Near the beginning of Resident Evil: Village, it quickly becomes clear that the game will be structured around hunting down four powerful lords that live around the titular village. These characters immediately give off big Metal Gear Solid vibes, with tons of unique, over-the-top character communicated by their visual design alone. Each of these bosses also has a distinct area that reflects their personality and offers a different tone of gameplay for the player.
The first of these lords is the heavily advertised Lady Dimitrescu, whose lavish castle made for a tense showdown with the lady and her three daughters. Following that, you head to the home of Donna Beneviento, a black-clad woman with a nightmare-inducing doll by her side. Initially, I was hesitant. Much like the trope of creepy clowns, sometimes scary dolls don’t work for me and come across as a lazy cliché. Fortunately, it begins by making it clear that they’ll use this idea to explore an extremely personal space.
On your way there, you’re confronted by visions of Mia, your wife who is killed in the opening of the game. It’s an eerie reminder of the tragedy that you’ve experienced that sets the tone for House Beneviento. When you arrive at the locked front door, you don’t have anything that would traditionally act as a key. On a lark, I selected the family photo that Ethan has carried with him throughout the game from the menu, and sure enough that worked to open the door. From this first puzzle, it’s clear that you’re not going to be working with grounded, real-world logic, but rather a more dream-like emotional logic.
The inside of House Beneviento is a stark contrast from Castle Dimitrescu. Instead of the expansive and ornate rooms of the castle, you explore a rather subdued mansion, one that occasionally gave me echoes of the home Ethan and Mia occupied in the beginning. Going into the game, I wasn’t expecting this much contrast between locations, so I was thrown a bit off balance by this curveball in the best possible way.
After going down an unreasonably long elevator, you find Angie, Donna Beneviento’s doll that appears to do all the talking for her. Angie’s sitting motionless holding the flask you’re looking to recover. You attempt to grab it, and suddenly the lights go out. When they return, Angie and the flask are gone, but what you do find is even more upsetting. Lying on the table is a life-sized doll that strongly resembles Mia. This doll acts as the central point of this level, asking you to disassemble the doll to find more clues and keys to unlock additional areas of the house. Pull off the arm and find a hidden symbol. Rotate the eye and find another. Disassemble the leg to find a key. Each of these actions has some joystick movements associated with it, giving a very tactile feeling to the act of taking apart this image of your wife piece by piece.
To further drive home the emotional weight, puzzles in this area are based on extremely personal parts of Ethan’s life. The combination for a lock is the date on a bloody wedding ring. A music box featuring figurines of a husband and wife is a lockbox for an important tool. You open a secret passage behind a bookshelf, one of my personal favorite creepy house tropes, by arranging film strips in order based on clues related to Ethan’s family. It’s easy for you to forget that you’re trying to avenge the death of your wife and save your child while fighting werewolves and vampires, but House Beneviento is constantly reminding you of your quest through its surreal puzzle design.
You’re unarmed throughout this whole section, so when you begin to hear a baby’s cry escalating just as it seems you’re escaping, you know something is coming. And what a something it is. To further drive home the themes of family, you are chased by a giant creature reminiscent of a fleshy, monstrous baby. It leaves a bloody umbilical cord in its wake, changing the relatively calm area into a horror show. With all the doubling back and unlocking you’ve done throughout your time in the house, you’re armed with enough knowledge of the area you can loop around and evade the creature to escape and return to the ground floor.
Your time in the house isn’t over yet, as you have to face off with Donna Beneviento and Angie before leaving for good. Rather than have a traditional boss fight, you’re treated to something a bit more unorthodox, but just as panic-inducing. This area of the house is littered with dolls, all horrifically shaking their heads like the creatures from Jacob’s Ladder. To win, you must play a game of hide and seek to find Angie three times. Take too long and she’ll summon a horde of dolls to attack you. Without access to healing items, the pace immediately becomes frantic as you try to spot her and finish her off.
While the rest of Resident Evil: Village can be scary, this section definitely feels like a different type of horror. It’s got the structure of the famous Happy Birthday escape room-style segment of Resident Evil 7 with a bit of P.T. thrown in to change up the tone. It’s such a breath of fresh air that breaks up the pace and offers something truly unique and terrifying. As much as I love the ways Capcom continues to reinvent the Resident Evil franchise, I would love to see them take a shot at making an all-new horror franchise that tries to capture the spirit of House Beneviento throughout an entire game. At the least, I hope Capcom sees the love this segment has been getting and releases DLC that captures the same tone, much like RE7’s Bedroom DLC echoed the escape room portions of that game.