Resident Evil 4 (Xbox One)

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Cast your mind back to the year 2005 (if you’re old enough to remember). It was a time when the contemporary console line-up featured an indigo cube,  often considered to be the preserve of children. The Nintendo Gamecube was an odd choice for Capcom to exclusively release the long-awaited continuation of their survival horror series, Resident Evil 4. A risk it may have been at the time, but the end result was a genre defining game often rated by many as their favourite of all time.

I, for one, bought a Gamecube just for Resident Evil 4, and it was worth every penny. So did many others, and Capcom’s risk paid off. Fast forward to this day, and we’re working through a program of remasters for the Resident Evil series on the current generation of consoles. It’s worth noting Capcom’s decision to release these remasters in reverse order and, in so doing, may have tarnished its legacy. Part of this review is to remind you all of just how innovative Resident Evil 4 was for it’s time.

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The story follows Leon Kennedy, previously from Resident Evil 2 (which incidentally is the next game in the series due for a much anticipated make over). Now a US government special agent thanks to his heroics back in Racoon City, he travels to parts unknown in Spain to search for the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham, thought captured by an unknown cult. Upon his arrival in Europe, he is greeted by a barbaric group of villagers who have pledged themselves to ‘Los Illuminados’. He later learn the villagers have been infected with a mind control parasite known as ‘Las Plagas’, so begins to fight for an antidote as well as continuing his mission to rescue Ashley. As the story unfolds, he is joined by familiar friends against familiar foes building into a narrative that is one of the best (and comprehendible) in the series.

It’s immediately apparent there is a shift away from previous iterations. Gone are the slow moving zombies from previous games, replaced by fast moving armed villagers. It still feels like a survival horror; ammo can be scarce and the eerie atmosphere is enough for you to leave the lights on. Vicious striking snakes and infected dogs pouncing from bushes do just enough to give you the jumps. It’s an evolution of the series in the right direction. In times of blockbuster games, Resident Evil needed to keep up to speed with how the video games were evolving at the time. More action was needed, but without moving too far away from its roots.

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The iconic typewriter is back (without the ink ribbons so it’s a little easier for new players).  Managing your inventory space also has you constantly thinking of what you need or don’t need in fear of what could be around the corner. Beyond the action, brain testing puzzles – while nowhere near the abstract difficulty of old – offer up a needed change of pace in parts.

Talking of difficulty, Resident Evil 4’s level of challenge is spot on. The earlier levels help you to learn the game, but later you will need to use everything in your inventory to progress past some tough bosses. Going gung-ho and shooting everything in sight isn’t always the way to win; some fights require you to use your instincts, and exploring the environment around you is the only way to move forward. As mentioned earlier, ammo is scarce meaning you need to approach fights tactically. Do you rush past a horde of enemies to preserve ammo? Do you kill everything in sight allowing you time to explore and perhaps replenish stocks (if you’re lucky)?

QTE’s are used throughout this game and are a worthwhile inclusion, adding to the games pacing and don’t feel overused. A prime example is with a boss fight against a troll in a relatively small environment. The fight keeps you on your toes with his constant attacks, the need to explore your environment for help and executing quick time events to dodge attacks. Recent players of Resident Evil 5 will recognise this as the origin of that game’s similar troll boss, that time stationed behind a machine gun emplacement with the aim to shoot certain parts of the troll that mutate out. Perfect example of where Resident Evil 4 got it right and where the series has moved away since.

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Resident Evil 4’s clunky controls have returned and aiming is not particularly accurate. The camera is placed over the shoulder and you aim using your guns laser sight, it’s incredibly fiddly to get a good shot due to inaccurate controls. When action heats up and you’re left surrounded, it’s frustrating attempting to aim at the head, only for your shot to whizz past. Also returning is the inability to move while shooting which compounds more misery on trying to get the perfect aim or the disruptive flow of shooting whilst attempting to dodge.

That said, I wouldn’t hold back on playing Resident Evil 4 just because of the controls; I found myself complaining out loud for an hour or so, but after that you accept this is an 11 year old game and it was good for its time. I can even accept the okay graphics; they are not particularly in line with this generations graphical capability, but the game wasn’t bad looking back in 2005 and after multiple remasters they still hold up pretty well to today’s standards. Just don’t expect anything ground breaking. The game also packs in a lot of additional content outside of the 10-12 hour story campaign, featuring an unlockable Mercenaries mode (which debuted with this game in 2005) and mini campaign ‘Assignment Ada’ all for a bargain price.

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I still admire Capcom for taking such a defining game series and doing something new with it those years ago. it took them some time to get it right. In fact, early versions of the game were so far removed from the series’ roots, that Capcom decided to start again and use that work as the basis of Devil May Cry. Those tough decisions ended with a formula that was undeniably right for Resident Evil. There is no doubt that Capcom developed a game that changed the industry and to this day continues to influence.

I may be accused of playing the game through rose tinted glasses, and I feel I’ve needed to because many of you like me have probably played the games in reverse order on the current gen. Clunky tank like controls and dated graphics are to be expected after 11 years, but a game that draws is you in as well as Resident Evil 4 does is well worth playing again. If you have not yet had a chance to play Resident Evil 4, this is the ultimate version of what will always be an all-time classic.

5-star-rating

 

 

Resident Evil 4 was provided to us by Capcom via a download code for Xbox One.

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