Resident Evil 4 HD Impressions

Age has not been kind to Resident Evil 4 but it's still worth checking out this groundbreaking survival-horror game.

by

More than six years after my one and only playthrough of Resident Evil 4, I still have the most frightening moment seared into my memory. I had spent two straight days going through this utterly terrifying adventure with two of my best friends at the time. Tired from days sitting idle in front of the television, clenched muscles screaming for a minute's reprieve, I had immersed myself so completely into Leon Kennedy's struggles that I no longer had the barrier separating my reality from the game's fiction.

As it was my turn to play, I had the controller gripped tight in my hand, moving with the steady pace of a particularly slow snail. I was in an underground basement, lights flickering, unseen monsters lurking in the shadows. I didn't want to move forward, but I needed to, so I tapped the analog stick as slightly as I could, rounding every corner with the paranoid temperament of someone who is still fully alive, and wants to stay that way.

I came to a dumpster. It was green and, in ordinary circumstances, would look benign. But after hours of unexpected scares and horrific deaths, I knew better than to trust any container that could potentially house a monster. Slowly, excruciatingly so, I crept forward. Inches away, I tapped a button to peer inside, and, at the precise moment that Leon started to investigate this potential death trap, I felt a vibration in my leg.

I'm not ashamed of my reaction one bit. I screamed. I screamed long and loud, threw the controller across the room, and slid as quickly away from the television as I could. My utterly baffled friends watched my actions with a fear they hadn't experienced before. Had I finally lost it? After regaining my composure, I reached into my pocket, and extracted my cell phone. It was set on vibrate. My roommate wanted to know if I'd be back for dinner.

I tell this story now not because I'm proud of my actions (though I am), but because Resident Evil 4 has just been released (with an HD upgrade) for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I have long considered this the finest horror game ever created, and one of the best games ever released for the GameCube (and PlayStation 2, for that matter). But after sinking a half dozen hours into this graphically enhanced adventure, I'm left wondering at what struck me so profoundly the first time through.

Before, I was so riddled with fear I couldn't even walk with the confident gait you would expect from a video game protagonist. Now, my pulse never rises above an ordinary, resting rate; I make Leon run the vast majority of the time. The haunting score, foreboding atmosphere, and creepy sound effects have little impact on my peace of mind, because there is little reason to worry about death. Ammunition is plentiful, enemies move in predictable patterns, and Leon is agile enough to dance away from most encounters. Outside of a tricky boss fight with a submerged, demonic fish, I have died only one time, and that was because I had become too cocky for my own good.

Resident Evil 4 is an incredible relic from a past that is worth remembering, but not revisiting. Stiff controls provide an artificial handicap when interacting with this world and straightforward level design requires little thought about where you need to go. Games have changed significantly from when RE4 was groundbreaking, and though many advances have been to the detriment of immersion (regenerating health comes to mind), controls have generally been improved upon, especially in shooters.

The easiest game to compare Resident Evil 4 to is another that I reviewed earlier this year: Shadows of the Damned. Shinji Mikami lent his talents to both games, and they have a similar emphasis on killing the undead from an in-close, third-person perspective. And though the visual design in RE4 is light-years ahead of its modern-day offspring, the moment-to-moment gameplay is far more rewarding in Damned. Both games are action focused and set in a horror universe, but RE4 hides from this marriage while Damned revels in it. Movement is much more satisfying in Shadows of the Damned, the weapons are more inventive, and the puzzle sequences are more intense. Larger bosses that are absolutely grotesque offer an amazing diversion from the typical combat, and an enticing score creates all types of moods. Damned sometimes tries to scare you, frequently tries to make you laugh, and is diverse enough to keep you guessing.

Resident Evil 4, in contrast, has one note: fear. It tries to scare you in the village and the castle, or out by the lake, and it does a fantastic job of making your blood rush. Or, at least it did the first time through. Now that I know what to expect, the anxieties have dissipated, and I'm left going through the motions, spending as much time fighting the controls as I do enemies. And for newcomers, there are certainly surprises to be found, but the core action is not particularly satisfying. The act of killing is rarely intense enough to get your palms sweating, and the clunky controls require too many excuses in this era. Your aiming cursor moves in fits and starts, creating a feeling that you're slightly out of control. The game compensates for these irregularities by snapping on to nearby enemies, but the act of aiming is so arduous that it removes much of the satisfaction.

The action is sadly stuck in the past, but updated visuals do look nice. Well-defined creatures exhibit the pain of battle quite well, holding their wounds or exploding in bloody bits of goo. However, the surrounding textures aren't quite as impressive. Low-detailed textures populate this world, and you don't have to investigate too closely to see how blurry they appear. Still, the visuals look good enough, just don't expect any "wow" moments.

Because the atmosphere in Resident Evil 4 is so expertly crafted, from the enemy design to the architecture to the music, I am still thoroughly enjoying my time with it. But I am not engrossed as I once was. I am not invested in Leon's struggles. Where once I jumped when my cell phone buzzed, now I stare sleepy eyed when an ambling zombie canters through a door. Resident Evil 4 is more of a historical curiosity than a captivating experience in 2011. If you haven't yet played this classic, I would recommend you download it for your preferred system posthaste, turn off the lights, and see firsthand what the hoopla is about. But if you already have fond memories, leave them locked away behind the rose-tinted glass of nostalgia and spare them the scrutiny of the harsh light of day.

Discussion

173 comments
powerfulone1987
powerfulone1987

@Randolph Who in the heck do you think you are? Randolph is an ugly name. Get out of here.

DarkGothic
DarkGothic

OMG, Resident Evil 4 again? When will they release the version for microwave?

GiantsFan2290
GiantsFan2290

honestly RE4 was not that scary, but that doesn't make it a bad game by any means, if fact it top 3 for me all time. For the record, scariest part is at the end when you first fight those weird Zombies/creatures that only dies after getting shot in certain places, first time i played i thought he was freaking invincible

twztid13
twztid13

ugh i hate GS sometimes. it turns my comments into a wall of text. it wont even correct it on edit. windows 7, IE9, WTF GS?

twztid13
twztid13

i got the GC version on release day (in Janurary, as Ninja Gaiden for Xbox was Greg Kasavin's 'above a 9' game that came out the same period the year before). i thought the controls worked perfect for the GC controller. i thought the GC was the definitive version, as the liitle red dot meant so much to me. the ps2's analog nubs ruined that, as did the wii's humongous circle. it looks like RE:Revelations 3DS is doing away with the dot, too. that's how you knew you were finding a hidden item in the trees (far before you saw it twinkle, as you didn't want to disturb any chainsaw maniacs, lol). great game any way you can experience it, but GC was my preferred version overall. the wii version also looked horrible on my HDTV, so i really can't compare that version with the GC version on SDTV. i did have RE4 when i bought my Wii, so i was able to compare them both on an HDTV, and the GC version in the Wii looked better than the Wii version did to me at that time (with progressive scan mode on, of course). it's sad that Capcom is worthless and didn't even up-rez the textures. i'll stay away from it to keep my rose 'colored glasses' memories, i guess.

Karjah
Karjah

I can highly recommend (for once) the wii version of this game. The wii remote and nunchuck offer awesome control for a change with the point and shoot over the shoulder gameplay and it was the best looking version too until this release.

Akshaychow
Akshaychow

i agree with DarkReign2552....newcomers get up from your pc's or leave your laptops and go get this game...this is without a doubt the best ps2 game...heck one of the best games on any platform to date....no game has ever come near to creating a crreepy atmosphere such as this and tension created by your ammo running low while the enemy surrounds you or limited inventory space...this game is EPIC..

DarkReign2552
DarkReign2552

Honestly, though, 6 years later and aside from the those minor ailments, this is still an amazingly fun game to play. Even the controls are quick to pick up on (I recommend using Control Type II. Type ! is obviously built for the Gamecube Controller Layout with the Enormous A button and oddly-placed B,X,Y, and Z buttons.) I was mostly comfortable with controls and movement again by time I reached the Lake. For people that haven't played RE4, do yourself a favor and buy this. Now. Without thinking. Just do it. You'll thank me later. For people that played it in the past, It really depends on how amazing it was to you the first time. If it was a game you played once and never looked back, don't waste your time. If it was a game you played countless times to get the Handcannon, Chicago Typewriter, Infinite Rocket Launcher, etc... just to play through again and again, than you'll find no disappointments here.

DarkReign2552
DarkReign2552

No game is without it's faults, but I can say I was definitely hard-pressed to name one when this game came out in February 2005. This game was a system seller. I bought a Gamecube just to own this game because they sadly did not release it for Xbox. Hell, I beat the game 40 times, got tired of it, and sold it and the Gamecube only to buy it again a year later.to play on my Wii (The GCN version, not the Wii verson.) When I was forced to sell the Wii and all of my games, I was devastated to not have this game anymore, but I moved on .Than after playing RE5 and loathing it, I fought the urge to go out and buy a Gamecube and another copy of the game just to have it once more. Needless to say I was thrilled when they announced it for the Xbox 360. As for the new HD release itself, I won't lie. It has definitely aged. Unlike Halo: CEA, which proves that the first game hasn't aged at all, this game you can tell in the controls and level design that it isn't so modern anymore. It suffers from sloppy ported controls, blurry environmental textures, and clunky menus, and no new surprises or changes (Assignment Ada is new to me, so that's a plus at least. It would've been nice if they'd changed some of the object and enemy placements and types, though. Add the occasional change to the original experience after 6 years in the pile.)

Siz2005
Siz2005

I never found Resi 4 scary, even in my first play through.

Michael0134567
Michael0134567

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Draken_Domingo
Draken_Domingo

Ok, so did Tom Mcshea just totally admit he's afraid of RE4...? Dude, seriously, I played that when it first came out on Gamecube and wasn't scared a bit after the part with the lady who had the pitchfork stuck in her head.

luc11044
luc11044

I'll have to disagree with Tom McShea ....RE4 is still a great game and one of my all-time favorites. It is still very relevant in 2011.

Sp8cemanSpiff
Sp8cemanSpiff

I'm not big on nostalgia. I actually think 95% of the entire NES library is poorly designed garbage and generally more broken than legitimately hard. Still, I'm having a blast replaying RE4 on my PS3. Shame Capcom didn't put a bit more effort into the port, though. It's perfectly servicable (unlike the glitch ridden hd remakes from Ubisoft), but thanks to the oversized fonts, the blurry menu screens and the complete lack of AA or proper texture filtering, the package feels rather cheap regardless.

RiOrus
RiOrus

@gelugon_baat ...looks like someone has taken this article and the ensuing comments to heart...? ha I played RE4 on the Wii and the controls were almost faultless. For all that systems faults RE4 worked brilliantly and felt so much smoother than on any other platform It got me through a major operation whereby I was blind in one eye for two weeks. Playing with one eye and in pain was, sort of, nullified by the atmosphere of the game at the time. The special ops / Horde type mode kept the game alive after the campaign as well. I'd urge people to pick that version up on the cheap if you are looking to play this game for the first time.

Hm1911
Hm1911

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

RandoIph
RandoIph

LMAO, if RE4 of all games made you that scared, you'd likely die playing Amnesia, or Fatal Frame 2. Looking forward to not reading your review, Tom. I'm sure you're a nice guy, but you are by and far the single worst reviewer this site employs, and I regularly wonder how you keep your job, tbh. Shadows of the Damned had awful boss fights.

gamerboy100
gamerboy100

@bommi2603 Resident Evil 2 was also very good. My least favorite is probably the first one, due to the poor localization and terrible voice acting.

BloomerNYC
BloomerNYC

Sounds good. Never played it before. I wasn't a fan of RE5 though.

Pumpkinhead3
Pumpkinhead3

I replayed this on GC this summer and had a blast. Controls don't take too long to get familiar with. I am looking forward to a new RE in which you can move while shooting though!

superbuuman
superbuuman

Probably my fav game of all time, got this on GC when release, then got it for PS2, then got it for Wii, & now got it on PS3. :P

slefo29
slefo29

Got this last night. The controls took *some* time to get used to, but this game is still amazing. If it came out today it would be a hit. I love this game, the setting and challenge. RE5 was a great game - worthy of a 9.0 score - but I get ANNOYED when zombies were throwing unlimited flashbangs and shooting me with machine guns. Come on Capcom!

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

McShea, if you think RE4 was ever once the least bit scary, then do you're heart a favour and never pick up one of the early Silent Hill games.

videogamer008
videogamer008

to be perfectly honest i once had resident evil 4 for playstation 2 but i sold it.... the xbox 360 version of this game looks awesome but i am not all that into zombie games.. but... leon has great tast of weapons....i like dead rising series though and i dont know why i dont like resident evil series.... i guess that game was easy for me... i am that guy who loves to challenge my skills..

Alucard_Prime
Alucard_Prime

Easily one of my favorite games of all time. I finished this game at least 5-6 times, and pretty much know it by heart. For now, especially with the game lineup we have for this fall, I'm going to listen to Tom and leave this baby locked away behind the rose-tinted glass of nostalgia. Now if you'll excuse me, Gears of War 3 is calling my name.

soul_resonance
soul_resonance

@Mr_BillGates: You mean the zombies with bad AI? Yeah it was pretty bad. :P

Mr_BillGates
Mr_BillGates

This just reminds me of the terrible AI.

bommi2603
bommi2603

@gamerboy100: what really? RE 3 is your favorite? first time i read something like that ^^.. RE 2 is my favorite.. The 2 discs and a+b-scenarios were amazing!

davidsworld3
davidsworld3

I still love re 2 my personal favorite when it comes to story and overal action and fun, with plentiful gory moments, then was amazed with re remake, love that game, and love re 0 even though not quite as good in my opinion not a fan of the co op only through ai, re 3 never really played mucg of it maybe sometime I will try getting all the way through but stuck on it have since like last summer or something just cant get into it as much, I was disappointed when they never remade 2 and 3 though, they would have been truly amazing games. I have to sadly agree with re 4's age shoing though, I get bored very fast usually like 20 minutes I turn it off and play something else, used to be played for hours and beaten multiple times, strange that I can go through the zombie versions of re and play it for an hour or so but re4 just isn't as much fun, not suspensful too much action and not enough just going through a dark hallway not knowing if a dog or zombie will appear.

zackcurl
zackcurl

this game was a blast, and i still have a pretty good time playing through it when i do. no, it doesn't feel groundbreaking anymore, but it's like a good book in the right season, and i can appreciate that. go Resident Evil 4.

VirtualTofu
VirtualTofu

Still waiting for Resident Evil 4 for Atari 2600.

almossbb
almossbb

i just got this game on my wii for 20 bucks so i will be playing it there. cant wait to get through this game as i have never played an RE game before

JJ_Shredder
JJ_Shredder

I love Resident Evil, but in this generation of gaming, it doesn't touch the Dead Space series and I would find it hard to drop a twenty on this remake. I think I will go punch a few boulders now...........

MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

RE4 is one of the best games of last gen. I wouldn't call it scary or terrifying because honestly I don't find the horror genre scary, I find some horror plots tense or suspenseful but that's it and that's what RE4 was for me....tense and suspenseful. I never knew what was going to happen next and figuring out how to deal with some of the challenges made it an enjoyable experience. I wouldn't mind playing through this game again but with Operation Raccoon City on the horizon I'm not too sure I'd drop $20 to play a HD version when I could probably find a copy of the PS2 version again for dirt cheap......

Aim4theheads97
Aim4theheads97

the graphics look the same to me just a little polished. i loved this game Beginning to end Mcshea! you're entitled to your opinion you deserve it, but i do plan to play it again and sink all those hours in =)

joeyrazzle
joeyrazzle

Love this game, I dont even think RE 5 really truly grasped what the series was about, but this game was one of my favorites besides the first two......LONG LIVE RESIDENT EVIL

FLEEBS
FLEEBS

What this guy says is unfair. The first scare is ALWAYS the best. You can never recreate that.

Mulleberg
Mulleberg

Res 4 still rocks! End of story!

gamerboy100
gamerboy100

I like every game in the series, but my favorite is hands-down Resident Evil 3. Anyway, I hope they do HD remasters of the older games, too (preferably using the Gamecube versions, since they had some nice improvements over the originals).

cbeck002
cbeck002

@Israter15 I agree entirely. RE4 was a good game yes, but when you have an arsenal the size of a small army and the game's focus becomes one encounter after another two things magically happen. 1. All pacing and ambiance is lost and 2. You become the aggressor. The first 4 REs (that's right, Code Veronica was the true 4) remain some of my favorite examples of the horror genre because they never became predictable. Unlike 4 and 5 you genuinely didn't know what was coming next in these early titles, creating a sense of oppression the newer games sorely lack. About an hour into RE4 it occurred to me that I wasn't terrified of these zombie monstrosities, I was hunting them. That mentality can, at best, lead to a tense action game, but certainly not horror.

Bensonator
Bensonator

This was a fantasic game, but up-ing the graphics to 720 'aint gonna make it feel brand new. They actually remade the first RE for the Gamecube and that had some of the best graphics I've (still) ever seen. Looking at the difference between the GC and the original PS1 release - now THAT's a HD upgrade. RE1 on PS3 please

got_ice_tea
got_ice_tea

RE4 is where the rubbish began RE code V out in a few days which is a classic and a must buy as for this one I wouldn't waste 2mins playing it

Israter15
Israter15

i love RE, but since re4 its not a Horror-survival game anymore ,,, its a survival game imo

coltACP
coltACP

it came out on PC back in 2005 with the PS2 version. And THIS HD release is NOT HD it's 720P which is nearly the same resolution as the OLD PC version.Nothign HD about it they have jsut released the PC version for 360 and PS3, rather poor doo, especially when you consider they're charging £15. It doesn't even look like it has the channel blending an AI/character/animation variance from the GC an Wii versions.they should have at least ported the correct graphical versions and tweaked some of the textures.Also Move support? wii got Wiimote, so why no move? Capcom, very very lazy release imo.They might aswell have released this on 3DS to celebrate resident evil, would have been more impressive.

chechak7
chechak7

Resident Evil 4 HD for PC ..awesome i waited so long because in consoles graphics su**s,i finished Resident Evil 3 long time ago then resident evil 4 came out and did't paly it because it's not supporting for pc ..so finally RE4 HD wesome ... ,

DarthVeng_basic
DarthVeng_basic

@otanikun : Well said. I think this reviewer should stick to Care Bears.

otanikun
otanikun

Hasn't been kind? Speak for yourself Gamespot, in fact, eat your heart out. This game is simply amazing and was the most fun I've ever had out of a Resident Evil game before the release of RE 5 which mind you had the same style controls albeit tweaked to work for a next gen console. Besides, a true gamer would just enjoy the experience, not deride it somewhat by saying it isn't what it used to be.

chechak7
chechak7

"I'm not ashamed of my reaction one bit. I screamed" hahahahh haHHAHHAHAHH HAHHAHAH HAH hah