By Barry O'Rourke
RTE LifeStyle Journalist.
Set in a monstrous Transylvanian world, Resident Evil Village is an expertly crafted game packed full of survival and horror which will delight and terrify you in equal measure.
If Resident Evil Village can be summarised in one word, it would be tense.
Taking place 3 years after RE7, Ethan Winter's attempts at a subtle, family life comes crashing to a halt one night. There’s suddenly gunfire, a kidnapping, Chris Redfield, and suddenly Ethan finds himself in the village; a deserted place ravaged by werewolf mutants. Lovely.
Ethan’s mission to rescue his daughter (and himself) seems almost impossible when faced with the four local lords and their enigmatic leader, Mother Miranda.
Immersive gameplay teaches you to 'fear everything’
I’m only 10 minutes into playing Resident Evil Village, and Ethan Winters has already lost half his left hand. I sigh deeply and agree to the game’s terms – expect anything.
From then on, every darkened room is entered under the sights of a gun. Every door opened with bated breath, and my nearest escape route committed to memory.
In one instance, I spent an enormous amount of time, sneaking across an abandoned farmyard, tip-toeing through the corn only to discover I was alone. It so happens most of the fear (and fun) of playing Village stems not from the game’s actual content, but my imagination.
It is a game that relishes off your paranoia, constantly threatening what could be in the next room.
This unfounded fear is heightened by the game’s first-person perspective, which gives you a front-row ticket to every horrifying enemy, every bloody dispatch and every empty path.
The highly detailed graphics are both a blessing and a curse. Every lighting effect, every shadow cast and the faintest sign of humanity is in and of itself a storytelling device. Sound is also an effective medium, where a creaky door or gnarl from above, below or behind you will stop you in your tracks.
Resident Evil is a franchise enamoured with iconic, memorably boss fights. Village is no exception to this. Each of the four lords you’ll face, along with Mother Miranda herself, are more absurd than the last.
Undoubtedly, the breakout star is Lady Dimitrescu, a 9ft 6" vampire. Equipped with retractable claws (as any good vampire should), and with 3 doting vampire daughters by her side, Dimitrescu engages in an iconic cat-and-mouse chase with Ethan around her gothic castle. He may lose a hand along the way.
She has become a bona fide gaming legend, with several mods already being produced to celebrate, parody and otherwise expand upon the most iconic vampire character in recent years.
And whilst I won’t spoil the specifics of what else Village has in store for you, suffice to say the vampires are the least of your worries.
Nothing wrong, but nothing new
For players who haven’t played prior instalments, an effective introduction video will fill in all blanks. For veteran players of the franchise, Village plays on past strengths and doesn’t rock the boat tremendously with any new features.
Like all Resident Evil games, ammo is scarce. If you enjoy rationing supplies and counting every bullet, you will relish what Village has to offer.
Ethan can carry and craft a variety of weapons, ranging from handguns to shotguns, a sniper rifle and more. Gameplay sticks to familiar territory, which is hardly a criticism given RE7’s calibre.
The game’s merchant and pseudo guide ‘The Duke’ appears frequently throughout, selling a multitude of upgrades. Invest accordingly and the game won’t be unreasonably difficult to complete.
That said, you can increase the chaos, carnage and cruelty of your playthrough with the game’s four difficulty modes. The latter of which you can unlock by completing the game or buying the DLC, and is aptly described as ‘survive the unsurvivable’.
A fitting addition to a gaming legacy
The Resident Evil franchise is over 25 years old and on the whole, has frequently experimented with its formula. Whilst Village doesn’t do anything genre-defining, it is still a beautifully executed game that you’ll relish playing (and replaying).
From visceral gore and haunting sounds, the atmosphere is always tense; you’re never more than a few steps away from a frightening moment, and help ground an otherwise bonkers plotline.
Whether it’s the village itself, or the castles and labyrinths beyond, it’s a game begging to be explored, and yet will punish your curiosity at every corner. A cast of campy, chaotic villains will entertain and horrify in equal measure, and leave a lasting impression long after the ending credits roll.
With Resident Evil Village, you’ll shoot, sneak and survive your way through 10+ hours of terror, most of which will be from your imagination.
Resident Evil Village is available to play on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, One, PC and Google Stadia. Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Rated 18s.