Resident Evil Village for iPhone review

Resident Evil Village, or RE8 as it is colloquially known, is the latest major installment in the long-running Resident Evil franchise. It would be a disservice to say that the games simply belong to the survival horror genre as they essentially created it. The series has spanned two and a half decades and graced nearly every major gaming platform.

Now, the latest mainline entry in the series is coming to iOS. Resident Evil Village for iOS is largely a port of the Mac version, which itself was a port of the PC version. It is a native ARM version of the game, as you would expect it to be for iOS, and only available on the Apple A17 Pro on the iPhone and M1 or newer on the iPad.

Resident Evil Village for iPhone review

Today, I want to look at the game on an iPhone. This isn’t necessarily a detailed review of the game, which is two years old at this point and a known quantity, but rather the experience of playing it on an iPhone, more specifically the new iPhone 15 Pro. So let’s get started.

Resident Evil Village follows the story of Ethan Winters, who is a returning protagonist from Resident Evil 7. After the harrowing events of the previous game, Ethan is trying to settle down with his family and have a semblance of a normal life when things go awry again. Taken to an unknown abandoned village, Ethan has to try and rescue his family one more time from the horrors that lie therein.

Without giving away the plot of this game and the previous one, that’s about as much of a summary as one can give. Resident Evil plots are a bit goofy, to say the least, and this one is no different, with an eclectic cast of characters that are equal parts charming and terrifying. While some knowledge of the series is helpful, you can essentially go into this one directly and the prologue at the beginning should be enough to get you up to speed. That is to say, you don’t need to have played the previous ones to enjoy this.

Resident Evil Village for iPhone review

Resident Evil Village on iOS is available as a free download, which gives you access to the prologue and the initial Village chapter. Once you reach Castle Dimitrescu, the game asks you to purchase the full version, which is simply an IAP that costs $16 and unlocks the rest of the game. There is also a DLC pack for $10, which gives you access to the Trauma Pack and Winter’s Expansion. The former mostly adds cosmetics and a higher difficulty level and the latter adds a third-person mode, additional characters for the Mercenaries mode, and Shadows of Rose story mission. There is also a $2 all-access voucher, which unlocks all the locked items in the game and basically acts as a paid cheat code.

The prices mentioned above are temporary discounts and will increase on November 20.

As mentioned before, the iOS port of the game is more or less just the macOS version with seemingly very few modifications. This can be seen primarily in the game’s settings and menu.

Jump into the menu and you will first notice just how small everything is. I am not exaggerating when I say this is basically the macOS version, as the developers have simply forgotten that the average iPhone does not have a 13+ inch display and thus the menu text may need to be made larger. On the iPhone 15 Pro, my eyesight was certainly being tested and those with lesser vision may have a harder time.

Resident Evil Village for iPhone review

The other thing you will notice is that the graphics menu is identical to the macOS version. Now, I am primarily a PC gamer and a graphics menu is one of my favorite places in a game but there’s something quite wrong about seeing it on a phone.

On one hand, you have access to essentially all the options available on PC minus ray tracing and VRS. Also, AMD FSR 1.0 has been replaced with Apple’s MetalFX (more on that later). But apart from that, you get all the same options, including resolution, frame rate, rendering mode, resolution scaling, anti-aliasing, texture resolution and caching. There’s also texture filtering, polygonal mesh quality, ambient occlusion, screen-space reflections, volumetric lighting quality, subsurface scattering, shadow quality, contact shadows, shadow cache, bloom, lens flare, film noise, depth of field, lens distortion, and AMD’s FidelityFX Contrast Adaptive Sharpening. Some of these options such as rendering mode, resolution scaling, CAS, and AA are disabled when MetalFX options are enabled.

If you are not sure what all of these do then the game also has a few quality presets, including a recommended mode, which just turns most of these options off.

The reason I am not especially stoked to see these options in a mobile game is because it adds complexity where it does not belong. A mobile version of a game should ship in an optimized state, where various parameters are already chosen during development to offer the best image quality to performance ratio. Some presets would make sense if the game was launching on Android where there is no end to hardware variation but make little sense considering it will be available only on a handful of devices on iOS, all very easy to optimize for. This is not a good sign as to me it sort of signals a low-effort port.

Resident Evil Village for iPhone review

I will speak more about performance and image quality later but first I need to get the controls out of the way. Resident Evil Village for iOS comes with on-screen controls. Once again, these controls aren’t designed for mobile since the game itself isn’t. Instead, your screen is littered with every single button you normally find on a physical controller because you actually need all of them to play the game.

The location of the keys on the screen can be adjusted. You can also adjust the opacity and how long it takes for the controls to auto-hide when you aren’t using them. You can save your changes to multiple presets and swap between them easily through a button in the top right.

Playing Resident Evil Village with the on-screen controls on the iPhone is simply not a good experience. A first-person shooter is already a subpar experience with a physical controller compared to a keyboard and mouse. Playing the game on a touchscreen with a facsimile of the physical controller layout is orders of magnitude worse.

There was no layout where I felt truly comfortable and the sheer number of keys on screen also got in the way, not just of the action on screen but also of other keys. It didn’t take me long to switch to a Bluetooth controller and never look back. You have to remember that the game was designed with physical controls in mind and the action on screen does not slow down for you to slowly fumble around with touch controls. You just end up making mistakes and frustrating yourself. The on-screen controls are simply a backup option and not at all how you should be playing the game if you can help it.

However, using a wireless controller seems to incur a noticeable input lag. I used an Xbox Wireless Controller paired using Bluetooth and the controls had a much longer delay than the on-screen buttons, which were fairly responsive. The game just feels a bit floaty with a wireless controller, which is unfortunate and my attempts to plug the Xbox controller using a USB cable were in vain as even though the iPhone has a USB-C connector now the Xbox controller doesn’t seem to be supported over a cable. You may have better luck with a different controller. Also not supported are mouse and keyboard.

Getting back to image quality, this is where Resident Evil Village on iOS scores big. For all its faults, a straightforward port of the Mac version and therefore the PC version essentially means you are getting top-tier visuals sans ray tracing. Village, in general, is a very good-looking game with excellent artwork, high geometric detail, beautifully lit (and unlit) environments, superb character models, and some great material work. Even when set to the lowest settings, the game still looks great.

iOS min settings
iOS max settings
PC max settings
PC max with ray tracing

iOS min settings • iOS max settings • PC max settings • PC max with ray tracing

What’s not great is the performance, at least on the iPhone 15 Pro. The launch version of the game had lengthy stutters and pauses, which often resulted in the game freezing completely or crashing to the homescreen. This was partially fixed with a patch but ended up delaying this review as the game had a tendency to crash at a specific spot early on in the game which prevented further progress.

Unfortunately, performance now isn’t a lot better. Even set to the lowest setting and MetalFX set to performance mode, Village runs at close to or below 30fps most of the time. A stable 30fps is quite playable, especially for a largely slow-paced game such as this one but unfortunately, the frame rate here isn’t stable. Some spots during traversal will especially trigger lengthy spells of sustained performance drops, which slowly resolve over a few seconds. The performance also seems to cause issues with the audio, which often goes out of sync with the visuals on screen.

With performance being the way it is on the iPhone 15 Pro, there isn’t much point in doing an optimized settings guide. The best thing you can do is set everything to their lowest values — except perhaps texture settings and anisotropic filtering, which can be bumped up a bit as they don’t affect GPU performance — and then enable MetalFX performance mode with resolution set to the display native. The good thing is that you can get away with a lot on the iPhone’s smaller screen, except for reducing output resolution, which does make the game look noticeably blurry, so I would keep that at native. I also wouldn’t bother with higher settings as it’s hard to see any notable difference on the iPhone’s display.

If I had to guess, it’s possible the game’s performance issues on the iPhone stem from memory management. Resident Evil Village is especially demanding on video memory and wasn’t particularly pleasant to run on sub 8GB VRAM graphics on PC without turning textures down far too low. The iPhone 15 Pro only has 8GB memory for everything and it’s likely the memory is getting overrun and swapping into storage, which would explain why the game especially slows down when approaching new areas. Running the game will also cause your background apps to close and switching to some of them will also quit the game so there’s definitely a struggle happening here with respect to the memory management.

It seems the game is a bit too ambitious for the A17 Pro and the memory situation on the iPhone 15 Pro, especially in the state it was released. It’s rather unfortunate that Capcom decided to phone this one in rather than spending any time optimizing for the literal two iPhone models running the A17 Pro, and it seems you need at least an M1 or newer to properly enjoy the title on an Apple platform.

Still, there are moments of brilliance where the frame rate isn’t too bad and the game looks absolutely stunning. Despite my gripes, it was hard not to be impressed to see a game previously only available on consoles and PCs being playable on a smartphone. The fact that it’s a lazy port makes it especially impressive and that the A17 Pro can run it at all is praiseworthy.

Running a demanding game at what would undoubtedly be maximum TDP means you are going to end up with a lot of heat. Unfortunately, the iPhone does get quite warm while playing, which can cause the performance to drop further. I would recommend keeping the phone outside of its case and playing with a wireless controller so the phone can dissipate its heat and you won’t feel any of it.

I was impressed with the use of Apple’s new MetalFX upscaler. MetalFX offers two modes, performance, and quality, which offer simple spatial or temporal upscaling, respectively. Similar to AMD’s FSR 1 and FSR 2, MetalFX can either upscale a low-resolution render image to a higher-resolution output one using the information within a single frame (spatial) or using multiple previous frames (temporal).

MetalFX Quality
MetalFX Performance

Native • MetalFX Quality • MetalFX Performance

The performance mode looks quite rough on the Mac and possibly on the larger screen iPads but was quite serviceable on the iPhone 15 Pro’s smaller screen. The image does have noticeable fizzle in high frequency detail areas but it’s not too bothersome. Quality preset cleans the image considerably and actually looks better than native since it can resolve much more fine detail than the game’s lackluster native TAA implementation. It does have more smearing than TAA or performance preset but isn’t really noticeable on the phone’s screen. There’s also the performance cost, which often isn’t justifiable.

The loading times for save files weren’t especially brisk but far from slow. They do load slower than on a PC despite the phone using a fairly fast flash storage but the limiting factors here are likely the CPU and the memory.

Another thing that impressed me was that the developer included true HDR support. I haven’t experienced any HDR games on a phone before but the implementation here is exceptional. Resident Evil Village already looks great but the way the highlights from torches and lamps pop makes it that much more stunning to look at. At one point I was nearly blinded when I decided to shoot an explosive barrel up close. The iPhone 15 Pro display is clearly doing a lot of heavy lifting here and visually the whole experience is an absolute treat.

The sound in the game is great too. Resident Evil Village makes good use of positional audio and the mobile version sounds clean without any aggressive compression to fit on a phone. And speaking of compression, the game is an additional 8GB download on top of the 1.37GB download from the App Store so it’s not that big at all.

The game supports backing up and restoring save files on iCloud. However, the saves are only compatible among iOS devices and you cannot restore a save from your Mac to continue where you left off.

Overall, Resident Evil Village on iOS is a mixed bag. Sometimes the mere existence of something can be impressive and that’s certainly the case here. This is, once again, a largely unmodified version of the Mac and PC port, and seeing it running on an iPhone is shockingly impressive.

Resident Evil Village for iPhone review

However, there was work that needed to be done to make this something that is merely playable to something that is actually enjoyable, and Capcom hasn’t put that in. The performance on the A17 Pro is lackluster, the on-screen controls are a literal afterthought, and no care has been put into making the UI legible for adult human eyes.

I assume the experience would be better on an iPad in terms of performance and usability but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that the bare minimum amount of effort was put into making this port as evidenced by the overly complex graphics menu for a mobile title. A mobile port should have the same level of optimization as the console versions, not the desktop versions.

What’s disappointing is that the iPhone 15 Pro hardware is clearly capable of a better experience had the developer put in some work optimizing for the device, similar to what you see for the much weaker Nintendo Switch. I’m surprised Apple is even marketing this game in its current state as I’d say it needs a lot of work to become a showpiece title for the iPhone.

In the end, Resident Evil Village for iOS is a title that is currently best suited for the iPads and perhaps future iPhones and unless Capcom decides to go back and put more work in, isn’t recommended for purchasing on the current gen iPhones.

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