Resident Evil 7: Should you play in VR or not?

Resident Evil 7 is now available, and those on PS4 with PlayStation VR can choose to dive headlong — and face first — into its horrific proceedings. But should you? Yes and no.

In terms of experience, there are pros and cons to be had with VR. In cutscenes, the PSVR headset will place you inside the action — throwing a number of “whooooo, there’s a thing coming right at you” moments your way — but there’s a lot of fade-in and fade-out during big movements. We presume that’s the case so users don’t lose their lunch when these erratic movements — being thrown against a wall or crouching unexpectedly, as examples — happen. It’s worth playing through the game twice for a number of reasons, but one of those is to experience all cutscenes with and without VR so you get the full experience.

While we’d easily call Resident Evil 7 a must-play virtual reality title — quite importantly, the first Stevivor has recommended as such — the experience still suffers from minor control issues. With a DualShock 4 in hand, you can move forward and backward with your left stick. Looking in a direction and pressing forward on your controller will cause you to change course, ever so slightly, but big turns are made in quarter increments with the DualShock’s right stick. The 180 degree turn, performed by holding back on the left stick and pressing Circle, works just as it does in non-VR mode. This scheme is both a saviour and a hindrance.

Simply put, these VR controls will get you through most of Resident Evil 7‘s offerings without problem. Headtracking is near-perfect and works brilliantly when looking around your environment for collectibles. It excels when charting an escape course to dart around slow-moving biohazards, giving you peripheral vision that simply doesn’t exist with first-person 2D offerings. Sadly, the benefits fall short with bosses. It’s in these situations where you benefit tighter controls with the DualShock’s right stick. You’re able to back up, and more importantly, turn with precision to deflect or dodge an attack. Trying to marry headtracking and quarter-turn movement in a hectic boss battle is quite difficult.

In the end, I turn to the age-old widsom of the Old El Paso girl: why not both? Use VR when starting the game, and switch back to non-VR for a boss battle. Continue doing so until you’ve had your fill. You’ll know when the boss battles will take place easily enough — most likely ’cause that’s when you’ll die in VR. Checkpoint systems are pretty generous — at least in Easy and Normal difficulties — so there’s no worry about wasting time switching back and forth like this.

If you don’t have PlayStation VR, it’s hopefully reassuring to know that the experience isn’t lessened because of it. As we say in our full, spoiler-free Resident Evil 7 review, the title truly has brought fear back home. This is definitely one to play no matter the platform or peripherals.

Resident Evil 7 is available now on Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4. Virtual reality is only available — at least for now — on PS4 with PS VR.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.