For what seems like the hundredth time, Resident Evil 4 is remastered for a new format and works surprisingly well as a VR title.
We’ve played and replayed Resident Evil 4 so much over the last 16 years, across such a bewildering array of formats and remasters, that starting this review by acknowledging that fact is also something we’ve done multiple times before. At this point, you would have to have a pathological disinterest in survival horror to have not played Resident Evil 4 in some form and even the most ardent fans may be wondering whether it’s really worth doing so again just because it’s in VR. The answer to that question though, is an almost unequivocal ‘yes’.
Although widely regarded as one of the best games ever made, the influence of Resident Evil 4 is still often underestimated. It’s effect on the Resident Evil franchise is one thing but the game is also acknowledged as a major influence on Gears Of War and so it’s easy to argue that it marked the birth of the entire modern third person shooter genre – which seems a bit odd in the context of this being a first person VR game.
The problem with more recent remasters of the game – the Switch version was the last one we played – is that the original design was heavily tied to the fact that you could not move and shoot at the same time, as was traditional in earlier Resident Evil games. That seems archaic today but when newer versions try to swap in more versatile controls it never works quite as well, since everything from the control system to the pacing of the set pieces is based around that in-built limitation.
How Capcom is going to update the game for the rumoured remake will be interesting to see but this VR version is fundamentally the same as always, including the graphics. You’d think such an old game would look almost unplayable in first person VR but while its age is apparent at every turn it’s not at all as distracting as you’d imagine, and a few of the textures and character models impress even today – over a decade and a half later.
You still watch cut scenes in third person, and for moments like kicking an opponent at close range, but everything else is viewed from first person, with your weapons and equipment newly rendered for VR and with the option to select them by grabbing a gun from your hip or a health spray from your shoulder. There is an optional quick selector as well but reloading has to be done by grabbing an ammo clip and slamming it into your gun – with some having to be chambered manually.
This simple act adds greatly to the sense of immersion and since you’re often badly outnumbered having to grab a clip in the middle of a firefight adds nicely to the sense of panic and uncertainty.
There are various movement options available but using a first person shooter system works very well with a limited amount of tunnelling (the term for narrowing your field of view when moving quickly) and we felt no nausea from playing. There are two separate control options for combat, with one that tries to partially mimic the tank controls of the original by not allowing you to strafe and slowing down time when you’re aiming directly at an enemy. It’s a bit of a fudge, and we didn’t use it for long, but it’s a nice try.
Rather than a quick cash-in the whole game shows a remarkable amount of effort, with ReCore developer Armature, many of whose staff worked on Metroid Prime, doing everything they can within the limits of this still being just a remaster and not a remake. As it is though using the teleport control system, for those more prone to VR sickness, automatically feels closer to the original GameCube version, so despite what you’d imagine the game is naturally well suited to the VR treatment.
Even things like the QTE sequences work well, with Armature adding motion controls to the mix, similar to the Wii version, that maintain the Krauser knife fight’s status as the best QTE ever. Puzzles are now more fun since you can physically interact with them, and you can even dual wield weapons.
Resident Evil 4 was never actually that scary, given all the action, but the VR version does challenge that status with the Regenerators – always the creepiest enemies – now being genuinely terrifying.
The entire 15+ hours story campaign is all present and correct but unfortunately the Separate Ways expansion with Ada and, more importantly, the time attack Mercenaries mode is not. The latter is a real shame, given how well the combat works, and we hope it can be added in later as DLC.
The other thing that stands out is just how brown the game is. Low tech graphics are one thing but the Xbox 360 era’s penchant for every colour of the rainbow, as long as it’s brown or grey, looks ever more absurd as the years go by.
Given how well Resident Evil 7 works in VR the series clearly has an affinity for the technology, and it would be great to see a new game made solely with VR in mind. For now though, and despite the high asking price, this works far better than it has any right to for such an old game.
Not only does it work well mechanically but the set pieces and combat, and wonderfully terrible dialogue, are still a joy and much more enjoyable than the recent Resident Evil Village, even when it was trying its hardest to replicate similar scenarios. What this new release confirms is that not only is Resident Evil 4 still a classic but it’s so malleable and infinitely replayable that this is almost certainly not the last time it’ll be re-released, remake or not.
Resident Evil 4 VR review summary
In Short: Resident Evil once again proves the perfect showcase for VR, with Capcom’s aging classic working surprisingly well in first person – in what may be the definitive version on a modern format.
Pros: New control and graphical options work very well, with a great sense of immersion and the classic chunky combat of the original. The underlying game is still endlessly replayable.
Cons: A lot of work has gone into the game but it’s still very expensive for what is essentially a 16-year-old game. No Separate Ways or Mercenaries mode.
Formats: Oculus Quest 2
Publisher: Oculus Studios
Developer: Armature and Capcom
Release Date: 21st October 2021
Age Rating: 18
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