I absolutely despised Resident Evil 4 when it was first released in 2005 for the Gamecube. As a hardcore Resident Evil fan it felt like Capcom abandoned everything I loved about the series. It took me over two years to finish RE4 on the PS2 and I hated every second of it. It wasn’t until Capcom released the Wii version that I considered the game any fun. And even then, I never actually completed it.
Things are different now. I finally see why everyone holds this game in such high regard. It’s actually a bit sad. I hated RE4 so much for not being like previous installments and yet, in retrospect, it’s actually very similar in design. Sure, it might be more action oriented but it is still unmistakably Resident Evil.[drop2]From the silence and mystery of the opening scene, to being surrounded by a mob of murderous villagers with blades, there’s really nothing quite like Resident Evil 4. You will feel claustrophobic even when you’re in an open area with several places to hide. Enemies will smash through windows and break open doors as they mindlessly hunt you down. It’s not so much scary as it is terrifying. Just hearing the sound of a chainsaw will send chills down your spine. And that’s only the beginning. There’s always something new added to the game that changes the way you approach enemies. RE4 has such deliberate pacing. It’s nearly flawless.
The sound design is just as great. You can hear villagers shouting at you in Spanish even at a distance and their blades make a distinctive sound as they approach your face; it really forces you to pay attention to your surroundings because you never know when there’s an enemy right behind you. It’s even more intense when you know something is coming but can’t see it. The Regenerador enemies in particular will get your heart pumping simply because of the way they breath. The voices in the HD version do sound a bit muffled at times but it’s not enough to hinder the experience.
Aiming is still a painless process due to the over-the-shoulder perspective. Although it doesn’t seem like much now, this was once a revolutionary mechanic that changed gaming forever. What’s interesting is that Capcom actually modified the button layout to match the setup used in Resident Evil. There is also a new control scheme that lets you attack using the shoulder buttons. Unfortunately, you still can’t use the right analog stick to aim your weapon.
The menu system is just as cumbersome as its ever been. It’s really not fun constantly going in and out of the inventory screen each time you want to equip a new weapon. Sometimes you have to switch between weapons multiple times within the span of a few seconds. As you can imagine, it gets annoying. You also have to play Tetris with your gear just to make sure it all fits neatly inside Leon’s attache case. These minor frustrations will make you appreciate the improvements made in RE5 and The Mercenaries 3D.
There’s not much to say about the story. The dialogue is just as awkward and cringe worthy as its ever been. The action sequences and boss battles are top notch though; fighting El Gigante for the first time will definitely leave a lasting impression. The QTE knife battle is still one of gaming’s more memorable moments. It’s not overdone and it’s surprisingly elegant.[drop]Visually, the graphics are a bit inconsistent. Capcom basically upscaled the assets from Gamecube version and that’s pretty much it. Textures are noticeably bad at times but the actual character models look phenomenal. The scenery and overall atmosphere are still second to none, and it all just looks better in HD. If you only played the PS2 version you will notice a huge improvement throughout. This is especially true since the cutscenes are rendered in real time. Despite the somewhat subtle visual upgrade, some areas truly look remarkable. This is by no means an inferior port.
The lack of motion controls for the PS3 version is perhaps the biggest travesty. There’s really no reason why Capcom couldn’t add PlayStation Move support. The Wii version of RE4 had motion controls, as did Resident Evil 5: Gold for PS3. The lack of any new content in general is really disappointing. Considering all the extras included in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition, it feels like so much more could have been done.
That’s not to say that Resident Evil 4 doesn’t have enough content as it is; it actually has tons of replay value. There’s Assignment Ada (a mini-game where you play as Ada Wong), Mercenaries mode, multiple difficulty levels, unlockable weapons, and Separate Ways – a five chapter side-story featuring Ada Wong. The only downside to Separate Ways is that Capcom used the same FMVs that originated with the PS2 version. The movie scenes look like a blurry mess as a result.
- Character models look great.
- Includes all of the extra content from the PS2 version.
- Brilliant atmosphere with genuinely creepy moments.
- Gameplay still holds up well.
- Nothing more than a straightforward port.
- Some textures don’t look as good as others.
- No Move support for PS3 owners.
It’s impossible to not recommend Resident Evil 4. Whether or not you should buy the HD re-release is a different story. If you already have the Wii edition you aren’t missing much, aside from the upscaled graphics. It’s the same exact game but without the intuitive motion controls. The visuals are noticeably improved when compared to the PS2 version and it has more content than the original Gamecube release. There is no reason why you shouldn’t buy Resident Evil 4 HD if you’ve never played it before or don’t already own a previous release. It’s almost the definitive version of the game, but not quite.