EDITOR'S NOTE: Resident Evil Village won a "highly recommended" honor for best characters in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for gaming.
Resident Evil Village is a perfect way to spend a weekend — provided you want to be scared out of your pants. I learned this myself over the last few days, as I walked Ethan Winters through the latest traumatic experiences in his life, as fate conspired to bring him and his family back into danger.
And while the conversation around Resident Evil Village has been focused on the towering Lady Alcina Dimitrescu, curious fans should know RE8 is more than just her. In fact, if you were buying the game just for her, you might wind up disappointed. But this Resident Evil Village review will show why the game is great beyond her long, dangerous reach.
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And a couple of pieces of housekeeping up front. First, this Resident Evil Village review will be as spoiler-free as possible. The experience of playing this game was one I enjoyed tremendously, and that came (in part) from being unaware of what I was about to see. The one thing that I was spoiled about, and the scenes that hewed closely to the demos, didn't hit as hard, so I wrote this review wanting to make your experience better than mine.
Also, I played Resident Evil Village on a PS5, where it played pretty smoothly, with one notable oddity I'll mention below. I bought the PS5 with Resident Evil Village in mind.
Resident Evil Village review: Game length
Earlier this year, I worried as to whether or not Resident Evil Village would be too long. Word came out that the game was going for much grander ambitions, after Peter Fabiano, producer and founder of Global Production at Capcom, told Official PlayStation Magazine that Village is "much larger than what players experienced in Resident Evil VII: Biohazard."
Then I got my hands on Resident Evil Village, and pleasantly discovered the game is just-long-enough. Friends finished the game before I could, ending it in 8 or 9 hours. Which was just as long as RE7 is rated for on How Long To Beat.
And I wound up spending more time in it, finishing it in 12 hours and 20 minutes, and still loving it. Unlike how I played Resident Evil 7, I found myself obsessed with treasure hunting in the village and castles, for making the most of my trips to the shop and getting upgrades for weapons.
Resident Evil Village never wore out its welcome throughout that entire time, and I actually found myself going back to replay bosses, for loot-hunting related ideas.
Resident Evil Village review: World design
I won't spoil the events of the start of the game, but it's safe to say that Ethan, his wife Mia, and their infant child Rose are besieged by a group of rude houseguests. And their arrival quickly brings you to the titular village in Resident Evil Village, a wide-ranging plot of acreage in an un-named European country — where everything is wrong.
Lycans, aka werewolves, litter the alleys like drunks on Santacon week. Puzzles dare you to unlock their secrets. And then, a giant with a massive weapon shows up, in case you haven't screamed aloud yet. All this, you endure, to try and piece Ethan's family back together.
And the city is so lovingly laid out and designed that I couldn't help but enjoy myself, even when I had trouble navigating things. I blame myself for that, mostly, as I rarely tend to use the in-game maps as much as I should, something I later learned navigating Castle Dimitrescu. Covered in golden opulence, with all sorts of secrets to discover, this level is so well-designed (it may be the best of the bunch) that you may never want to leave.
Resident Evil Village review: Characters
As mentioned above, Lady Dimitrescu has been the talk of the town when it comes to Resident Evil Village, but she's far from the only memorable figure in the game. Most notably, the second castle of Resident Evil Village has possibly the most shocking moment in the entire game. I had it slightly spoiled for me, so I won't dare even suggest what frights await you.
What I can say, though, is that multiple people I know verbally exclaimed "Nope!" at the TV, upon first sight of a certain monstrosity. You'll see vampires, werewolves, mechanically-enhanced weirdos, mutations and more. It all snaps together as a love-letter to monster movies, and one that you probably won't play just once.
And that's not even the final boss of that castle, but a mid-boss who killed me at least twice. Those moments highlight to me why Resident Evil Village is such a success: the game has such a range of variety that it always keeps you on your toes. It's arguable that there is too much of the chases that are synonymous with the Resident Evil series, but each villain's attacks are varied enough that I didn't find myself bored at the slightest.
Village also seems to be a bit more finely-tuned for its frights than Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was. While that game was all about the haunted house jump-scares, and hitting you as often as possible with them, Village spreads its horrors out a bit more evenly, so that everything has more time to breathe (and for you to take a deep breath or two).
Resident Evil Village review: Sound and 3D Audio
While we used to watch X-Files with the lights off, for a sense of dread and immersion, many will probably play Resident Evil Village similarly. Instead, I recommend you play Resident Evil Village with headphones on — and on the PS5 — for a different reason.
The sound design of the game is so well done, that I found it essential to my survival. This is mostly because of the PS5's 3D Audio, which helped me hear where the lycans and other threats to Ethan Winters' life were coming from. And that's a big deal because the attacks are coming from all around you, and I found my access to medical supplies dwindling late in the game.
Resident Evil Village review: Shortcomings
My biggest gripe with Resident Evil Village is that the third act of the game doesn't feel nearly as clever as the rest of the action. The gameplay moves over to shooting, shooting and more shooting, especially in the penultimate section. And too much of that feels a lot less engaging.
I also found it weird that one of the big PlayStation 5 titles had so much pop-in — the weird visual glitch where items in your point of view just 'pop' into the scene. This may be a hazard of games that are designed for multiple consoles, as Resident Evil Village isn't a PS5 exclusive.
Resident Evil Village review: Verdict
I try and stick to a strong sleep schedule, with bedtimes and such, but Resident Evil Village shattered my ability to stop put down the controller and stop playing. One night I stayed up late watching a friend streaming it on Twitch, howling at his shocked reactions to the game's events.
Resident Evil Village is the most engrossing game I've played in forever, with a twisted labyrinthine story that hooks you in and pulls you down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Somehow, its crazy, weird plot almost makes sense by the end, and any failings to that regard don't really feel that frustrating. The real beauty of the game, as this Resident Evil Village review shows, are the monsters we met along the way.