Revisit video game history with Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition (review)

RE4 CoverIf there is a series that I can claim near encyclopedic knowledge of, it’s Resident Evil. I’ve played nearly every game, despite the original being released when I was only four, and my profile image on this site is a shot of my Jill Valentine cosplay; so it’s fair to guess that when I hear one of the games is getting an HD re-release I get a little excited. So imagine how I felt when I heard that the latest Resident Evil entry to get the HD treatment would be Resident Evil 4. I had to have it.

Resident Evil 4 stars Leon S. Kennedy, one of two protagonists from Resident Evil 2, who has been promoted through the ranks and is now on a mission to rescue the President of the United States’ kidnapped daughter in totally-not-bizarro-Spain rural Europe. Leon fights off mutated villagers, gigantic beasts, and even sinister cults, eventually reuniting with mysterious spy and one time fling Ada Wong along the way.

Upon its release in 2005, Resident Evil 4 was unlike any other title in the series. Departing from the fixed camera angles and strong survival horror of the originals, Resident Evil 4 was a third-person shooter unlike any other at the time. By fixing the camera over the player character’s shoulder and emphasizing quick reflexes and precision aiming in its gameplay, Resident Evil 4 completely redefined the genre and was quickly embraced by both critics and players, many of which were completely new to the series and had never played a previous title. It remains one of the best reviewed games of all time and is considered one of the most influential to come out during the 2000s; the simple truth being that beloved series like the Gears of War games, the Batman Arkham games, and even the Ratchet and Clank series would not look the same without Resident Evil 4’s influence. This truth had been met with both praise and contention from fans, with many purists arguing that Resident Evil 4 is responsible for the radical shift in horror games from the classical style into something more action oriented, despite a change towards emphasizing action being present in almost all genres of gaming over the same time frame. But with such an incredible legacy comes the question of whether or not Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition stands the test of time.

Capcom boasts that Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition has received a complete visual overhaul, with brand-spanking new textures running at a smooth 60 frames per second. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the game’s text, since subtitles in older versions of the game were practically useless due to their illegibility. A Capcom employee even made a series of slider images to compare the SD and HD versions of the game, which show the level of detail that has been added to the character models and inventory as well as the lack of detail added to the game’s backgrounds. While the graphics are greatly improved upon from the original, they are still far from what players are accustomed to seeing in 2014. The animation still feels like something from the 6th console generation, though it is much less jarring than the original can be at times.

RE4The game uses keyboard and mouse controls, but is also compatible with a controller. It is my opinion that the game does play slightly better with a controller than with a keyboard and mouse, but it is difficult for me to determine whether this is genuinely due to less than amazing keyboard and mouse controls or just a personal familiarity with playing the game using a controller since I own the PS2 version. It may be a matter of personal preference, but I do not believe that the keyboard and mouse controls will wow PC purists, though they are certainly not broken. It has actually been a pleasant surprise that I have not encountered a single game breaking glitch in my hours poured into this new version, though I would assume that Capcom should be experts at porting Resident Evil 4 by now, considering it exists on nearly every platform imaginable from the 6th generation on.

Ultimately, Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition is a worthwhile update to this classic, and one that especially deserves the attention of those who have never played the game before. The original is a piece of video game history and experiencing it first-hand is a vital piece in the puzzle that is understanding the evolution of gaming. While this HD re-release is everything that the 2007 PC port failed to be, it sadly cannot repair the areas where the original does fall flat. There will always be sections of the game that I cringe upon reaching, as they simply are not enjoyable, and the vast majority of them involve Ashley. While being hailed as the pioneer of the third-person shooter, Resident Evil 4 is also cited repeatedly of how exactly not to do an escort mission. Flashbacks of towing Ashley around are still why many gamers immediately question games with a female NPC as a support character; she is even mentioned by name in many BioShock: Infinite and The Last of Us reviews. However, it is important to remember that no matter how much the frustration caused by Ashley has become a meme among gamers, she does not render the game unplayable or unworthy of one’s time and attention.

This classic isn’t going anywhere soon, and at under $20 Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition is a worthy addition to its legacy that can hopefully serve to both introduce even more players as well as make the experiences of long-time fans a little more enjoyable. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a jet-ski to ride off into the sunset on.

Jet Ski RE4Grade: A

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