Resident Evil Village launched last Friday, giving folks plenty of time to play (and probably beat) it over the weekend. Capcom didn’t let me talk about it in my review, but I think it’s time to finally gush about the excellence of the House Beneviento segment.
It should go without saying, but everything that follows from this point on is firmly in spoiler territory. I recommend not reading any further until you get through the section in question.
OK, now that it’s just us: What the heck?! Even though it comes fairly early in the adventure, House Beneviento is a mindfuck of the highest degree and easily the best part of Resident Evil Village. As much as I’d love to fill this blog with paragraphs of expletives and furious keyboard mashing, let’s do a quick recap in case you need a refresh on this trippy mansion.
After finding the flask containing Rose’s head in Castle Dimitrescu, Ethan is told by The Duke that he’ll need to defeat the three other lords of the titular village if he wants to bring his baby daughter back to life. The hub area has several branching paths, but the only one open to the player at this point is the foggy, forested trail that leads to the home of Donna Beneviento.
Before you even reach her stately chateau, It’s clear the confrontation with Ms. Beneviento is going to be An Experience. Baby dolls hang from nooses and line the graveyard path, staring at you with dead, glassy eyes. Ethan’s dead wife Mia even makes an appearance by way of a few convenient hallucinations. By the time I reached the front door of House Beneviento and unlocked it with an old picture of the Winters family in happier times, I was prepared for anything.
What awaits is a shock, if only for its normalcy. The rooms of Donna Beneviento’s mansion are so understated that, at first, I nearly mistook it for a vision of Ethan and Mia’s home from Resident Evil Village’s opening moments. It’s an unsettling follow-up to the grand designs of Castle Dimitrescu, made even more creepy due to the various dolls that stand sentry. Eventually, you find an elevator that leads to the basement and come face-to-face with Angie, the emaciated puppet through which the cloistered Beneviento family heir spoke in Ethan’s previous encounter with Mother Miranda’s terrifying troupe.
Angie is holding the next flask of Rose’s body, but as soon as Ethan grabs it, the lights go out. The puppet taunts Ethan in the darkness, stealing his weapons and leaving him to figure out the puzzling hallways of the mansion’s lower levels. It’s here that Resident Evil Village echoes the “Happy Birthday” and “Bedroom” puzzles of Resident Evil 7, tasking the player with figuring out a way to escape, all without facing any immediate danger from the game’s various monsters.
Well, mostly. Near the end of the sequence, Ethan is confronted by one of the most disgusting creatures in Resident Evil history, a crawling mass of flesh that vaguely resembles a baby. It slides along the ground, leaving a trail of blood and meaty bits. The baby-thing laughs and screams as it chases you, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which sound is leaving its gaping maw. With no weapons, making any sort of contact with this monstrosity results in an instant death. Escaping it takes smart usage of the basement’s lockers, and at one point you even take refuge under a bed, a claustrophobic moment that trapped my breath in my throat as I waited for the creature to lose track of me. The whole thing freaking sucks in the best way possible.
After escaping the basement, you’re able to confront Angie directly. Her boss battle is a fun game of hide-and-seek that diverges from the shoot-out with Lady Dimitrescu, but it barely compares to what happened in the lower levels of the Beneviento mansion. Still, even after two playthroughs, House Beneviento remains my personal high point in Resident Evil Village, one that fully realises the franchise’s turn to a first-person perspective and provides an overwhelming amount of atmosphere that I wish the developers had the good sense to maintain throughout the rest of the game.
Resident Evil has never been a strict survival horror game — most installments devolve into similar action-heavy conclusions — but in House Beneviento, Village shows a great understanding of the genre’s potential. While it’s hard to be too scared when you know you have a pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle, and grenade launcher at your disposal, stripping the player of these powerful weapons imparts a feeling of hopelessness that’s hard to match. That said, I’m also not a fan of games where I’m always dispossessed of any way to defend myself (looking at you, Outlast). It’s a careful balancing act that Resident Evil Village nails in its transition from the action-heavy finale of the Castle Dimitrescu section to this creepy, weapon-free trip to House Beneviento, but tends to lose as the game continues.
In short: Lady Dimitrescu may have been a huge part of Resident Evil Village’s marketing, but everything involving Donna Beneviento and her creepy mansion are the real draw. Sorry, horny gamers.