In 2005 Capcom released an “exclusive” Gamecube title which would go on to become one of the most loved games of all time. Resident Evil 4 was a dramatic shift for Capcom’s long running survival horror series and at the time of its release RE4 defined the third person shooter genre. Praised for its eerie environments, incredible graphics and excellent voice acting, it was inevitable that Capcom would one day bring the game to other systems. A PS2 port followed just a few months after the Gamecube release and since then Capcom has bought the game to the Wii, PC, iPhone and iPad. Now in celebration of the series’ 15th anniversary, Resident Evil 4 has been coated in fancy HD paint and offered up for download via the Playstation Network and Xbox Live: Games On Demand, but is it still worthy or it’s “classic” status? Read on to find out…
Jumping back in to Resident Evil 4 after all these years will initially test your patience. The advent of games such as Gear Of War almost makes RE4 feel antiquated, particularly in the controls department. When playing on the PS3; holding L1/R1 readies your knife/firearm (respectively) and with either button held down you can then aim with the left stick (yes, the left stick!) or slice/fire with the square button. Your character’s inability to walk while aiming is sure to stifle those who have not yet played Resident Evil 4 (or RE5 for that matter) but with perseverance you’ll eventually reach that “Eureka” moment where the controls start to feel natural. It’s clear that the limited controls were designed to intensify the experience and fact that your character moves painfully slow only amplifies the tension. I hate to sound like an apologist for what could easily be perceived as “bad game design” but the truth is, if Resident Evil 4 controlled like Gears Of War it would essentially break the game.
I won’t waste time delving deep in to the game’s story because let’s face it, if you haven’t played Resident Evil 4 by now you probably don’t care about the aftermath of the Raccoon City outbreak. To briefly summarize the plot – you play as Leon Kennedy, a U.S. Secret Service agent who is tasked with finding the President’s kidnapped daughter. His investigation takes him to a remote town in Europe where all of the locals have seemingly been infected with a zombie-like virus. Unfortunately for Leon, almost everyone in town wants him dead and it’s not long until he discovers that something far more sinister is at play.
Resident Evil 4 was the first game in the series to utilize an over-the-shoulder camera and at the time it seemed almost revolutionary. RE4 was also uncharacteristically generous with ammo and health packs (First Aid Sprays/Herbs) which in turn made this the most user-friendly Resident Evil title to-date. The game also contained rudimentary RPG elements courtesy of a travelling merchant who allowed you to sell loot, buy new items/weapons and upgrade your existing arsenal. Although the game is completely linear, you’ll often have to revisit areas once you’ve obtained an item which grants you access to a previously inaccessible area. The easy to use map system insures you’ll never get lost and thankfully backtracking is kept to a minimum. Many gamers have criticized the game’s inventory system, which requires you to rotate your items until they fit neatly in to your grid-based suitcase, but I personally like dig it!
Without spoiling the game for those who clearly reside under a humongous rock, you’ll often have to engage in bodyguard duties which may or may not involve forcing a young lady to hide inside of a large garbage disposal unit. I’ve never been a fan of escort missions but Resident Evil 4 has made the art of escorting meaningful by making you feel like a concerned big brother rather than a hired gun. Exciting boss battles and uninspiring rotation puzzles both help to break up the games pace, and collectables give you further insight to the games story just as long as you don’t mind reading a few paragraphs. Once you’ve decapitated your way through the game’s 20 hour campaign there is still plenty to see and do thanks to the inclusion of bonus missions, new game plus features and the highly addictive Mercenary mode.
Graphically, Resident Evil 4 HD looks stunning! After a few hours with the PSN release I tried going back and revisiting the Gamecube game and was shocked as how ugly it looks in comparison. The HD version suffers infrequent frame rate dips and some questionable textures but for the most part Capcom has done an excellent job. The game also features some great voice acting although the dialog can occasionally be a little too cheesy.
While Resident Evil 4 hasn’t managed to retain the same spark that it had six years ago, It is still a fantastic game that everyone should experience. The controls aren’t perfect, but the game’s incredible atmosphere and enjoyable campaign will keep you hooked right up until the end. The absence of Playstation Move support is disappointing since pointer controls did wonders for the Wii version, but as it stands Resident Evil 4 HD is a divine work of art!
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Capcom.