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Resident Evil Village is a great PSVR 2 shooter, if you can stomach it

Resident Evil Village is a great PSVR 2 shooter, if you can stomach it


And you thought staring at Ethan Winters’ hands couldn’t get scarier.

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Vampire giantess Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Village in PlayStation VR 2 mode.
Yes, Lady Dimitrescu looks even taller in VR.

Sony’s new PlayStation VR2 is a solid headset with a relatively small launch catalog, and one of its most exciting titles is a VR mode for Resident Evil Village, Capcom’s first-person 2021 survival horror shooter. Village draws inspiration from Resident Evil 4, which got a stellar Meta Quest 2 port back in 2021, so I had high hopes. And they weren’t unfounded. The free PSVR 2 update to Village offers great shooting with the device’s Sense controllers and makes a solid case for the headset’s quirky “face rumble” feature. If only other parts didn’t torture me as badly as Ethan Winters’ hands.

I’m not making any claims to fully reviewing Village in VR here. In my free time since the mode’s launch on February 22nd, I’ve been spending halting hours working through most of its first two sections, comprised of Ethan exploring the eponymous village and the castle of noted vampire giantess Lady Dimitrescu. I’ve been reviewing VR games since 2016, and I consider myself to have an average tolerance for simulation sickness; I’ve spent long stretches playing motion-heavy games like Horizon Call of the Mountain in PSVR 2. But Village has demanded constant diligence to avoid triggering some of the worst nausea I’ve had in years, and I don’t trust myself to power through the whole thing in a timely fashion.

I’m not sure how many people will feel as bad as I did. My colleague Sean Hollister, for one, has had a better experience. Still, Village is a laundry list of risk factors for VR-induced illness. Like countless other VR games, you’re playing a pair of disembodied arms that can carry weapons or items, moving by default with the controller’s analog stick. But smooth stick-based motion can make plenty of VR users feel awful, and Village doesn’t have the teleportation-style fallback comfort mode that many titles — including Resident Evil 4 VR — offer. There’s a “tunneling” comfort option that narrows your field of view while you’re moving, but in my experience, it can only do so much.

On top of that, levels are full of labyrinthine passages that require you to sprint away from enemies or backpedal while shooting. They force you to frequently turn either with the thumbstick, which nauseated both Sean and me, or your physical body, which quickly tangles you in the PSVR 2’s cord. The game is also full of long cutscenes that take control away from you, moving your virtual hands and head in ways that don’t reflect your real position.

These elements directly, and maybe inevitably, reflect Village’s non-VR design. Resident Evil 4 VR feels great because its original level structure was relatively open and straightforward, built for methodical shooting gallery gameplay. (As an originally third-person game, it can also pull you out of first person for cutscenes and certain combat moves, rendering them in the game’s non-VR style.) By contrast, Village is a game where you’re often supposed to feel vulnerable and pressed for time, sometimes chased — or dragged — around in close quarters by things you can’t fight.

The moment you pull out a gun, this feels like how Village was meant to be played

But so far, that translates into periodic frustration even when I’m not sick. I’ve found myself running down twisted virtual staircases trying to avoid yanking the headset’s cable from my PlayStation 5 or selecting and turning in-game keys with a menu system just complicated enough to throw me into wasting precious seconds. Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, the interface asks you to use the right-hand face button to select key items... and during at least one scene, using your right hand for anything will feel incredibly wrong.

Especially if you’re prone to motion sickness, I’m not convinced Village’s non-combat segments are worth the tradeoffs of VR. There are some delightful upsides: Lady D looks nicely imposing with the headset’s added illusion of physical presence, and if you weren’t already wincing at Ethan’s nonstop limb trauma, raising the Sense controllers to examine his half-healed wounds up close will probably do the trick. But the locomotion and item handling is just clumsy enough that it’s almost as distracting as it is immersive. That’s particularly true when you’re backtracking to solve Village’s puzzles since VR mode simplifies the map in a way that (as far as I can tell) limits it to your immediate vicinity rather than letting you pan or flip between floors.

Which is a shame because, the moment you stop moving and pull out a gun, VR simply feels like the way Village is meant to be played. The game’s shooting is similar to Resident Evil 4 VR: you’ve got an array of weapons attached to your body, and you mime pulling them off your hip or back to draw them, then reload by grabbing ammunition from a pouch at your side. It makes for a faster pace than gamepad-based combat, and moving your arm to aim a gun (or raising your hands to block an attack) feels a lot more natural than pushing around an analog stick. I’ve got some quibbles, like the fact that it’s easy to reach a little too far back and grab the map off your back instead of ammo. But it’s fun, mostly intuitive, and incredibly satisfying, down to the face vibration that hits every time a real-world shotgun or rifle butt would kick against your cheek or shoulder.

Village isn’t quite the easy PSVR 2 win I’d hoped for, and as long as Sony sticks with a cabled headset, I’m not sure there is an easy win to be had. But at the very least, it delivers on the promise of its action elements — and for a lot of people, that might be enough.