Developer / Publisher – Capcom
Price – US $39.99 / CA $49.99 / EU €39.99 / UK £32.99
Release Date – February 22, 2023 (VR Patch)
Input – 2 x Sense Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – PlayStation
Reviewed on – PS5/PSVR 2
The “VR ” in Resident Evil 8 Village VR cannot be understated, for as someone who beat Resident Evil 8 twice in flat, I can confidently tell you that playing RE8 in VR is a completely different experience. RE8 is a mandatory VR experience, and one of the finest first person action titles ever made for VR.
Set a few years after the events in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, RE8 begins with Ethan Winters, his wife, Mia, and their child living peacefully in a new location, free from their past nightmares. Just as they are building their new life together, tragedy befalls them once again. Now, I won’t dive too deeply into the story as it’s almost impossible to do so without giving away spoilers to both RE7 and RE8 (they have some key connections that establish who Ethan, Mia, and their child are as well as events surrounding these characters in the Resident Evil universe as a whole). However, what I will say is despite that key connective tissue with RE7, RE8 is it’s own flavor of Resident Evil, moving away from the deep south grime of 7 and going back to a tone and setting more in line with the 4th Resident Evil title (my personal favorite).
While RE8 doesn’t really get into the occult as heavily as RE4, it does see you walking through dark and foreboding forests once again, as well as exploring an abandoned village. Additionally, RE8 sees the series return to the more action-oriented gameplay of RE4, consequently toning down the horror we experienced in RE7. Of course, results will vary depending on how easily you scare, and RE8 is still definitely a horror game with werewolves, zombies and a flair for the supernatural. Combine this with a literal arsenal of weapons at your disposal, and I don’t think RE8 will scare away players like the RE7 did. Further to this, while Resident Evil 7 was a fairly linear game with a very curated story, RE8 takes a more semi-open world approach here using the village as a sort of hub area, where access to areas will open and close as you progress, giving the game an almost Metroidvania feel to the world design. It encourages re-exploring areas, consequently making RE8 feel much more like a game than RE7 did. RE8 is also less of a puzzle game than the previous title, with most puzzles being simple logic puzzles to gain access to new sections of the game. There are a few exceptions though where the game takes your guns away and goes full retro Resident Evil making you use your brain, but these are few and far between. They feel more like palate cleansers to the core gameplay loop, which is fairly action focused, though never to the degree that RE4 and RE5 were.
Coming in around the 10 hour mark for gameplay length, Resident Evil 8 starts off slow, starting players in the pitch blackness of the surrounding forest. Eventually reaching the outskirts and daybreak, players will explore a few small houses in this now abandoned village before running into their first enemy. This first enemy encounter is just a taste, though, similar to how Resident Evil 4 treated players in the first hour with the onslaught of villagers. RE8 again throws players literally to the wolves with an early encounter that you simply need to survive in order to proceed. This wasn’t easy when playing flat, and it kicked my ass here in VR as I had to quickly learn to get good swapping mags, weapons, crafting and taking health just to stay alive. This is sure to scare some off, but I do commend the developers here for not dumbing the game down for VR, and instead taking the trial by fire approach that the flat game did. Thankfully, the way in which RE8 handles weapon and health management is competent and easy, making combat fun and quick in VR, and rarely getting in the way of enjoyment.
Apparently taking notes from the VR implementation of Resident Evil 4 on the Quest 2, RE8 feels like the next iteration of that title’s weapon holstering and inventory management system, improving on it in most ways. Once again handgun and ammo placement is on your sides, but further out in front in order to more easily grab the items than trying to reach into your waist. This is something I especially appreciated as someone who likes to play seated. Like RE4 VR, you can place a 2-handed weapon over on your right shoulder, but RE8 expands on that allowing players to also place another 2 handed weapon on the back of their waist, and another inside the left part of their jacket, which is also used to store consumables like grenades or landmines. The right inside of the jacket is used to store your flashlight and can also double up as another holster for another type of consumable. Health potions are on your left back shoulder and your map is on your back left waist. You are loaded down with weapons and supplies and ready to kill, with not a spot of VR space wasted. Thankfully once I got used to where to grab, this all worked well, as this could have been a gameplay disaster if they hadn’t gotten it right. Jumping into the inventory menu makes switching weapons out super easy. If you’ve played RE4 then the rest of the menu system plays much the same, allowing you to sort your inventory, craft items , combine treasure and examine pickups all within the same VR menu. And it all works flawlessly.
Now, if you saw my review for RE4 on the Quest, one of the few issues I had with the VR implementation of that game was that VR made the game much easier- in my opinion too easy. For as a game that was originally released in 2005, the VR port didn’t seem to adjust for the fact that players were no longer stuck in place when shooting, allowing VR players to literally run circles around enemies. In addition, headshots were a lot easier for anyone that was used to shooting in VR, and this quickly made ammunition scarcity a non-issue. Thankfully RE8 is free of all of these issues. Player movement in RE8 was already run-n’-gun, and the spastic and unpredictable movements of most enemies in RE8 ensure they are still a threat to deal with whether in or out of VR. I would say my VR aim was still better than when playing flat, but it seems to me that ammo drops may have been adjusted to balance the game for VR.
Gunplay in RE8 is awesome. Capcom definitely took it to the next level with the use of both the dual sense weighted triggers, HD haptics, and also the head haptics, which are used brilliantly here. Case in point, unloading the shotgun gives not only a kick to both controllers, but also punches you in the head, offering a tactile quality to firing off a shotgun that I’ve never felt in any game ever. It had me smiling like an idiot in gamer heaven. Outside of the haptics, guns in RE8 feel great across the board with complete 2-handed manual reloads that were smooth enough to keep up with the more frantic combat the game threw at me, adding a level of bad-assery to the combat that only VR can deliver. Further to this, melee combat has gotten a real upgrade in VR. In addition to using a knife to fend off enemies, players can now also block and punch. I don’t advise you ever let enemies get that close, but it’s a nice addition.
Moving on to the crafting side of things, and again RE8 takes cues from RE4, bringing back a travelling vendor that tends to pop up in the most bizarre locations. (You have to ask yourself, is he really setting up in the best locations to run a viable business from?) Regardless, I absolutely loved seeing the return of the vendor as it provided a game loop that was sorely missing in RE7. RE8 is filled with treasures, mini missions, loot drops, and a return of the ability to kill crows for cash drops. All of this can be used at the vendor to purchase new weapons, weapon attachments, weapon upgrades, consumables and crafting recipes. In later stages in the game, the vendor opens up a cooking section, which offers players the ability to bring in meat from downed animals in return for dishes that grant permanent character buffs. Outside of vendor crafting, players will be very familiar with the tried and true ability to craft healing potions, ammunition and other consumables from resources they scavenge in the world, such as scrap metal, gun powder, chem fluid and, of course, the always delicious green herb. Higher difficulties are very frugal on the health and ammo they leave around, so crafting can be an absolute necessity for survival. I absolutely loved this aspect in Resident Evil 4 and 5, and I’m happy to report that RE8 has nailed the balance of. Higher difficulties means every bullet counts, and makes scrounging every corner of the world a must.
It must be highlighted that, as a VR title, rarely have we seen such a deep and polished action title brought to any headset. I mean truly, even the mighty Half Life Alyx simply lacks anywhere near the depth of gameplay mechanics, freedom of movement or scale of world. RE8 makes Half Life Alyx feel, at times, like a tech demo in comparison with its overly safe movement system and simplistic upgrade tree. Don’t get me wrong, Half Life Alyx is a quintessential VR title, but Resident Evil 8 VR feels like that next step we have been looking for.
Regarding visuals, Resident Evil 8 Village is simply beautiful as a VR title, and Capcom should be applauded for what they have pulled off here. In fact, between the three launch titles of Horizon: Call of the Mountain, GT7 and RE8, it is this title that has impressed me the most. RE8 in VR never feels like a visually dumbed down version of the flat game. Right from the starting menu, as I sat in the opening farmers field on launch day, I found my jaded VR brain simply awestruck with the level of graphical quality in front of me. But could the game possibly deliver this beyond a curated starting menu? Yes, yes it could. Resident Evil 8 Village in flat is a truly beautiful AAA experience, but in VR? Walking around the variety of environments ranging from large outside vistas and rustic village locales, to the beauty of rich castle interiors and the murky depths of dark dungeons is an experience I have never experienced in VR. The sheer level of texture detail on absolutely everything in this world is all here, and I often found myself simply pouring over detail after detail with my flashlight. From the dynamic lighting and particle effects, to glass reflections and character animations, absolutely every painstaking detail is here in VR. The effect is a level of world immersion I’ve never felt before, and I found myself continually being impressed and surprised during my 10-hour playthrough.
How is the PS5 pulling off these visuals? Eye tracking and the use of dynamic foveated rendering is certainly on display here, combined with some fantastic dynamic resolution at work to ensure objects that might not be completely crisp at a distance have the detail we want when looking up close. No, this isn’t as crisp as the flat version, but it was never going to be. However, despite some softness in complex textures at a distance, RE8 manages to avoid much in the way of pop in, jagged edges or any of the VR concessions we have come to expect. That being said the game does use reprojection to hit the required framerates and this is quite noticeable when smooth-turning. In fact, though it never bothered me, I would recommend those with weaker VR legs stick to turning in real life or using the click turn option as the motion blur from the reprojection could make some uncomfortable here. RE8 isn’t the smoothest game at launch, which is very obvious when compared with the smoothness of The Walking Dead Saints and Sinners: Chapter 2 running at a native 90 FPS. However, the level of graphical detail on display here, for me, is absolutely worth these concessions. Are we seeing the PS5 completely maxed for what it can do in VR? Unlikely…but maybe? Only time will tell. Regardless, RE8 completely surpassed my expectations for this generation of PSVR and stands as a benchmark title for other developers to look at when considering going the VR hybrid route with their next AAA title.
Sound-wise RE8 is unsurprisingly first rate, offering a rich and complex 3D sound mix, bringing Village to life like never before. And for someone who played the game a few times before, playing again in VR with this mix was a completely different experience. Yes, tracking incoming enemies was easier, but it was the little details, like torches burning in the distance, the brushing of swinging bodies from trees, or the creaks of dilapidated buildings that fills the mix and truly takes RE8 to an audio level rarely experienced in VR. Further to this, for those more susceptible to the horror aspects of VR, prepare to get your butt puckered. RE8 is a horror masterpiece in audio design from its slight musical cues, and shock and awe timing, to its gruesome monster noises and pitch perfect voice acting. Finishing the audio package here is a special mention to the gun sounds, as they are some of the best I have heard in a while, in or out of VR, offering a satisfying punch to the whole combat system. The shotgun is a particular highlight with a visceral blast that would make even Doom guy proud.
And that brings me to my final thoughts and review score. What can I say? I absolutely love Resident Evil 8 Village in VR. Those looking for the story rich horror of 7 may find this title lacking a bit, as this is certainly much more fantastical in its delivery. For those looking for more of a return to the combat game loop and pacing of the 4th or 5th entry in the series, I think you will find RE8 right up your alley. This is a masterclass in porting a AAA title to VR and makes it the only way to play the game if you have the means to get your hands on a PSVR 2, as it simply elevates every single aspect of the game. It’s not without its visual concessions in VR, but the end result is still truly breathtaking taking in the headset, as we have rarely seen this level of graphical richness in any VR game.
When I talk about next gen VR, and what I hoped the PSVR 2 would bring to VR, this right here is what I am talking about. Move over Alyx, your crown has finally been taken.