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Resident Evil 4 (VR) Review

| Oct 31, 2021

Resident Evil 4 has claimed virtual reality as its latest victim for remastering. Somehow, the influential survival horror classic isn’t the same game with VR. Instead, players get to experience the game as they first imagined it in 2005. Bleak, gory and full of mad twists along the road. Resident Evil 4 suddenly pulls players into a nightmare and dials the tension up two-fold. Oculus’ commitment to Resident Evil 4 makes it one of VR most successful ports I’ve ever seen. While setting a precedent for how older games can be properly moved to the VR realm.

But the devil lies in the details of how Oculus created an entirely new game. Players aren’t looking over Leon S. Kennedy’s shoulder anymore. There’s a new thrill in reloading your own weapons as enemies close in. A few bio-organic monsters haunting you from a safe screen distance are now in the same room. More importantly, Resident Evil 4 VR makes you feel like an action hero in one moment and a victim the next.

It’s hard to ignore Resident Evil 4’s impact when it first released 16 years ago on the GameCube. This is the game which helped modernize third-person shooters and over-the-shoulder aiming. Game studios would continue to look at Resident Evil 4 for combat in a horror game. Giving players a fighting chance against hordes of enemies. The story still stands as a lengthy action adventure. Its characters continue to entertain with sharp sarcasm. Familiar faces like the Chainsaw Man, El Gigante and Garrador haven’t taken a chill pill.

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The VR version for Resident Evil 4 reinvents everything from a first-person perspective. It’s the biggest game-changer after plenty of carbon copy remasters. Here, the world of Resident Evil 4 feels truly immersive. Players aren’t just passively starting at a screen. Or pushing an analog stick to look around. Appropriately, Resident Evil 4 VR relies on you for everything. Naturally turning your head as Leon would. Peering down the corner of a hallway for surprises. Even getting vertigo from looking up at large castle halls. Armature and Oculus have done an immense job of scaling everything inside the Oculus Quest 2. In a way where Resident Evil 4 feels like a dreamscape. An invitation to tour the Village, Castle and Island sections. Thanks to VR’s requirement for higher frame rates, players see and react to this world fluidly.

I can’t emphasize how Oculus’ involvement in Resident Evil 4 benefitted players. The game feels like it was originally built for VR. Thanks to a damn near perfect optimization on Oculus Quest 2, physics and interactivity. It’s an effect that comes with careful considerations for turning the human body into a controller. Obviously, the biggest VR extensions are your hands. Resident Evil 4 VR throws most buttons away for naturally interacting with the world. Players can expect doors to be as easy as gripping the knob and pushing it. Scavenging for ammo comes with opening drawers and cabinets as you literally would. Every motion in Resident Evil 4 VR has been tweaked with just the right amount of physics and weight for believability. 

Oculus and Armature have pulled all the techniques to make this VR port engaging. Including Resident Evil 4′s numerous puzzles which are remade as hands-on mini-games. Its overall experience feels less lazy from button prompts. Players put in work to activate levers, match symbols and plant dynamite. All of these actions bring players closer through these interactions. While it’s a pleasure to see Resident Evil 4 VR use physical gestures for quick time events instead of buttons.

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Resident Evil 4 VR offers some of the best gunplay hands-down. Lending from Oculus’ own experiences for shooters like Robo Recall, Dead & Buried and Stormland. VR puts these weapons in the hands of VR players to fight Los Illuminados cultists. These life-sized replicas of Resident Evil 4’s weapons are incredibly satisfying to hold, aim and fire. As expected, it’s much easier than doing it over a traditional controller. Here, the VR version doesn’t make aiming a struggle. Players can use the classic laser or iron sights to quickly line up their shots. Unlike other past versions, including the Wii port, Resident Evil 4 VR doesn’t slow players down for aiming. Gone are the issues of lining up your shots in time. Instead, VR lets players quickly point and send lead to the undead.

I can’t help but mention how much easier Resident Evil 4’s combat feels in VR. First time players might be in for tense encounters. Veterans for VR shooters will feel like John Wick chaining headshots. Most players will start on Normal difficulty, which might feel easier given the faster reactions and aiming in VR. This was good enough for me to mow down groups of Ganados and slay giants without breaking a sweat. It’s far simpler to know enemies react easily to headshots. Before, players move in for a melee attack. I highly encourage you to try the harder difficulties for an authentic fright fest.

As usual, the Merchant returns to ask players what they’re buying or selling. He’s life-sized and impressionable in VR. Like the original game, players can buy weapons and upgrades from him. The Merchant now takes players to a room, where easy-to-read menus lay out all the descriptions and stats. Players can even put their guns on a table for upgrades, adding more depth to an otherwise wishy-washy process. 

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Players have access to an array of pistols, shotguns, rifles and explosives. Each handle as expected in VR – and that’s a great thing. Pistols handle with extra stability from two hands. Shotguns are incredibly fun to load, pump and fire at heavier enemies. Rifles are much easier to handle than the original game. As for grenades, they come with a pin and added weight which feels precise. I invite players to try all of Resident Evil 4’s guns just to see how they handle moving parts. It’s a fascinating look into the game’s arsenal. Details and all.

“Resident Evil 4 can be downright terrifying in life-sized portions.”

Aiding players is a revamped inventory system. Arguably, it’s the easiest to use of all versions. Oculus goes an extra mile by adding holsters onto Leon’s body. This starts with the combat knife strapped along my chest. It’s handy for physically smashing boxes. Then challenging Ganados to one-on-one knife fights with hilarious results. Sidearms are strapped to the thigh, giving me something to quickdraw in situations. Ammo is always at the ready over my belt, though some practice is needed to avoid accidentally triggering a reload. Bigger weapons and recovery items can be stored over my shoulder. This is the most seamless way to access my gear in VR without interruptions.

For added measure, players get a wrist watch which tracks vital signs and ammo count. An incredibly creative and non-intrusive way to keep the HUD in real-time. Smaller details include a fully interactive typewriter to save the game. Even a handheld radio to re-create the game’s calls. Everything from Resident Evil 4 becomes much more engaging thanks to a real effort for simulating instead of showing. Oculus and Armature peels back that illusion of a TV and sweaty DualShock controller. Giving us full control of Resident Evil 4 and playing freely.

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Resident Evil 4‘s iconic inventory has also been revamped. There’s a clever hands-on system at play, letting me hold and drop things quickly. It’s easily the best way to use the briefcase. While combining items is as easy as dragging and dropping. This handy feature extends to collecting items on the field. Holding life-sized treasures, ammo boxes and currency made the meager task a fun one in VR. 

But not everyone in Resident Evil 4 VR is happy about a visitor robbing their village and fighting their neighbours.

Where Half-Life: Alyx adapted its headcrabs for VR, Resident Evil 4 does the same with Ganado villagers and bosses. The game’s iconic parasite zombies are absolutely unsettling to see in VR. Combined with their ability to lunge at players and corner them. Resident Evil 4 VR imposes these enemies as Leon would imagine them to be. My tension especially went up during the village attack, where I struggled to look each Ganado in the eye. I felt smaller as mobs of angry villagers swarmed me.

Resident Evil 4 can be downright terrifying in life-sized portions. Every encounter in Resident Evil 4 VR feels like an effort to protect myself. That’s a survival instinct the VR version does a lot better to instill than console versions. For the first time, I was truly terrified of snakes jumping out of a crate. A pack of infected dogs pouncing at me. Even loading a game, turning around and screaming at the sight of an expressionless Ashley.

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This level of spookiness is a feeling unique to VR as Ganados look directly at me. Before throwing dynamite or lunging to put their hands on my neck. Here, Resident Evil 4 VR feels more like a survival horror romp than action. Knowing you’re being threatened in first person brings players closer to the nightmare Capcom envisioned than ever before. Compared with the similar Resident Evil Village, this VR experience does more to put my wellbeing in a constant state of checking corners with a pistol.

The life-sized enemies are often supported by more menacing bosses. Players have to be brave enough to reunite with the Chainsaw Man up close. Resident Evil 4 VR still preserves those fast-paced boss fights. Larger foes including Big Cheese and Salazar are much more rewarding to beat with physical effort. A special mention comes to the invisible Novistador bugs in VR, which made my time in the sewers a gut-wrenching game of cat and mouse.

“Resident Evil 4 VR is by far one of the most herculean efforts I’ve ever seen on the wireless Quest 2.”

So how does Resident Evil 4 VR circumvent those third person sequences? Well, it doesn’t at all. In fact, players are smoothly taken out of their bodies to see Leon kick ass. Like the traditional experience, the screen shows quick time events and other cool animations. Oculus cleverly preserves Leon’s backflips, Krauser’s knife fight sequence as cutscenes. More notable cases included the river monster boss, which gave players the option to sail in first or third person. This level of accessibility gives a seamless and comfortable experience that works. Not to mention players have every option at their disposal for a comfortable seated or standing session.

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Developers have done immense work to make Resident Evil 4 VR present well in the graphics department. It’s certainly not the anticipated Resident Evil 4 remake fans are waiting for next-gen. I didn’t feel shortchanged by playing an older game since Resident Evil 4 VR almost sports a CG anime art style which matches the Oculus Quest 2’s capabilities. In VR, it met my expectations of looking at objects up close. Then being impressed with sharp little details which make the world materialized. Environments are also given some proper lighting, adding depth which kept me hooked throughout.

What holds Resident Evil 4 VR back from a perfect score is content. It’s wonderful to enjoy the 12+ hour campaign. But that’s as far as it goes. What’s more baffling is Capcom’s decision to leave out The Mercenaries. This action-based arcade mode is fitting for a VR setting. But Capcom holds back considerably by omitting the fan favourite mode. Along with Ada Wong’s Separate Ways story that retells the campaign from her point of view. These have been staples in past remasters and ports of the full game. But leaving it out for VR is a missed opportunity to keep players coming back after the first playthrough. Sadly, this isn’t the full package players deserve to have on launch.

Resident Evil 4 VR is by far one of the most Herculean efforts I’ve ever seen on the wireless Quest 2. Under that clever VR twist, Oculus and Armature add something new to this long time classic. The survival horror game retains an engaging blend of adventure and action. VR changes that by elevating the gameplay with a grander scale and interaction other remasters don’t have.  Players are swallowed into Leon’s brutal world with nothing but their trigger fingers and eyes darting. Resident Evil 4 VR serves as both a technical achievement for conversion and the Oculus Quest 2’s new killer app.

Final Thoughts

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A retail version of the game reviewed was purchased by CGMagazine. You can read more about CGMagazine reivew policies here.
Resident Evil 4 (VR) Review 1
Developer:
Capcom, Armature Studio, Oculus Studios
Publisher:
Oculus Studios
Played On:
Oculus Quest
Platform(s):
Oculus VR , Oculus Quest
Genre:
Survival Horror
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)
MSRP:
$45.99
Release Date:
21/10/2021
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