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Resident Evil 4 HD

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror/ Third Person Shooter/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

I would argue that the most influential game of the last console generation was Resident Evil 4. Sure, it's the installment that redefined Capcom's flagship horror franchise, but it also can be credited for really bringing the over-the-shoulder third person shooter into its own. Modern horror games and third-person shooters alike owe a debt to Resident Evil 4. It's seen a few re-releases already, but now a new version has sprung onto Xbox Live: Resident Evil 4 HD. Its age may be starting to show, but it remains a genuine classic and a must-buy for anyone who hasn't already played it.

Visually, Resident Evil 4 was ahead of its time, as it feels right at home on the Xbox 360. Sure, you might not say that if you dive into this one right after playing its younger brother. The fact of the matter remains: Resident Evil 4 HD is a polished version of an already outstanding-looking game. There are some jaggies here and there, but character models are expressive and animate fluidly. Los Ganados move with purpose and menace, and they react to gunfire realistically. The user interface and inventory system is exactly the same as it was when it first released on the GameCube six years ago, and as such, it's imperfect and somewhat cumbersome. Resident Evil 5's wasn't perfect either, but it made item selection a more streamlined process. It would have been nice if the developers junked the original system in favor of the newer, faster one. Apart from that, I have no complaints with the visuals. This is still an attractive game.

While Resident Evil 4 HD is able to get away with minimal visual improvement, it really doesn't need to do any tinkering with the sound. So it doesn't. All of the music, sound effects, and voice acting present in the first release is here in all its original glory. The unnerving ambience is still a powerful aural force that puts you on the edge of your seat. The gunfire and explosions contribute to an overall sensory assault that leaves you out of breath after each large-scale Ganados encounter. The voice acting remains cheesy, but Resident Evil fans wouldn't have it any other way.


Gameplay:

Resident Evil 4 HD tells the story of Leon S. Kennedy's journey to an unnamed European country on a mission to rescue President Graham's missing daughter, Ashley. This mission draws him into a one-man war against a cult of psychopaths. It's bad enough that everyone (save Ashley herself and a few friendly faces) wants Leon dead, but what's even worse is that everyone in the cult is host to a deadly parasite, Las Plagas. After a few nasty entanglements, Leon's mission grows from complicated to near-impossible: he must destroy the cult and its leader, Saddler, cure his and Ashley's Plagas infections, and escape to the United States with his young charge in-tow. While the plot isn't eye-opening or engaging, it serves as good enough reason to trek through all kinds of twisted environments while blowing bad guys away.

Resident Evil 4 is the game responsible for leaving the series' archaic tank controls behind in favor of the over-the-shoulder precision-based shooting that can be found in modern games like Gears of War and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. For the grand majority of the game, that is what you do. The shooting action takes center stage this time around, and while there is some light puzzle-solving, it's not the focus. The shooting remains satisfying, though you will probably find yourself yearning for a few modern amenities -- and a different, better control scheme.


Difficulty:

Resident Evil 4 HD, being exactly the same game that was released in 2005, is a challenging survival horror experience. The precision of your movement is equally important as the precision of your aim. If you don't quickly adapt to your surroundings, you'll find your face on the business end of sickles, knives, and dynamite. Or you might get your head lopped off by a psychopath with a burlap sack on his/her head and a chainsaw in his/her hands.

Los Ganados ("The Cattle") are called that for a reason: they attack en masse. Hiding places and safe vantage points are extremely important, but you'll always need an escape plan, at least until the last enemy is dead. Luckily, Resident Evil 4 HD features fantastic level design that gives you multiple navigation opportunities. As a result, if you or Ashley dies, it's nobody's fault but yours.


Game Mechanics:

Resident Evil 4 HD could have used some work in this department. Granted, the original control schemes work just fine, especially considering that Resident Evil 4 was a hugely ambitious game (and really, the first of its kind). The problem is, gaming has advanced quite a bit in the six years that the original game has been available. So much, in fact, that I personally believe that Resident Evil is no longer the best survival horror franchise available.

As mentioned, there's nothing particularly wrong with Resident Evil 4's controls. However, if you've been keeping up with the survival horror scene for the past three years or so, they might feel a little stiff and awkward. It's time to address the elephant in the room. Dead Space took Resident Evil 4's control scheme and perfected it by using Dual Analog Stick movement and camera/aiming control and also by allowing the character to move while aiming. Perhaps it would be more fair to lob this comparison at Resident Evil 5, which changed almost nothing about the controls despite the four-or-so years of evolution clearly visible in its competition. But the fact of the matter remains: every time you load up Resident Evil 4 HD, you'll need to adjust your mindset regarding how video game characters control. That being said, Resident Evil 4 HD is every bit as much fun to play now as it was back then.

I suppose HD re-releases might lead some to expect too much, but they are the products of a risky business. While they are indeed blasts from the past, they also tease you with the possibilities of how an honest to God remake could make something already great even better. Resident Evil 4 HD may not quite live up to the lofty standards of the current generation of gaming, but it's still a masterpiece. Whether or not it's worth buying depends on if you own it on any other format. If you do, there's not much incentive apart from the slightly-better visuals and the Achievements. If you haven't, I can't think of a better use for a spare twenty.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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