A refurbished cult classic.
In the past couple of years, the Resident Evil franchise has had a slow and steady downward spiral. Starting from Resident Evil 4, in which many fans consider this is where Resident Evil slowly began to fade into the action genre instead of the survival horror genre. But after the release of Resident Evil 6 (2013), Capcom decided to scrap an action packed sequel altogether, and go back to its roots, horror. With the release of Resident Evil 7 (which I will also review), I have decided to review Resident Evil 4, which is considered the best game and is also the most widely known entry in the series. Resident Evil 4 had an extremely difficult development cycle, being scrapped four times before officially sticking with its well known design. After 5 years in development, Japanese game director Shinji Mikami (The Evil Within) pulled off his masterpiece, and now 12 years later and after a graphic overhaul and slight refinement in gameplay, Resident Evil 4 is just as good as it was 12 years ago.
Resident Evil 4 HD enabled the game to be played in 1080p and 60fps. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it looks amazing for its age and it runs very smoothly which greatly affects gameplay. This game does not change its gameplay significantly, which is good because there is no need to. For its age, Resident Evil 4 HD (2016) still holds up even with modern day survival horror games.
Resident Evil 4 HD (2016) has increased the graphics to 1080p and has also greatly changed the fps to 60fps. Considering that the game was made well over a decade ago, it looks amazing for it’s age. The original gameplay of it’s predecessors (Resident Evil HD, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis) revolved around watching your character from a fixed camera angle that changed depending on where the player would either enter, or go to. It has been considered to have “tank like” controls that can be extremely difficult to adapt to, but was praised for its environment and storytelling. Considering the amount of depth the game had, it was considered the best survival horror game of all time. Resident Evil 4 aimed for faster gameplay, and easier shooting mechanics, and so they adapted a third person viewpoint that would change when the player either did a certain quick time event, or while aiming he or she’s weapon.
This game falls into the survival horror genre, what this means is that you must properly use your resources depending on your situation. Inventory management is key while playing the game, and if you become too greedy you made overflow your carrying capacity, which may cause you to disregard a certain item that may prove useful in the future. But, if properly managed you may find yourself with the proper weapons and tools necessary to deal with a belligerent threat. You are able to upgrade your weapon case by purchasing it from the Merchant. This also falls into the currency system that is within the game.
Once you have eliminated a threat, he or she, or even “it”, may drop either a certain grenade type, ammo type, or currency. You can sell the ammo and grenades for more cash, but the Merchant will buy them cheaply depending on the quantity. You are able to sell any weapon you acquire within the game, but you can also progress through the game by purchasing rare items from the Merchant in order to customize a certain weapon, or even upgrade it. Both of these systems balance out perfectly, inventory management allows the player to make hard decisions on what to keep and what not to keep. The currency system does the same thing, this is survival horror, you pick what you believe may help you, and when the time comes you must come up with a strategy to take on the opposing force.
When you are not managing your inventory or exploring the environment for resources, you are using the basic mechanics the game gives you. When aiming, the player will take the shoulder viewpoint of Leon, the main protagonist. Once this occurs you use the laser sight that is attached to every weapon to aim. There are 3 weapons in the game in which you actually aim down a sight, two of which are long range sniper rifles, while the other is a rocket launcher. The player can aim on any limb the enemies have, each will show a different animation depending on the impact force on the target. For example, the shotgun at long range is almost useless and will waste ammunition if the player is attempting to hit a target from afar, but if the enemy is up close, he’s more than likely going to go flying back. Each weapon has its own separate damage count, reload speed, ammo capacity, and firing speed. These features are upgradable depending on the weapon, and these unlocks will appear as you progress.
The most effective target on the enemies are noticeable, the head is best choice as it deals the most damage, but the game later balances this out by having the enemies mutating there long lost head into some that deals more damage than before hand. These mutations vary and are extremely gruesome. What makes this mutation feature interesting, is that when the enemy’s head is, well, gone there is almost no indication if the mutation will occur. Sometimes the game will play possum, and you may think you have eliminated the threat, but later on you will discover your encounter is far from over. One thing about Resident Evil 4 HD (2016) that makes the game difficult, are the crowds of enemies. With the mutation feature coming in later in the story, the player will encounter villagers, dogs, and many traps that will take a large amount of damage before being put down. They are not zombies, so they have full functionality, and will throw their weapon in hand if need be. Their weapons vary from crossbows, hatchets, knives, pitchforks, electric rods, and even guns. At first the enemies will only have melee weapons, but as the game progresses they will either have much more effective weapons, or armour. The bigger the crowd, the lot harder they become to deal with.
There are also some melee attacks in the game, the player is able to use Leon’s combat knife if need be, some consider it useless, but if used properly it can save you ammo. If the player is able to pull off a headshot he or she will be able to run up the stunned foe and perform a kick that will knock the enemy back and it is also possible to hit multiple enemies at once with one kick. Usually this allows you to take a breather and get away from the threat.
In order to find ammo you must scavenge the environment, preferably after you eliminate the threat, items like ammo, grenades, currency, and sometimes weapons are easily obtainable by breaking barrels, jars, glass cases, and also by opening cabinets. Ways these are obtainable are by shooting the object, hitting it with the knife, or going up to it and hitting a certain button. There are the basic mechanics like walking, or running which is done by holding a certain button. There are also time where one button will do the traversing for you, such as jumping, opening doors, turning on switches, and on some rare occasions taking cover. Your only defense against enemies is to use these mechanics to your advantage by strategically placing yourself ahead or behind them in order to attack. You are able to move the camera by using the right stick, this mechanic may prove difficult to sometimes as the camera seems to have a mind of it’s own. Overall, the game has excellent inventory management, strategic mechanics that help with dealing with enemies tentious and enjoyable.
There is another mechanic within the game that can be problematic, once you get to a certain part of the game you are given a new set of controls that helps you the player, maintain Ashley’s safety. You are able to have her either stay, hide, or follow you but in any other situation she refuses to run away from the enemies that are trying to grab her, instead she freezes and just sits. Once an enemy has grabbed ahold of her, they will attempt to carry her to the nearest door, and once this happens it’s game over. You must injure them in some way in order to have them drop her. This isn’t as bad as it sounds but it can get frustrating.
This game also comes with two separate story campaigns for the anti-hero Ada Wong, and the game also comes with another game mode known as mercenaries. A timed game mode that revolves around the player finding time glasses to increase the time limit while trying to survive against waves of enemies, while this mode can be difficult, it does increase the tension of the single-player campaign gives tenfold.
The story takes place six years after the events of Resident Evil 2 (1998), former Racoon City police officer Leon S. Kennedy (Paul Mercier) is sent on a mission in a remote region of Spain in order to rescue the U.S. President’s daughter Ashley Graham (Carolyn Lawrence). He will encounter a cult who have pledged themselves to Los Illuminados (The Enlightened Ones) and will do anything to stop him.
The story is interesting, this is mainly due to the locations and set pieces. The first portion of the game takes place in a village, while the second part takes place in a castle, and finally the third takes place on an industrial island. The first location is by far the best, as it sticks true to the original format of the the first entry. But, as the game progresses it seems to stray away from the survival horror in favor of action set pieces. While these set pieces are excellent, it does seem like a kick in the teeth after the sudden change of pace. While at first, each setting may not be as interesting but after awhile you are interested to see what situation you will find yourself in.
Each stage has a unique and original aspect to them that can often be terrifying or intriguing depending on the location. The story may not be the key point here, there are definitely some memorable moments that make Resident Evil 4 HD (2016) standout from any other game in recent years
- Excellent survival horror gameplay, by far the best in the franchise.
- Great set pieces and locations that keep to the original Resident Evil trend.
- Fantastic sound design everything sounds disturbing and gory.
- For a twelve year old game, the graphics are impressive.
- Intriguing collectibles, something not often found in games nowadays.
- Stand out boss battles and enemies that are memorable and unforgiving.
- Perfectly difficulty, almost no difficulty spikes, everything is balanced and the pacing is perfect.
- Interesting and well designed puzzles.
- Cinematic moments that are highly impressive considering how old this game is, it matches even top notch cinematic cutscenes today
- In depth market system with excellent weapons and upgrades.
- Enjoyable unlockables that are available after the completion of the game.
- Interesting characters that are highly memorable such as Luis Sera (Rino Romano) and Leon Scott Kennedy (Paul Mercier).
- It is noticeable that there are some moments in the game that seem to stem away from the “horror” aspect that is key element in the Resident Evil series. While these moments are not bad, they definitely feel different from the rest of the game.
Final Score: 9.8/10
For $20, you get a game with excellent survival horror gameplay, with an updated frame rate, and stellar graphics. The game still is highly memorable and enjoyable and encaptures true horror. Each location is original and intriguing, along with the boss battles. This game can take you well over thirty-plus hours to complete. It is well worth the price. Twelve years ago Shinji Mikami released his “magnum opus”, and it still holds up over a decade later.
Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
August 30th, 2016