Release Date : May 07, 2021
Developers : Capcom
Publisher : Capcom
Platforms : PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Stadia
Can you hear the distant bells tolling the death knell of Ethan Winters’ peaceful life? In the smoky alleys of a remote village, the scene of the events of the new Resident Evil, Capcom keeps the subjective view with the aim of surprising with a universe borrowing from fantasy rather than supernatural slasher. Goodbye to the Molded and the family of psychopaths haunting Louisiana, welcome to the werewolves led by a pack of vicious gurus. But in the pews, doubts are spreading. Is this turn to the occult-ridden lands of Eastern Europe more of a blessing than a curse?
WINTERS IS COMING
For a few months, dark omens have been animating the exchanges on the Web. Thus, the Resident Evil series would be artistically in agony, lost in a “great scenarist nonsense” and “forced to take the codes of Outlast to exist”. But this would be forgetting that Capcom has made the resurrection of the dead its core business. Reinforced by its strong sales – Resident Evil 7 has sold more than 8.5 million copies worldwide – the Japanese company once again trusts Ethan Winters’ eyes to show the horror of an epic that opens with a tale. The story of the Village of Shadows, narrated by Mia to her daughter Rosemary. Unlike the young mother with her book, the Winters couple has difficulty turning the page.
The tragic events in Louisiana in 2017 are still fresh in their minds, and the couple’s move to Eastern Europe has not been enough to erase the terrorizing episode in Dulvey. It is a chicken-daddy Ethan that we discover during the first moments of Resident Evil Village. The former victim then executioner of the Bakers is taking care of his little Rose and is about to enjoy a good chorba (local soup) when a well-known character of the cast interrupts this slice of life. In a few seconds, Ethan’s life changes again. After the capture of his wife in the previous episode, it is now the flesh of his flesh that is kidnapped by a group of illuminated living in a mysterious village. This is enough to fuel a vengeful flame of all the devils in our hero.
Like many other episodes of the saga, it is essential to quickly understand the mechanics of the game in order to survive the first hour of the adventure. Plunged into the skin of Ethan Winters in a bad situation, the player must deal with the action-oriented gameplay of this opus. He has no choice but to use the elements scattered in his environment to slow down his numerous enemies, whether they are explosive barrels to blow up, flour bags to shoot at to create a destabilizing cloud, or cabinets to slide against the doors. Let’s be clear, with the exception of rare sequences where the player finds himself surrounded, barricading is rarely featured. It is more a tribute to Resident Evil 4 than a real desire to emphasize this element in the ways of survival. The similarities with the fourth part of the series don’t stop there. In addition to the damned European village that serves as a playground, a street vendor is part of the game and this time offers to purchase ammunition directly. His store also provides us with remedies, dishes that bring permanent effects (more life, more resistance, etc.), as well as various upgrades for weapons and inventory for a fee/special ingredients.
Useful for facing dangers in better conditions. The inventory, since we mention it, reminds us of Leon S. Kennedy’s with this system of boxes to be filled precisely used in many Hack’n Slash games. It’ s worth noting that the items that are mandatory to progress such as keys, or crafting items (green grass, black powder, etc.), don’t take up any blocks: they occupy a section dedicated to the unlimited capacity. A choice of game design that reinforces the accessibility of this episode to an audience that would not be willing to go back and forth regularly to get to the chests, now excluded from the adventure. Beware, however, that an item removed from the case due to lack of space disappears into limbo. It’ s not left on the ground like it was in Resident Evil 0, which also dared to remove these big interconnected trunks.
PC version: 60 FPS on (almost) all graphic cards
The quality of the RE Engine and its great flexibility on PC is not really to be demonstrated anymore. Resident Evil 2 and 3 were already running like a charm and this is once again the case with Resident Evil Village. This PC version has the advantage of offering a wide range of graphical options and everything is particularly well presented via a system of “gauges”, which allows you to see the impact of a particular feature. You can also opt for “typical” profiles, which will enhance performance at the expense of graphic quality, or a more balanced rendering. Capcom has also teamed up with AMD for this PC version, with the presence of “Radeon” features such as Fidelity FX (which improves the shadows and contours of objects, without impacting performance) or a Variable Rate Shading (VRS) optimized for GPUs with RDNA2 architecture (Radeon RX 6000). Remember that VRS is a technique that consists of calculating a 3D object more or less precisely according to its position in space and in relation to the player’s view. The goal here is obviously to relieve the GPU as much as possible. Note that these AMD features also work on an Nvidia GPU, but Radeon cards benefit from a better optimization on these specific points.
As for ray-tracing, the rendering is convincing, but the difference compared to a rasterized rendering (without ray-tracing) is not obvious either. The interest of the RT will be seen especially on reflective surfaces like mirrors or water, or in the rendering of the projected shadows, which are a bit softer and more realistic. In short, Resident Evil Village on PC is packed with graphics options that can be fine-tuned, allowing the game to run extremely well on a wide range of configurations. We tested it with 17 GPU models (on a PC with a Ryzen 7 3800X processor and 16GB of RAM) and the results are clear: with a GeForce GTX 1060 or higher, you’ll be stuck with 60 FPS in 1080p with the rendering level at maximum (without ray-tracing of course). With an RTX 3060 or 2070, you can easily reach 60 FPS in 1440p with ray-tracing, while 4K with RT at 60 FPS is accessible from the RTX 3060 Ti. As far as stability is concerned, our first run of about ten hours went smoothly, with almost total fluidity. However, we did notice some sudden drops in framerate at very specific and often scripted moments in the game (during boss battles in particular). Fortunately, they were very few and lasted only a few seconds. A stable PC version, therefore, which offers all the graphic options you’d expect and which has the luxury of being very fluid, even on a small configuration.
THE (ALMOST) RUSSIAN MOUNTAINS
By not forcing the player to worry about where quest items or crafting-related items are placed, Capcom’s message is clear: Resident Evil Village insists on the importance of weapons, ammunition, and remedies, the only items that need to be carefully organized in the hero’s suitcase. And there are plenty of guns! From the simple semi-automatic pistol to the powerful shotgun, including the machine gun and the grenade launcher, fans will appreciate a classic but still effective arsenal. The little extra of Village comes from the availability of a sniper rifle that proves its efficiency against flying enemies or Lycans on rooftops. Indeed, the fairly open level design of the town and the fact that most enemies “exist” in the world rather than suddenly appearing make the sniper weapon very useful.
For the rest, in a combat situation, nothing moves drastically. You should always aim for the head (or the immediately identifiable weak point) to do maximum damage, parry with a trigger if the trouble cannot be avoided, and run away when possible. Compared to Resident Evil 7, the Village battles are a little more interesting thanks to the fact that there are more different types of enemies, although they are similar to those encountered in the past. Humanoid monsters can be disarmed with a well-placed bullet, while better-equipped variants appear along the way to avoid leaving the player in his comfort zone, if it exists at all. Mistakenly compared to Outlast, this new Resident Evil is mostly a horrific FPS.
In Village, only one sequence allows the player to hide in empty cabinets out of the ten hours of gameplay that make up the epic (in standard). And while escape is encouraged – especially in the advanced difficulty levels – it is not necessary for progression, nor is infiltration. Once again, the game alternates between action and pure fear, although the balance is obviously more on the side of powder than fear. With generous content, a steady pace, and varied situations, Village is a theme park of awful. With its roller coaster that has climbs that are sometimes too high: some boss fights and level parts are dragging a bit too long. The lack of virtual reality is painfully noticeable, and someone who has experienced Ethan’s setbacks in Louisiana with a PSVR attached to their head will wander through the streets of the village as if it were a vulgar health course. This is very unfortunate.
Three difficulty modes are available at launch: easy, standard, and hardcore. The fourth mode, called “village of shadows”, is reserved for owners of the Resident Evil Village deluxe version. The game is relatively simple in standard, but quite complicated in “hardcore”.
The charm of this Resident Evil lies mainly in its gothic atmosphere and its universe coming from a tale gone wrong. Here, the marvelous, the fantastic, and the horrific are mixed together like a holy trinity of the underworld. As you can see from our screenshots, the crumbling interiors are a reminder of dead nature, while the landscapes we visit remind us of those in the film “Abandoned” by Nacho Cerdà. Some of the views are breathtaking, they will make the joy of the sordid photographers. The research work done on the European rural style, with the white plastic chairs disfiguring the gardens or the yellowish tiles on the wall of the kitchens, is a real asset for the immersion.
In addition, an effort has been made on the environmental narrative, while the various documents are easy to read thanks to a limited number of pages to consult. The rare secret treasures to be found in more or less hidden caves, as well as the rather unusual bestiary with its gargoyles, werewolves, and other vampires would almost give the impression of walking in a horrific Skyrim, which is far from being unpleasant. Except that here the focus is on storytelling, to the point where even the hub world forces a certain order in the bosses to be eliminated. We won’t say more about the story or the epic moments, but know that Resident Evil Village has some tasty sequences. Whether you try it on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, or Xbox Series X|S, the RE Engine renders impressively overall. Faces are expressive, textures are very detailed (except for the slimy surfaces) and animations are convincing. On PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, the game remains fluid even when ray-tracing is activated, which makes it a very feasible mode to discover the mysteries that lurk in the bowels of this cursed village.
IN THE EAST, NOTHING NEW?
As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, Resident Evil Village is a good game thanks to its original atmosphere (for the saga), to more interesting confrontations, and to surprising passages. Nevertheless, we can’t hide our disappointment with its structure which is more or less the same as its predecessor. We find a hub world (here the village, previously the Baker’s garden) inside which there are four main paths leading to as many bosses to eliminate. Yes, if the subtitle of this Resident Evil is Village and not Castle, it’s for the simple reason that Dimitrescu’s castle is only a short part of the adventure. Ethan spends more time wandering through the devastated landscape of the remote village than on the luxurious tiles of the castle. Again, we get a more intimate start to the game (the castle instead of the psycho house), and again, the ending is more about gunpowder than fear. The metal corridors of the final level (the nature of which we won’t mention) almost feel like reliving the events of Doom 3, which is quite unsettling. It will surely divide the fans of the series.
Once the main adventure is over, a store appears and offers a lot of extras to buy for special points. Inside you can unlock weapons, unlimited ammunition, concept arts, 3D models of the various monsters/protagonists used in the game, or the new Mercenaries mode.
By diving into both the fourth and seventh parts of the series to fulfill its thirst for references, Resident Evil Village doesn’t bring much fresh blood to its body. It has neither the revolutionary aspect of Resident Evil 4, nor the surprise effect of Resident Evil 7. We appreciate discovering the many tributes scattered here and there, such as a puzzle performed on a piano, but we deplore the overuse of some clichés: the indestructible sequence where the player loses all his weapons is part of the game, as well as the usual passage where the hero is chased by an invulnerable monster (with Lady Dimitrescu as Mister X). It doesn’t escape either the revelations that were predicted from the beginning, nor the stereotypical villains with lines of dialogue heard over and over again. Finally, the software does not avoid funny details that we dare to call implausible (such as the weak point of some creatures, and other scenario details that we do not wish to reveal here). The trademark of Capcom, some will say. Elements that don’t fundamentally spoil the experience, but that reduce our enthusiasm a bit. The scenario, if it goes in all directions, is fortunately enjoyable to follow.
More accomplished than its predecessor from which it shamelessly steals its structure, Resident Evil Village is a complete experience that quietly fills all the necessary boxes for the success of an action-oriented survival horror. Although it draws its inspiration from the Spanish dungeons of the fourth installment, Capcom’s title manages to pull its weight thanks to its fantasy-tinged atmosphere, which is original for the saga. The unforgivable absence of virtual reality and the presence of a “déjà vu” feeling prevent it from claiming the title of the village’s prominent leader. No need to start a dispute though: this new Resident Evil is a success.