Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Game Review: Resident Evil 4 HD

Resident Evil 4 HD is the most complete version to date, of one of the best video games ever made. A true classic.

Resident Evil 4 HD was released just under four weeks ago here in the UK but the original game was released on the Gamecube just under seven years ago. This HD version is available both on the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, and is a direct port from the version released on the Playstation 2, which itself was released just under six years ago. As you can see this game has been released on many gaming platforms, including the four above the game was also released on the PC, the Nintendo Wii, on the mobile, on the iPhone, on Zeebo and finally, the iPad, totalling in ten different formats.

To clarify, this is a direct port from the Playstation 2 version, with only one change; it’s been remastered in HD. What was different from the Playstation 2 version and the Gamecube version? Well; the main addition being a new game mode called “Separate Ways”, which explains what happened in the original game but from the perspective of Ada, similar to the way Resident Evil 2 works (with the two scenarios with Leon and Claire). So in short, with all the content and a crisper look, this is the most complete version of Resident Evil 4 yet.
Asplosion in three... two... one...
Work on Resident Evil 4 actually started back in 1999, six years before it was actually released. The idea was for the game to be more action packed and less about survival horror. The backgrounds and atmosphere was more reminiscent of old Gothic locations, similar to those found in Europe. They eventually started to notice that the game was becoming something completely different to Resident Evil, and decided to make it a game on its own. They added demons and rewrote the storyline, and released the game as Devil May Cry, a game series that has had a great amount of success on its own.

The game went through three more development segments, most notably the one before the actual game release. This development time was spent making the game even scarier than the previous four instalments (Resident Evil 4 is the fifth main title in the series, after Resident Evil: Code Veronica) and took an almost Silent Hill approach to the series. The gameplay was similar to the actual release of Resident Evil 4, but the locations and atmosphere was much darker. The main villain in this game was a man dubbed Hookman, who naturally, carried a large hook with him. He would pursue Leon in a fashion not too different from Nemesis from the third entry into the series. The game was dropped and development finally started on what we now know as Resident Evil 4.

Just in case you’ve never played the game before, Resident Evil 4 features Leon Kennedy, an ex cop who was involved in the Zombie Outbreak in Resident Evil 2. Leon was a cop for one day, and that was the day of the outbreak. Six years have passed since that time, and Leon now works for the American president. An unknown insider kidnapped the president’s daughter, Ashley, and was brought to a small desolate village in rural Spain, where a mysterious cult resides. It is Leon’s job to work with two Spanish police officers to work undercover get Ashley home. Virtually no time passes from the beginning of the game before these two police officers have been killed and Leon must wade through hoards of villagers hell-bent on keeping Leon away from the president’s daughter. These villagers are not zombies, but what is then known as Los Ganados (or “The Cattle" in Spanish) who seem to be possessed by something. These villagers are much more dangerous than the zombies of old; they can work together in groups and are intelligent enough to throw or yield weapons. The story unravels and answers all the questions needed, like why was the president’s daughter kidnapped? How did these villagers get possessed? What’s possessing them? Who was involved internally with the president to actually kidnap his daughter Ashley? Everything gets answered.

As for the gameplay, the game has moved forward in leaps and bounds from the old style. Resident Evil 1, 2, 3 and Code Veronica used predetermined camera angles and when your character moved out of the picture, the camera angle would change to suit the location of the character. This has been thrown out of the window and instead the camera is always behind the character, slightly above shoulder height. This new perspective adds a more first-person approach without ever being a first person shooter. When shooting, a red laser comes out of the gun to show the player where the target is placed. Unlike before, where you shoot at a zombie’s upper torso or low to their feet, you can now target individual limbs which do different things; shooting the head makes the enemy stumble backwards or result in the head to explode, shooting the feet makes the enemy crouch forwards, and shooting a hand results in the enemy dropping a weapon if they are holding one. If you shoot the head or feet correctly, you can run up to your enemy and pressing the action button (“A” on the Xbox 360 controller) when near them gives you the option of attacking your enemy physically. With Leon, pressing the action button when they’ve been hit in the head allows him to roundhouse kick them to the floor, knocking over nearby enemies. Depending on how far you are in the game, pressing the action button when they’ve been hit in the foot allows you first to kick them straight on, resulting them flying backwards a decent distance. Later on this is replaced by the Northern Lights Suplex, a fine wrestling move, where Leon actually lands the enemy backwards onto their head, usually resulting in the head exploding. These moves are more than welcome to the gameplay, which makes the game much cooler.
Watch out for that guy, he's pretending his arm's a cobra!
The signature weapons have returned, with a few more added in; there’s a nice selection of handguns available that all specialise in different things. The same applies to the shotguns and the magnums. These weapons aren’t readily available, you start off with just the handgun (and a shotgun on the easiest difficulty), but as you progress more and more becomes available. The handgun is easy to use and very effective in the beginning against most of the Ganados, and the shotguns are good against big groups of enemies, or the stronger enemies you encounter later on in the game. Magnums, like always, are the elite weapons that have very little ammo available in the game that should be used sparsely; the bosses are recommended for such instances. Added to these signature weapons are the rifles. Rifles have rarely been featured in the Resident Evil series due to the fact that the games aren’t first person shooters (apart from the Survivor and Chronicles series), and while this isn’t a first person shooter, the camera angle works in favour of the use of a rifle. Rifles, like in many other action shooter games, are great for long distance and also pack a decent punch. There’s only one machine gun in the game which is the TMP, a minigun that can be used effectively once in a while. There are other bonus weapons too but these are usually unlocked after completing the game and dramatically make the game much easier.

As mentioned earlier these weapons aren’t readily available, but are slowly unlocked as the game progresses. They’re made available through a merchant, who looks like one of the Ganados but speaks perfect English (in a fantastic cockney accent) and has a hooded coat for his wares. You’ll soon appreciate seeing the site of his blue flame that he is often standing next to, as he often offers you the next and better versions of your weapons. On a side note the Merchant is a fantastic character despite having virtually no purpose to the plot other than providing you with better weaponry, his accent and phrases while aren’t intentionally funny, are delivered fantastically you can’t help but fall in love with him. As well as having the option to buy weapons, you also have the option to upgrade them. Upgrading your weaponry is important at it allows you to keep up to date with the pending difficulty increase in enemies. Upgrades allow your weapons to deal more damage, to fire faster, to reload faster and to hold more ammo in the gun itself.

Another new addition to the game is the items case. In the old games you had usually six, eight or ten item slots and that was it. Most items would hold up one space, with the exception of the very large guns like machine guns and rocket launchers. Still there was a flaw; a shotgun was one space and so was a small key. Naturally a shotgun is much larger than the small key yet they take the same amount of space. This observation now doesn’t exist with the new suitcase; Leon carries a case which has many items slots and each item holds different amount of spaces. For instance, the smallest item is now an egg that is used to increase your health, and this only takes up one item space. In comparison, the handguns take around six spaces, and the shotguns can take anything up to sixteen spaces. Your case has probably around sixty spaces at first but like the weapons, your case can be upgraded to carry more and more as the game goes on. This new system removes the flaw of the old item space situation, while giving you much more customisation as well, unlike the older games you can now also drop items.
Good luck...
The game itself can be completed in fifteen to twenty five hours, which is a huge increase in time when compared to the older games. Not only is the game much bigger than others, but there is still more to do when you finish the game. You can take part in The Mercenaries game mode, which is similar to the one in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, where you have a time limit to kill as many enemies as possible. The difference between this and the Resident Evil 3 version is that you are only allowed in one large area in this game, and you can get time bonuses by going across the level. Killing enemies in succession starts a combo which when finished gives you more and more points as the tally increases. There are four levels in the game, which are all diverse and are similar in design to particular areas of the game. As mentioned much earlier in the review you can also play “Separate Ways” with Ada, which takes a good hour or two to finish. Lastly, you can play another game mode called “Assignment Ada”, which once again features the lady in red, where you are trying to receive random ‘plaga’ samples across a terrain.

While that is the majority of the game, also added into the game are the options to save your game and start afresh, a New Game+ if you will, where you keep all your weapons and advances from the previous game. You can also play again in a different difficulty, keeping in mind the easier your difficulty of choice, certain sections of the game are removed to make the game easier, meaning if you play on the hardest difficulty you play the game in its entirety. You can also unlock new costumes for both Leon and Ashley, by completing the game multiple times. So there’s a huge amount of content in this game, and it’s all worth sinking your teeth into.

On the whole Resident Evil 4 HD is the most complete version of Resident Evil 4 to date and is well worth getting no matter how much of an experience you’ve had with the game in the past. If you have the original Gamecube version, or a Playstation 2 or Wii version, it doesn’t matter, this HD remaster looks incredibly smooth and stands well with the games being released to day, despite being seven years old now. If you’ve never played Resident Evil 4 before, I can’t recommend this game enough. If you like survival horror and action packed shooter games, get this. You won’t regret it. Yes, its seven years old but it’s still one of the most complete games to ever come out. It’s a true classic, a game that will go down in history not only as one of the best games from the sixth generation of video gaming, but one of the best video games of all time. Everything from the graphics, the action, the controls, the enemies, the storyline, the vastness of the game, everything is close to perfection. The only problem I’d say with the game is that at around £15, it’s quite a steep price for a seven year old game, but it’s still worth it based on the content you receive. Resident Evil 4 for me, is the best in the series and this is a must for fans of survival horror shooter fans.

Rating: ****3/4 stars

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