Resident Evil 7 is one of the best horror games in recent years and its VR support is still, over four years later, exclusive to PSVR. We take a look back at the title, analyze what makes it work so well in VR, and imagine how great Resident Evil 8: Village could be with VR support.
Some mild spoilers for Resident Evil 7 follow below
Resident Evil 7 and VR Horror
Let me preface this by stating that I’m a nerd for horror. I love the challenge of a new horror game. There’s something so raw and exciting about being terrified and that’s why I love horror games in particular. With the rise of VR, horror is getting more chances to truly shine. That’s why I jumped at PSVR on day one and awaited a true showcase of its horrifying potential.
I’m driven to play horror games in VR in search of the answer to one simple question: Can this game scare me more than I’ve ever been scared before? The launch of Resident Evil 7 VR in 2017 answered that question in spectacular fashion.
With VR now solidified as a well and truly established platform, we have the capacity to be scared by developers to levels that we could only have imagined way back when the first Resident Evil game came out in 1996. After the brilliantly spooky showcase of Resident Evil Village and the internet’s collective obsession with tall vampire lady, I got to thinking about my terrifying experience with Resident Evil 7 in VR and what it might mean for the future of the series.
Resident Evil 7 was a huge departure for the franchise as a whole. Just how Resident Evil 4 changed camera angles for a more personal approach, Biohazard placed you in first-person—as close to those molded and grotesque Bakers as possible. This after all, was a giant lateral sidestep for the series. Not in terms of quality, but in terms of its roots. This was the return of Resident Evil the survival horror game and away with the games that tried to have unnecessary over-the-top macho action.
Following Resident Evil 4, the next two main entries in the series went for bolder and bigger setpiece action sequences. Resident Evil 7 on the other hand was much more focused, offering a more stripped back and primal experience. As series producer Masachika Kawata said in an interview with us back near the game’s launch, they were hoping to “make an experience that’s more intimate which allows for higher immersion.” They more than succeeded.
Adding VR into the mix was like holding a magnifying glass to the horror genre as a whole, amplifying everything. The tension, the scares, the action, and the incredibly detailed environments all came to life like never before. The Baker mansion itself feels like a character when you’re this invested inside its walls.
So, what makes Resident Evil 7 and it’s VR mode so damn terrifying? As the first game made using the RE engine, Resident Evil 7 is a very good-looking game. Even the inevitable visual compromises made in VR have very little impact on how gorgeous it is. In fact, seeing things in VR allowed me to see many more details that were just not as pronounced when looking at a flat TV screen.
Everyone is aware of that infamous dinner table scene with the Baker family. The difference it makes when it’s not only Ethan, but you, the player as well, getting some kind of horrendous rotten meat shoved in your mouth really ramps up the intensity and disgust.
Not only that but every single confrontation is transformed. I’ve played the game since without VR and the scares, fights, and key moments of high tension are, while still powerful, just feel a little flat (pun intended) without VR by comparison. The boss fights gave me goosebumps, especially with Marguerite in her four-legged form.
Having to physically look around with your head to locate where she could be crawling all over the walls felt incredibly haunting. When you hear those 3D audio sounds to let you know that she’s behind you and you have to look over your shoulder, it really sends a chill down your spine; I never want to do that again.
The moments where nothing is happening are probably the parts where VR makes the biggest change, as strange as it sounds. There were two occasions in my first playthrough where I literally paused the game and had to stop due to simply unbearable tension.
This happened when wading through the water in the introductory section and when crawling through the pitch black vent on the abandoned Annabelle ship. The atmosphere alone is what made these sections so terrifying.
The silence, the not knowing if or when something is about to happen, was all too overwhelming for me. Since I’ve played my fair share of horror games before I just knew that something was probably going to happen. Each time I removed the headset, took a deep breath, and questioned if I was ready to dive back in.
The discomfort of being in VR with water up to your neck is something that can’t be explained, it needs to be experienced. As someone that’s already scared of tight spaces, it was a real nightmare. The rancid water bubbles in front of you as you’re trying, desperately, to keep your head above were disgusting. And then after all that, guess what? Nothing happens. You just drop out and continue. But the sheer weight of not knowing in VR meant I almost couldn’t continue.
If you haven’t already and you enjoy horror, you simply have to experience Resident Evil 7 in VR. Despite the fact that it only uses the DualShock 4 and not any motion controllers, no other horror experience has come close for me. It completely terrified me and I wish I could experience it all over again for the first time.
And now, I want Capcom to top it. I’d love for them to scare me more than I’ve ever been scared before once again. I want to see all 9 feet of Lady Dimitrescu and that beautiful castle of Resident Evil Village in VR. They haven’t confirmed VR support (yet) but I really, really hope they do.
I’m ready to be frozen on the spot and begging for reprieve all over again.