Resident Evil 4 in VR shouldn’t work — but somehow it does

Resident Evil 4's virtual reality adaptation was not something I had high hopes for.
VR versions of non VR games are often redundant and sometimes even painful, especially if you have motion sickness. Resident Evil 7 supported VR to questionable effect in 2017. Resident Evil 7 supported VR to questionable effect in 2017. The most bizarre part? It works mostly. Resident Evil 4's VR version of the horror classic is retooled with VR combat satisfying enough for it to make up its many rough edges. It produces something that is surprisingly enjoyable.

Resident Evil 4 (or RE4VR) is almost identical to the originals story, enemy encounters and level layout. This is in contrast to Capcom's Resident Evil 2 or 3 console remakes. The graphics are crisper and have been enhanced with spatial audio, but it is not a radical graphical overhaul, as you can see the high-definition rerelease of the game or the HD fan-made remake. Armature Studio, a port developer, has focused on translating a third person console shooter into an immersive headset-based game.

Armature is actually translating part of the game. The majority of RE4VRs gameplay transforms your view of Leon Kennedy, the protagonist, into a first-person experience. A pair of disembodied hands are used to hold Leon's trademark fingerless gloves. The inventory menu has a 3D look and is updated with more details such as your health and ammo counts. This mode will be familiar to anyone who has played single-player VR shooters like Half-Life: Alyx and Arizona Sunshine.

Resident Evil 4's design places VR's most promising elements in VR and cordons off rest

Resident Evil 4 isn't fully VR-ified. The game lets you watch cutscenes on a flatscreen screen while you are in VR. You know those dreams in which you see a person outside but are also that person? It's kind of like that. Many scenes featured quicktime events, which required you to press buttons. RE4VR will show you a flat overlay that tells you when you need to pull the triggers or shake your controllers. You can also temporarily shift your view to a third-person camera by pushing an object or kick an enemy.

Although it feels retro, the clunky mix seems to be the best. Armature effectively blocks off Resident Evil 4's most compelling parts as first-person motion controlled experiences. Then, it works to create a VR shooting experience that is smoother than native VR shooters.

Combat with RE4VRs is both tactile and satisfying, without being overly complicated or difficult. The originals' familiar layout of handguns and long guns as well as a knife are used for close-range fighting. You can also map weapons to different parts of your body. For example, you can grab a rifle or shotgun from behind your back, or a pistol from your side. Dual-wielding weapons can be used, although they are not usually productive. For example, you could shoot your pistol at a zombie to the left and then knife one from the ladder to your right.

It is easy to swap between weapons and put together the right loadout. It feels right to physically slash at zombies or boxes. Resident Evil 4's charming reloading animations add more excitement to the game. The game makes you grab ammunition and make it violent. Resident Evil 4's original levels are small and don't seem to be designed for traveling at inhuman speed, which is a danger for non-VR versions of non VR games. RE4VR allows you to choose between teleporting and free motion with an analog stick, but I prefer the former, which closely mimics the original's running, stopping and shooting zombies while still stationary.

RE4VR is distinguished from Resident Evil 7's VR mode by Armatures design and its source material. Resident Evil 4 was already more action-oriented than the other games in the series. RE4VR adapts the game to a VR shooter format instead of focusing on grueling survival horror. This makes the games a dozen hours less stressful. I played the HD version of Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 4 months prior to this review. It seems that this version is far more generous with money and item drops. This review is based on an older game that Oculus Quest 2 appears to be capable of rendering. However, the PlayStation VR's low resolution and muddy screen have hampered Resident Evil 7s VR mode.

RE4VR promises a truly different experience, not just a repeat of the same systems. The developers have removed some (honestly cringeworthy, and easily missed) lines from the cutscenes. It's actually a great game to play after you have completed the boss strategies and puzzles outside VR. This allows you to focus on the new elements.

It's a powerful VR shooter, even if it isn't revolutionary.

RE4VR isn't going to revolutionize VR shooters in the same way Resident Evil 4 did for console games. There is nothing more distinctive than Half-Life: Alyxs gravity glove, Phantom: Covert Ops kayak fighting, or the obsessive gunophilia that Hot Dogs Horseshoes & Hand Grenades. Alyx games have features like firearm reloading that can give you a sense mastery.

There are some minor, but valid missteps. Some of the already frustrating sections of games, including the last scene, are made even more difficult by motion controls that may not be as intuitive as one might hope. It can be a bit difficult to use two-handed guns. You can pull grenade pins accidentally while trying to place the grenades into your inventory. This is a very real example that I have had to learn repeatedly.

Moments like this remind us that VR conventions are still in flux and that motion controls can make them appear unreliable. The game is undeniably great, despite these exceptions. RE4VR adds a new dimension to the strange and atmospheric world of Resident Evil 4. It is also a solid addition for the comparatively small number of headset-based shooters.

Resident Evil 4 VR will be available exclusively for Oculus Quest 2. This game does not include Assignment Ada, Separate Ways, or Mercenaries addons.