Developer: Capcom / Publisher: Capcom / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $19.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language]
Imagine you’re on a parking lot and you find a sweet looking used car. It runs like a dream, but it’s missing a window crank and has a weird stain on the back seat. That’s basically what you get with the Resident Evil 4 HD remake. The graphics scale up nicely in some areas, poorly in others, and the controls feel awkward as hell by today’s standards. Still, RE4 is one hell of a game if you can get used to the fact that the window won’t roll down.
I know this is a shocker, but the HD remake of Resident Evil 4 is still Resident Evil 4. That means all the obvious — the game is still fun as hell to play and amazingly tense. Time has been kind to RE4 in a few areas. It’s more challenging than modern games, but in a good way. If you die, you know that you were too careless with your positioning or too inaccurate with your gunfire. Additionally, the game is surprisingly long. The main story takes over ten hours to finish, and you still have New Game + and the Separate Ways challenge mode to play through after the game is done. RE4 was a full package back when it released at retail price, so it’s a steal at $20 today.
Graphics & Sound
Graphically speaking, RE4 aged extremely well in some ways and not so good in others. Everything dealing with geometry — character and enemy models particuarly — look great in HD. All of the game’s animation still looks fantastic as well. Textures, on the other hand, are noticeably dated. Some textures decently survive the trip to high def, but most look extremely blurry and low-res. The walls, ground, and architecture all look wallpapered, and while it isn’t so bad as to distract you from the game, it’s a constant reminder that this game is six years old.
Sound is likewise dated. The game’s soundtrack holds up well enough, selling the tension of combat and the creepy vibe of the game’s environments. The voice acting isn’t so great though, mostly because of dialogue that’s so bad it wraps back around to good. If you can appreciate camp in a game, the story and dialogue won’t bother you. Otherwise, it’s best to just skip any talking you come across.
While most elements of RE4 work well enough today, the controls are straight-up jacked. While you can definitely appreciate RE4 for ushering in certain conventions like context-sensitive actions, the game is just awkward as hell to play. Just in case you forgot how the game works, you hold the right trigger to ready your gun and hit the X button to fire, which is totally different than most games today. You can change it so that you use the more familiar LT to aim, RT to fire scheme, but other aspects are awkward and unchangeable. For instance, you have to ready your gun to reload it; there’s no dedicated reload button. Another big quirk — you can only change guns, equip grenades, or use healing items from the inventory screen. Modern thinking would imply there’s a dedicated melee button or a quick weapon swap, but this isn’t the case. And there’s the grand daddy of them all – you can’t aim and move at the same time. That said, those dated elements don’t ruin the experience. This just means you’ll have an awkward few hours before you start to get the hang of how RE4 operates.
Resident Evil 4 was an incredible game in 2005, and surprise surprise, it’s still an incredible game in 2011. Graphics and controls have predictably tarnished with time, but the gameplay is still as sterling as ever. If you liked the original, getting the HD remake is a no-brainer. If you skipped the original RE4, you should still play the remake, just bear in mind you’ll wonder what methed-out developer came up with the controls for a few hours.