Resident Evil 4 on Nintendo GameCube set the gaming world on fire back in 2005 with its great action, design, and gameplay. It was a huge leap forwards from the original PlayStation Resident Evils and still holds a dear place in many gamers’ hearts. Later that year, it was released on PlayStation 2 with a host of bonus features. In 2007, it saw a re-release on the Nintendo Wii - utilizing motion controls - and once again garnered the attention of critics and fans alike. Now, Resident Evil 4 has come to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as Resident Evil 4 HD. Sadly, 1080p isn’t a kind mistress to all games.
Now, don’t get too distraught just yet. All your favorite aspects of Resident Evil 4 are here: brilliantly designed levels, deviously varied and challenging bosses, a messed-up midget in a Little Boy Blue costume, a barely comprehensible backstory, and the best vendor in any videogame, ever. This is the Resident Evil that made the franchise awesome again, now for your HD consoles.
The story is familiar to most fans of Resident Evil. Leon S. Kennedy is sent to rescue the President’s daughter, Ashley. Why they send only a single agent rather than a S.E.A.L. team or something is still as befuddling as it was back in 2005, but it wouldn’t be Resident Evil if the story made perfect (or much of any) sense. Leon is a badass who takes down some zombie-ish (though highly functioning) villagers, a giant, creepy wolves, and a fish that obviously never laid off the Krispie Kremes. He then rescues Ashley. However, now he has to escape this hellish place and keep Ashley from dying in the process.
Resident Evil 4 HD makes no innovations in terms of gameplay. The standard “tank” controls are present as opposed to standard shooter controls. Love them or hate them, it wouldn’t be Resident Evil without them. As it was when it was released, however, the game is well-balanced for these controls. Most enemies aren’t very fast and will willingly line up to meander menacingly toward you once you point a firearm at them. That said, you’ll find yourself dying plenty when overwhelmed or running woefully short on healing items or ammunition.
The big update here, as the name implies, is graphically. This is a high-definition update to the classic game, but it’s not a re-skinning. Fonts, weapon, and character skins have been updated nicely. They don’t hold a candle to modern HD games, by any means, but they look much better than hooking up your old GameCube or PlayStation 2 to a big HD TV. Environments, however, seem to suffer from the update. The environments were originally the weak point in RE4’s graphics and it just seems like someone has thrown a couple of Photoshop zoom and sharpen filters over them. Zooming in on pixelation doesn’t make it better, it makes it more obvious. Worse than that, the paintings hung all over the castle look like children’s finger paintings rather than well-crafted art. Despite this, the HD update still looks better overall than the original hooked up to a modern television.
All of the bonus features from the PlayStation 2 version are present in the HD version. This includes the firing ranges, “Separate Ways”, and Mercenaries mode. These make for great diversions from the main story and add ample value to a campaign that takes around 15 hours to complete. Best of all, Resident Evil 4 HD is only $20 on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, fitting it nicely into most budgets.
Resident Evil 4 HD is a nice update to a very popular game, but it isn’t the most definitive version. That title still goes to the Wii version. While the HD updates are about 75% nice and 25% foul, the gameplay innovations using the Wii’s unique controls were a far more impressive update four years ago. However, if you aren’t a fan of the Wii’s controls and you’ve never played Resident Evil 4, the time is now; add Resident Evil 4 HD to your library and experience this classic.