RE4 Review: Capcom's greatest ever game gets a touch-up in the graphics department and some achievements to keep die-hard fans happy with this superb re-issue.
When Resident Evil 4
was originally released on Nintendo's GameCube it totally redefined video games. Capcom decided to make a great big pot of gaming soup and added the best ingredients from the history of the series with some spicy new exciting concepts to take things to another level. Most notably, the camera system pioneered in RE4 has been replicated by every action game since, including the blockbusters Gears of War, Dead Space
and Batman: Arkham City
. The atmosphere and sense of dread found in fighting the game's Los Illuminados is still the benchmark in the industry. The control system, despite preventing players being able to move and shoot at the same time, was tuned perfectly to the adventure before it. Everything that Capcom poured into the Resident Evil 4 mould came out perfect.
So what's changed and why have Capcom released this HD version? The obvious answer is for money, but the company are also celebrating the 15th anniversary of Resident Evil by releasing a torrent of remakes and spin-offs. Resident Evil 4 HD is the headliner in this collection. Rather than build the game from the ground up, like they did with the GameCube remake of the original game, this update is only cosmetic. The visuals have been upscaled and although they're certainly pretty, there's some debate as to whether they are true HD or not. Personally, I find the game so entertaining that the technical ins and outs of pixels-per-inch is irrelevant.
Other than the polished charm, the only other addition to the game is 1000 Gamerscore in the form of achievements on Xbox 360 (or trophies on PS3) which are, to be frank, uninspired. Almost all of these are story-driven awards with very little creative input. It feels like a lost opportunity that could have made the game yet more exciting for those of us who mastered it in 2005 and are now forced to play on Normal difficulty the first time through on the new consoles.
However, such small gripes are really scraping the bottom of the barrel for negative things to say about such a truly gargantuan classic. This year has been especially kind to us with beautiful remakes and re-issues of incredible games. We've been blessed by the amazing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
. The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
is out this month and there are waves of great collections from Konami and Sony before the Holiday season is through. All of these looks back in time are eclipsed by the quality of Resident Evil 4 HD. The game mechanics and level design are on another level. Pretty much every moment of this game is a slice of perfection. From when you first take control of Leon to the haunting trek through the castle and decaying villages of the game, every bullet fired, every step taken and every clue obtained is a joy to behold.
Some of the set-pieces throughout the middle of the game are epic. There are moments when groups of enemies are loading flaming balls into giant catapults and more than once you'll be on the edge of your seat with tense QTE sections that ramp up the terror. The boss battles are inspired, with memorable monsters like El Gigante and the surprise in the lake being chief among them. The creepy Los Illuminados monks with their pagan tokens and deathly scythes always send a shiver down my spine. The game echoes back to the legendary Resident Evil 2
with a big trenchcoat wearing badass, reminding all of the terrifying robotic Mr. X from Scenario B. The Garrador enemy is like a giant demented version of Wolverine out to rip you to shreds and is often the trickiest enemy to take down, especially while charging.
The tight, trapped corridors of the Resident Evil games of yore are less frequent, mostly thrown aside in favour of larger outdoor pursuits. When they do return towards the end of the game with the absolutely pants-browning Regenerators, the combination of chilling sound and cramped spaces makes even the most frightening moments of newer games seem like children's TV.
The famous Resident Evil 4 shop-guy is as charismatic as ever. His cult status is clearly deserved as even after 6 years I find myself laughing when he says some of his classic lines line ?What are you buying?? or ?I'll buy it for a high price!? The weapons he sells are balanced and compliment each other brilliantly. The inventory system is logical and makes you consider how big the items and weapons are before you choose to take them along. It's great to see this type of logical system for an inventory for a change, where you can't just carry twenty different guns and infinite supplies of ammo.
Once you finish the game you get the high-speed action-fest that is the Mercenaries mode, a far better implementation than the dodgy Resident Evil 5
incarnation. You'll also want to load up your file and restart the adventure to collect hidden gems and treasure. My experience with RE4 is that if you haven't played it at least three times through, you've missed something important. Even if you are not the completionist type, which I certainly am not, you will still want to go back through this game.
For action game fans who have been bred on the current generation of consoles, the chances are that Resident Evil 4 will initially seem a little cumbersome. Those first steps, holding down the Run button and stopping to shoot will all feel a little strange to everyone who is the master of sprinting for cover in Gears or strafing in Halo
or Call of Duty
. But trust me on this, once you get into the first village and you start to get into a tight spot, you'll be thrown in the deep end and will learn very quickly how to survive this horror. Once you get into the flow, there are very few experiences like it.