Resident Evil 7 was a scary game, but Capcom's first-person horror reboot inside the confines of a virtual reality headset was something more insidious. Exploring the Baker household locked inside a black box, slabs of glass mere inches from your eyeballs, was overwhelming and hostile. Upsetting to a degree that, for some at times, it crossed a line.
Unfortunately, the hame's successor, Resident Evil Village, has no VR support. It's still a first-person horror adventure (and a pretty good one, too), but Sony's next-gen VR headset isn't due anytime soon. Given that VR support was a Sony exclusive last time around, if VR support is coming for Village, it's probably not until Sony is ready to roll out that headset.
It's too bad, because RE7 in VR wasn't merely an additive feature—it's transformative. In my estimation, if you didn't play RE7 in VR, you actually haven't experienced the game's true nature. The feeling of creeping around this broken and rotting house sat differently when you're physically craning your neck to look around a corner, or sprinting down the hall while simultaneously trying to look behind you, wondering what might be following your footsteps.
The hairs on the back of my neck still go up when I think about the elderly woman in the wheelchair who'd pop up from time to time, quietly watching the player from afar. I remember passing by, moving the analog stick forward while keeping my eyes on her, fully convinced that, at one point, she would leap up and come after me. She never did. But she still could.
VR has long been a nifty technology in search of a problem to solve. It's immersive, but to what end? RE7 was one of those games that helped VR click into place for me, not just a justification for purchasing a high-end piece of hardware but an explanation for why it exists.
It's how goofy buzzwords like "presence" take on meaning.
The term "immersion" is nebulous and frustratingly vague, too. But it's true that when a video game is played on a screen, the physical distance from the TV produces emotional distance. This is useful in a horror game; it's a tool the player can use to remind themselves "I'm okay and safe," the same way you might grip someone's hand during a scary movie. RE7 identified that distance had been removed, thanks to VR, and started creeping into your comfort zone. At times, RE7 in VR felt dangerous. Your coping mechanisms were gone.
It's not hard to imagine why this was legitimately too much for some people. Even I played the game in chunks, both to preserve the sharpness of the scares and to, well, get a break.
But being scared is, to me, like riding a rollercoaster, and I'm always chasing that high. A scare, even the best one, has its greatest potency the first time around, and then you need to find another one. I haven't replayed RE7 since it came out mostly because I know there's no way to repeat my original experience, and I enjoy replaying those moments in my head.
I'd been hoping Village would be a chance to chase that feeling again. It's not a game without its scary moments, but can you imagine staring up at Lady Dimitrescu in VR? Damn. It's also a world where, like RE7, you spend a lot of time exploring claustrophobic hallways and caverns. It feels like a game that was meant to be explored in VR, but so far, you can't.
One can dream.