Déjà vu is a French phrase that literally translates to “already seen” in English. It’s the familiar sense that you’ve done something, or visited a place before, even when it’s a brand-new experience. After playing Resident Evil 4 on Quest 2, I think we’re going to need a new word to describe the feeling of experiencing 2D games in VR for the first time.
I’ve never visited a rural village in Europe, been an agent of the government with a Nick Carter haircut, or rescued the President’s daughter from deranged and disfigured cultists; but I certainly felt like I had when I re-entered the world of Resident Evil 4 on Quest 2.
Now that I can embody Leon S. Kennedy from a first-person perspective, his feet are no longer bolted to the ground when drawing a weapon. This means I can do things like “kite” enemies, a gaming term that means backpedaling away while they chase you, slowly whittling away at their health from a safe, fast-moving distance. Instead of pressing a button to slash open a box, I can physically swing my knife to send the herbs and ammo tumbling out onto the floor. It’s exhilarating and freeing in a way that totally changes how I interact with the world.
It’s small things like that which make this release of Resident Evil 4 feel special. Standing face-to-face with a chainsaw-wielding Los Ganados villager and gunning him down with the satisfying haptic kickback of a two-handed shotgun fulfills a wish that I’m certain millions of gamers that grew up fighting monsters in video games all have.
One of my favorite things to do after clearing an area is to just look up at the sky. Things like skyboxes are harder to appreciate in 2D games because you don’t have anywhere near as much depth appreciation. But in VR, when the world around you is 3D and features 6DOF (six degrees of freedom depth) movement, you can embody the space more than you could outside of VR.
Resident Evil 4 was a major departure from the first several entries in the series. The innovative over-the-shoulder third-person camera can be seen in countless games that came after it, but at the time its approach was relatively groundbreaking. This put a faster, more action-packed pacing into the series for the first time and transformed the survival horror formula into a fast-paced thrill ride that retained the terrifying nature of its predecessors, while injecting it with white-knuckled action gameplay.
Adapting the game for VR doesn’t alter the tone completely, but it’s more unnerving and intense than ever before thanks to the immersive presence of Quest 2. Even though you can move quickly and have a variety of weapons at your disposal, the anxiety level is through the roof now since it’s a first-person VR horror game.
Reloading guns, switching weapons, dodging enemies, slashing with my knife—all things I could easily do with the press of a button before—now require me to orchestrate the actions with my hands while holding Touch controllers. Muscle memory needs to be translated from my thumbs and index fingers into entire body movements and, to be honest, it’s a steep learning curve.
Meeting iconic characters like Ashley, Ada Wong, and others is a real treat, as is getting to face off with formidable enemies like Jack Krauser from inside a Quest 2 headset. I’m used to my palms getting sweaty while gaming, but be prepared for a real workout when you get lost in the nightmares of Resident Evil 4.
A lot of work was done by Armature Studio, Capcom, and the folks at Oculus Studios to get this game updated and looking sharp for a VR headset. It’s a remarkable feat of technology that it runs so well and seamlessly on a standalone device and really shows the power of Quest 2. Seeing it all in VR for the first time felt both fresh and familiar.