearms.
Those who were scalded from RE7, specifically for its use of first-person view, probably will not find a redemption in the Village, but for everyone else it is a more than remarkable title that combines action, horror and survival with ease in a great production. It offers exactly what you expect from it … but not much more. The plot, with those moments and situations already the mark of the house that sometimes make an eyebrow rise, is its weakest point, but in playable and technical terms this Resident Evil Village is resolved with a trade and know-how that does not clash with that lofty trajectory that Capcom has accustomed us to in recent times. A good game, in short, and with the wickers so that in the future, this time, something truly memorable will come together.