Resident Evil 4 HD Review

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 20, 2011

I know at least two things about you: you are most likely a human (or close to one) and you own a device that can play Resident Evil 4. Capcom has spread (although “whored” sounds more appropriate) Las Plagas to the Gamecube, PS2, PC, Wii, iPhone, iPad, Zeebo (yes, that’s a thing), and now the PS3 and Xbox 360. With the step into an high definition generation, expectations are a bit higher than the average port or update. Whether Capcom realized this (or cared), Resident Evil 4 is still a classic despite the lack of touching up.

Resident Evil 4‘s story is the same as you remember it. Leon Kennedy, the chump with the bowl hair cut, is out for a simple mission of rescuing the president’s daughter Ashley. Leon quickly discovers that the native inhabitants are a bit on the creepy side, making his quest that much harder. On top of that, these not-zombies have a much bigger scheme in mind and now, on top of saving some whiny girl, he has to stop the infected menace. Events only become more engaging later on, stretching themselves out well in this long game. Leon is still a likable guy and, even though Ashley is still annoying as shit, the insane cast keeps the game from drifting into uninteresting territory. It’s an above average narrative and, despite some cheesy dialogue, it will keep you moving forward to the very climactic ending.

Back in 2005, Resident Evil 4 revolutionized the future of gaming with the over-the-shoulder aiming angle. Being the originator of this oft-repeated mechanic, this also means it is technically the most dated, which sounds like a problem. That is true to an extent, but it only sounds like an issue even though it actually isn’t one. Leon plants firmly in the ground while aiming but, despite what we’re are used to, this is how RE4 was designed. RE5 can’t speak the same way, but everything in RE4 had these controls in mind so frustration doesn’t rear its ugly head much. Although turning corners is still awkward, the game knows its limitations and has almost flawlessly designed around them. At first, I was scared that would hate RE4‘s controls after such a long break, but after a few minutes, even though aiming on the left stick was awkward at first, I felt right at home slaying the infected.

You are going to need to master these controls for the demanding, but amazing, combat. Pressure always remains high, as stress and managing enemies plays a key role to survival. Balancing the hordes of Ganados surrounding you by prioritizing targets and remaining nimble are absolutely key to success which makes the fights a complete, but stressful, blast. Fighting is difficult and if you crack under pressure, you might not succeed as only a few hits can kill you and ammo can be at a premium. You’ll also have to worry about babysitting Ashley as well, who can at times be a pain in the ass to deal with (and listen to), but in most instances she is manageable. Combat doesn’t grow stale in the slightest, due to new enemy types being introduced and mixed together to produce different exciting results. You’ll fight a mostly-invulnerable assassin who lurks in the shadows, have to destroy chainsaw wielding freaks in addition to normal foes, or even murder giant trolls. Events like these from the thrilling boss fights to regular adversaries are interspersed evenly throughout the long campaign and made extremely memorable to keep you on edge and to also keep shooting fresh.

Battles may keep you on edge, but that’s mostly due to the impeccable atmosphere. Outside of one moment, I’d hesitate to refer to Resident Evil 4 as a “scary” game, but I’d easily vouch for it as one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever been absorbed in. Dark and foreboding tones invade every environment, leaving everything feeling dirty and disease-ridden. Visuals aren’t alone in contributing to a dark mood. Music knows when to blare to amp the tension and when to shut it off to give you the “it’s too quiet” vibe. Both work in conjunction to ensure you never rest easy in your stay in Spain and make RE4 a game with places to remember.

Another aspect of RE4 you’ll remember is how good it looked. Back on the PS2 or Gamecube, the more popular RE4 platforms, it was a looker. Everything looked crisp and detailed making it one of each system’s flagship graphical titles. Flash forward six years and things are bit uglier and a bit prettier. Starting with the good, everything runs in high definition and the resolution has been upped. The game looks smooth, with little to no jaggies, giving the game an overall sharp look… from afar. Up close, things get a bit more muddy. Similar to porn (but without the daddy issues), something blown up from low definition to high definition makes it look significantly worse. Textures can look downright awful at times, being grainy and just old looking. It’s disheartening that Capcom failed to go beyond (or meet for that matter) the call of duty for this one, as other HD Collections have gone in and redone assets to avoid this issue. RE4 looks pretty good overall, but it could have been much better as the brilliant art style can only carry it so far.

Blurry textures aren’t the only new problems found in this collection, as the framerate has taken a slight hit in the HD transition. Encounters get hectic and, oddly enough, the framerate can dip below ideal levels at times. It’s by no means unplayable, but infinitely puzzling as these problems weren’t present in earlier versions of this title. I’m not a doctor, but I’d assume that the PS3 and Xbox 360 can handle more than a dinky, last generation Gamecube or PS2. Adding new problems feeds the notion that Capcom rushed this out the door with little care or testing.

This lack of care even translates to the trophies and achievements. I don’t judge a game based on these, but there are only twelve that are almost all story related, lacking any creativity. These digital trinkets could have given even the most hardcore RE4 aficionado a new lease on the game with possibly crazy requirements, but instead they are boring and uninspired. Hell, the PS3 version even lacks a Platinum trophy!

Resident Evil 4 is still Resident Evil 4, which is similar to saying “awesome game is still awesome.” If you loved this game when it was put out on the million platforms listed above, then you will more than likely still be enamored with this newest release. It is a definitely a shame that Capcom put together a slapdash port of one of their most beloved titles, rather than putting some more work into it and making it the marquee version. They may have botched the “HD” part in Resident Evil 4 HD, but the fact that it still is Resident Evil 4 is reason enough to experience this classic again.

+Thick, moody atmosphere
+Combat is thrilling
+Memorable moments happen frequently
+Long, well paced campaign
+Sharp art design
+Well designed boss battles
-Ashley can be drag to take care of
-Tank controls can feel archaic when moving at times
-Most textures, although the resolution was upped, are muddy
-Framerate dips

Final Score: 9/10

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