‘Resident Evil 4’ for Oculus is a thrill, but it feels like less of a classic in VR – Mashable
Capcom is going to keep re-releasing Resident Evil 4 until long after I’m gone, and I’ve grown to accept that.
It’s such an all-time classic within the series that its fourth sequel came out earlier in 2021, and yet here we are with another reimagining of the 2005 hit. Having already conquered every traditional console on the market, as well as PC, iOS, Android, and something called Zeebo, Resident Evil 4 in VR launches Oct. 21 on Oculus Quest 2 for $39.99.
This is undoubtedly a very cool and unique way for folks who already know RE4 to experience government agent Leon S. Kennedy’s spiraling journey into the occult underworld of rural Spain, but first-timers should consider other options first if they want the purest experience.
For those who aren’t familiar with what made RE4 so special more than 15 years ago, it’s more or less responsible for the way the camera works in modern third-person shooters. Sure, there had been plenty of games about shooting guns from a behind-the-pack perspective before, but RE4 popularized the idea of holding a button to swing the camera over the character’s shoulder for more precise aiming, something just about every game in the genre does now. It was a big departure from the fixed camera angles of previous Resident Evil games and has been directly cited as a major influence on later genre staples, like Gears of War.
The Oculus version of RE4 retains everything from the original: level layouts; enemy placements; boss fights; all of its various puzzles; even the enigmatic, lovable shopkeeper. However, the third-person gameplay that defined the original experience is gone in favor of a first-person perspective that puts you directly in the brown leather jacket and early 2000s swooped haircut of Leon Kennedy.
Instead of holding down a button to plant Leon’s feet and aim, you can just naturally point your gun at things using the Oculus Touch controller. And of course, instead of simply tapping a button to reload, each gun has its own mechanisms to remember. You have to load magazines into pistols and pull the slide back, load shells into the default shotgun and pump between shots.
While the various puzzles are all here and have the same solutions as before, the way you interact with many of them has changed. You’ll use your off-hand to physically press buttons, open doors, and perform other basic environmental actions that used to be button presses. None of this is particularly inventive, but it’s neat to use your hand to rotate an orb until the correct symbol shows up instead of just doing it with a controller.
Character movement has also been retooled with a boatload of comfort options to accommodate people with varying degrees of VR experience. I chose to play it like a console shooter, using one stick to run and another to turn the camera, but you can also teleport around the environment if running is uncomfortable for you. You can switch between smooth horizontal turning or a method that turns the camera in rigid horizontal increments, as well as enable a “tunneling” feature that blocks your peripheral vision while moving, which helps to mitigate motion sickness.
It’s pretty rad to see a game that is so rooted in the game design philosophies of 2005 translated thoughtfully to such a different perspective. I don’t feel that any corners were cut in making sure almost anyone could at least give this new version of RE4 a shot, regardless of their VR comfort level.
As someone who has played and watched other people play through this game ad nauseam for a decade and a half, it’s legitimately exciting to see it in a new way for the first time since its original release. Sure, Capcom added new things here and there to other ports along the way, most notably motion-controlled aiming in the Wii version, but playing on a Quest I felt like I was experiencing RE4 in a novel and interesting way for the first time in forever.
That said, that excitement only applies to folks with lots of appreciation for this game already. It’s a really fun VR game thanks to great pacing, the most crunchy headshots in video game history, and a super campy horror story. But if you still haven’t gotten around to playing RE4, please check it out on any other platform. The VR release isn’t bad by any means, but it’s…impure.
Unfortunately, as thoughtful as the VR execution is, RE4 was always meant to be played with a particular set of movement and aiming mechanics. This new version is certainly fun to play, but it’s not fully correct. You’d have to fundamentally remake the game from scratch to truly make it a natural VR experience.
I know this sounds like some “old man yells at cloud” nonsense, but bear with me here. In every other version of the game, Leon is incapable of two key actions:
Aiming and shooting while moving
Strafing from left to right
That might sound tedious, and indeed it can feel that way if you’re used to modern games where everyone is a backflipping gun ninja with impeccable aim no matter how quickly they’re moving. But everything about how RE4 works is built around that idea.
Enemies will often sprint in your direction before suddenly stopping to shamble slowly once they get about six feet away, because the player needs time to aim at their heads. Flash grenades incapacitate enemies for a comically long period of time because, again, Leon’s just a guy who needs to set his feet before shooting, not someone in The Matrix. The way the game works, fundamentally, was built for a control scheme that doesn’t exist when you’re inside a Quest headset.
The problem I have with adapting RE4 to VR is there just isn’t a perfect way to replicate those dynamics. A “Run & Gun” mode in the options lets you straight up play this like a modern shooter with strafing and no impediments to aiming. The “Classic Leon” mode disables strafing and automatically slows (but doesn’t stop) movement if your gun’s laser sight is trained on any part of an enemy’s body, but this feels like an awkward imitation rather than a true recreation of RE4‘s unique gameplay.
Arbitrarily turning off lateral movement is immersion-breaking in a format that’s all about immersion. On top of that, it’s just annoying to suddenly slow to a crawl while you’re trying to escape from a horde of villagers because your laser sight happened to graze across an enemy for half a second. “Classic Leon” doesn’t feel more accurate, it just feels worse. “Run & Gun” is definitely a fun time, but it’s not how RE4 was built to be played. It starts to feel like a House of the Dead-esque shooting gallery because of how immobile most enemies are. Do you see my dilemma here?
I don’t bring all of that up to say this is some bastardization of RE4. It simply was never meant to be a VR game, despite Armature having done an admirable job considering the source material’s quirks. To be honest, I’ve had a heck of a time playing it because I’ve already experienced it the old way, and being able to strafe and move while shooting makes me feel like a superhero. I just don’t feel that this is the best way to see a true classic for the first time.
But if you’ve already worn out every other version of RE4? Oh baby, you’re in for a goofy, fun time.