Capcom Brings Resident Evil to VR – Here’s How and Why

Turning a crossbow bolt in real life takes practice. In the Resident Evil 4 (RE4) VR port, all you have to do is lift the controller in the air at the right time.

And it’s always satisfying.

The parry mechanic is one of the new additions of the 2023 remake developed by Capcom. When a bolt or melee attack from an infected villager is about to affect Leon Kennedy, you only need to press a button to swing with an in-game knife. This action gives you the chance to follow up on an on-the-spot attack while simultaneously adding to RE4’s original close-quarters smackdown.

Adapting it to the PlayStation VR2 was not easy. Instead of Leon doing a quick animation with just a button press, you have to grab a knife from your chest, raise it in the air, and set off an incoming attack. It’s more involved, sure, but also more immersive, adding a whole new layer to the mechanic.

“Enemy attacks have attack detection in place of the weapon,” says director Keisuke Yamakawa. “Therefore, by examining the connection between enemy attack detection and Leon’s knife, we were able to derive our expected behavior. When we managed to perform the first parry, the team raved about how much fun it was and we were convinced that (the) VR mode would be entertaining.

Parrying was one of the many factors carefully considered when translating the remake to virtual reality. Game Informer spoke with Yamakawa and producer Masato Kumazawa to learn more about the process, the development of the VR mode, how the VR version of Resident Evil Village served as the foundation, and what to expect in the future from Capcom’s ongoing push. medium

Knife Party

Will Leon throw a knife in the middle of a fight? Virtual reality gives you more control over characters and the team had to consider all the possibilities of player agency. In deciding where to place boundaries and where to allow people to experiment, Capcom came up with three main pillars. Namely, whether your actions in VR are fun, whether you feel like you’re playing Leon’s avatar, and whether it fits the RE4 experience.

At first the team was not sure about this possibility. In the VR version of Resident Evil Village, you can not only throw knives but also weapons as Ethan Winters. Since Ethan is a civilian, the concept of him throwing everything at hand to hit an enemy and make a quick escape doesn’t seem unreasonable. However, Leon has enough training and experience in this field, so he will not throw a pistol at someone’s head.

Eventually, the developers felt that players would want to throw knives like Leon, so they added a mechanic for VR. Unlike Village, there’s a slight delay before returning the knife to the shortcut slot after throwing – it’s an arm’s reach over your virtual body. Furthermore, manually returning the slot to the slot has the advantage of recovering some of the knife’s durability. Considering that knives have a more prominent use in RE4, this all fits the concept. Aside from attacking enemies, you can throw knives into bear traps and safely damage them, or practice target with chickens to get eggs.

In the VR version of Village, you’ll be able to form fists and close your hands to punch werewolves. Unlike a knife, there is no delay or cooldown time that prevents you from defending yourself with this method. Sure, the damage is extremely low in contrast to knives and guns, but since it’s considered a VR innovation and not a proper mechanic, there’s no penalty in place. Allowing you to punch Ganados like Leon was also considered early in development. The problem, the developers say, is replacing the existing melee system in favor of a punch that you can repeat without apparent penalty. Funnily enough, you can wield two knives at once to quickly stab enemies. But of course, durability prevents this action from being repeated ad infinitum. (Unless you find all the Clockwork Castellans to unlock the Primal Knife, which can be upgraded to become indestructible. You’re welcome.)

Of course, the village was not the only point of reference. The original Resident Evil 4 got a standalone VR version developed by Armature Studio and published by Oculus Studios in 2021. Although the team didn’t cite it as an inspiration, there are many similarities, such as cutscenes displayed on a kind of virtual TV. . As for the world, one of the standout features of VR is lack of focus on interactivity. Perhaps more importantly, the first-person perspective switches to third-person every time you perform melee actions, as in the flat version.

“During a spinning kick attack, Leon’s posture changes drastically, and his body turns,” says Yamakawa. “Therefore, it is clear that placing the camera in head position does not produce the correct image. It is also important to be able to check the surroundings and the enemies caught by the kick, so we decided to use the third-person view from the beginning.

Alternate realities

In addition to throwing knives and performing attacks manually, you can grab objects and inspect them up close, perform revolver tricks a la Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid, and reload a shotgun by cocking the weapon with one hand. In order to keep up with the intensity of the RE4 remake, a lot of streamlining had to be done along the way.

Barrels and crates containing items can be destroyed by swinging your knife, but you can choose to use a button prompt that does the action for you. In the base game, whenever Leon enters a dark area, he turns on a flashlight until you return to a well-lit environment. This also happens in VR, but by default the light is attached to your head following your movements. However, you can hold it by your forehead and move it yourself like a villager until the section ends. Each weapon has its quirks, especially when it comes to reloading, but some are simpler than you’d expect in VR. As the team says, these shortcuts are meant to make it so your focus is on the action around you.

“For shotguns and other weapon types that load one shot, we realized that as a VR game, reloading one shell at a time would be very interesting,” says Yamakawa. “But in Resident Evil 4, the combat is very intense and if players have to reload shells one by one during the battle, it’s very difficult and can affect your level of enjoyment.”

According to Kumazawa, the release of the VR mode is scheduled “one year after” the initial release of the base game, which was released on March 24, 2023. It was less than that, released as free DLC in December. 8 of the same year.

This is partly thanks to the fact that while the core team was still developing the main game, it started working on aspects of the VR mode. Additionally, Village’s director assisted the team in the early stages of development, while Yamakawa himself worked on the VR version of Resident Evil 7. This made for a much smoother process, even if machines like dual-wielding weapons had to be made from scratch.

In the “Integrated Report 2015” document released by Capcom in the same year, the company expressed its interest and commitment to VR for its development division 1, the group responsible for the Resident Evil series. Nine years later, half of the main Resident Evil games released during this time have received a VR version on PlayStation headsets. Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes and Armature’s RE4 version are out.

When asked if this focus on VR has affected the way Capcom develops new games in the franchise, the team, who knew it would be working on a VR version ahead of time, suggested otherwise. “The simple answer is ‘no,'” says Yamakawa. “It’s very important to us that the main game is as interesting as possible, so we didn’t make any changes to it because of the VR mode.” It additionally covers important additions like Pari. Tweaks and changes were made to the mechanic until the team started iterating on the base game to translate the experience to VR.

Visitors say Resident Evil 4 has implemented all the elements they wanted for VR. Once they wrapped up the project, they realized that VR would be a good fit for the franchise. Although he won’t discuss specifics, Kumazawa says he “plans to take on more challenges in the future.”

Furthermore, Kumazawa adds that one of the reasons for releasing the VR versions of Village and 4 as free DLC is that the team will try to help expand the VR market. Yamakawa, personally speaking, joined the project as a director because of his passion for VR.

While conditions like motion sickness continue to be a concern for players accessing VR, Yamakawa says it’s a substantial improvement compared to the original PlayStation VR headset.

“When we received the first version of the original VR development kit, I spent a lot of time playing with it,” says Yamakawa. “VR also fits well with the Resident Evil franchise. I want VR to become more popular with the public. As headsets are still quite expensive and heavy, I’d like the kits to continue to be lighter and more (approachable) to the general audience.”


This article originally appeared in issue 364 of Game Informer.

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