Resident Evil Village review: a brilliant mash-up of the two greatest Resident Evil games
The most purely fun time we've had playing a game since 2018's God Of War.
I hate horror games.
Let me rephrase that. I love horror games, but I also hate horror games.
As a player, I get too invested, too emotionally involved, too locked off from the outside world, so if I'm playing a horror game, I will invariably be screaming the house down in fright every time there is even the slightest twitch of a curtain.
Resident Evil has always been considered a survival horror game, even if the horror veered into campy territory from time to time, and even the "survival" bit went AWOL when the series pushed hard in the action direction around the time of Resident Evil 6.
For this, the tenth main entry in the franchise to date, the developers have mined their own history and given us a hybrid of the two best Resident Evil games to date; Village takes the first-person terror that reinvigorated the series in Resident Evil 7, and matched it with the OTT, "we've no idea what horrors it will throw at us next" vibe from Resident Evil 4.
The plot picks up directly following the events of RE7, as you once again control Ethan Winters, trying to live a quiet life somewhere in Europe with your wife Mia and brand new daughter Rose. Suddenly, series regular Chris Redfield arrives with a special ops team, kills Mia stone dead, and kidnaps you and Rose. The transport you're in crashes on the outskirts of a snowy village (which is basically standing in for Transylvania), and you come to learn that the powerful village elders have taken Rose and plan to use her in some sort of ceremony.
From there, you've got to make your way through the werewolf-infested village, rooting for weapons and keys to help you progress, and finding clues to the exact location of your missing baby daughter before the ceremony takes place, and trying to solve the mystery at the centre of the village.
A lot of the early footage from the game has been focused on the nine-foot tall vampire leader Lady Dimitrescu, but in actuality, she represents just one corner of horrors present within Village, with each major landmark filled with its own elder, and occupied by its own brand of horror.
Fans of scary games will not be left wanting by the end of Village, as the developers have essentially tackled every aspect of horror that you can think of, from the obvious monster-mash of a small isolated community ravaged by werewolves, witches, vampires and zombies, and all of the body horror that those creatures bring with them.
But there are also entire sections dedicated to a stronger psychological horror aspect, which will evoke memories of the best Silent Hill games, not to mention the legendary P.T., and later into the plot, some more landmark scary games also get heavily referenced, but we won't spoil those surprises for you here.
The visual and aural design is perfect throughout, especially on a PS5 (which this copy was reviewed on) and a good pair of headphones, with the glistening castle interiors and the disgusting creatures given an equal amount of detail, while the 360 nature of sound means that you'll constantly be spinning in circles because something bumped loudly right behind you. Sometimes it is just a door closing in the wind, sometimes it is a swarming group of monsters, but you won't know until you look...
The level layout is also smartly designed, giving ample reason and room to rediscover previously-searched areas with newly-discovered items, with plenty of hidden off-the-beaten-track pathways to take for those 100% completionists. Meanwhile, the legendary Resident Evil puzzles are back and as cleverly frustrating as ever, often requiring that kind of escape-room-meets-fever-dream mentality to solve. Why is there a lock the shape of a fish in this door? Don't ask questions, just find the fished-shaped key, this is just how it is in the world of Resident Evil.
Overall, this is both a brilliant follow-up to the landmark RE7, a great entry point for anyone who has maybe strayed from the series since the RE4 peak, and a must-play for anyone who loves being consistently scared, and waking the neighbours with your 2am shrieks.
Resident Evil Village will be available on the PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia from Friday, 7 May.
All clips via Resident Evil