Resident Evil 4 HD – Originally Brilliant

A remake is always an ambiguous event, you just don’t know how far the developer will go and typically they’ll either go all out or half-heart the effort. In the case of Resident Evil 4 HD , Capcom went the latter route and made the bare-minimum effort to revitalize the game in any fashion. But as much as I want to chastise Capcom for not putting serious muscle behind this “HD” update, I can’t. Why? Because Resident Evil 4  is such a damn good game that it doesn’t matter. If you loved RE4 before, be prepared to love it all over again.

The extent that this game has been updated goes as far as increasing the resolution, implementing achievements/trophies, and adapting the controls for the Xbox 360 controller. The transition to PS3 was even more seamless since the game had already come out on the PS2 following its initial GameCube debut. Again, I wish I could breathe fire down on Capcom for the lazy face-lift but the anger slips away when the sheer brilliance of the game’s atmosphere washes over me.

Initially I was highly put off by the archaic interface and control scheme, if anything I wish Capcom could have revamped those two aspects of the game slightly so the “era shock” wasn’t so severe. Fortunately, within the hour I had caught my bearings and it was smooth sailing from there. I’m actually glad everything remained the same because it’s surprisingly refreshing to play something that feels so quirky and out of the norm.

Once you get over the mental block that’s throwing up red flags left and right reminding you that this game is from a past era, it’s true excellence begins to drape itself over the experience and you’re reminded of what made RE4  a classic in the first place.

What made RE4  such a revered entry in the series is a world dripping with atmosphere and a narrative that carries your interest in the storyline on its shoulders the entire way through the game. I love the level design and art direction in RE4 ; it’s a creepy, desolate, haunting world that beckons your imagination and tests your nerves. The story itself is filled with interesting and mysterious characters that you actually want to delve deeper into. The music and sound effects play an equally important role in setting the eerie tone as you explore fog-infested towns and morbid underground labyrinths.

The gameplay itself leaves me with ambivalent feelings, the same as it did when I originally played through the game. On the one hand, the controls are clunky and cumbersome – especially by today’s standards – and feel as though they can use a serious a serious application of WD40. On the other hand, the sluggish controls play a large reason the tense moments as potent as they are. And it’s not as if you can’t maneuver around zombies when you need to, in fact it was rare that a zombie got its rotted hands on me unless I tried to dance with it in an extremely confined space.

The shooting mechanics are also up for debate for the same reason. Not being able to move while aiming and shooting sounds blasphemous by today’s standards. But the the suspense of watching a small horde of zombies groaning and barreling towards you as you attempt to pick them off with your weapons can be intense. From a critical perspective, it’s easy to knock it, but when you’re actually experiencing the emotions it’s quite a thrill. For that reason, even if they could modify the controls to be more akin to your typical third-person action game, I wouldn’t want it.

While this so-called remastering of a classic deserves to be criticized for its technical shortcomings, there’s no denying that the core game is a top-tier product that stands the test of time. And you know what? The game looks fine even with the simple res-up job, the art direction carries the bulk of the load in that regard and maintains the game’s visceral integrity.

If you’ve never played Resident Evil 4, then the $20 price of entry is worth it and I highly recommend you experience the survival-horror genre at its finest. Especially considering that the genre has become something of an extinct race, particularly on consoles. If you’re already familiar with the game it really comes down to how fond you were of that first experience. I played through the game twice; once on GameCube and once on PS2. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself getting absorbed into the game all over again. RE4 HD  may be a crummy remastering, but the original game is so strong that it almost doesn’t matter.

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