Dusted off again Resident Evil 4 HD review

Article first published as PSN Review: Resident Evil 4 HD on Blogcritics.

No one will blame you if you’ve forgotten how many times Resident Evil 4 has been ported- for the record this marks the fourth and fifth time for a gaming console, not counting the Nintendo 3ds’ Mercenaries or PC and mobile versions.  While the new Resident Evil 4 HD for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will run you $19.99, the Playstation 2 and Gamecube versions can be found in Los Angeles area game stores for under $10.  Though it’s hard to say that $20 is a bargain for a seven year old game, its significance to modern gaming is irrefutable and on par with the iconic status of Final Fantasy VII.

Resident Evil 4 marks the series’ departure from the original and handicapping tank controls and adoption of what is now the standard 3rd Person shooter controls.  It is also the fork in the road that has taken the Resident Evil story away from its classic zombie fare and shifted the atmosphere to a more gritty form of horror.  Leon, who was the rookie police officer from Resident Evil 2’s initial zombie outbreak, is now a top agent for the U.S. Government and is tasked with rescuing the President’s daughter from a strange cult.

Seven years ago, the game was a vast improvement over nearly everything else before it but third person controls have improved drastically since then.  Playing this game again takes some time to adjust and it kind of feels like driving a classic car.  The left analog stick controls your movement and the right lets you look around although not while your weapon is drawn.  This of course means no strafing or moving while shooting and requires players to use what you’ve become accustomed to as your movement stick, for aiming.  Of course, Resident Evil games require strict inventory and ammunition management.
An easier transition may have been to offer Move support for the Playstation 3 version.

This game was originally in development for nearly six years and levels are well designed and varied.  There are of course big boss battles, puzzles, quick time sequences and RPG elements that fill out Leon’s rescue attempt.  These add to challenge and therefore investment in getting through this dark and sometimes campy adventure.  Once finished with the main story, the HD remake includes the additional side stories of Assignment Ada and Separate Ways in addition to the Mercenaries mini-game.  An online multiplayer version of Mercenaries would have been really nice.

There probably aren’t many gamers that would play Resident Evil 4 but haven’t, which makes the HD remake a nostalgic trip for most players.  With that in mind, the latest edition of Shinji Mikami’s classic is kind of a mixed bag, particularly in the graphics department.  The game hasn’t been rebuilt from the ground up, it’s just the original graphics, now rendered in HD.  Some things, like the characters look great but items and parts of the environment look terrible.  Overall though, the game looks better than it ever has and the controls will most likely be the biggest obstacle to replaying this significant piece of gaming history.

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