One of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the first half of 2021, Resident Evil Village is finally here as a multi-platform release for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC and Stadia. Here are our thoughts on the PlayStation version.
Initially announced as a next gen exclusive, it didn’t take too long for Resident Evil Village to also be confirmed for current/last gen consoles. Having played it, that’s no surprise, and not just because of the gigantic installed base that Capcom wouldn’t want to miss out on. Village is built on the foundations of its predecessors is more ways than one.
Its most direct link is of course Resident Evil 7, which introduced us to protagonist Ethan Winters. That was a slower paced game than Village is though, which borrows more from earlier action-focused entries in the series. Where Resident Evil 7 excelled though suspense, hiding in the dark and a slow and terrifying buildup, the gameplay here is much more explosive and fast-paced, with the exception of a few scenes. With a far less constant pace than 2017’s game, Resident Evil Village is more about thrills than it is about terror.
That’s not criticism by the way, as Village is immensely enjoyable and great in its own right. Sure, it would have been far less effective in VR than the benchmark experience that is RE7, but that was never the goal here. Instead, what fans get feels a bit like a mashup of Resident Evil classics, with the action-oriented gameplay of the mid-generation titles in the franchise combined with the slower pace of Resident Evil 7 and the original trilogy. You could argue that Capcom is trying to please everyone by looking back and thus not breaking new ground, and in a few ways that’s true. Village largely succeeds at its mixture though, especially in the opening hours of the game.
While the first hour of many horror games can be slow-paced, Village feels like a Hollywood-type horror/action game with plenty of thrills packed into chases and firefights. When you consider Ethan Winters’ last adventure, it feels like a very different environment. Gun fights are far more prevalent and there is less emphasis on scarcity of ammo here, though you’ll deplete a large chunk of your bullets in each battle – creating a need to keep an eye out for more before you run into the next big confrontation.
Combat isn’t just point and shoot either, as you can block entryways to stop advancing hordes, slow them down, or make your escape and stand your ground elsewhere. Because of this there’s a cinematic quality to the game despite its first person perspective, which feels like a natural evolution to what Resident Evil 4 first introduced us to. The game loses momentum a bit once you get used to the new style and locations, but it remains an engaging narrative adventure throughout its runtime.
Visually, Resident Evil Village builds on the foundations of the RE Engine and thus evokes memories of RE7 and the more recent RE2 and RE3 remakes, but next gen technology has caused the development team to push the series beyond what we’ve seen before. On a PlayStation 4 Pro this can practically bring the system to its knees if you select 4K visuals (so just stick to 1080p and you’ll be fine), but on a PS5 you can enjoy raytraced graphics that really make the game shine in its finely crafted locations – the Dimitrescu castle at the start of the game being a great example of the technology that can make lighting and reflections look very lifelike. There’s a “multi-gen release” feel to it that makes you think that they’ll be able to squeeze much more out of the series once they leave the PS4 behind, but it’s already one of the most stunning PS5 titles out there and it’s a treat that PS4 owners shouldn’t have to miss out on either.
It’s also worth noting that even though the PS5 is still a brand new console, enabling raytracing will cause the framerate to slightly dip in busy action sequences. Not enough to be bothersome, but enough to be noticeable. The option can be deselected if you want steady 60 frames per second performance, but in our experience the benefits in visual fidelity outweighed the slight framerate hiccups. And if you have the opportunity, try to connect your console to a surround sound setup – a pair of headphones being a good alternative. Resident Evil 7 showcased how effective audio can be, and Village builds on that – with much of the gameplay being so action-oriented a lot of its suspense now comes from audio.
Resident Evil Village might not push the series forward like RE7 did four years ago, but it’s still a must-have for fans of the series and a gorgeous AAA experience for new console owners.