Review by lighty691

"An excellent game, but its not quite Resident Evil as we know it"

Welcome to this detailed review of Resident Evil 4 HD for the Xbox 360. The game itself was initially released on the Playstation 2 in October/November 2005 and has now been re-mastered in stunning HD for the Xbox 360 (as well as other consoles such as the PS3 and PC). Resident Evil 4 (HD) is the next game in the official series, following on loosely from the events of Resident Evil 3. There have been many spin off titles in the series since Resident Evil 3 but this title is the next official "main series" title. The HD version was released in September 2011 and was eagerly anticipated by fans who had played the original and also by fans who were new to the game and the series as a whole.

Resident Evil 4 is set mainly in rural Spain, with Leon Kennedy, the hero from previous titles taking the lead role. Since the outbreak in Raccoon City, Leon has been drafted to work with the president. The president's daughter Ashley has been kidnapped by a mysterious group and is being held captive in said location and Leon has been given the ominous task of rescuing Ashley. This is where players pick up the game and start the mission. This game follows the usual Resident Evil style in that you are pretty much on your own up against a huge number of enemies in a "survival horror" style environment however fans of the series will notice a significant change in the style of play. In previous incarnations players ran in almost fixed directions and stood still whilst shooting. Players now have a lot more freedom to move and attack in more fluid motion. This gives players a totally different gaming experience to what they will have had in the past with Resident Evil games which at first can be a little daunting and difficult to get used to but most players will agree this is a massive improvement that has revolutionised the way Resident Evil games are played.

Resident Evil 4 has really set the standard for other survival horror games. One of the most important elements of a survival horror game is the atmosphere and the experience you get from playing the game. Here you have tension and suspense by the bucket load. Capcom has managed to really out do itself and create a truly memorable environment for gamers to immerse themselves in. When you think of Spain you may think golden beaches and holiday resorts but this particular region is everything but. The start of the game begins in a village in the middle of nowhere and this area is the first of a really creepy set of environments that the players will have to travel through. Coupled with the fact that you are more than likely expecting to come up against an army of zombies you are probably shocked to realise that the enemies appear to be normal, everyday humans (even if they are rather psychotic and hell bent on bludgeoning you to death). This fact only adds to the tension as you now are not quite sure what to expect. It is almost a different style of fear and horror that you experience in this game. In previous titles it was often a sudden moment that provided the jump moment (for example the dogs jumping through the windows in Resident Evil 1 or the zombie arms through the boarded up windows in Resident Evil 2), whereas now it is more of a gradual tension and caution that you will not be spotted by the psychotic locals and the tension of wondering what is around the next corner or lurking through the next door. Some of this was present in previous games but it does take a much more important role in this game.

It is also important that there is a sufficient level of difficulty in the game. The idea of a "survival horror" game is that you have to "survive". If you have an endless supply of ammo and health then the game becomes too easy and the tension and fear of what is lurking around the corner will significantly decrease. Resident Evil 4 manages to strike up a very good balance between being sufficiently challenging and being difficult enough for the diehard gamers to get something out of the title. You can begin the game on the easy mode should you choose and those new to the game or the series will find this suitably challenging. Not only are the monsters and situations you come across difficult in parts, those new to the series will need to adopt a totally different approach to that of other games they have played. This is not a Call of Duty or Gears of War style game. Players have to think carefully and conserve their ammo at all times if they are to survive and progress through the game. Obviously players who have played Resident Evil games in the past will have a significant advantage so there are additional difficulty levels to compensate for this.

So how does the game itself actually play? In previous titles (Resident Evil 2 for example) you spend the majority of your game in one or two locations, repeatedly going through the same rooms and corridors to get various objects. This was the one think that set these games out from others in a similar genre. This has now changed for Resident Evil 4 as you progress from a point A to point B and you do not really repeat any of these areas for any reason. This is considered to be an improvement for many fans, however those who liked the puzzle element of the games will find it seriously lacking here as there is very little of it in Resident Evil 4. You still get the standard find item, put item in set location to get a key/weapon but there is far less of it than in previous games. Unfortunately, you also still have the standard item screen where you keep your items. This has been upgraded a lot more to take into account that a huge rocket launcher will take up much more space than a box of bullets let's say. This is a significant improvement but with the style of the game changing so significantly too there was a lot of discontent that this element of the game was even included at all. With so many items and weapons available it is impossible to carry these all at once and many weapons will never even get used by players. This is a disappointment as the game is much more fun with a wider range of weapons to choose from.

Another major change in the game from previous incarnations is the removal of safety deposit boxes. These were a strange addition in that you dropped your items in one box and they would appear in any of the other boxes dotted around the game. This was a little strange but was probably the only way it could be done realistically in previous games. Now you simply have a set amount of space to carry your items and if you cannot fit anymore you discard items. Similarly now a lot of the weapons you acquire are no longer done by finding them. There is now a mysterious merchant who pops up in various places and sells you weapons and accessories. Ammo is found in the usual way but the introduction of the merchant is a completely new feature, as is the option to upgrade weapons through him. This is definitely a bonus feature and adds a whole new strategic element to the game.

Graphically the game excites and disappoints in equal measure. The setting and the backgrounds are very well made and a great attention to detail has been shown. Stationary characters and objects look good and sit in well with the static backgrounds. The main problem however is that moving objects like characters do not interact brilliantly with other objects. One major example of this is when characters shut doors behind them when being chased by enemies. As the enemies are approaching the door there are limbs and weapons floating through the door before it has been opened. This is also apparent when multiple enemies or characters are near each other, the polygons can become mixed together a little and its almost as if the characters are oblivious to those around them at times.

As mentioned before, atmosphere is probably the most important element of this type of game and one of the main things that will create this the music and sound effects. This is an area that Resident Evil 4 does well in again. The music is very deep and brooding with lots of violin style sounds to create that edgy, nervous tension that makes the game so effective. There are faster and more urgent and frantic scores for the boss battles and special action moments in the game which again go a long way to getting the heart beating a little quicker than usual. The sound effects are also excellent with the voices of the villagers and other human enemies being a particular highlight. It is particularly creepy when you can hear the slow evil chanting of the enemy yet you are not sure where they are. It is often like the sounds are in your head which is a great way to build tension. The shouts and screams of the villagers when you have been spotted are also well done and provide some great heart in mouth moments.

With Resident Evil 4 being a "main series" game it had to have a decent play time. You can get away with a shorter game if it is a spin off from the main series but a main title has to have longevity. Resident Evil 4 scores well here as the main game is a fairly decent length with players also having the option to replay the main quest for a second time on new difficulty levels using rewards received by completing the main quest once through. However there is also now a new mode called Separate Ways which is an entirely new game that follows the story of Resident Evil 4 but is played out by a different character and provides a completely different story. Without wanting to spoil any of the surprises of the main storyline this is done by another character that we have seen in the past in the series. There is also another game mode that becomes available later on in the game called Mercenaries Mode. This is a simple "shoot as many enemies as you can" type game where you have a set time limit and high scores to beat. This is a welcome addition to the game and provides a break from the main storyline. It is also a great way for Capcom to slip in some costume unlockables and such without having to rely on providing these all at the end of the game.

So overall this game is certainly a game worth investing it. It has an engaging storyline and a brilliant atmosphere. There are plenty of game modes and settings to keep you playing this game for some time to come. However fans of the series will have to accept that this game has moved on from the likes of Resident Evil 1 - 3 and is not like what it has been in the past. However, change is often a positive thing and players will be pleasantly surprised with the new style Resident Evil. There are some issues with the graphics that could have been smoothed out but these do not cause any real issues with gameplay or the overall enjoyment of the game. Ultimately this is a game that will keep the masses of Resident Evil fans happy but is also likely to engage and draw in new fans to the series which was probably one of the main aims of Capcom all along.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/11/12

Game Release: Resident Evil 4 HD (EU, 09/20/11)

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