As one of the most beloved titles in video game history, let alone within the horror genre and its own series, iterating upon Resident Evil 4 has the potential to be an incredibly daunting task for any developer. For Armature Studio, that pressure was compounded by the fact that they were taking the classic into the world of virtual reality for Resident Evil 4 VR for the Oculus Quest 2. But the thing with pressure is that it has a tendency to make diamonds.
The reviews have been coming out for this Resident Evil spin-off and it appears that Armature Studio has translated the hit horror title incredibly well to the medium of VR, with praise coming from practically every direction. Critics are fawning over how the first-person experience makes for a unique and exciting way to play Resident Evil 4, even for those who know the original inside and out. The game introduces a brand new control scheme for VR that has critics a little divided.
Iterating on a Classic
Resident Evil 4 has received many ports and updated versions in the sixteen years since its initial release on the Nintendo GameCube. The game's European villages, enemies and characters have appeared across several consoles already, so making this VR title's rendition of the world was going to be a key factor in deciding if this version would be worth its salt. According to the critics, it succeeds, with IGN's Taylor Lyles expressing that "given that it wasn't originally designed with VR in mind, it's truly remarkable how well Resident Evil 4 has been adapted."
More specifically, Chris Carter of Destructoid wrote that "it was more than nostalgia driving me to keep playing on a constant basis. It's really hard to explain the feeling of looking down on the gondola area or looking up at the castle and taking it all in with a full head tracking view. Even with the older visual style, they look absolutely stunning." Carter went on to express how the medium of VR brought the terror to life, adding that "getting stared down by a creature in a hallway is much more intense. While the reaction in a prior version may have been a binary fight or flight, it's a bit more nuanced now. Sometimes I'm actually paralyzed with a decision point in real-time because of the imposing figure of a character model or the sound they make. It's the power of VR in action."
Aim for the Head
With a completely new gaming medium for the Oculus Quest 2, Resident Evil 4 VR also had to rework its gameplay entirely. Now taking the form of a first-person shooter, critics have been impressed with how the game has made the transition. In Kurt Indoniva's review for GameSpot, they highlight how the first-person combat "shines exceptionally well in RE4VR. Shooting dynamite out of someone's hands, juking out of the way of a thrown hatchet, unloading a submachine gun with one hand and pulling out a pistol with the other to shoot off enemies next to me, all felt so satisfying. Even just opening cabinets was an oddly thrilling new way to interact with a world I know so well."
With the player's equipment now selected through reaching towards different parts of their body to equip different weapons, it is fundamentally different way to play Resident Evil 4. For Game Informer's Blake Hester, it is a very welcome change. "I figured RE4 would never feel "new" to me again at this point in my life," Hester writes, "but RE4VR completely changed how I played one of my favorite games. It felt fresh, exciting, and wholly different from every playthrough of RE4 I've had in the last 16 years. For the first time in ages, I was no longer going through the motions, and iconic moments like the early village encounter, the El Gigante fights, and the minecart rollercoaster have rarely been more fun."
Clunk and Disorderly
Not everyone has fallen head over heels with this change, however. For UploadVR's Jamie Feltham, the new controls sap some of the original's appeal. They wrote "Resident Evil 4 feels fundamentally easier than it ever has. Side-stepping a Ganados as they lurch towards you becomes second nature, as does sprinting up to an enemy, pointing a rifle right in their face and then pulling the trigger before backpedaling to safety. This can be a problem....practically none of the game's bosses can keep up with your increased speed. As with other versions, the hardest difficulty mode is locked when you first boot up the game and hardcore fans would probably have a better time playing on this mode first, so it's a shame it's not available right away."
Indoniva of GameSpot also pointed out noticeable flaws amidst their praise, highlighting that "counter moves in particular are a mechanic I abandoned using early in my playthrough. Counter moves, like kicks and suplexes, can be performed after stunning an enemy by shooting them in the knees or in the face. In these moments, I found myself clumsily fumbling to get close enough to an enemy to press the button and initiate the attack, often completely missing the window of chance and thrusting myself into harm's way unintentionally. The action felt clumsy and unintuitive compared to the physical motion of everything else, so I eventually stopped using it."
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