You might have played the hugely influential Resident Evil 4 on PlayStations and Xboxes, but it started life as a GameCube exclusive before being ported to every console and platform under the sun. Now it’s come home, in a way, with the latest port bringing it too Nintendo Switch, but how does this version of the game hold up?
Resident Evil 4 sees Leon Kennedy on a mission to recover the president’s daughter from a group of cultists who have kidnapped her. However, soon after he begins to track her, Leon becomes the target of a number of seemingly possessed villagers, all controlled by a bio-engineered parasite called Las Plagas. Not only must Leon track down the president’s daughter, he must also survive long enough to put a stop to the zombie-like plague threatening to take over the world.
Compared to the Resident Evil games that came before it, the action is fast-paced, and an abundance of enemies means that you’ll have to ration ammunition and keep a keen eye on the environment around you. Bookshelves can be used to block windows and flash grenades can be used to stun enemies. Resident Evil 4 throws a variety of gruelling scenarios at you, and still refuses to hold your hand.
The game looks look with a fairly sharp HD feel that emphasises facial expressions and makes the enemies even more terrifying once you get up close. It’s not native resolution (neither 720p in handheld nor 1080p when docked), and the frame rate struggles to stay at 60fps when docked much more than in handheld, but overall the game still feels good. The world still exhibits a subdued mix of sepia colours, with the architecture of the unnamed European country Leon is lost in featuring the small villages and grand castles the game is remembered for.
Though there’s a lot of murky browns, these areas are diverse enough that exploring never feels tiresome, but some aspects of the game do feel dated. You still have to manually switch between weapons by going into a menu which stilts gameplay when you find yourself swarmed by enemies, and in Resident Evil 4 you’ll be in this situation a lot. Most annoying is the dated control layout, and especially the lack of gyro controls that could have been a parallel to the pointer controls of the Wii version.
Using a single analogue stick to move Leon around takes a lot of getting used to after the slicker shooters of modern times. In fact, it’s best to keep your thumb away from the right analogue stick and the dodgy camera it controls entirely. The Wii version of the game still stands out as the version with the smoothest controls, which is a shame considering that the Nintendo Switch port had huge potential to improve on this aspect.
Perhaps the most successful aspect of the game is how well tension and fear are crafted, and Resident Evil 4 is still a terrifying experience, even for an audience who know what each twist and turn in the game will bring. Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest video games ever made, but this Switch port doesn’t quite do the game justice. For a price point of £30, Capcom really needed to pay more care and attention to make this the definitive version of Resident Evil 4. As it is, the Wii version of the game still stands out as the best way to play and that’s a real shame.