Monday, September 27, 2021

Resident Evil 4 VR Hands-On Preview

Resident Evil 4 — like Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto 5 — is one of those all-time great games that has been re-released on nearly every platform. But the upcoming Resident Evil 4 VR for the Oculus Quest 2 might be the first time since 2005 that Capcom’s seminal survival horror game feels new again.

Resident Evil 4 VR isn’t some sampler running you through the best parts of the 2005 classic. This is the full game remade in virtual reality and you’ll be able to experience every area, puzzle, and boss fight in a new light. And I’ll be the first to tell you that this might be the first time in a long while that I’ve been excited to play through the entirety of Resident Evil 4 again.

Resident Evil 4 is best known for modernizing the Resident Evil formula and pivoting the series towards a more action-oriented direction. Gone were the slow-pace controls and sluggish gunplay, Resident Evil 4 introduced a new, faster third-person combat system while expanding the arsenal with new weapons and melee attacks.

All of this translates well in virtual reality. If you’ve played a first-person shooter in VR you’ll know that if there’s one genre VR excels at and potentially surpasses on the console experience, it’s a shooter. To this end, much of the original Resident Evil 4 experience has been remade to be interacted with.

Weapons are a good example of this. All the tools a player needs will be somewhere on their person and can be grabbed as necessary. Need to pull out a gun? Grab it from your waist. Need to heal yourself? Your health items can be grabbed from your left shoulder. Pull out a knife? It's holstered on your chest.

Similarly, reloading your weapon is done in real-time as well. Your ammo is in a pouch on your left side and you’ll need to physically pull out ammo cartridges and load them into your weapon.

This might be the first time in a long while that I’ve been excited to play through the entirety of Resident Evil 4 again.

The whole experience has a learning curve — I can’t tell you how many times I needed a health item only to accidentally grab my knife — but once you develop the muscle memory it’s almost second nature.

Puzzles have also been remade so they can be interacted with. One puzzle in the church requires players to move different colored lights correctly to form the right shape. On the console, players would interact with this using a controller, but in VR you’ll press virtual buttons on a machine to move around the lights the right way.

Likewise, your items are now handled in a full-sized, virtual window where you can pick up items and re-arrange them by physically moving them around. And saving your game is done on a fully interactive virtual typewriter and it might be my favorite thing ever.

Not everything is in VR though. All the cutscenes in the game aren’t viewed in first-person, but rather on a virtual theater screen in front of the player. Not only that, but anytime Leon does an action like climb a ladder or jump through a window RE4 VR switches from a first-person perspective to the same cutscene theater view.

It’s not a very elegant transition, but I understand why it was done. No doubt converting every cutscene in the game will add countless development hours, and I doubt jumping and rolling out a second-story window will be pleasant in VR.

The more serious issue is how some of the combat encounters translate into the new format. Resident Evil 4 as previously stated was a more action-oriented turn for the series and that included adding a lot more intense mob encounters.

On consoles and PC, this wasn’t a problem but in VR the intensity and the difficulty of these encounters are substantially increased. On the one hand, fighting a wave of enemies by pulling your weapons from holsters and reloading them in real-time can be incredibly thrilling.

But if you’re partial to motion-sickness like me, you’ll likely be playing using the teleportation controls, and getting away from a mob with this kind of movement while physically managing your inventory was quite the challenge.

But whereas mob fights are tough and a bit frustrating, boss fights elicit a different reaction altogether. There’s nothing quite like fighting El Gigante in virtual reality, staring up at his towering figure while shooting him with everything you have.

Between boss fights and enemies is Resident Evil 4’s beautiful, gloomy world. While I’ve seen this world many times over the years, there’s nothing quite like seeing it in VR. The constant overcast becomes physically oppressive, and you can almost smell the rot and blood in the village. But there are also moments of serene beauty and you can see it for the first time only in VR.

If you’ve skipped every re-release of Resident Evil 4 because of the incremental changes made for each version, Resident Evil 4 VR is the most substantially different take on the game I’ve seen in a long while and I’m eager to fully revisit this exhilarating nightmare when Resident Evil 4 VR is released this October. At least until the rumored Resident Evil 4 Remake is finally announced.

Matt T.M. Kim is IGN's News Editor. You can reach him @lawoftd.


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