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Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition

For most gamers playing through the Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition, it’s probably not their first rodeo.

When Resi 4 was originally released on the GameCube back in 2005, it was an unprecedented success. Critics and consumers loved Capcom’s reinvention of the old Resident Evil formula, and we ended up with a PS2 release later on that year, followed by a Wii edition, a PC release, a mobile version and an Xbox live arcade release in 2011. And whilst the cynical might argue that a seventh edition of the survival-horror-shooter is nothing more than a shallow, Capcom-cash-in; most of us, quite frankly, don’t care.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 is one of only a handful of games, for which regular, updated re-releases haven’t devalued the core experience. It’s a game with replayability in spades, and fans will welcome any excuse to gun-down hordes of Ganados and save the President’s daughter just one more time. For those of you who’ve somehow managed to miss the previous six iterations of Resi 4, well firstly: you’re in for a treat, and secondly, here’s what all the fuss is about…

The story puts you in control of Resident Evil 2’s Leon S. Kennedy. Despite having one of the worst ‘first days on the force’ in police history, by the beginning of Resi 4 he’s a successful agent of the US government’s Secret Service. The President’s daughter has been kidnapped by an unknown terrorist organisation, and Leon is sent off to rural Spain on his own (rather inexplicably) to track them down and save the girl.

It’s by no means an original set-up for a story, but Resi’s narrative is beautifully executed. The pacing is consistent and the game transitions seamlessly between engaging cut-scene drama, in-game action and then back again. It’s also made hugely entertaining thanks to the games myriad cast of pantomime-esque characters. Leon was a little two-dimensional back in Resi 2, but some humorous dialogue and hammed-up banter with the game’s various villains, goes a long way to making him a likeable and relatable protagonist. The show is well and truly stolen however, by the in-game merchant; the ‘Pirate Merchant’, as he’s come to be known. Whilst he may not have the largest number of lines in the script, they’re easily the most memorable, due to his startlingly enthusiastic (and now iconic) delivery.

Resident Evil 4

Gameplay-wise, the (once revolutionary) combat mechanics still stand up perfectly well. The over-the-shoulder shooting perspective is hugely effective at maintaining immersion and ensuring you’ve always got a great view of the enemy. Combined with the series’ traditional ‘tank-controls’ you’ve got a set-up that roots you in the action, whilst still limiting your movement just enough to make you feel a little helpless; especially when there’s chainsaw-wielding psychopaths running at you.

There’s a satisfying RPG element too as Leon upgrades his arsenal, speccing-up individual stats on weapons; from power and firing rate, to reload speed and capacity. Maxing out all of these also unlocks an additional ‘exclusive’ (and usually overpowered), final upgrade. These are principally funded by enemy-dropped Pesetas, but there’s a huge amount of extra cash to be made from selling gems and relics you find scatted about the environment.

Resident Evil 4

So what is it that the ‘Ultimate HD Edition’ brings to the table that we haven’t already seen before? Honestly, not a huge amount. But then again, it didn’t need to.

The new changes are almost entirely cosmetic, mostly in the form of upgraded textures. Various weapons, key items and characters have been re-skinned to ensure they stand up to scrutiny on new hardware; however not every object has been given a shiny new look, and when you notice, it can be jarringly obvious. But for the most part, it’s difficult to tell.

There’s the addition of keyboard and mouse controls too, which the first PC iteration bizarrely didn’t support, and you can now lock your frame rate at either 30 or 60fps. A job which it does admirably until (at least on our system) you choose to reload a sniper rifle.

In short though, (despite some minor graphical issues) this latest iteration of Resi is still technically the best. Games of past generations should ideally be experienced in their original format, since by their very nature, they’re products of their time. But the Ultimate HD Edition does a great job of breathing new life into this old classic and makes it feel like a fresh experience even nine years on. It’s an engaging story, with some truly memorable characters, tense set pieces, beautifully designed locales, a great original score and some of the best horror/action gameplay of the last three generations.

Resident Evil 4

Those that are yet to experience Resident Evil 4 have a lot to look forward to, and for those of us who’ve already put a stop to Los Illuminados once or twice before; the nostalgia of re-experiencing forgotten moments is a feeling that just can’t be beat.

Exchanging quips with Salazar, unloading entire clips of ammunition into a shambling Regenerador, the feeling of reloading the Broken Butterfly in the heat of battle “Guns not just about shootin’, it’s about reloadin’!” How right you were, creepy pirate-merchant, how very right you were.

Moments like these are sure to put smiles on the faces of newbies and first-daughter-rescuing vets alike, and are exactly what make Resident Evil 4 a classic.

9/10

John Hatfield
There are two things in life John enjoys more than anything else: gaming and writing. In 2014 he decided to combine the two, and Level-Clear was born!

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