Resident Evil 4: Ultimate HD Edition PC Review

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There’s no denying that we love Resident Evil 4 at DarkZero. So much so that we’re covering the nine year old game for a third time with this PC version, titled Ultimate HD Edition. Resident Evil 4 was such an important game when it released in early 2005 for the GameCube. Not only did it reinvent the Resident Evil franchise, giving the series a change of pace after people were complaining the same formula was becoming sterile, but it also single-handedly started a new action genre based around the over-the-shoulder camera viewpoint – having its DNA cloned in most third-person shooters that saw a release during the PS3/Xbox360/Wii era – making Resident Evil 4 one of the most influential games in the past ten years.

Resident Evil 4 has already been released on PC before, but that port was a mess compared to the GameCube and PlayStation 2 releases. As time went on, Resident Evil 4 saw releases on Wii, with some great Wii-remote controls, and also saw a HD release on PS3 and Xbox 360, while the PC platform was seemingly ignored during all this time. With the growth of Japanese developers releasing their titles on Steam, Capcom has seen it fit to finally bring back Resident Evil 4 to the PC platform, with a port that defines itself as the Ultimate HD Edition of the game, correcting all the issues that were wrong with the original PC port from 2007 and bringing fans the chance to play Resident Evil 4 at 60FPS.

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I don’t think I need to explain the story for Resident Evil 4. If you have never played or even heard of Resident Evil 4’s plot, all you need to know is that Leon S. Kennedy, one of the protagonists from Resident Evil 2, has been sent into Spanish village to rescue the kidnapped daughter of the U.S President. This being Resident Evil, it of course involves a new virus, weird parasites and all that crazy stuff that is never what it seems, especially when Leon is attacked at the start of the game by a group of angry Spanish mobsters, seemingly upset at their football club’s latest results and must vent their frustration on the American who calls the sport soccer. Leon should just be happy that he isn’t getting dogs thrown at him.

Often when time passes with video games, you remember a game being flipping awesome, but in reality, while the game was fantastic back then, playing that title now can often bring back an haunting truth that the game hasn’t aged that well. There’s nothing wrong with that, as people who are experienced with that title can easily relearn that game, but for newcomers, it’s a lot harder to overcome that hurdle. Resident Evil 4 is nine years old, and so a question of doubt might enter your mind about how amazing this game really is. I can confidently tell you that as action games go, this is still one of the best paced and well-designed action games you can buy. If you’ve never played it, then there really is no better time than now, thanks to this fresh update for the PC platform that does nearly everything right.

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What makes Resident Evil 4 special is down to many different things. I’ve already mentioned how its shoulder focused camera made a splash in the industry, and that’s because it manages to get the player closer to the action, with better aiming precision, without blocking what is going on. But the real star, I feel, is how much variety and openness there is to the combat situations. It’s not an open world game, and it’s not exactly what I would class free roaming, but there’s just enough openness in its level design that causes for intelligent enemy encounters. There’s room here to approach fights in a multitude of ways, and with the gun collection ranging from shotguns, pistols, rifles, you can run in close and personal, pop at enemies from a safer distance or be a camper and just rifle from the roof. That doesn’t always mean you’re safe, as enemies can get to where you are by climbing up ladders or smashing through windows. At the time, it was unheard of to be constantly kept under pressure from the enemy in a game that featured multiple elevations in its level design, but Resident Evil 4 did it, and it did it exceptionally.

It’s where the future titles in the franchise went wrong in their action design. Resident Evil 4 is certainly more action-based than the previous titles before it, but it still managed to offer a sense of tension, due to enemy behaviour, great level design and exceptional pacing. It’s quite a chilling experience having a chainsaw wielding killer come running down a road after you with a sack on his head. This guy can kill you in one hit by taking your head clean from your shoulders, and that dreaded feeling comes with the brilliant sound design of an eerie chainsaw revving as he stomps the ground after you. He probably just wants to sample Leon’s taste in highly expensive leather jackets.

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The PC port is simply the best version of the game, no questions there. Ultimate HD Edition can run at a native resolution of 1920×1080, and while I have heard that it can run even higher than that, such as 2560×1440, Capcom formally says that resolutions higher than 1080p are unofficially supported, but I’m hearing no problems with people going higher than recommended. On top of the buttery smooth frame rate, the image quality is much sharper, offering up to 8x anti-aliasing and newly updated HD textures, which make the some of the textures more detailed, making the overall image more presentable.

There are still rough areas where the quality is simply sub-par, and of course, there is also the issue that these models are nine years old, so they aren’t the most perfectly formed shapes (it’s why this isn’t a 10 score in 2014 – a complete graphically remake would make this port a 10) but just simply having the game look so sharp on a monitor brings a whole new spice to its inspiring environments and atmosphere. The loading is minimal and the controls, if you use an Xbox 360 controller, remain fantastic. Mouse and keyboard are included, and they’re pretty decent, but I still prefer playing this game with a controller (or the Wii remote). This is a modified version of the Xbox 360 game, which originally was built around the GameCube title with all the extra content from the PS2 version.

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My really only big negative about the port is the bonus content for Ada: Separate Ways contained footage recorded at 480p, and as you can imagine, being blown up in HD to 1080p is not exactly a pretty sight. There isn’t anything that could be done with this since, unlike the main game’s cutscenes which are done in 1080p, the footage for the extra content is low resolution video. It’s a small thing that spoils the overall product, but, since this is bonus content and not the main game, it doesn’t affect the package that much.

It truly is a testament to the masterful design of Shinji Mikami and his team at Capcom that Resident Evil 4 is still a fantastic game to this day, nine years on from its debut explosion that won the title multiple Game of the Year awards. This is a classic in the medium, plain and simple, and it’s nice to finally have Resident Evil 4 in its finest form on a platform that is probably unsurpassed at the moment when it comes to preserving the history of video games. If you’ve never played Resident Evil 4, then you really need to experience this title, from both a gameplay and a design viewpoint, and understand the exhaustive craftsmanship that went into creating a video game masterpiece.

9/10

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Version tested: PC

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Genre: Action, Survival Horror