Ashley Graham, the president’s daughter, has been kidnapped by a deranged cult whose members seem to be under some sort of mind control, turning them all into zombie-like creatures. With their agenda unclear, Secret Service agent Leon S. Kennedy has been sent in to find and extract Ms. Graham and return her safely to Washington. Sound familiar? Well, since most of us played this game over six years ago, it should.
Resident Evil 4 is a game that polarizes its players; people consider it to be either the best or worst game in the series. Many fans missed the old static camera and survival gameplay of the original titles, while others preferred the over-the-shoulder action gameplay we see with Resident Evil 4. Whether or not you like the style and gameplay of RE4, you cannot deny it is one of the highest acclaimed games of the previous generation. With rave reviews across the board, RE4 soon became a classic in gamers’ minds. Jump ahead to 2011 and Capcom has re-released Resident Evil 4 in glorious high-definition, adding achievements, trophies, and even online leaderboards. A Resident Evil fan’s dream come true, for the most part.
The gameplay is just as great as ever, with the controls being mapped to the Xbox 360 flawlessly. Some who did not play the original release may have trouble getting used to the idea of not being able to move whilst aiming, and while this may seem a tad unbecoming, it actually works well to add just a touch of that tension and suspense that the Resident Evil series is known for. Having not played a Resident Evil title since Resident Evil 5, I found myself a bit ambivalent about the controls at first. The left and right triggers in Resident Evil 4 are almost mirrored from those in RE5; being used to the RE5 layout, this took some acclimatisation. Only after I had played a few hours did I realize that there are two different controller layouts, the second being almost identical to the one used in the fifth game. After that change had been made I found the controls to be quite comfortable.
Conserving ammunition and using the knife, when practical, is the key to survival. With ammo being somewhat scarce at times, unlike Resident Evil 5, you will need to know when to fight and when to run. Well placed headshots aren’t always the key to escaping; shooting the legs of a foe and then using a close-quarter kick can really come in handy.
The main storyline remains a thrill ride that mixes up gameplay and locales, keeping it fresh and fun throughout. Taking the player from a third world village to a futuristic laboratory, the environment changes numerous times while adding new enemy threats to keep you on your toes. And of course the game includes well-placed weapon upgrades and unlocks from that mysterious masked merchant we all know and love. If you’re anything like me, you’ll smile every time you hear him grumble the phrase “Got a lot of good things on sale Stranger!” and be eager to purchase new weapons each time you see his torches filling an area with a blue glow. Weapons and upgrades are bought with money collected from fallen foes or from selling treasures you’ve found along the way. The game offers unlockable costumes and weapons for multiple playthroughs as well as a ‘professional’ difficulty for the hardcore players, which upon beating will score you the ‘P.R.L. 412’ laser cannon, a weapon not to be taken lightly.
Along with the main storyline, which is a hearty 9-10 hour experience, they have also included all the side-missions from previous releases, some originally exclusive to the PlayStation 2 version. ‘Assignment Ada’ and ‘Separate Ways’ are both additional storylines which revolve around Ada Wong, a character you will meet multiple times during the main storyline. Both of these side-missions last around 2-3 hours each, adding another good six hours to an already lengthy game.
Now, as with many HD ‘remakes’, the models have been upgraded, textures redone, new lighting effects have been added, etc. This is why Resident Evil 4 HD isn’t a remake. The game has just been upscaled to high-definition; the textures, models and lighting are all the same, just tweaked to look sharper and cleaner than the previous versions. While the game still looks gorgeous, some places, mostly background environments, can look just plain ugly. With some textures looking very sharp and others extremely blurry, it’s almost a crime for the game to be ported as simply as this game seems to have been. It is still an improvement to previous versions, but for die-hard fans such as myself, it seems an injustice.
Along with the enhanced visuals, they have also added achievements and trophies, which for a gamerscore addict like myself is a huge plus. When they first announced that the remake would add achievements, I wondered what they would be. I dreamed of the hilarious and fun things that I had done with the game in the past, like shooting a stick of dynamite out of the air and blowing a group of enemies sky-high, killing a boss with an egg…the potential was enormous. Sadly, what we received was a mediocre list of mostly missable, storyline-based achievements. While this may seem picky and not really important to the re-release, it just feels like another missed opportunity by Capcom.
In the end, Resident Evil 4 HD brings back one of the greatest games of the last generation and brings it back with style. While the graphical improvements could have been better, the game itself still plays and looks better than ever. And even with a slightly high £15.99/$19.99 price tag, it’s a game that previous fans will be happy to re-visit and new players will be happy to experience.