Sunday, 9 October 2011

Game Review: Resident Evil 4 HD - PSN/XBL

Resident Evil Retrospective & RE4 HD Review

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 (3.6GB Download)
Genres: Third-person-shooter, Survival horror
Release Date: September 20th 2011
Price: £15.99/$19.99 or 1840 MS points

'Whatddya buyin', Stranger?'

The Resident Evil series is one of Capcom's most well known and cherished franchises originating from the PlayStation era. A series that has creepily stumbled right into the current generation...

The original Resident Evil, released in 1996, was one of the first games to get branded with the 'survival horror' term, though there were games that preceded it that could also be classed as survival horror games. It introduced millions all over to the world of Raccoon City as well as to the evil Umbrella corporation and their deadly T-virus monsters. Survival horror is a sub-genre of action but usually players will find themselves with certain limitations such as a lack of ammo, health, or even inventory space. These limitations can effectively heighten the game's atmosphere and cause the player to re-consider the 'Go in guns blazing!' option you might pick in other action games. If you only have one clip left and a narrow corridor of a half-dozen rotting, flesh hungry zombies to navigate past, it's not ideal to kill every enemy you come across and to conserve ammunition. 

 Over the years Capcom released five main sequels (and a prequel) and a number of spin-offs to Resident Evil. The main series being Resident evil 0,1 2, 3, Code Veronica. All of these games followed a similar template to the original but in new settings with some new gameplay elements and various recurring characters with overlapping stories based on Umbrella. The games would go on to sell millions of copies worldwide and get released on a plethora of platforms including: PS1, Saturn, N64, Gamecube, PS2, Wii, DS and PC. Ports of the original games for Xbox Live, PSN and Steam certainly wouldn't go amiss. Though we all still yearn for a true remake of Resident Evil 2.

 With Resident Evil 4 the series creator tried to reinvent the wheel, not once or even twice, but three times! The initial version of Resident Evil 4 which began development in 1999 had strayed so far from the series formula that it became a different game altogether and gave birth to the popular action series: Devil May Cry. The series took two other turns that were later scrapped for various reasons. One of these versions involved the protagonist, Leon Kennedy, exploring an old mansion full of paranormal entities like enchanted dolls with knives and a hostile ghost-man with a hook. This version looked quite promising, especially to those who complained RE4 wasn't scary or creepy enough.

 One of the previous iterations of Resident Evil 4 dubbed 'Resident Evil 3.5' or 'Hookman version'


The version of Resident evil 4 that is being reviewed here was originally released, in 2005, for the Nintendo Gamecube. It would later get ported to the PS2 and Nintendo Wii (with bonus content), as well as the PC and a special version developed for iOS devices. The fourth entry into the Resident Evil series saw a serious overhaul to the 'survival horror' formula the series had so relentlessly followed. Much like Nemesis followed Jill. Many of the staple traits from Resident Evil games were gone including: Pre-rendered backgrounds (Note: Code Veronica was the first to ditch this); pre-determined camera angles; incredibly limited inventory spaces; and most importantly the undead enemies of the game. Resident Evil 4 would take the series into a much heavier focus on action and combat. 

 The main enemies of the game are now far more intelligent and dangerous than the zombies of the last games. These mind-controlled enemies could wield weapons, climb ladders, go through windows, and work together to flank the player. For anyone who played the previous Resident Evil games and had grown to love or loathe Umbrella, they do not play a role in this game, with the main protagonist claiming they were taken out since Resident Evil 3. This game also introduced the series to 'Quick Time Events' (QTE) which require the player to quickly react and press the correct button or series of buttons in the short allocated time.


The game play is identical to the countless other versions out there. 
Though I'd be amiss if I didn't point out that Capcom seem to have missed an opportunity here by not including Move support for the PS3 version.
 This is quite a shame as the Wii version of Resident Evil 4 has the best controls of all the releases of the game. The Wii version of Resident Evil 4 was the only version of the game in which I have been able to get a perfect score on the Merchant's shooting gallery mini-games. 

 The controls are far less clunky and troublesome than the older Resident Evil games were for those who despised the old 'truck-like' controls. Although since Resident Evil 4's original release we've been blessed with very smooth and fluidly controlling third-person-shooters like: Gears of War, Uncharted and the ultra slick Vanquish. (Developed by Mikami's new studio: Platinum Games) 
So it's quite likely for those visiting Resident Evil 4 for the first time or perhaps those revisiting the game years after their last playthrough, may get an impression of quite stiff character movement. The archaic 'Move or Shoot'  gameplay may seem tedious but hang in there! If you give it time you will get used to these old controls and be pulling off headshots and maneuvering through enemies without too much trouble after a few chapters. 

Imagine a game of Call of Duty where you could only shoot when you stood still, games would be full of campers! Oh wait...

Resident Evil 4 HD doesn't feature any new content or characters this time round. This is still the same game it was last generation, but with a shiny lick of 'high resolution' paint. However it does include the extra PS2/Wii content including the excellent 'Seperate Ways' side chapters for Ada. Ideal for those who haven't played Resident Evil 4 since the Gamecube iteration. It also has a new weapon and a set of costumes for Leon and Ashley that weren't present in the GCN version. There is trophy (though no Platinum) and achievement support on this title. Sadly there is no leaderboards for the incredibly fun and addictive mercenaries mode.

Resident Evil 4 is a fantastic game for replayability there are three other modes and a higher difficulty unlocked on completion of the game on 'Normal' difficulty. As well as several super-guns & a few mercenaries characters, costumes for Leon & Ashley to unlock, there is the fantastic 'New Game+' option that lets you start off with your previous game's inventory of upgraded weapons and ammo making subsequent playthroughs incredibly fun as you plough through previously hard-as-nails areas like a breeze with your highly powered magnum or machine gun with it's endless supply of ammo.

Quite a few RE4 fans were wondering how this HD remake of Resident Evil 4 was going to stack up graphically, would it be a remake or just upscaled like Ubisoft's recent HD Trilogy ports such as Prince of Persia.
At the time Resident Evil 4 on the gamecube was heavily praised for it's outstanding graphics which were almost unmatched on the GCN or PS2.
Unfortunately this release is not a true graphical remake like Resident Evil 1 on the GCN was. This is still the same graphics engine as used in the initial release, though it's worth noting that the higher resolution does make the game clearer and easier on the eye than the Wii version ever was. On the other hand though this does make some of the lower resolution textures, that have not changed, stand out more than they did on the standard definition versions of the game.

 Yes this version is, quite frankly, your bog-standard upscaled port, but hey it's still the best looking version of RE4. (Unless you count that HD mod on the PC version.) It's by no means an ugly game, it certainly gives some first generation Xbox 360/PS3 titles a run for their money but anyone expecting it to look as good as or better than Resident Evil 5 is going to be quite disappointed.

Still a pretty good looking game though those floor textures are showing their age.

On my initial run through I couldn't notice if there had been any significant changes made to Resident Evil 4's audio output. There's still no surround sound support which is another missed opportunity for Capcom. While the sound effects and music were pretty decent for 2005's standards; we've moved on since then. In Resident Evil 4 the weapons do have distinct sounds but they're not particularly loud or authentic. There doesn't seem to be any proximity audio either, enemies sound the same whether they're six feet away or a hundred feet away; although that does add to the panic when you hear the deadly revving a chainsaw; knowing they're coming straight for you. The music is pretty repetitive and bland for the most part; luckily it just becomes background noise when you're in the middle of combat and hear the same battle music for the sixtieth time. It's not all bad though, there is something hauntingly eerie yet calming about the 'Serenity' track that plays in certain places, usually near typewriters. It's quite similar to the music that would play in the older previous RE game's 'Safe Rooms'.

Resident Evil 4 Soundtrack: Serenity (Track 6)


Resident Evil 4 is still the brilliant and lengthy action/survival horror game many of us fell in love with in 2005. It's a game that made those tired of the franchise realise that Resident Evil could be something other than cheesy voice acting and cliché scares and a B-movie story. The part where it falls short though is the actual port itself. This uninspired re-release leaves much to be desired; such as a true HD remake using the framework engine (Resident Evil 5, Lost Planet etc). It certainly would have been so much nicer to look at. Some split screen & online co-op for the mercenaries mode would have been a nice treat for the fans too.

For newcomers to RE4 or those that haven't completed the game since the Gamecube iteration, this version is definitely worth picking up for the new content you missed from the PS2 and Nintendo Wii version. However for those out there who have completed the game several times on various format/s including the PS2/Wii, it doesn't particularly warrant a purchase at it's higher price tag. For PS+ subscribers, the game was only £8.00 in the first few weeks, which is a much fairer price for this lazy port of a six year old game, which has no new bells or whistles to show for.

In hindsight Capcom really could have put more effort in to this release. Resident Evil 4 is still an utterly fantastic game and it really deserves a better swan song than this... though I wouldn't put it past Capcom to re-release it again next generation or on the PS Vita for the same price.

- Benjamyn Carron


Added. It's 3.6GB on Xbox 360. I think it's the same on PS3, I'll check later and if it's different I'll amend the article.

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