Remember how, after the release of the amazing Resident Evil 4, Capcom kinda botched it with Resident Evil 5 - eventually totally screwing up the franchise with Resi 6? Well, they're doing the same thing all over again. While not perfect, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was an exciting new take on the survival horror franchise, putting players in the shoes of a new protagonist, in a completely original setting - a house in Louisiana occupied by the terrifying Baker family.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard also used it's first-person perspective (most likely inspired by P.T.) to reinforce horror, exploration, and puzzles, while also presenting a decent amount of action, particularly in the second half of the game. Resident Evil Village is considerably more focused on the action department, and while there's also exploration, horror, and inventory management, in many ways it feels more like a first-person shooter than a survival horror.
Players will once again take on the role of Ethan Winters, who is living with Mia Winters and their daughter Rose, while under the supervision of Chris Redfield. Ethan even has undergone military training, as a way to explain how he's so good with weapons. Well, as you might have seen in the trailers, Chris invades the Winter's house, kills Mia, and takes both Ethan and Rose. The player then regains conscience in the wreckage of their transport, near a mysterious European village.
The village has been ravaged by werewolves, while the nearby castle is occupied by vampire-like creatures, under the rule of the voluptuous Lady Dimitrescu. Determined to find his missing daughter, Ethan will have to explore the village, the castle, and some other locations, unrevealing a weak plot along the way, even by Resident Evil standards. Ethan Winters himself is just a terrible protagonist, and while he was ok as the terrified husband in Resident Evil 7, he just doesn't work as a believable action hero in Village - even if there's more going on with him that we can't get into.
As for Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters, well, don't get too attached. While she's been front and center while promoting the game, especially after the internet fell in love with her massive figure, the fact is her role in the game is minor. The game is structured around seeking out specific items, guarded by four individuals, all "sons and daughters of Mother Miranda", the game's big antagonist. Lady Dimitrescu is essentially the first you'll have to deal with, and her role in the game is much more minor then most fans would probably hope for. As for the other three, they present different challenges (one doesn't even allow the use of guns, in what was a highlight for the entire game), but we won't be spoiling any of that.
As for the gameplay and setting, Resident Evil 4 is the clear inspiration for Village. The game even allows you to barricade doors with cabinets, while you try to hold off werewolves from coming in. Exploration for items and secrets, coupled with a few light puzzles, are still part of the formula, but the game just isn't all that scary or interesting. You will be coming back to the village regularly, usually equipped with some item that will allow you to explore for more secrets, but the village design is not that great, and the lack of any friendly characters to interact with just kept it all a bit dull.
There's also Duke, a new vendor, that will accept high value items you might find during exploration. He will sell you weapons, ammunition, and even blueprints that will allow you to craft your own items. There's even a culinary section, where you can give Duke ingredients that he will use to create special dishes, giving you permanent buffs like increased health or more speed. You will need to hunt the map for animals like chickens and fish, plus a few special animals, to get those ingredients. It's not the first time Resident Evil includes animals, but it just felt out of place.
The campaign, on normal difficulty, took us around nine hours to finish, and while we didn't complete the game at 100%, we did do a lot of exploring and found most items. At best, you're looking at 11 hours to do everything in a regular session. Fortunately, there's also a lot of extras to unlock. There's new weapons for the campaign, 3D models and artwork, and even making of videos, but the star is Mercenaries mode. If you're not familiar with the concept, this is an arcade mode where you battle waves of enemies, trying to get the best scores possible. It's fun, and if you're into it, there's a lot here to explore in Mercenaries.
As for graphics and sound, well, it looked and played great on the PS5. We can't speak about the last-gen versions, but this gen versions - even with ray-tracing turned on - ran smooth. Yes, there were frame drops here and there, but nothing that really impacted our experience. The voice acting was terrible, but that's essentially a given for a Resident Evil game. Overall, we can't really falter Resident Evil Village too much in the technical or production departments.
But we can't fault it in terms of direction and design choices. While it's not a bad game by any means, it's not a great Resident Evil either. Once again, Capcom seems to not understand what fans love about the franchise, repeating the mistakes of old. Resident Evil should not be a full-on action game, and while it's generally fun, and there are a few great moments in here, Village turned out to be disappointing, especially after the great direction the series took with Resident Evil 7. The game leaves the door wide open for sequels, but we can only hope Capcom understands this is not the way to go with Resident Evil.