I’ll Buy It At A High Price
Since its debut on the GameCube six years ago, Resident Evil 4 has been keeping busy. It has made its way to the PS2, PC, Wii, and now its been reanimated yet again for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Resident Evil 4 is possibly the pinnacle of the Resident Evil series, and its third-person over-the-shoulder camera inspired many games that came after it, the most notable of which would probably be the Gears of War series. But is a fresh coat of paint and achievement/trophy support enough of an incentive for us to want to return to the game again?
Resident Evil 4 is interesting because it shouldn’t exist. Capcom’s survival horror franchise was incredibly popular before RE4 came out, and it didn’t show any sign of slowing down. It’s quite rare for a company to take something that isn’t broken and completely change it. Thankfully, Capcom decided to take the series in a fresh new direction, removing the cheesy dialogue, tank-like controls, zombies, and awful inventory system so they could make room for intense action sequences, interactive cutscenes, an over-the-shoulder perspective, weapon upgrading, and, of course, Los Ganados.
Let’s start with what’s new. Obviously, the game has been completely remastered with higher resolution textures and HD support, and for the most part it looks pretty good. Unfortunately, this is an area where I feel Capcom could’ve pushed it further; they could’ve made this a must-buy if it looked more like Resident Evil 5. Instead of wowing us with its new look, the game merely looks better than the other versions.
For the uninitiated, Resident Evil 4 takes place six years after the destruction of Raccoon City and the collapse of the Umbrella Corporation. You step into the capable shoes of Resident Evil 2’s Leon S. Kennedy, who’s since joined the Secret Service and has been tasked with rescuing the President’s kidnapped daughter, Ashley Graham. His investigation takes him to rural village in Europe, which happens to be home to an evil cult. From the get-go, it’s obvious these people aren’t zombies, but they also aren’t entirely human—they’re Los Ganados. Gone are the shuffling undead; the Ganados can take almost as much damage as the undead but are smarter and more agile. This means they can vault over obstacles, run in short bursts, set traps, and carry basic melee weapons. Some of them have even moved on to more complex machinery such as chainsaws, crossbows, and guns.
These new enemies have been infected by Las Plagas, a parasite that takes total control of its host. They’re still human; they just don’t seem to be able to feel pain, so they’ll keep coming at you until they’re dead. However, since they’re still human, you can fire at certain vital areas on their body, like the face or kneecaps, and run up to them to perform an attack from Leon’s arsenal of finishing moves. Making full use of this is going to be necessary for your survival later on, and particularly on the harder difficulty, since it’s a great way to conserve precious ammunition.
The environments are constantly changing, so the game never looks dull. Resident Evil 4 is broken into several chapters, but it can really be simplified to just three: the village, the castle, and the island. Each new setting brings with it new variations of the enemies or entirely new ones, as well as a change of scenery, so each section almost feels like its own game.
The campaign itself is likely to run you somewhere between 12-15 hours. After that, there’s Ada’s “Separate Ways” story and the infinitely replayable Mercenaries mode. For $19.99, there’s a hefty amount of content, and the addition of leaderboards gives you the chance to boast to your friends how much better you are than them.
One area where this game truly stands out is its bosses, because every single boss in this game is different from the last and requires a unique approach to defeat it. Resident Evil 4 also bucks the depressing trend of games that end with awful boss fights—I dare say that the final boss here is quite possibly the best of the bunch. Unlike many of the other games in the series, the bosses here don’t have blatantly obvious pulsating beacons that announce the locations of their weak points. Everything’s a little subtler, and sometimes you may even have to scour the environment for a way to vanquish the boss.
There’s also not a whole lot of puzzles here, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how much you enjoy the puzzles from the previous games. With the exception of a few somewhat challenging puzzles, Resident Evil 4 isn’t going to require too much thought. And some of the puzzles aren’t even required to make progress but are there to keep bonus items out of reach, and the rest are simple enough for casual gamers while not being too easy for the hardcore.
One thing that could’ve easily broken the game was the inclusion of Ashley Graham, your defenseless and occasionally annoying sidekick. I guess she never really annoyed me because I shoved her in a trash bin every chance I got. With the exception of a short portion of the game where you’re forced to play as her, she never really gets in the way.
Resident Evil has always had a pretty good selection of weapons, and Resident Evil 4 definitely doesn’t disappoint here. The expanded arsenal and miscellaneous gadgets keep the game from ever being scary—really, how can you be scared when you’re armed to the teeth? But it’s ok, because this isn’t a survival horror game, it’s action horror .
Thankfully, the enemies have been upgraded to match your bounty of weapons, so it ends up evening out in the end. There’s also a feeling of progression, since you can upgrade your character (at least in terms of health and equipment), your weapons, and your inventory.
After defeating waves of Ganados and getting desperately low on ammo and health, the blue flames that marks the location of the Merchant’s store is always a welcome sight. Knowing you’re stronger than you were at the beginning of the game makes the experience more rewarding. The only downside to all this is that by the end of the game Leon will have enough weapons, ammunition, grenades, and health to take on pretty much anything unfortunate enough to get in his way. The terror that comes with walking into a room of enemies tends to wane the further you get into the story.
If you’re a fan of the series this is definitely worth checking out, if only for the nostalgia factor it brings playing a game that brings fond memories of what the series was like before Resident Evil 5 took the action approach head on. RE4 isn’t a particularly scary game, but it has its moments, and they’re sprinkled far enough apart to make each one exponentially more enjoyable when you encounter it. If you’re not necessarily a fan of the series or haven’t yet played Resident Evil 4, this is arguably the best the franchise has to offer, and the slick new look brings it closer to what we’ve come to expect visually from games this generation. Resident Evil 4 HD isn’t a perfect port, but it offers a ton of content for a budget price.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
Capcom could have pushed this, giving us a game that looked closer to Resident Evil 5, but this is still the best looking version of the game to date. 3.8 Control
RE4 is far easier to play than its awkward tank-like predecessors, but it definitely doesn’t feel as good as it did in 2005. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack is still fantastic, and despite some deliciously cheesy dialogue, the voice acting is solid. 4.6 Play Value
With a 10-12 hour campaign, the Mercenaries mode, and the Separate Ways story, RE4 has plenty of content for the budget price. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best