Resident Evil 4 Is Somehow Even Better In VR

Resident Evil 4 Is Somehow Even Better In VR
Image: Capcom / Oculus / Kotaku

Converting standard games into VR is rarely a recipe for greatness. Sure, a few fan mods have created fun ways to replay classic shooters like Quake in VR, but most 2D conversions don’t feel like a great way to experience the original game. Resident Evil 4 on Oculus Quest 2 shatters this rule, and in the process creates not only the best way to play the classic survival horror game, but one of the best VR games I’ve played since Half-Life: Alyx.

Resident Evil 4 is a third-person survival horror game first released by Capcom for the GameCube back in 2005. At the time it shook up the franchise, ditching the static cameras and slow-moving zombies for a third-person, over-the-shoulder camera angle and more intense action. And like Resident Evil 7, which similarly changed things up for the series, RE4 was a hit, revitalizing the entire series and bringing in countless new fans.

Since that initial release, it has famously been ported to basically every console and device released. Can you play it on Switch? Yup. Is there a PS4 port? Yup. Want to play it on Xbox 360? Well, that’s a bit odd, but sure, there’s a port for you too. I’ve bought and played almost every version of RE4 over the years because I’m an idiot who can’t get enough of Leon Kennedy. I blame the cool jacket and the nice hair. So, when it was first announced that the Oculus Quest 2 would be getting an RE4 VR port, I quickly opened up Amazon and bought the VR headset. You might be asking yourself, “Wait, did he really buy an expensive VR headset just to play RE4?” And the answer to that is…uh, let’s move on!

Right out of the gate, Resident Evil 4 on VR impressed me with its clean presentation and wide array of options, including the ability to turn off head bobbing, add a “tunnelling” effect to fast movement, and more. You can turn down all the comfort settings if you have your VR legs, but the game also offers a lot of ways to tone down just how intense things can get too for folks who are still new to VR or who easily get motion sick.

Screenshot: Capcom / Oculus

Once I got it all set up to my liking (which for me means turning off all comfort settings), I continued to be impressed by just how slick and well thought-out everything was. For example, RE4 has a lot of pre-rendered third-person cutscenes. This limits what the devs can do with these videos, so they opted to just show them on a large screen. But, the area around the screen is dirty and creepy-looking, and while watching the videos you can play around with your weapons and hands. It’s a smart way of letting players stay immersed as Leon, while keeping the cutscenes intact.

That dedication to immersion continues outside of the cutscenes. While you still have the classic attache case inventory system, Leon now carries some gear on his body, letting you actively change weapons, use healing items, or pull out grenades in real time simply by grabbing them. Your knife is located on the left side of your chest, grenades on the right, healing items behind your left shoulder, bigger weapons behind your other shoulder, and your trusty handgun is on your right hip. Having access to all of this stuff without needing to open the inventory menu changes up combat in a big way.

For example, during the iconic village ambush, I was able to effortlessly use my pistol to stun a few enemies with knee shots. Then, with my other free hand, I grabbed a grenade and chucked it into the crowd of not-zombies, taking most of them out. That moment felt so good that I flipped my pistol in the air and caught it, entirely forgetting to turn around in time to fend off attacks from another enemy. But still, for one, fleeting, glorious moment I felt like a badass thanks to RE4’s new VR controls.

But don’t assume that all your time with RE4 in VR will be badass moments like that. While you can now quickly toss explosives and dual-wield weapons, you also have to think about reloading using the new motion controls. A crowd of Ganados running at you isn’t too scary in the original 2D game. In VR, as you frantically try to reload your pistol while backing away from them, it’s downright terrifying. I’ve seen folks express how RE4 in VR feels scary again, and after all these years of replaying the classic, I agree. You aren’t just guiding Leon through the creepy, desolate woods of RE4. Now you are in there yourself, dealing with the traps and baddies too. It’s scary in a way I didn’t expect.

I also appreciate how the devs didn’t update RE4’s visuals into something significantly different or more modern. Sure, textures are a bit cleaner, some seem to have been replaced or redrawn, and some models have been improved to help them stand up better to VR scrutiny. But the vast majority of the game retains the original vibe and look of RE4. After spending years playing this game on a flat 2D TV, getting to explore the village or the lake in VR is breathtaking. It really does add something special to the experience, and I spent more time than I’d like to admit just looking at all these places from a brand new perspective.

Between the improved combat and inventory controls, the added immersion that comes from having to grab stuff to pick it up, and the enhanced (but not altered) visuals, this has quickly become my favourite way to play Resident Evil 4.

I hope this version of the game, like the original, gets ported to PC via Steam, or to more VR systems like the upcoming PSVR2. I know so many folks who don’t want to deal with Facebook and Oculus, or just don’t want to buy a new VR headset to experience some games. So I hope Resident Evil 4 VR gets ported around in the near future, because it’s one of the best VR games I’ve played, and a stunning example of how to properly and thoughtfully convert old 2D games into powerful VR experiences.