Game Theory

Resident Evil Village's best level can fix the franchise's worst habit

House Beneviento is unlike anything Resident Evil has done before. We demand more.

Resident Evil Village is a lot to take in. For long-time fans of the horror franchise, it plays like a series retrospective that borrows bits and pieces from every previous entry. There’s horror, puzzle box gameplay, high-octane action, and much more. Anything that has been in a Resident Evil game through its 25-year history is represented here in some way.

While Resident Evil 7 felt like a clear reboot that would shape the series moving forward, Village’s potential impact is much more unclear. It’s difficult to imagine what kind of game Resident Evil 9 (or some sequel title that forces IX into a clever logo) will be. Can we expect more open-ended exploration like we see in Village? Or are we going to get more of the drab corridor shooter served up in something that resembles Heisenberg’s factory?

There are plenty of ways Capcom could run with it, but the real potential for the future lies in House Beneviento.

Spoilers are ahead, so if you’ve yet to get past the castle, you might want to turn back now.

Judging by early fan reactions, the House Beneviento section is the clear highlight of Village and also the biggest departure for the series. The hour-long sequence centers around Donna, a creepy doll that lives in the village. Players enter her house shortly after escaping Lady Dimitrescu’s clutches. Everything feels normal at first — that is, until the lights go out and players find themselves locked in a basement with all of their items and weapons gone.

House Beneviento’s fetus monster in Resident Evil Village.Capcom

That leads to one of Resident Evil’s most memorable moments yet, tonally and mechanically.

The section is best described as a horror-tinged “escape the room” puzzle. There’s a creepy mannequin in the center of the room, which is filled with puzzle pieces and hints. Players slowly wander around the basement solving puzzles that unlock doors. It’s more similar to the mobile The Room series than anything Resident Evil has done before.

Of course, nothing is safe in Resident Evil. Ethan is stalked by a gigantic fetus monster that persistently roams the basement. All of this culminates in an absolutely unsettling boss fight where players have to find Donna among a house full of dolls.

It is a nightmare, and it is perfect.

Concept art of Donna Beneviento in Resident Evil Village.Capcom

House Beneviento may not feel like a traditional Resident Evil set-piece, but it’s a perfect evolution of both its horror and puzzle elements. Areas like the Spencer Mansion have always been giant puzzles that need to be solved. House Beneviento simply takes that idea to its logical next step by creating a more compact escape room. It’s a more modern take on what the series has always been best at.

It’s also one of the only parts of Village that could really be described as genuinely scary. While Capcom intentionally dialed down the game’s tension in response to Resident Evil 7 feedback, House Beneviento doesn’t hold back. The creep show dollhouse aesthetic and the lurching fetus monstrosity are nothing short of horrific.

There’s also the fact that players are left completely defenseless. The stakes are generally low during the game thanks to an abundance of ammunition and the ability to craft more on the fly. Resident Evil has always struggled to balance action with horror, but it finds itself in an especially tricky position here. The final action sequences just don’t feel terribly dangerous when you can just pause the game, craft dozens of shotgun shells, and continue on without consequence.

By reducing the player’s toolkit instead of constantly expanding it, House Beneviento is more exciting than the most hectic shootouts.

Fighting an evil doll in Resident Evil Village.Capcom

The only question is whether or not this style of escape room gameplay could work for a full game.

Part of the reason it’s so effective in Village is because of its brevity. It’s hard to imagine that idea staying fresh over an eight-hour adventure. But when has that stopped Capcom from experimenting? Resident Evil is a horror playground where the creators get to play with different horror movie setups and create gameplay that matches. If we could get an entire action game like Resident Evil 6, why can’t we get a sequel that solely dives into the puzzle side of the equation?

The Resident Evil franchise is at yet another crossroads coming out of Village, but House Beneviento feels like the right direction. It’s campy, scary, and mechanically fascinating all in the same breath. That’s everything that makes Resident Evil special in one compact chapter.

So how does Capcom bring the success of House Beneviento forward into Resident Evil 9 and beyond?

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