September 19, 2011
This has to be one of the easiest reviews we've ever had to write. We've probably played through the entirety of Resident Evil 4 about seven times. It was our one of the only reasons that we decided to invest in a Gamecube and we were only too happy to buy it and play it all over again when it came out later on the PlayStation 2. And the prospect of buying it for a third time and playing it for an eighth, ninth or even tenth time through, but in beautiful high-definition, had us all sweaty-palmed with anticipation. That should already tell you all you need to know about Resident Evil 4.
The first of the Resident Evil sequels to completely overhaul the established, tried and tested survival horror formula, Resident Evil 4 takes Resi 2 hero Leon S. Kennedy to a non-specific cursed Spanish-speaking village in Europe, where the natives have been infected by a mysterious virus known as Las Plagas. Tasked with rescuing the US President's daughter Ashley, Leon finds himself deep in the middle of a new outbreak, fighting for his life as he hoards bullets and herbs, just like old times.
At the time, Resident Evil 4 was something of a revolution, doing away with fixed camera angles and pre-rendered backdrops in favour of an over-the-shoulder third-person viewpoint and more action-oriented gameplay. It's remarkable how fresh it all still feels, despite it being six years since the game originally released, and after a slight adjustment period, we were right back into the swing of shooting the heads clean off the shoulders of the hostile Los Ganados, conserving ammunition, buying and selling items and solving puzzles. It's all present and correct, exactly as you remember it, complete with what now feels like a bit of a clunky control system.
By default, shooting is mapped to a face button like it always was, which in this day and age feels a bit wrong. Thankfully, switching the shooting mechanics to the triggers is a simple case of heading into the control settings and selecting the type-2 configuration, so the left trigger aims and the right trigger shoots. This feels far more intuitive after years of playing Gears, Battlefield, CoD et al. Shifting the camera and aiming feels a little unwieldy at first too, but after a few minutes with it, the control system all falls into place and lining up headshots with Leon's laser sight becomes second nature.
Leon's journey in Resident Evil 4 takes him from the muddy, rustic outskirts of the remote European settlement, into the heart of an opulent and grand medieval castle, where something is seriously amiss. Feral, Las Plagas infected Ganados give way to brainwashed, chanting cultists, sewer-dwelling insectoid mutants and self-healing Regeneradors, meaning that there's always something new to keep you on your toes. There's just as many memorable monsters in Resident Evil 4 as there are in any other Resident Evil title, if not more so. You'll never forget your first encounter with El Gigante or the blind Garrador, or indeed the cackling short-arse Ramon Salazar and his hooded Verdugo escorts.
Packed to the gills with unforgettable moments, Resident Evil 4 is still every bit as enthralling as it was almost seven years ago. It's also benefitted greatly from the HD overhaul, giving the graphics a gorgeous sheen while showing just how great they were when the game first released. There are rare, insignificant instances where some of the textures don't quite measure up, but this is petty nitpicking. However, the audio seems like it could have used a little more attention, as it still sounds somewhat compressed, despite being an improvement upon the original soundtrack. The most important aspect of Resident Evil 4 is still intact however, and that's the gameplay.
Resident Evil 4 is perfectly paced and the blend of exploration, gunplay and puzzle-solving is deeply involving, with set-pieces that are still some of the most intense we've ever played. Sure, there's the odd QTE here and there, but they're some of the finest examples and they never outstay their welcome, although the tussle with Jack Krauser later in the game goes on for rather a long time and is a severe case of trial and error. Gathering treasure and boxes overflowing with pesetas is all part and parcel of the game too, giving you currency to trade with the iconic merchant, who throws open his coat and growls “welcome!” in his distinctive guttural tones. The sight of a merchant is always welcome, with his torches and friendly nature a rare but sure sign of temporary safety.
There's a great selection of typically Resi weapons, with handguns, shotguns, sniper rifles and some great unlockables, such as the classic Mercenaries mode, wherein you take on waves of Ganados and the frightening Super Salvador, with a double-bladed chainsaw and the ability to leap up to high platforms. In Mercenaries, there's characters to be unlocked, the formidable hand cannon weapon and more besides. Then you've got all of the exclusive bonus content from the PS2 release of Resident Evil, with the Separate Ways campaign starring Leon's squeeze from Resident Evil 2, the slinky Ada Wong, which is a worthwhile divergent perspective on the story. If it's bonus content that's exclusive to this particular edition that you're after however, forget it. You won't find anything extra in Resident Evil 4 HD that hasn't already been in past versions of the game. That said, the game is still an essential purchase.
As if Resident Evil 4 HD wasn't already worthy enough of purchase – even if like us you've finished it numerous times – there's also achievements to be had. 1000 Gamerscore's worth for unlocking a paltry 12 achievements, the majority of which (nine, to be precise) are awarded for simply progressing through the game's hefty story. The hardest three achievements are awarded for completing the game at the hardest difficulty, unlocking all of the costumes and collecting all of the character bottle caps, grabbed for garnering high scores in the game's two shooting galleries. It's a straightforward and simplistic list, lacking in imagination, but some will relish the easy 1000.
Resident Evil 4 HD is a triumphant remastering of a genuine classic that if you've played before, you'll have already purchased in your head. For those lucky few out there who've yet to play it, Resident Evil 4 HD is an absolute must-have and with its gleaming high-definition visuals, there's really no excuse for not adding this to your collection. The lack of additional bonuses and extras is a disappointment, but having the lifespan of a truly great game such as this extended for the current generation should always be considered a very good thing.
Overall the audio is an improvement, but there are instances where the soundtrack still sounds somewhat compressed.
Back in 2005, Resident Evil 4 looked absolutely fantastic. With a lick of HD paint, it looks even better and can still hold its head up high in 2011.
It's Resident Evil 4. What more do you need to know? It's still as great as it always was, although you may find the aiming and movement a mite skittish at first.
With loads of unlockables including Mercenaries and the Ada Separate Ways mission, there's plenty of replay value here. Just don't go expecting anything new on top of that.
A very easy list with only three challenging achievements. This is run-of-the-mill stuff then, although an easy 1000 for (re)playing an awesome game is no bad thing in our book.
If you think Resident Evil 4 is dated, then you're a heathen. It's still as fresh now as it's ever been, although you may have to adjust to the control system which is showing its age. More bonus content would have been nice, but the chance to revisit a bona-fide modern classic is massively welcome. Welcome to Resident Evil 4 HD, stranger! You're going to love it all over again.