Resident Evil 4 is a game that realistically did not need an HD remake. If you include the iOS version, this is the fifth iteration of the game, which originally game out a mere six and a half years ago in 2005. While it might not have been necessary, it is still an awesome thing for Capcom to do (though admittedly, the price could be better). A lot of action games have come out since Resident Evil 4 first hit the scene. So many games have been influenced by this one title. It was one of the first to really do quick time events, and it is still, alongside God of War, one of the few to use them correctly.
Resident Evil 4 also redefined the way survival horror games played, moving from static camera angles to an over the shoulder view, that almost every third-person action game since, including Gears of War and Uncharted, have incorporated. Of course, it came out six years ago, and as such, the action/shooter genre has seen quite a few good games since, so there is always the question of whether the game holds up.
I can safely say after playing through the game again that Resident Evil 4 is still one of the best video games ever made. It is fun, challenging and exciting. It is a great survival horror game, and an even better third person shooter. It still has an awesome story and interesting characters. But more than any of that, it still plays next to flawlessly.
Resident Evil 4 tells a pretty good story. The game strays far from the roots of the first three Resident Evil games by being the first to not have a single Zombie. Instead, your character, Leon S. Kennedy, is trapped in a remote village in Spain with crazed villagers and monsters. It manages to keep the feel of the older games, while at the same time changing the core mechanics. Gone are the static camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds, replaced by fantastic character and monster models and an over-the-shoulder third person view. Even the main antagonist of the series, Albert Wesker, is only mentioned in passing in the main story.
The graphics look good, but not amazing, for an HD remake. While the character models look particularly fantastic, they did on the GameCube as well. The game was not fully remastered either, as the Metal Gear Solid Collection is. Rather, you can still see a lot of low res textures. The fire effects are fantastic, but the water effects still look somewhat dated. Overall, it isn’t as much of an HD remake as you would expect, but the game still looks very good. It is smoothed out and looks nice in widescreen, but other than that, the graphics seem largely unchanged.
The graphics would be a bigger issue if the gameplay did not hold up. Thankfully it does. Certain aspects of the game feel a bit dated. The controls in particular feel a bit strange by today’s standards. They aren’t bad, but they take getting used to, with the Square button being the primary action button, R1 the aiming button and R1+Square to shoot. It does take a bit of getting used to, but this only adds to the tension of the game. The tension is especially heightened when you realize that while aiming, Leon cannot move. So when you want to take a shot, you need to be careful. This might seem like it would cause a lot of frustration, but it surprisingly doesn’t. It merely serves to add to the stress of fighting villagers, as they menacingly approach you with pitchforks or scythes.
What should reduce the tension of the game is Leon’s own arsenal. He has a lot of weapons at his disposal, including an extremely helpful knife. The knife is mapped to a quick use button, holding L1 and pressing Square will allow Leon to use his knife and slash at his enemies. It becomes a nice way to balance out his inability to move, and can also really help you conserve ammo. However, more fun than his knife is his upgradable arsenal, primarily provided by one of the greatest characters in the series, the mysterious Merchant. The Merchant, with his strange inflections and total lack of a Spanish Accent, appears periodically throughout the game to inexplicably take your hard earned Pesetas and Treasures and exchange them for guns, equipment and weapon upgrades. The weapons system is one of the most fun in games, as it manages to balance resource management with interesting weapons. It is also very rewarding near the end of the game when you find out that your fully upgraded weapon you’ve spent the majority of the game with has a unique upgrade that further increases its value to you.
Resident Evil 4’s gameplay still holds up as some of the best in the action/shooter genre. The game rewards exploration by granting you additional money or ammo, and your curiosity almost always pays off. While you have to balance ammunition consumption and the inability to move while aiming with a careful strategy, almost each area becomes its own little puzzle. This becomes especially apparent in the middle section of the game, a medieval castle filled with traps and all manner of crazed monsters. Almost every single room of the castle, for about five hours of gameplay, is unique, interesting and different. The level design in general is absolutely fantastic, but in the castle, it is, even by today’s standards, nothing short of stellar.
The great level design also leads itself to another one of the games strengths: the game is paced perfectly. Hard gameplay sections are often offset by strategic lulls in the action, which can be just as eerie. New enemies appear almost right up to the end of the game, including one who is downright terrifying (the Iron Maiden for those of you who are curious). There are also vehicle sections and some unbelievable boss fights to break up the combat or puzzle sections. The last boss itself is actually a disappointment because of some of the unbelievable boss fights earlier on in the game. The best way the developers break up the game is with clever and sparing use of quick time events and interactive cinemas. There is an incredible knife fight sequence in the game that still stands as the best use of a quick time event in a cinema.
The game is also long for an action game, clocking in at 14 hours. That is 14 hours to someone who played through the game before and knew where to go. Of course, later playthroughs allow you to fly through, but the first playthrough is a really good length. On top of that, Resident Evil 4 HD also includes the Mercenaries mini-game which was recently released as a stand-alone title on the 3DS, as well as two extra scenarios, Assignment Ada and Separate Ways. Separate Ways stands out as having a solid amount of gameplay on its own. All three extra game modes are unlocked after completing the main game once, and all three are a joy to play, with their own rewards for the main campaign.
So while Resident Evil 4 HD might not really live up to the HD in its name, the price is truthfully a bit steep at $20 and it might have some elements that seem dated, but in all honesty, none of those flaws actually matter because the game is so well crafted. Even after six years and countless competitors, Resident Evil 4 is still an unbelievably good game. If you haven’t played it for whatever reason, there is no excuse not to have this on your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. The game is challenging, but never frustrating and really rewards the player for creativity and curiosity. It is a very rare type of game, but one everyone should play through at least once.