Thursday, October 13, 2011

You say GONAD!! I say DOS: A Resident Evil 4 HD Review

Years ago, Resident Evil 4 was unleashed upon the world. After multiple restarts (one of which became Devil May Cry), Shinji Mikami crafted what is largely considered one of the greatest games of all time. It shaped the face of third person action games, and injected new life into the Survival Horror sub-genre. Now it's been reintroduced into the wild of today. The question is....does it stand the test of time?

Welcome Stranger
It's hard to think it's been 6 years since Resident Evil 4 hit the world. It's also harder to believe that in the wake of it's release there have been countless titles inspired by it, like Gears of War. It's even more impossible to believe that a sequel took most of the same moments from Resident Evil 4, and failed. But enough about the abortion that is Jun Takeuchi's Resident Evil 5. This is Resident Evil 4 we are talking about here.

RE 4 starts very deceptively. Slowly edging you into its style of horror. A villager here, a villager there. It's all very manageable, but it all goes to hell as soon as you reach the village. Let's just say you get overwhelmed, and it's the frantic rush to escape and fight that shows the near perfect design of the gameplay. This game shows that even in the action packed gameplay, there is a sense of urgency and caution. Enemies will surround you if given the chance, they will take you down without warning. The scramble to get the advantage is thrilling, and although I wouldn't describe it as horror, it is intense.

Shit just got real
But the thing is, as you get further in, the game throws subtle wrinkles and foils to muss up your day. Not extremely far into the game you are introduced to an enemy who is essentially blind. Alone he is very easy to take down, as you can easily wait for him to turn his back, and take the shot. But as you get further, this same enemy appears again, but you are thrown into a situation where you have to fight off several enemies. Trying to evade an enemy who homes in on every sound you make, while fighting off a small horde of enemies is a rush. And this is only one example. The game manages to keep throwing you curve balls in design, new enemies, new scenarios. And it's this fact in the design, that manages to keep this game fresh for it's 20+ hour length.

Still, I can't help but feel this game missed on the best features of past RE titles. Exploration is still there in some way, but it feels very toned down in comparison. It also seems that the oppressive, daunting tones of past titles is missing. From the creepy RCPD, to the downright sinister Arklay Mansion; nothing in RE 4 compares until you reach the later acts of the game. Luckily those later moments are so well done it feels like the whole game could have been like this. In fact sometimes I wish it was. Another factor is the puzzles. They practically aren't puzzles save for a few examples. It's usually find this piece, and combine it with that piece. Sure that's kind of always been RE's style, but in past games you had to explore and look. In this game, it's usually always on your current path, and it's very limiting.

Now of course, this is an HD update to Resident Evil 4. So I think I would be remiss to not talk about how it looks, and I have some mixed feelings on it. At times the game looks very nice, details are sharp, enemies look great. But sometimes I came across a section that was.......fucking hideous. It may because the game is too bright, and so these details pop out more. But at times this port of RE 4 looks like the PC version in some ways, but luckily only in terms of environmental detail.

Quite moments like this can really set the mood
Now, of course the gaming world is not a vacuum. And I'm a staunch believer that if you re-release a game into this day and age, it needs to be held up to it's current peers. This goes for any game, from Centipede to even a re-release of more current games like MGS3 or RE 4. But luckily Resident Evil 5 failed to deliver a better experience than it's older brother. And although Gears, Uncharted, and countless other titles have used Resident Evil 4's approach to third person game design, they tailored the approach to their respective styles. Sure you can't move and shoot; but the risk/reward that the mechanic gives you is a very satisfying one. Sure you lack all the options to punish enemies like in Resident Evil 5, but this serves to make you fight tooth and nail to get by. The game in today's world still plays fantastically. And it's a compliment to the age and design approach that the game has held up this well. I never found any part of the game to feel unfair, or frustrating. and by playing smart it feels all the better when you succeed.

So in short, sure, this game is not my favorite Resident Evil title. Sure, it abandons some of the things that made Resident Evil what Resident Evil is. But that doesn't make it a bad game. This is possibly one of the best games to come out in in the past 10 or 15 years, and it's truly worth the time to play if you never played it before, or even if you already have. There's a reason I own 3 different copies.

But then again...I also own 2 copies of Resident Evil 5.....

Humor Tumor left out a score, as he feels numbers add meaningless values.

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  1. Effing amazing write up! Definitely feel that RE4 was the best in the series. This was the most intense RE title for me, hands down. Awesome, just awesome!

  2. Great review. I've never played RE4, but perhaps after this XMas rush, I'll give it a go.