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Resident Evil Village VR Mode Brings A New Reality of Terror

Stepping into the horror.



Resident Evil Village VR Review

Resident Evil Village VR Mode Review

Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Genre: FPS, Survival Horror, VR
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PSVR2 | Reviewed On: PSVR2

If you played the original version of Resident Evil Village released back in 2021, you may already think you know what you are getting into with Capcom’s free VR Mode update. And for the most part, you would be right. This brand new mode leaves the core of the game untouched – the story, the characters, the enemy locations, all remain the same – but the gameplay, the very means of interacting with its vibrant, gothic world, has been flipped on its head. Resident Evil Village VR Mode was one of the most hyped releases leading up to the launch of Sony’s PSVR2, and it doesn’t disappoint.

You may have played Resident Evil Village before, but never like this.

Image: Capcom - Nothing can prepare you for seeing that vista in full Virtual Reality for the first time.
Image: Capcom – Nothing can prepare you for seeing that vista in full Virtual Reality for the first time.

Same Story, New Experience

The game picks up some time after the events of Resident Evil 7, with main character Ethan Winters having settled into the non-descript, vaguely Romanian, European countryside with his wife Mia and their baby daughter Rosemary. What starts out as an idyllic dream rapidly descends into a nightmare as their quiet night in is disrupted by an attack by none other than Chris Redfield, and Ethan is thrust into a desperate search for his helpless baby daughter. A search that leads him to a village that time forgot, ruled over by four monstrous lords – the towering Lady Dimitrescu, the eerie puppeteer Donna Beneviento, the repulsive fish-creature Moreau, and the psychopathic Karl Heisenberg – each of whom ruling over their own distinct domain, and each of whom needing to be stopped in order to save her.

The story might not have changed, but the way players experience it has undergone a spellbinding evolution. Stepping back into Village in VR feels both comfortingly familiar and enticingly new. Both those who have already experienced everything the original game has to offer (either just the once or a dozen times over) and those who have yet to give it try will find plenty to love about this fantastic update. While the opening few minutes can come off as a little clunky–with Ethan’s carefully choreographed cutscene movements jarring with the player’s ability to turn their head and look in any direction at any time–once players get the village itself, crest that first hill and see it all splayed out before them with the castle looming in the distance, any initial worries instantly dissipate.

Image: Capcom - A sense of scale is first thing players will notice when they put the headset on.
Image: Capcom – A sense of scale is the first thing players will notice when they put the headset on.

A Head(set) for Horror

With the new headset and Sense controllers combined, it can be easy to forget where the real world begins and Village ends at times. Lady Dimitrescu was tall before, but in VR she is truly enormous. Resident Evil Village’s visuals and art direction are still top-notch even two years later, taking inspiration from the games of its past while adding plenty of the new, but now, combined with the PSVR2’s 110˚ field of view and 4K OLED screens, players can truly feel like they are stepping into Capcom’s macabre reality for the very first time.

This sense of being present in a gothic nightmare of a world becomes truly palpable in the more visually impressive and standout locations of the game – namely Castle Dimitrescu and House Beneviento. Wandering through the titular village, the hub Ethan returns to after meeting each lord, is a fantastic experience (especially for those who have experienced the game before), full of interesting touches and previously missed details. The dilapidated houses, mouldering food, and hanging goats’ heads may have faded into the background in original “flatscreen” version, as players rushed through to find treasure and upgrades as they unlocked new areas to explore, but in VR, they are almost tangible. They–along with every every painting, mural, and decaying body–tell a story, and as the player is (for all intents and purposes) physically transported into this world, they have no choice but to view them all up close, and take it all in. But after a while, the samey houses can come to feel safe.

It’s in stepping foot into the wide halls and claustrophobic corridors of Castle Dimitrescu that this new VR mode shows what it’s truly capable of. With visuals optimised for the headset, dark dungeons become impenetrable without the narrow beam of the player’s handheld flashlight to guide them, and Lady D and her murderous daughters become a little too real-looking for comfort. Descending into the madness that is House Beneviento and coming face to literal face with the horrors that lurk within is a singularly terrifying experience–one that feels infinitely more real in VR, and one that can never be forgotten. The locations lose a little of their gothic charm in the second half of the game, but still look stunning in fully-modelled Virtual Reality.

Image: Capcom Resident Evil Village VR Mode - Castle Dimitrescu has never looked so good.
Image: Capcom – Castle Dimitrescu has never looked so good.

But while the environments pop, the animations can come off as a bit of a damp squib. As mentioned previously, cutscenes feel a little janky, with Ethan’s actions not matching the player’s movements, and the ability to look anywhere destroying the immersion in certain scenes. This is especially egregious when players can turn to see Lady D popping into existence behind them or passing straight through walls (effects which would normally be off-camera) like a literal ghost. Likewise, enemy grapples can also come off as a bit of a mess, with the player’s current position often being at odds with the character model’s position, resulting in a confusion of limbs and body parts clipping through the camera. Similarly, jumpscares are not as effective in VR. In an effort to reduce motion sickness, fast camera movements are either covered up with a blinking effect or removed altogether, meaning the player can sail straight past a potential scare without ever noticing it.

A Sense of Danger

The true revolution comes from the fact that this VR mode was rebuilt from the ground up with PSVR2’s Sense controllers in mind. The mode starts with an intensive and extensive tutorial designed to acclimatise players to this new dimension of play, as well as show them the ropes and teach them the new controls. This tutorial also allows players to test out a number of accessibility options, such as movement speed and turning type, in a completely safe environment, and ends with a shooting range to try out the new point-and-shoot style of aiming.

Through the magic of the Sense controllers, players can now physically draw their guns from their hip, shoulders, and Ethan’s coat pockets, with subtle haptics and vibrations lending each weapon a slight sense of weight and physicality, as well as allowing players to know when they’ve touched them without ever having to look. Reloading can now be performed manually, with the player literally going through the motions they’ve seen played out for them in countless other shooters, physically inserting new magazines, pulling back the bolt, or pumping the shotgun. It adds a sense of realism and urgency to gunfights and really grounds the player in Ethan’s shoes. Automatic reloading can be switched on for those that find this too fiddly or stressful, but for true chaotic immersion, manual reloading is the way to go.

Image: Capcom Resident Evil Village VR Mode - The new tutorial and shooting range allows players to familiarise themselves before getting stuck into the action.
Image: Capcom – The new tutorial and shooting range allows players to familiarise themselves before getting stuck into the action.

With two hands capable of moving independently of each other, there comes a new element unseen in the base game: the ability to dual-wield. Whether this is a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other to live out your keenest survival horror fantasies, a shotgun and a knife for getting up close and personal, or two submachineguns to fill those pesky Lycans with lead, whatever the player decides, it adds a new level of roleplaying and freedom unheard of in traditional “flatscreen” games. Similarly, the new ease of movement has given the humble knife an upgrade. Players can now swing their blade with reckless abandon at any monster that dares lurch too close, or can throw it to break pots or knock crystals out of hiding spots without having to waste any ammo.

The only problem is that having to juggle physically handling each weapon, manually reloading, and even reaching back to grab a healing bottle, flipping off its cap and pouring it over your other arm, can be a lot to keep track of at once. Especially when faced with a horde of biomechanical monsters with drills for arms bearing down on you and getting far too close for comfort. Early fights can feel incredibly scrappy as the player gets to grips with where everything is and how each gun works, with it being very easy to drop everything in a panic or pick up entirely the wrong thing. This can make fights in tight corridors or against fast enemies especially difficult and potentially frustrating, but with patience and persistence, scoring headshot after headshot can feel incredibly gratifying.

While Resident Evil Village VR has gone above and beyond in allowing the player to really embody Ethan in combat, the same can’t be said when exploring. Yes, the higher fidelity and deep blacks offered by the PSVR2’s OLED screens create a real sense of being and let every little detail in the environment pop, but other than the weapons and a handful of pick-ups, nothing is interactive. Objects on tables and shelves can’t be picked up or knocked over, doors are opened with a button press and cannot be pushed with hands, everything is largely static. And this, unfortunately, can make it feel like the player is wandering through a diorama rather than a living world.

Image: Capcom Resident Evil Village VR Mode - Dual-wielding is just one of the many freedoms the new Sense controllers offer.
Image: Capcom – Dual-wielding is just one of the many freedoms the new Sense controllers offer.

The Future of Horror

Resident Evil Village serves as a direct sequel to Resident Evil 7, and where that game became a pioneer for the wonders of PSVR technology back in 2017, Village does the same for PSVR2 and the next generation of Virtual Reality. Only to a much higher standard. Resident Evil Village VR makes terrific use of all of PSVR2’s features, from haptics and vibrations when loading a handgun to the rumble of the headset when the player is knocked down by a blood-thirsty Lycan, from the physicality and sense of presence the Sense controllers provide to the gorgeous visuals enhanced by the PS5’s more powerful processor and foveated rendering that keeps everything looks crisp and allows players to really lose themselves in the titular village.

Capcom has done a stunning job with bringing their horror masterpiece into a new dimension of gaming. Nothing here feels tacked on or added as an afterthought, but lovingly recreated with the same attention to detail that the original game received. And while it would have been nice to have seen more interactable elements in its world, Resident Evil Village VR stands as a shining example that proves games can work just as well in traditional “flatscreen” and VR, as well as being a fantastic game in itself. If you have a PSVR2 and Resident Evil Village in your library already, then you have no excuse not to give it a go, and if you don’t, you just might want to consider getting them. Resident Evil Village VR brings the horror of Resident Evil to life like never before.

Max Longhurst is a keen gamer, avid writer and reader, and former teacher. He first got into gaming when, at the age of 8, his parents bought him a PS2 and Kingdom Hearts for Christmas, and he’s never looked back. Primarily a PlayStation fan, he loves games with a rich single-player experience and stories with unexpected twists and turns.