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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Retro Review: Resident Evil 4 HD; The Series-Changing Epic Still Looks Good

By now if you’re a survival/horror fan who hasn’t played Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 you’ve most likely been living under a rock for the past ten years.  Hailed as not only one of the most solid Resident Evil games to date but also as one of the greatest survival/horror games of all time, Resident Evil 4 has also served as the inspiration for other up and coming survival/horror titles such as Dead Space and the newer Silent Hill games and even non-horror games like Gears of War and Batman: Arkham Asylum have borrowed concepts first seen in the fourth numbered Resident Evil entry.

Following on the coattails of its recent HD release onto the Xbox 360 and PS3, which in turn are following its release on not only the GameCube but also PS2, PC, and Wii, I decided to take it for another spin on the modern consoles since I was a big fan back when it first showed up in 2005.  In addition to all of the extra content added into the PS2, PC, and Wii versions, this new HD release also includes enhanced visuals for the gameplay and cutscenes as well as several achievements/trophies for players to collect.
I’m sure by now most gamers have played through one of the game’s several different ports so going into a lengthy breakdown of the various gameplay features would be unnecessary, all I will say is that the same over-the-shoulder aiming, exploring/puzzle-solving, and frantic combat are all still there and they have stood the test of time well.  The game’s story still has that nice mix of campy cheesiness, subtle yet nail-biting horror, and over-the-top action featuring everybody’s favorite former RPD cop Leon S. Kennedy and the various locales he explores over the course of his adventure definitely benefit from the HD enhancements.
 Getting to play around with all of the bonus content again felt satisfying too and there is still a lot to keep you busy once you’ve beaten the main story.  I’ll admit I never did play through “Separate Ways”; the alternate story campaign featuring the enigmatic Ada Wong, before this new HD release and it was nice getting to experience content I’d never played through before.  In addition to “Separate Ways” there’s also the shorter yet still fun “Assignment Ada” and of course, everybody’s favorite, “The Mercenaries.”  The optional shooting galleries with collectable bottle-cap prizes are still there as well so it looks like diligent collectors hoping to gather and unlock everything will have their hands full.
Getting to play through this modern classic again also allowed me to see through fresh eyes some of the game’s small, yet noticeable, flaws.  For some reason, while the cinematics in Leon’s story are on par with the HD enhancements seen in the gameplay, Ada’s journey in “Separate Ways” seems to have been overlooked as while the gameplay is updated, a severe drop in graphical quality occurs during the cinematics. 
I’m not sure if it was just a technical oversight on Capcom’s part or if they just ran out of development time but the jarring shift in resolution and texture rendering is certainly noticeable but then again, since “Separate Ways” isn’t quite as long as the main story, it really only becomes a problem if graphics are a big issue with you.  Also, while many elements of the game have stood the test of time well, Ashley’s shrill calls of “Leon!!” are as annoying and grating as ever and, like they did back when I first played the game on GameCube, they often forced me to play at a low volume wishing there was a mute button specifically for her.
 Despite these small hiccups, it stands to reason that if a critic’s only complaints about a game are minor cinematic overlooks and the sound of one character’s voice then it must be doing something right.  Even though it has already been ported to pretty much every other modern console since its release, Resident Evil 4 is still one of the most well-done survival/horror games out there and I’m sure it will continue to inspire future games for years to come.  Whether it’s your first time experiencing this masterpiece or you’ve played through the game more times than you can count, Resident Evil 4 HD is well worth it if you’re looking for a new survival/horror game to add to your Xbox 360 or PS3 collection.

General Gameplay Tips:
  • Paying attention to your surroundings can pay off in the long run.  Many cabinets, lockers, and drawers in the game can be opened to reveal ammo, health items, and even treasure.
  • Using your knife to take out prone enemies can help conserve ammo, just make sure to keep an eye out for other foes nearby.
  • The button-context kick attacks you can perform by shooting an enemy in the face or leg can actually hit multiple targets if they’re close together, an effective strategy for giving yourself some breathing room.

Useful Links:
     Gamespot; Guides, Walkthroughs, cheats, etc.: http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/adventure/residentevil4/index.html

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