Capcom has been drawing a lot of ire lately for its unabashedly greedy business practices, stacking downloadable content on downloadable content when they aren’t repackaging their old classics for any starry-eyed fan looking to relive their 32-bit glory days, and I’ve only just realized that I’m part of the problem.
In the 11 years since “Resident Evil 4” was released with the promise that it would remain a GameCube exclusive, I have bought nearly every rerelease, rehash and regurgitation of this horror-action schlockfest Capcom has flung at me, and here I sit writing about how I’m the only one still stupid enough to have shelled out another $20 for a game I’ve already bought four times just because it now fits in my PlayStation 4.
That doesn’t make it any less of a gaming masterpiece.
For better or for worse, “Resident Evil 4” revolutionized the video game industry, and the hundreds of imitators that have cropped up in the decade since simply haven’t been able to recapture its magic. Its plot is really more of an excuse to blow things up, a sociopolitical farce wherein players have to rescue the president’s kidnapped daughter from a group of Totally-Not-Spanish terrorists running a plot that makes about as much sense as a blivet, and they’re going to be making sure you’re armed to the teeth to do it.
In light of the upcoming “Resident Evil 7” and the supposed “return to survival horror” it seems to be bringing to the series (because angry redneck ghosts are certainly the logical next step when our main villain up to this point has been a test tube baby with a God complex whose hobbies include never taking his sunglasses off and catching rockets with his bare hands), it’s almost hard to believe just how much change “4” brought to its successors.
Trading chills for thrills and clunky tank controls for streamlined over-the-shoulder combat, “Resident Evil 4” managed to vastly overshadow the other games in the franchise. And as someone who enjoyed most of the earlier entries, I think none of them hold a candle to what I consider to be one of the greatest contributions to the medium.
Which makes it all the more awkward for me to say that this version seems kind of pointless.
I’ll be frank: If you already own any of the previous post-GameCube releases, this one doesn’t bring much new to the table. It’s been upscaled for modern consoles with (selectively) improved textures, greater draw distance and a buttery-smooth 60 frames per second (barring the rather choppy save screen and reloading animations, oddly enough). But if this has taught me nothing else, it’s that maybe some things weren’t meant to be seen in HD.
Sure, the fine wrinkles in protagonist Leon Kennedy’s sweet bomber jacket have never looked so … fine, but that faraway castle that seemed so imposing a decade ago wouldn’t look out of place in an elementary school stage play now that it doesn’t have the proper distance fog to mask its porous pixels.
None of this really matters since it has no real impact on the gameplay, I’ll admit, but what I can’t excuse is that the controls in this version are noticeably stiffer. It’s certainly nothing game-breaking, but the last thing I want to be doing while Latin Leatherface is trying to carve my prettyboy dome into a stylish new table lamp is wrestle with the aiming reticle to line up a shot.
Despite the rough edges, this is still the game I know and adore. If the original “Resident Evil” was a horror B-movie in video game form, “Resident Evil 4” is that half-brainless, half-brilliant action flick you put on for your friends for a night of drunken riffing. Whether you’re suplexing a cow skull-clad cultist straight into a volcano for the glory of America or engaging in delightfully groan-worthy trash talk with a 20-going-on-90 dwarf who dresses like Cap’n Crunch and cackles like a chainsaw on estrogen, there’s simply no other game like it.
If you’ve never played “Resident Evil 4” and don’t have any older consoles, you owe it to yourself to at least try this version. It comes packaged with trophy and achievement support as well as all the side missions and unlockables added throughout the years, and it costs a whopping one-third of your average new release.
It’s gory; it’s cheesy; it’s positively sleazy. But it’s pure fun from beginning to end. Even if this latest cash grab feels a tad unpolished, it’s at the very least an above-adequate option for those who have yet to bask in its glory. For everyone else, consider sticking to what you already have.