Being marginally more mature than the average gamer, we at Megabits are very fond of remakes and rereleases. Long gone are the days when we lived in a sweaty bedsit with five consoles from three generations. We need space for vases and candlesticks and other decorative but not very interactive stuff, and we can’t afford to store 15 year old consoles on the off chance that the urge to replay Shadow of the Collossus might strike.
Consequently, the trend towards remakes has us very pleased. Ocarina of Time, Ico, and Halo have all been dusted off and reworked for modern consoles lately, along with one of our favourite games of all time, Resident Evil 4.
When Resi 4 hit the PS2 and Gamecube in 2005 it had all the good stuff from the Resi series: expansive, detailed and varied environments, numerous weapons, scary villains, and a plot that delivered a constant drip feed of satisfying progress. But it built on them. There was an RPG element to the weapon upgrade system, the clunky controls had been polished, and the old pre-rendered backgrounds had been replaced with a dynamic environment that allowed you to manipulate character and camera within a 3D world, rather than just chugging about, tank-style, in front of the backdrops. It felt like the future of gaming. Which just goes to show how quickly things change.
Resident Evil 4 HD, the game’s Xbox 360 rerelease, feels very dated. It may have been tweaked for modern HD screens, but you won’t notice. Edges are blurry, text is jagged and textures are a mess of embiggened pixels. On top of that, the controls are far from intuitive and the camera is downright resistant, fighting back against your attempts to control it, bucking like a rodeo mustang as you desperately try to find out where the next threat is coming from.
Resident Evil games have traditionally had poor controls, and when Resi 4 became the first to abandon the old tank-style steering it felt like such a leap forward that we didn’t really notice that none of the controls felt quite natural. You can’t miss the fact these days, however. Aim with a right trigger, shoot with a face button? Try it and you’ll see how much your muscle memory has been trained by games built around a more intuitive LT aim, RT fire system.
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to sit and list complaints about a game so easily, but the really impressive thing about Resident Evil 4 HD is that none of these gripes actually matters. We don’t mean that you’ll enjoy the game enough to grudgingly forgive them. We mean you’ll enjoy the game so much that you’ll quickly stop noticing them at all. This is a game so good that no amount of small failings can take the shine off it.
The sense of progression as you move from secluded village to ancient castle, to deserted island and secret lab is enough to make you feel like you’re constantly achieving your goals. The sheer variety of environments you’ll wander through and the desire to collect every scrap of loot will encourage you take an interest in every corner of the game, and the set-piece battles rank among the finest ever programmed.
While Resident Evil 4 marked the series’ first step away from survival horror towards a more action-oriented design, it still manages to muster plenty of tension. The implacable advance of armed and angry villagers is enough to make your stomach flutter, while the nigh invulnerable chainsaw wielders and gibbering hosts will genuinely have you white-knuckled on the controller.
The game’s ability to successfully balance tension and action and place the result within an interesting and puzzle filled environments is what makes it such fun , but in these straitened times, Resi 4 HD also offers value for money-you get the original story, the Seperate Ways and Operation Ada add on campaigns, and the score-attack Mercenaries extra. Even speedy gamers will find that they get a good 25 to 30 hours play out of that lot, and of course, Resi 4 is good enough to be replayed multiple times.
In all honesty, the Wii edition remains the definitive version of RE 4, but RE4 HD runs it a very close second, containing all the same content and compensating for its lesser controls with a slew of achievements. If you haven’t played RE4 before, you owe it to yourself to play it and see what you’re missing. If you have played before and are wondering whether you can justify playing again, trust us, it’s as good as you remember, and it now dishes out 1000GS as well.