Resident Evil 4 HD Review
Available on: Xbox 360 & PlayStation Network (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Re-releasing much loved games with a new lick of paint seems to be de-rigueur at the moment, and one of the biggest culprits for this type of downloadable game are Capcom. Not that we are complaining, their recent Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike release was a superb treat for long time fans. But now they have decided to give another critically acclaimed classic a HD makeover – as they take Resident Evil 4, one of the best-reviewed games of this or any other era – and polish it up to a nice old shine.
There can’t be many gamers out there who haven’t played Resi 4, given that since its release on the Gamecube six years ago it has been ported to each of the other home gaming platforms, even taking in a motion-sensor enhanced Wii version and a port for swanky iPad tablets. Studio 4 took the huge franchise and gave it a much needed overhaul, revolutionising not only the iconic series but also the entire third-person shooter style of game. Abandoning the setting of Raccoon City, we follow United States Secret Service agent (and former copper for the Raccoon City Police) Leon Kennedy, as he travels to Spain to rescue the President’s daughter from the clutches of a suspected cult. Of course, there is a lot more to it that just a mean old cult, and Kennedy finds himself up to his chin in all manner of horror.
With the traditional Resi zombies replaced by terrifying, parasitically controlled Spanish villagers (“The Ganados” – which translates as “The Cattle”), and the settings taking in spooky woods, disturbing, decaying villages, gothic castles, underground caves and a scary island-based research facility, the story, while stacked with cheesy dialogue and hammy enemies, is sufficiently loaded with conspiracies, shocks and surprises and it is just as compelling to play through now as it ever was.
Gone is the slow, tank-like movement from the earlier Resident Evil games, and in its place a dynamic, over-the-shoulder view with faster paced action, a precise aiming system, as well as new features like the introduction of Quick Time Events and much more interactive scenery and environments. It is quite rightly regarded as one of the best games of all time, something that explains why this is the fourth version of the game I have played through.
With the suffix “HD” included in the title, the first thing you are going to want to know is how it looks. Well I am pleased to say that what you get here is an already very nice looking game that just looks even better. Sure, it isn’t a Gears-beater in the graphical stakes, and things have moved on big style since this first came out, but there is a real sharpness and fresh feel to proceedings when you step out into the decidedly creepy Autumnal woods for the first time. As I explored more of the game and additional content, some of the graphical overhaul really stood out, particularly the character select models and characters themselves in the excellent Mercenaries mode – Krauser looking completely badass and rippling with muscles. Water effects seem to have been improved too, however the whole affair just seems to have been sprinkled with magical HD dust and you cannot possibly argue against the fact that this is the best looking version of the game to date, hands down.
The sound was indistinguishable from the previous versions. There are still excellently cheesy voices, including the brilliant Merchant (someone sign that guy up for some more games) and the familiar cries and screams from the kooky Spanish dudes.
The other thing that stands out is how jarringly unfamiliar the control method seems at first. Initially your weapons are fired using one of the face buttons as opposed to the right trigger that most gamers, myself included, expect from third person fare in this day and age. Luckily the option is included to change to an alternative control method, where your firearms are controlled (much more logically in this day and age) with the trigger.
All of the extra modes that were tagged onto the game from the PlayStation 2 version onwards are present and correct here, albeit unlockable by finishing the game. This means you get the Ada Wong-starring Seperate Ways side-story to play through, which explains Ada’s connection to Resi bad-boy Albert Wesker. You also get to enjoy Assignment Ada, another smaller minigame where you control Ada on a mission to obtain some samples of the La Plaga virus, whilst rather oddly clad in a slinky red dress.
Best of the bunch though is The Mercenaries, which allows you to select your character and then go up against the clock, destroying as many enemies as you can in the alloted time, with each player having different weapons and abilities, and bonuses awarded for how you dispatch your Ganado, including an increasing bonus meter for repeated chained kills. Deemed good enough to be released as a standalone 3DS title, the Mercenaries is superb, and almost worth the price of admission here alone, especially given the excellent new graphical flourishes.
Unlocking all of the extra content, achieving the 1000-worth of Achievements, and ploughing though everything this title has to offer is going to take you a fair old while. The game itself will take a whole bunch of hours to complete, and even more so on the harder difficulty – I had forgotten how big an adventure it is. Then you factor into the equation the online leaderboards, which allow you to compare your Mercs scores with your mates; there is a lot to do here.
If you haven’t played the game before or the challenge of grabbing the Achievements has your appetite whet (and some of them are going to be a bitch to unlock), then there is definite value in this here package. It is still one of the finest games ever, and still has the ability to freak you out and make you near-pebbledash your underpants.