Resident Evil Village Is PlayStation VR2’s Best Exclusive
Sony’s PlayStation VR2 launched recently with only a handful of proper exclusives. Horizon Call of the Mountain is the big showcase piece for the hardware, and Gran Turismo 7 has been updated to include impressive VR modes. Outside of those first-party games, however, the launch library is mostly made of previously released VR games. The one other major exception is from Capcom, which has made Resident Evil Village playable entirely in PlayStation VR2 with a free update.
Resident Evil 7 received a similar PlayStation VR port in 2017, but I found playing that game in VR underwhelming. It was released early in the VR lifecycle when the basic mechanics of the new platform were still being worked out, and you had to play with a controller. It wasn’t ideal. The recent VR remake of Resident Evil 4, on the other hand, is fantastic. Developer Armature Studio overhauled the classic game and translated it so well that it is now one of my favorite VR experiences.
With both of those Resident Evil VR experiences in my mind, I went into Village’s VR port with a bit of pessimism. Thankfully, on the scale of the mediocre Resident Evil 7 VR port to the excellent Resident Evil 4 VR, Village is much closer to the latter end of the spectrum.
Starting with the tutorial teaching you how the game plays differently from the core game, it feels like a well-considered port with new mechanics that fit the new perspective. Reloading for example, is now a multi-step process that feels great in VR, and makes encounters even scarier. Nothing like struggling to reload your handgun as a wave of werewolves inches toward you.
Gunplay, overall, just feels different in a good way. I found myself involuntarily shooting more bullets than usual just because that was my reaction when an enemy would pounce in my direction. In this way, the game feels a little harder, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I will take a higher challenge to have a more immersive experience.
One small downside of the new VR mode is you do have to start a new, separate save. I started from the beginning and played up to Lady Dimitrescu’s castle. Many early moments have more impact when you feel like you’re in the room. Seeing Mia get shot was particularly unsettling, and watching Chris tear through your house to get to you is all the scarier when he stands over you like an imposing monster.
In fact, all of the cutscenes work particularly well in VR. The game’s first-person design means that cutscenes play out with Ethan entering a room (or being dragged into a room depending on the circumstance) and the cast of characters standing around and talking directly to him. This works great in VR and was especially effective for meeting Lady Dimitrescu. One thing VR does well is scale, and encountering Lady Dimitrescu in person, so to speak, really shows off her height and intimidation.
Not every cutscene is perfect, though. Occasionally, the cinematic, or elements of it, will suddenly play out on a flat screen. Meeting The Duke for the first time is the strangest example of this as the entire interaction plays out in VR, save for one quick shot where the camera changes for about two seconds. For those brief moments, it turns into a flat image and then quickly back to VR. It doesn’t break or ruin the game, but it is undeniably distracting.
I can’t speak for the other areas of the game, but Lady Dimitrescu’s castle felt suited to VR from the moment I stepped inside thanks to its emphasis on self-directed exploration. VR is really good at letting you take your time and look at things, and the way the castle recalls classic, slower-paced Resident Evil games is perfect for this perspective. Walking around and looking at all the details of the castle almost makes it feel like it was designed with VR in mind from the start.
One small complaint is the save system, which involves tracking down typewriters to save your progress, is not ideal for VR. The game encourages you to take breaks and the oppressive setting of Village is all the more reason to take off the headset occasionally. Unfortunately, with the typewriters marking great points of rest, it means you have to find one before taking off the headset. A save anywhere option would have helped in this regard.
Overall, Resident Evil Village is my favorite PlayStation VR2 experience. There are other games I like on PlayStation VR2 (you can find a list here), but they are all available on other VR platforms. You can only play Resident Evil Village on PlayStation VR2, which is an unfortunate limitation, but it leads to me to highly recommend the game if you’ve invested in Sony’s new headset. Looking down into your jacket to select inventory items, seeing your hands get repeatedly mutilated from a new perspective, and even small, non-violent moments like putting baby Rose to sleep are all aided by VR in an impressive way.