When you consider where 'Resident Evil' began and where 'Resident Evil Village' is, you have to marvel at the leaps the series has made in eight games.
Yet, through them all, what's been carefully maintained and what's kept players coming back is the same thing that makes for great horror movies. It's one word, but it can be so often overlooked or ignored in favour of mechanics, story, gameplay, or even just graphics.
Atmosphere. 'Resident Evil Village' has it in spades.
The opening act sets the tone perfectly. There's a beautiful home, a small baby, a loving wife for your character, but one fairytale is replaced with another - a haunted village dominated by four evil spirits, a giant castle straight out of a Hammer Horror housing a giant woman, a crazy doll that likes to stab you repeatedly, and plenty of other ghastly creatures that we'll let you experience for yourself and then haunt your sleep for days on end.
Looking at where 'Resident Evil' began, you can't really compare the two. In fact, it doesn't honestly matter. It's not even necessary for you to have played 'Resident Evil 7: Biohazard', as this game is more experience than the story. Initially, your mind races with a thousand questions when you see the giant woman with the big hat, or the doll, or any of it, and as you progress through the game, the answers become less important. The survival, the challenge, the mystery of each puzzle and escape room - that's what keeps you going back, even though it's not particularly enjoyable. It's a terrifying game, yes, and you know you have to climb down into the well, but you're still doing it.
The first-person perspective carried over from 'Resident Evil 7' continues to work a treat. Indeed, the first-person view does tend to play with your head a little bit. We're so used to having endless amounts of ammunition when you're in a fight, spraying bullets anywhere and everywhere, coming up from behind and dropping an enemy. Here, you're on the back foot constantly. Your weapons regularly run out of ammo. You have to consider every single shot. Running away is often the only option you've got. There will be many times in the game where you'll be frantically waiting for an elevator or door to open just so you can get yourself behind it and away from whatever's chasing you. You'll find yourself catching a breath, and then realise that it's not just you who's taking gulps of air, it's your character too.
The immersive nature doesn't just stop at the audio either. In the very opening scenes, you're following a trail of blood through the snows. Later, in a particularly disturbing scene, you're listening out for the sound of a wailing baby - and running away from it. Another sees you running through a dollhouse and trying to find a particular doll, yet all of them are moving and coming right at you. The puzzles are fiendishly clever, and there's more than a few times that you'll find yourself chuckling at your own stupidity for not getting something so clear - only to have a monster jump at you at the moment of realisation.
The graphics, powered by Capcom's own RE Engine, are sumptuous and the gothic architecture of Castle Dimitrescu is presented in gloss and shine. Light falls over the banisters and stairwells, snow and fog breaks in through small windows, and everywhere you look, there's some kind of ornate design or plasterwork. Of course, you never really get to properly look because you're checking behind you every ten seconds and your ears are constantly tuned for something coming at you.
In terms of game length, 'Resident Evil Village' can take anywhere between 10 to 15 hours to complete - though that is ultimately down to what difficulty you set the game at and your own particular skill level. Some might finish it quicker, others might struggle. The good part is that the gameplay is balanced enough between straightforward survival combat and puzzle-solving that your own strengths and weaknesses will naturally be borne out in whatever situation you find yourself in.
For horror fans, 'Resident Evil Village' has enough going for it that it's worth the price and, likewise, fans of the series will be glad to know that it's got every bit of plot and lore you could think of. For more casual players, it's immersive and has gore and chills to spare, if you dare take the challenge.
Whatever your own particular preference, 'Resident Evil Village' is a beautiful game to look at, and a terrifying one to play.