Resident Evil: Village (PS5) Review – A gripping outing for fans old and new

Resident Evil as a series has come from humble beginnings and Capcom has taken the IP to all manor of places over the last 25 years. From simple settings like a mansion to more complex locals that see character travel the globe, players are taken to all manner of places across each title.

With the latest entry, Capcom has given us a location that is equal parts simplistic and unique along with a story that treads new ground for the series while keeping some of the wider series lore intact, for better or worse.

The titular village for Resident Evil: Village can be considered a character itself. On the surface, an unnamed rural location somewhere in Europe but with the aesthetics and atmosphere of something straight out of a classic gothic fiction novel. It acts as a central hub for the player, allowing access to the regional outskirts that progress the story, all the while feeling like a place where people actually lived. You know, before they were torn apart by werewolves.

Open areas like central squares and wheat fields provide pleasant backdrop for exploration as well as dynamic settings for combat with all manner of monsters. Flour bags and explosive barrels beg to be used to stun or damage crowds of Lycans whenever their numbers outweigh the player. Players are rewarded for going out of their way to see everything there is to be seen in the various houses and huts, stumbling across resources to craft, new weapon mods or even treasure to sell for weapon upgrades.

The first-person perspective has continued from 2017’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and offers a similar variety of weaponry with a greater emphasis on guarding from incoming attacks. The new pushing mechanic used when successfully guarding gives better opportunity to make space between the player and the multi-toothed monstrosity in front of you, but I found the timing between guarding and pushing to be incredibly difficult to get to grips with, instead opting to simply keep my distance or run past.

Capcom have chosen to revisit a popular mechanic from Resident Evil 4 in the form inventory management. Gone is RE7’s simple box layout where a pistol took up the same space as a wooden statuette, instead having players rotate and rearrange a suitcase style load out like a game a violent version of Tetris. Speaking as someone who enjoys a well organised in-game inventory, bringing back this system added a better sense of keeping on top of my inventory when things became that bit more intense. Treasures and key items have their own separate tab too, meaning you no longer have to choose if you need an extra stack of ammo or that crystal you found in someone’s draw that will net you a few thousand lei.

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Lei is the in-game currency that can be found in the environment, dropped from defeated enemies, or made from treasure sales to RE: Village’s shop keeper character called The Duke. This mysterious merchant will appear in various locations across the game, often pointing protagonist Ethan in the next direction to move the story along, all the while offering his services. Visiting the duke means you can spend your hard-earned lei on buying consumable items or upgrading weapons, albeit sometimes at prices you won’t be able to amass without searching every nook and cranny for treasure and coin.

Resident Evil: Village follows on from the story told in RE7, set three years later where Ethan Winters and wife Mia are now hiding out in Europe with daughter Rose. Things go awry when fan-favourite character Chris Redfield shows up out the blue to gun down Mia and take Rose and Ethan away. When their vehicle is attacked and Ethan is thrown out into a dark winter forest, he soon arrives in the village only to find its residents fighting for their lives. Who are the four lords? Where did these creatures come from? Well, if you’ve played a Resident Evil game before, you can probably figure a lot of these things out.

Without going into spoilers, I’m not too proud to admit that some of the bigger story revelations I did not see coming and was left pretty surprised. While not a total masterclass of storytelling, the narrative as a whole was satisfying and felt like a nice little bow was put on the story come time for the credits. Of course, there is plenty left open for the obvious Resident Evil nine, whatever it may be called and whenever we may see it. But what is here, if you take the time to look around and read the various notes will satisfy even fans of the original 1996 release.

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When credits do roll is when the real bulk of Resident Evil: Village’s value shines through. My first playthrough (standard difficulty, no bonus weapons etc.) clocked in at around the nine-and-a-half-hour mark. Since then, I’ve been through the campaign a further three more times in order to complete various trophy criteria and check off the game’s many challenges that unlock after you beat the game the first time. The reward for which is special stronger weapons and, for the truly invested, the ability to have infinite ammo for weapons. For those interested in behind-the-scenes stuff, you can also use your points to unlock figurines and concept art.

Finally for long-time fans, the famous (or infamous) Mercenaries mode makes its first appearance since Resident Evil 6. This is an entirely separate bonus mode that sees players surviving waves of enemies with limit resources in order to get the best score. There are some rewards for the main game that can be earned from investing time in Mercenaries mode, but I won’t spoil the surprise for anyone interest.

Overall, Resident Evil: Village is a bold next step for the franchise and showcases very well what the next generation of game consoles can do. I did not see one loading screen during my time playing and saving my game was done in the blink of an eye. The game isn’t perfect of course but what Capcom have done with RE: Village is an impressive next step in terms of overall gameplay and engaging story. Fans shouldn’t skip out on this title and newcomers will be able to enjoy it just as well, even if you’re only in it for shooting some werewolves.

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