Resident Evil 4 walks onto my top five games of all time list. In fact, it positively strolls onto the list. Originally released back in 2005 as a Gamecube exclusive, it’s hard to stress just how good and ahead of its time Resident Evil 4 was. In development since 1999, and supposedly completely re-started when the original concept for the game didn’t come up to scratch, Resident Evil 4 rewrote the rule book for action games, redefined the series and subsequently became one of the most influential videogames of all time. Gears of War, Dead Space and pretty much every other game played from a third person perspective since its release owes a debt to Capcom’s action/horror classic.
Given its huge influence on game design over the past six years, it wouldn’t be surprising if the game had dated poorly or its initial impact lost due to homage-based repetition, but amazingly enough, the quality shines through as brightly as ever – Resident Evil 4 hasn’t lost a yard. It’s still one of, if not the finest action game of all time, thanks in no small part to its faultless pacing, brilliant enemy design, fantastic boss battles and truly unforgettable, pitch perfect slice of B-Movie storytelling. If you’ve finished it (who hasn’t?), this is a great excuse to play through it again. If you haven’t, well, there really is no excuse not to pick this up. It may be a tad on the steep side, released as a premium Games on Demand title at £14.99, but there is little doubt that this masterpiece of modern gaming is worth every penny. With 12+ hours of main storyline to get through, the additional extra missions found in the latter PS2 release, including the enjoyable Operation Ada side mission and the always brilliant Mercenary Mode, Resident Evil 4 delivers a major bang to buck ratio.
In fact, the only problem with this game is in the title. Specifically the ‘HD’ part of the title. While its place might suggest some sort of HD re-mastering of the original game, this is little more than a lazy, up-scaled port. With no effort being made to bring the underlying visuals in line with the new 1080p output, Resident Evil 4 HD somehow endeavours to look worse than the standard definition original. While certainly cleaner and sharper, the harsh lines and diluted fog of the original show up the dated textures and give certain environments unpleasant rough edges that were previously smoothed over by the originals soft edges. The game still looks great, but there is an air of the quick, cheap and lazy about the whole package that is hugely disappointing. Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games of all time and is deserving of better treatment than has been offered by Capcom.
Disappointments with the upgrade and lack of new content aside, this is still a fantastic game, one that easily outshines its HD sequel. Based in a rather gloomy corner of rural Europe, you are charged as the returning Leon S. Kennedy to rescue the President’s daughter and to get her the hell out of dodge. While the story, that includes cults, infected townsfolk and a fantastic array of OTT characters is every part the B-Movie writ large, this is one of the finest examples of schlocky storytelling ever committed to screen and one of the most memorable tales in the Resident Evil series.
Arriving at a ominous, rather treacherous looking town, the game eases you into the then new, over the shoulder mechanics. Although you can’t move while aiming, this forced mechanic gives the game the sense of panic that so strongly defined it upon its release. Forgoing the slower paced survival horror of its predecessors, Resident Evil 4 delivers empowerment but also ramps up the threat with attacks often coming from all sides from a throng of enemies. They may not be the smartest bunch, but the Las Plagas infected locals sure like to attack in numbers.
Even if you do get accustomed to dealing with the mob mentality of the townsfolk, there is always the roaring menace of a distant chainsaw to send you into a panic. Even amongst one of the finest casts of enemies ever assembled, the sight or sheer sound of a chainsaw-wielding assailant still stands as the most terrifying pieces of design found in the whole game and a perfect summation of the underlying ethos of Resident Evil 4.
With an array of truly memorable moments, a great cast of characters, the finest merchant ever committed to games and some of the tightest mechanics seen in the genre, Resident Evil 4’s original story mode alone makes it worth the price of admission. Throw in the additional side quests and Mercenary Mode (essentially released as its own game on the 3DS) and you’re left with one of the greatest excuses to blow £14.99 I can think of. It may not be the upgrade we were all hoping for, heck, it’s not even an improvement on the original, but when the original is this good, it really doesn’t matter.
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