Resident Evil Village (stylized rather roughly as VIIIage, get it?) is primed to continue the story of Ethan Winters, the unlucky fellow from Resident Evil 7. It's also doubling down on the series's new first-person focus. This shift to first-person allowed Resident Evil 7 to come packaged with a VR mode, letting players experience the entirety of the game from a uniquely more terrifying perspective. It was a solid horror game in its standard form, but was elevated by VR to be an all-timer for me. Earlier this year rumours started to circulate that Resident Evil Village will arrive fully playable in VR . If it follows the footsteps of its predecessor, it could end up being a seriously great horror game.
To understand the potential of Resident Evil Village's rumored VR mode, we have to take a look back at what made Resident Evil 7 VR so damned great. It released in January 2017, with the VR mode being exclusive for the PSVR. For those of you that didn't buy a PSVR headset at launch, let me tell you: Full-length experiences were virtually non-existent. You had short experiences like Batman Arkham VR to tide you over, but mostly it was smaller games like Superhypercube and RIGS (remember RIGS?) that best represented the platform's meager offerings at the time.
Then in swaggered Capcom, boasting a 10 hour horror campaign that many felt would be extremely uncomfortable to sit through. I frankly couldn't resist, and ended up playing through it multiple times, cementing Resident Evil 7 VR as one of my favorite gaming experiences ever. Capcom did what seemed impossible at the time and made a full-length VR game that was comfortable and engaging to play, even in long stints.
As I mentioned before, Resident Evil 7 was a great game in and of itself. Playing it in VR will always be the 'right' way to play it for me though, given the handful of genuinely transcendental experiences I had while playing. You may recall the short Kitchen demo that released before we even knew it was teasing a Resident Evil game. I played it countless times, recoiling in horror as a rather ghoulish woman thrusted a knife mere inches from my face. I even found myself playing with my hands placed firmly behind my back, to match my in-game character who was tied to a chair.
The demo isn't completely standalone, acting as a prequel of sorts to the events that take place in Resident Evil 7. The knife-wielding character makes an appearance in the full game, and even stabs Ethan. It's this moment I remember clearly, because my chest actually went cold as she plunged the knife in. The game had done its job in tricking my body into thinking I was actually in danger (if only for a second or two) and it was bloody terrifying. This tendency for Resident Evil 7 to bleed into reality for me reared its head again during a section where you fall through the floor into a water-logged basement. The water level sat uncomfortably just below my chin, and I found myself instinctively holding my breath as I fell. I'm not going to go into detail on what this game did to my sleep at the time, but let's just say I've never had a piece of horror entertainment affect me so viscerally.
The main criticism of Resident Evil 7's campaign is the drawn-out boat section at the game's conclusion. After hours of carefully slinking around the Baker Mansion desperately looking for resources, you're given all of the firepower and ammo you'll ever need and dropped onto a ship filled with more aggressive enemies. I was surprised to hear the ire directed at this section, until I realized that the overwhelming majority of reviewers played the game in its non-VR form.
What was clearly a boring environment on regular TVs took on a different quality in VR. The ship is one of my favorite areas of the game, still managing to feel claustrophobic and tense while opening up the action a bit. It's a good example of how large parts of Resident Evil 7 are given extra depth when played in VR, and why I think the two experiences end up being vastly different from each other. Even the 'worst' part of the game is a blast to play with a headset strapped to your face.
In the time since Resident Evil 7, VR has come a long way. We've seen increasingly clever uses of the PSVR headset, from the engaging and charming Astro Bot Rescue Mission to the bullet-dodging thrills of Superhot. With so much more in the VR space to be inspired by, Capcom could do something really special with Village.
Solid VR implementation can only take Resident Evil Village so far, it also needs to be a great horror game in and of itself. The teasers we've seen so far boast a spooky village heavily teeming with gothic horrors and even werewolves. It's giving me serious Resident Evil 4 vibes, which is high praise indeed. Here's hoping we get to stomp around as a werewolf in VR, if only for a section or two. I'm likewise genuinely terrified as to how Chris Redfield's new and inhumanly jacked-out character design will look when he's looming right over your head.
Something that worries me about Resident Evil Village's setting is that it might not translate all that well to VR (PSVR in particular). Going on comments made by Capcom, the titular village is a main focus of the game, which could be an issue for the PSVR headset in particular. The cramped and creaking halls of Resident Evil 7's Baker Mansion were wonderfully suited to the PSVR, with dimlight hiding the low visual fidelity and infamous blurriness that often plagues games on the platform. Once you stepped outside however, the well-lit and wide-open spaces definitely struggled in comparison.
Unless Sony announces a beefed-up PSVR headset (or possibly a PSVR2), Resident Evil Village's largely outdoor-looking environments could fall flat. Thankfully we've seen a few screenshots of some gorgeous interiors, some even evoking the first game in the series. Hopefully the developers have learned some lessons in the three years since the release of Resident Evil 7, and can find a way to make the open areas of Village look on par with the rest of the game.
We still don't know if Resident Evil Village will get a VR mode, and what it will look like if it does. Given that PSVR has sold over 5 million units in its first few years on the market there's definitely hope that Capcom will see a VR mode as being worth its time, maybe ditching the PlayStation exclusivity would be a good step in making it more viable. Resident Evil 7 in VR is easily my favorite horror game (horror anything really) and Village has the potential to top that. The new setting and the investment I now have in this particular storyline work in its favor. I'm just hoping it isn't held back by rapidly aging VR hardware.