March 24, 2023

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Resident Evil Village review – an entertaining if uneven slice of horror

Everywhere I look, the empty gaze of one – two, three, five; oh my god, dozens of – glassy eyes are staring back, watchful and hateful. They chitter merrily to each other as I tear through rooms, desperately seeking the outlier secreted somewhere in the mass of giggling, squirming china dolls. Twice I run out of time – I’m so panicked, I don’t even see the thing when it’s right in front of me – and then they swarm me, lifting horrifying, segmented appendages to attack, and I properly scream this time, loud enough that my next-door neighbour hears me via an open window and hesitantly knocks on the door to ensure I’m okay.

It’s not entirely Capcom’s doing that I’m a screamy, jumpy mess – I effed myself up watching the (terrible) 1987 horror Dolls when I was still in junior school and my fear of those frozen china faces has never quite left me – but it’s as though the developer reached into my brain, jotted down my worst nightmare, stuck it in Resident Evil Village, and then forced me to relive it.

It is to the developer’s credit, however, that this neat, traditional home is such a triumph of understated spooks and masterful level design. Later, when I’m lost within a labyrinthine factory that long outstays its welcome, I’ll realise how unusual – and special – House Beneviento is; even if I wasn’t quite able to appreciate it while I was trapped there, racing through shadowy corridors and frantically hunting for a place to hide. It’s terrifyingly brilliant and brilliantly terrifying in equal measure.

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