The latest game from venerable horror series Resident Evil is the worthy recipient of our Best Horror award. For more accolades, head to the GOTY 2021 hub (opens in new tab), which we're updating through the rest of the month.
Jacob Ridley, Senior Hardware Editor: Resident Evil Village is a much more fast-paced game than you might expect off the back of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. For that, it's the Resident Evil game I'd recommend to those who haven't tried one before, as in between all the body horror there's a whole lot of running-and-gunning.
It also blends so many excellent horror game staples into a single, fluent game. Each primary 'area' of the map feels like a discrete experience, some focusing on action and others downright haunting. And each one is home to a well-written, and well-acted, paranormal mob boss. Resident Evil Village feels like a horror game built to cater to most horror fans, and while that may sound like overreaching, Capcom manages to thread the needle exceptionally well.
Harry Shepherd, Guides Editor: I skipped Resident Evil 7, but totally not because I was too scared. And I can prove it: I played Resident Evil Village. But it means my last experience of the series was terminally bloated action movie Resident Evil 6, and Ethan's terrifying jaunt through Castle Dimitrescu could hardly be more different. In the best way possible. It also reasserted how pleasant and useful it is to have fully functioning hands.
Anyway, where Resident Evil 6 was overlong, over the top, and needed the reset of 7 to get back to what the series is best at—scares—Village takes that a step further: It's tighter, more focused, and, most important, blood-curdling. As Jacob says, each area feels distinct. They're a series of neat, horrifying episodes that feel fresh enough that, once Lady D is sent packing quicker than you might expect, you don't really mind.
Resident Evil Village boasts plenty of fearsome moments, even when you're armed to the teeth. In what feels like no time at all after admiring the reveal of the imposing Gothic castle, you're surrounded by werewolves, left scrapping for survival with a mixture of bullets, red barrels, and sheer dumb luck. I was at my most afraid in these moments—when I was cornered.
For all the gratifying guns, the section in which they're all taken away will always live longest in the memory. The tall vampire that stole the show ahead of release may cast a long shadow, but hidden behind her was one of the scariest horror sequences I've ever played.
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: Like Jacob and Harry said, Village remains enthralling because of its distinct sections and their variety. They keep asking different questions: "Do you like gothic horror? Do you like body horror? Do you like unsubtle metaphors for adult fears?" Yes, Resident Evil Village, I played Silent Hill 2. I bloody love unsubtle metaphors for adult fears.
It's like running through Resident Evil's greatest hits. Here's the huge spooky building full of puzzles and zombies. Here's the village where you board up windows before getting besieged. Here's the lake with a giant fish in it. Here's the factory level that goes on slightly too long. I'm making fun of the Frankenstein factory, but I still enjoyed it, though I preferred the doll house and the Dracula castle—even the puzzles, which avoided some of the genre's pitfalls. When I found the piano puzzle, I figured it was going to be the usual nonsense that assumes you have perfect pitch and recall, but it's quite doable even if you think scales are just things on a snake.
As another person who skipped RE7, I'm glad I came back for Village. It's a real "everybody gets to eat" experience, with room for thrilling monster-fight set pieces as well as sneak-and-chase sequences and the occasional wander through decaying grandeur for the sake of pacing. It even brought back Mercenaries mode, which rules. (If you also skipped RE7 I recommend reading a summary first, because once you hit Lore Town, there's stuff that won't make any sense otherwise.)