It was always disappointing that Resident Evil VII Biohazard never made it to more virtual reality (VR) headsets as it was such a good experience on PlayStation VR. When 2005’s Resident Evil 4 was confirmed for Oculus Quest 2 it was great to hear this classic getting a VR makeover, even if it was another headset exclusive. However, Resident Evil 4 is a very different beast to that later sequel, and while developer Armature Studio has done a commendable job with the transition with plenty of VR interactions, there are unavoidable elements from the original that do hamper the overall experience.
If you’ve played the standard version of Resident Evil 4 then you’ll be instantly at home as all the core elements have stayed the same. This entry in the series moved away from the Umbrella narrative, unearthing a new terror called Las Plagas and a mysterious cult based in Europe called the Los Illuminados. The main tie-in to the whole series came by way of Leon Kennedy, who plays the hero tasked with trying to save the president’s daughter.
Before embarking on any of that though, Armature Studio wants every player to have a comfortable experience, instantly offering a range of comfort and accessibility options. These are as extensive as you could hope for, depending on whether you like to play seated or go full roomscale. Whilst none of these are unique to Resident Evil 4 what is slightly more unusual is the ability to decide on weapon handling. This is a shooter after all so you get the option for full-body support – shotgun over the shoulder, grenade on the chest, that sort of thing – or a slightly more traditional selection wheel. Naturally, it was full-body support all the way, using a selection wheel not only dulls the immersion but also just seemed rude. Who doesn’t want guns strapped to their body in a shooting videogame?
The only slight twist to that was the fact that rather than having your primary pistol directly on your hip there’s a curved indicator on one side for the weapon, with another on the opposite side for ammo. It’s intuitive to use yet it wasn’t quite in keeping with other elements of the gameplay which blended into the background far better. A good example of this is Leon’s watch. It displays various stats depending on whether you’re in combat or not, giving you quick info on ammo and health for example. Perfect when engaged in those fierce boss battles.
Resident Evil 4 was never really a great looker when it came to overall aesthetics, with swathes of various browns and greys to look at. Even so, the VR edition looks spot on, the development team has done a superb job of bringing the environment to life, most importantly ensuring there are plenty of physical objects to ground you in the world. VR basics like being able to open a door or cupboards are there (not all doors mind), smashing boxes with your knife, turning cranks and moving puzzles around with your hands are other excellent examples of how this 17-year-old videogame has been transformed into VR.
The same goes for weapon handling. Grabbing ammo requires cocking the gun, with each weapon having its own mechanics that feel fluid and fast. Incalculable the number of times that came in handy quickly reloading the pistol when surrounded by Granados – the main basic enemy you’ll encounter – to pop a few heads in quick succession. Even details like pulling a grenade pin have been thought of. When in the heat of a fight, Resident Evil 4 is able to truly deliver heart pounding moments.
And let’s not forget some of the classic Resi elements such as playing around with your inventory. It returns in all its glory, split down into squares with each item taking up a certain amount. In VR, you can of course grab them all to twist and reposition them just so, maximising space so you can always pick up precious resources like ammo and health.
However, for all the good there are some inevitable downsides, some of which were going to be unavoidable due to the very nature of bringing Resident Evil 4 into VR. First on the list are those Quick Time Events (QTEs). There are quite a few of these and they generally involve waggling the controllers or pressing both triggers at the same time. Thankfully, there’s an option in the menu to turn most of these off but some are unavoidable. QTEs just don’t work in VR, pulling you out of the whole experience with needless gameplay mechanics. Do you know what also has a similar effect? All the damn cutscenes. It’s easy to forget how many there are and at times it seems like you’re jumping from one cut scene to another – the castles lava-filled section was very notable in this regard – making for a rather jarring experience.
Other little annoyances also cropped up such as a multitude of “A” button interactions. You can’t climb a ladder, for example, a pretty standard thing in VR nowadays or climb through a window. As mentioned, breaking boxes and barrels with your knife was essential for conserving ammo yet you can’t use the butt of your gun, only the knife worked. And then there was the spatial audio. Outside in areas such as the village, this worked as expected, yet in many of the more confined areas it became more erratic, enemies suddenly sounding much closer than they were.
Even with these gripes, Resident Evil 4 was still as addictive and fun to play as ever, even the typewriter got a makeover so you can label each save however you wish by actually typing on the keys. What was plainly obvious though was how easy the first run though was. Over the course of the first 10+ hour session, having full control to sidestep, stepping backwards or duel wielding a knife and gun meant many of the encounters – the bosses included – weren’t that taxing. Plus, you can only play on easy or normal, to begin with, unlocking the harder difficulty after your first completion. Really, that needs to be available right from the off.
Resident Evil 4 on Oculus Quest 2 is a testament to Armature’s VR skills whilst highlighting the difficulties in bringing an almost 20-year-old videogame into VR. With the immersion settings on full whack, running around monster-filled castles was thoroughly engrossing and genuinely tense at points. But there’s no getting away from the fact that plenty of rough edges remain and moment’s like the QTEs are going to be highly divisive amongst players. Resident Evil 4 certainly isn’t a pivotal VR showcase by any means, yet for Resi fans, there’s enough to keep you entertained.