Resident Evil 4 HD Xbox 360 Review

It’s pretty fitting that the day Clifford Bleszinski esquire unleashes his (supposedly) final bullnecked foray into the world of Gears of War, its great granddad gets its official High Definition re-release. It’s like some pixelated ouroboros with an easily poppable head.

Yes, Resi 4 is back, to the delight of anyone with a pulse, soul and brain, and to the misery of those people on Resident Evil forums (and they do exist) who think Capcom sold out by making a game that was actually, you know, fun.

First the boring stuff. Capcom could have done a hell of a lot more with this port. It’s nice to see Leon’s hair in all its floppy sharply defined glory, but it’s definitely showing its age in places. Some of the textures are a bit rough, and its controls take a bit of getting used to. They also missed a huge trick by not making an online mercenaries leaderboard, so patch that stuff in fellas.

Now another take. Only the most wildly anal, nitpicking dunderheads would lose their mind over a few iffy textures. Get accustomed to the controls for a minute or two and you’ll be partying like it’s 2005 all over again. A lack of leaderboard isn’t exactly a game killer either. It’s the same game you fell in love with way back when you were in university, had no friends and were living with people who listened to (and unironically enjoyed) house music.

There’s an article on this very site called ‘Outdated, Outmoded,’ where one of our number surmises that games like Gears of War, Vanquish and Uncharted have made Resident Evil 4 obsolete for all intents and purposes. Six or seven hours through, and I’m wondering what he’s smoking.

You see, Resident Evil 4 is still the best game ever made. In the six years since its release, nothing’s touched it. Nothing’s got close. You’ll maybe think you’ve played a game that’s better, but a couple of hours with Resident Evil 4 again and you’ll flagellate yourself brutally for your heresy. The moment you’re dropped off in that rickety old (probably) Spanish village, all the fond memories come flooding back. You’ll sigh happily as you take your first tentative steps towards that dilapidated old shed, give a recognising chuckle as you shoot the first chap that comes at you with an axe, and wipe away a nostalgic tear as you wonder just why the crows in this part of the world are carrying handgun ammunition.

Resident Evil 4 is proof that games are at their best when they’re not trying to be a movie, novel or TV show. There are cinematic flourishes all over the place for sure, but the game revels in its arcadey, gooey lunacy. There’s no pretension here, no ideas above its station. Resident Evil 4 knows its station inside out and sets about filling it with nutters, red bull and blue smarties.

You don’t need a plot or gameplay summary from me. If you’ve played it before you’ll know all about every twist, every character, every bit of badly translated, glorious dialogue. You’ll also know how it revolutionised the gameplay of the franchise forever, and inspired a slew of action games in its wake. If you haven’t played it though, you need this. Now. It’s not a matter of taste or opinion, it’s stone cold scientific fact, and not even Richard Dawkins would dare write a tome disputing it.

Resi 4 still has the edge over basically any other game ever, because it’s brilliantly paced, constantly exciting and always fun. It never lets up for a second, throwing new enemies and situations at the player all the time, whether they’re capable of dealing with it or not. It’s also fair, providing checkpoints constantly, so you won’t lose hours of progress if you forget to save. Yes, you can’t move while shooting, but it’s designed around that, and you never feel like you’re being screwed over by the European hordes clamouring for your juicy scalp.

In addition to a peerless (and lengthy) main game, you’ll unlock the aforementioned mercenaries, a mode so good it spawned its own game. You’ll also unlock two side missions with another character, adding yet more hours to a package that’ll see you blasting away for, Christ, weeks I’d imagine. It’s endlessly replayable, and for fifteen pounds, a good deal all told, despite the odd iffy texture here and there. There’s something comforting and familiar about seeing this wonderful game again with a new lick of paint. It’s like settling down on a Sunday afternoon to a particularly batshit episode of Midsomer Murders. It evokes that warm glowing ‘everything’s fine’ feeling of nostalgia that the best old games do.

It casts its poor old sequel in a less than flattering light. Resident Evil 5 wasn’t bad, but there’s really no comparison. It discarded the things that made its predecessor the perfect experience it remains today. The OCD inventory meta-game, the unlockable super weapons (yeah they were in 5, but they were crap) , the escalating sense of scale, the merchant. Oh god, the merchant. The madness, the madness. Resident Evil 4 was a trendsetter (by all intents and purposes it still is) and seeing its sequel forget that, as it tried to play co-op catch up with the 3rd person action games du jour was sad to see. It missed Shinji Mikami’s demented golden touch terribly.

This is a 10/10 game, make no mistake, and I’m only docking a point because the port could have been a bit sleeker. Capcom basically had no chance of living up to this with future iterations. It was too good, too ahead of its time. Despite the undeniable strength of their other games like Dead Rising, Bionic Commando (I’m serious, it was bloody great), Lost Planet and Street Fighter 4, they’ll probably never release anything as jawdropping or audacious as Resident Evil 4 again.

But that’s ok, no one else will either.

Don’t be a stranger. Straaaaaaangaaaah.

9 out of 10
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