Why Resident Evil 4 Makes Perfect Sense For VR

Resident Evil 4 is coming to VR.

That’s a very exciting sentence in and of itself, but it’s also true that some VR ports of older games don’t always work out like you might hope. For all we know, that could be the case with this upcoming Oculus Quest 2 port, but there are several elements to RE4 itself that do seem well-suited to the platform. Let’s dig into what those are.

Perfect Pacing

The earlier entries in the Resident Evil series are very deliberate in their slow, tense pacing. Resident Evil 4 represented the first time the mainline series diverged from that path, with more active, intense combat sequences with more enemies than the series had ever tried before and modernized — if still cumbersome — over the shoulder controls.

That said, it was still a long way off the speed of most other shooters, with a considered pace to Leon’s movements and a lot of minutia in its combat design. You couldn’t walk while aim, cranks and switches took time to operate and the enemy usually used this to its advantage. The timing of painstaking animations to reload a weapon were burned into your brain, and absolutely every shot had to count. It was a game about having your back against the wall, fighting to the last bullet and, if need-be, the last swing of your knife.

Some of this will need to change, of course, but the mounting pressure of this combat system seems like it could work incredibly well in VR. In fact, it already does; Half-Life: Alyx has action sequences that feel directly inspired by Resident Evil 4, and they make for some of the game’s best moments.

Aiming Is Everything

Part of what gives the game that flow is the importance of accuracy and ammo preservation. You could lose an entire clip into the stomach of an enemy, but you were much better off taking riskier headshots to save on bullets. Again, that feels like something that’s very important to VR, forcing users to actually aim their weapons and not just keep their arm at waist height and roll their wrist around.

We already know Resident Evil 4 works well with motion controls – the Wii version is one of the best ways to play the game. What I’ll be interested to see is if Capcom and Armature give players the option to remove the trusty laser sight and encourage precise aiming. That, I suspect, could really bring the combat to life.

It’s Not That Scary

The other big departure Resident Evil 4 marked for the series was that, well, it wasn’t very scary. It substituted pitch black corridors and unnerving zombie cries for often well-lit environments and relatively human-looking  enemies. It had moments of surprise, sure, but the game was far more concerned with inducing anxiety than it was fear.

Again, I suspect that’s going to play to VR’s strengths, especially for those that struggled to cope with the sheer terror of 2017’s PSVR-supported Resident Evil 7. Resident Evil 4 is certainly atmospheric, but never so downright frightening that players will be tempted to rip the headset off. That’s going to matter to a lot of people.

Disruption Awaits

Having said all that, there are some aspects to the Resident Evil 4 experience that don’t feel as in-step with VR.

Tank controls is a big one. Moving Leon around used to feel like piloting, well, a tank. In VR, though, you don’t have an input to control your a character’s movement animations… you just move. It’s going to be very interesting to see the effect that has on the pace of combat – will the game retain the iconic feeling of pressure or will the extra features break it up?

Plus, will we be able to shoot and walk at the same time? It seems so from the gameplay above, and that’s a big departure from the original.

QTE Questions

It’s also easy to forget in this age of cinematic gaming sequences that the quick-time event was really popularized by Resident Evil 4. Mashing buttons to run away from boulders, using quick reactions to avoid sudden traps – all of that felt new and innovative for the time. How exactly those moments are going to translate to VR is one of our biggest questions about this port. Just, please, no more Wii waggle.

We’ll find out more about Resident Evil 4 at the Oculus Gaming Showcase on April 21st.

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