When I first saw the Resident Evil 4 VR reveal for the Oculus Quest 2, I had my doubts. I worried that the dated look would drag it down, or that they would skimp on something important to the experience. I worried something would be lost or trimmed in translation. I was wrong, friends. Resident Evil 4 VR is everything it should be, the entire game, adapted into VR and a well-crafted VR experience at that. Fighting Ganados as Leon and saving Ashley has never been a more thrilling experience than what Armature Studio, Oculus Studios, and Capcom have come together to deliver here in Resident Evil 4 VR.
The classic adventure through Leon’s hands & eyes
One of my bigger concerns when approaching this game was that it would be a watered down experience. It’s not. All of Resident Evil 4 is here and it’s not just some sort of shooting gallery carnival ride. You move freely through the game (through either smooth motion or teleport for comfort), engaging in gunplay, solving puzzles, and generally trying to survive the nightmare. The only thing missing is, unfortunately, post-game content like The Mercenaries and Ada's Separate Ways mini-campaign, but the main RE4 campaign is entirely here.
For the uninitiated, Resident Evil 4 takes place a few years after Resident Evil 2. Our hard luck lovable dweeb Leon Kennedy moved on from the police to become a secret agent for the U.S. President, and was about to start his job when the President’s daughter, Ashley, was kidnapped. So it goes that Leon is deployed to a rural Spanish village where she was last seen. There, he finds the citizens have been infected by a parasite that makes them murderously follow the whims of a cult leader. It’s not long before your journey to save Ashley also becomes a journey to survive through a twisting village, gothic castle, and secret island.
It’s all here. Every part of it. Chief Mendez, Ramone Salazar, Lord Sadler, Dr. Salvador and his chainsaw, the El Gigante and Los Lagos bosses… all of it. I will say it hasn’t been heavily updated visually. The biggest changes in visuals include things that were not interactable before that have now been reworked to fit tactile VR interaction. That said, Resident Evil 4 VR also doesn’t look any worse than the previous best port of the game. Everything looks the way it did before and all things are where they should be, including treasures, puzzle solutions, pitfalls, and more. I was thrilled to see how intact everything was as I was wandering around in this world again. It really does feel like walking down a deadly memory lane.
That means some pain points return too, though. If you didn’t like escorting Ashley, this game isn’t going to change your mind. Almost additionally, Ashley feels more cumbersome because of her ducking mechanism. To adapt to the freeform control of VR, Ashley will now duck when you point a gun in her general direction, as opposed to when you had the laser reticle on her. That makes trying to keep her safe as you’re backing away from a crowd of murderous villagers more of a pain and led to some of the most frequent game overs I had. That said, you can still tell Ashley to hide in containers till the coast is clear, so it’s not like the ways to circumvent this pain aren’t also still intact.
For better or worse, this is entirely Resident Evil 4 as anyone who has played it remembers it, cobwebs and all. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some incredible innovations here. In fact, I’d argue that VR solves some pain points by adapting of all of the game’s functions into this form.
Gun in one hand, knife in the other
Let’s start with one of the coolest parts of Resident Evil 4 in my opinion: the freedom to use both of Leon’s hands to do different things. Gone is the ready-to-shoot button to aim and fire. Mostly gone are the tank controls. Now your pistol, knife, a single equipped two-handed weapon, grenade, and healing item are retrievable from different parts of your body at all times. What's more, everything feels fairly reachable and also nicely separated so you'll rarely ever be grabbing the wrong equipment by accident
That means that you can pluck Leon’s pistol off his hip and aim with one hand, holding the knife in the other hand, pop a Ganados kneecap, go to town with the knife, rinse, and repeat. It also means you can run away hitting headshots (or missing wildly) while pulling out a grenade to clear the crowd or a healing item to save your life. You can even one-handed fire with the two-handed weapons in a pinch at some serious cost of accuracy. It feels amazingly good. I particularly love using the knife in freeform because you can do everything you’re used to doing with it, but not on a cooldown or recovery animation. It’s your hand doing the slashing of a box for an item or an enemy for murdering. Have no fear though. There’s still a pause menu with your attache case to geometrically arrange your inventory and you can even pick things up, rotate them, and replace them, which is an extremely gratifying take on the inventory organization process of RE4.
The gimmicked control sections also handled shockingly well. I was heavily concerned with how the boat boss fight would handle in this game. I will admit, it’s more of a gallery shooter than any other part of the game with your boat being dragged along as you try to desperately take down a giant mutant fish with a harpoon gun. But you also have to steer the boat around debris, muzzle load the harpoons, and try to get back to your boat if you get knocked out. I thought it was all handled incredibly well.
Comfort is at the core of all of Resident Evil 4 VR’s experience. You can still run up on a stunned Ganados and kick them, but it’s not going to make your world spin as Leon kicks a guy. Instead, the camera briefly retreats to Resident Evil 4’s traditional third-person view as Leon delivers the kick and then goes right back to first-person in a non-vomit inducing manner. Similarly, cutscenes pull you out to a darkened theater where you watch them play just like they used to on a digital projection screen in the game. Honestly, this is likely all for the best because even though it doesn’t quite keep the immersion, it does keep crucial parts of Resident Evil 4 intact.
One part where this is kind of hit or miss is the return of quick-time events. Resident Evil 4 was always rife with them and that hasn’t changed. Now they’re set to motion controls with the Oculus Quest 2 controllers. Often times, breaking out of a Ganados grip or swimming back to your boat means wiggling your controls rapidly. Other times, it means doing directional motions, like swinging your controls apart to avoid an axe and let it break handcuffs keeping you down. That all makes sense. Sometimes it’s less-inspired or samey. During one cutscene, a rope wraps around Leon’s leg and he has to cut it loose with a knife before he gets dragged to death. The game has you wiggle the controls again, which makes no sense to me as there is another QTE in which you actually get put back in first-person to use your knife and slash away at a situation.
Now here’s some good news: you can just turn quick-time events off entirely and watch the cutscenes play out successfully if you want. It’s just a single point among a bevy of comfort options that have been included in this game. There’s changing your dominant hands, changing where certain items sit on your body, sitting and standing gameplay modes, the aforementioned smooth motion or teleport movement, and tunneling vision to name a few. There’s even a special suite of comfort options specifically for the boat to help you keep sea sickness away. I’m not squeamish when it comes to VR, but with the help of these options, I was able to tailor an experience where I could play comfortably for hours on end or until my headset battery was about to die, which is rare for me in a full-motion VR game.
I see you have an eye for things
Resident Evil 4 VR is one of the most surprising delights of my entire year. Every part of the base game is here, and it all fits and feels right. Every bit of the schlock, fear, and intensity is joined by a well-thought-out array of VR gunplay, puzzle-solving, melee, and other satisfying interactions. Resident Evil 4 is one of the absolute high points of the entire franchise. This is a full-on adaptation of it with nothing left out. If you weren’t cool with the narrative, scares, or schlock before, this probably won’t change your mind. But if it was the controls bothered you, this is easily the best and most enjoyable version of Resident Evil 4 to ever come out.
This review is based on a digital copy supplied by the publisher. Resident Evil 4 VR comes out on October 21, 2021, exclusively on the Oculus Quest 2.
Resident Evil 4 VR
- All of Resident Evil 4's main campaign is here
- Controls are incredibly well-adapted to VR format
- Gunplay is extremely satisfying
- A varied selection of comfort options
- Organizing the attache case is still fun
- You can turn off pain points like quick-time events
- Some quick-time events make no sense
- Ashley can still be cumbersome
- Visuals are dated, but manageable
- The Mercenaries & Separate Ways not included
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Resident Evil 4 VR review: A wise choice, stranger
Nice review, as someone who hasn’t played the game before this sounds cool!
So when's the Steam Index version coming?
Do I have to buy this game a 5th and not finish it?
Oculus exclusive? SIGH
I don't understand why these VR titles need to be platform exclusive, really hurting your potential player base and the future of VR in general