Leon Kennedy returns to his most critically-acclaimed adventure, this time on PC and in HD. Resident Evil 4 proved that a game can break the dynamic and still be an incredible experience; even setting the standard for survival horror back when it first released. However, with the release of it’s Ultimate HD Edition, does Resident Evil 4 still hold up in today’s standards?
Watch in fullscreen in an HD setting for full effect. Most graphical updates are details.
The deal with Resident Evil 4: Ultimate HD Edition is that players can choose from a variety of options that suits them. From choosing between windowed and full-screen, to toggling motion blur and even being able to choose between both HD and Original (RE4 on the GameCube, for example) graphics settings. My gaming rig is a bit aged (though, not as much as many others), so I had to scale down from max settings to a neutral, but still tolerable setting. So for reference’s sake, here are the settings I used for the initial play-through:
Resolution: 1920×1080, Full-screen
Frame Rate: Fixed 30 FPS
Motion Blur: Off
Shadow Quality: High
Texture Quality: HD
Post-Process: Off (Occasionally “1,” which made the game much more dark and like a film noir.)
Now, since this is an “HD remake,” it’s suitable for the graphics to be the primary focus of this review. Among the graphics, I’ll also elaborate further on the FPS differences. Note: Since this is a PC game, graphics performance will differ between users. Without further ado, let’s begin.
The graphics options are something to enjoy. There’s plenty there for experimental players to enjoy. Everything from post-shaders to texture quality, and especially the ability to change frame-rate from the original game’s 30 FPS, to the new and smoother 60 FPS. I mostly played in 30 FPS; it still looks fluid and clean with the HD graphics. Something to note is that some graphics options are not changeable during gameplay, so if you truly want to experiment, then you’ll need to repeatedly return to the main menu; mainly the Texture Quality and Frame Rate options will not be changeable in-game.
Playing the game in 60 FPS was hit and miss for me, but as I’ve mentioned before, if my computer was a bit more recent then it wouldn’t be any issue. From what I’ve seen, it is definitely impressive to see how smooth most of the game runs, and is still impressive using the original graphics setting. I’ve only ever had some issues during cut-scenes where the audio de-synchronizes from the video itself (more on this later). Also, some animations (like for the Rifle) didn’t seem to actually animate at 60 FPS (it skipped every other frame, so it was pretty much still at 30 FPS). This is curiously still an issue with the original graphics options.
The added motion blur option is just that. They added another more intense motion blur effect to the very slight motion blur effect that was already in the game to begin with. This isn’t a bad thing, since it adds a more cinematic feel to it. I personally never used it, though.
The HD graphics are definitely a step-up from the original graphics, but nothing too awe-inspiring; we’re not talking about a complete overhaul with the graphical update, but just a bit of a spit polish. It’s a touch-up from the original; something between RE4 and RE5-quality graphics. It’s not to say that on a 1080p monitor they aren’t good (that’s a double negative, by the way). The graphics are something that fans of the original games should be happy with.
Character models have never looked cleaner in the new HD graphics (although the lip syncing, in true fashion, is still like the characters are chewing gum). Leon looks closer to recent Resident Evil games involving him, and even fine details pop out better than ever. Even Ashley’s scarf is more detailed, so much that you can see each thread cleanly woven. However, for some reason, quite a few of the noticeable models have updated textures, but are still edgy in terms of polygons in the model (like the Rifle’s purchasable scope).
I’ve seen plenty of people on various websites complaining about how these graphics are complete garbage. However, to a person like me who already considers graphics in a game to be the least important thing to most games, I say that the differences are just great. You don’t need Battlefield-comparable graphics in a game where the graphics actually still hold their own for today’s standards. I believe that Resident Evil’s director knew this, and wanted something that would make both players new and old happy.
The text is more readable and much sharper, although for some reason, subtitles aren’t available yet as of this review.
The gameplay is the same as you would expect from the original game. Nothing’s been altered to improve game flow, nothing’s been changed to make things easier or more difficult, and no quick-time event has been slowed down. The story hasn’t been changed (this version includes Ada’s campaign), and the characters haven’t changed a bit (whether you want them to or not).
You play as Leon Kennedy, looking for the President’s daughter after she’s been kidnapped by a cult group named “Los Illuminados.” After experiencing the odd behavior of the villagers, Leon investigates more and discovers the dark secret behind the cult. The game follows behind Leon in a third-person shoulder perspective, and was one of the first games at the time to have no aiming crosshairs (this was replaced by an aiming laser, something that stuck with the franchise after its introduction).
You can change control schemes to better fit your style (if you’re using an Xbox controller), which for me was Type 2. (Mostly because I played RE5 before this, so I’m used to that control scheme.) I found out, after attempting to use a PS3 controller with MotionInJoy, that RE4:UHD has very good controller support. Sure, it didn’t register that I was using a PS3 controller, but it did show button numbers on screen, which means that modders can change those graphics to PS3 buttons if they so wish. (Yes, the PC version is pretty moddable, as hinted at by the ModDB community from the original PC port.)
Firearms can be bought and upgraded by the famously referenced cloaked merchant (if you’ve got the cash), and the inventory management system is incredibly unique for the genre. Everything that is usable (except for key items, treasures, and maps) takes up a set of tiles in Leon’s inventory, which can be upgraded to fit more items. Leon’s health can be replenished by using herbs, various eggs you find, or fish you can shoot out of the water; his health can be increased by mixing a yellow herb in with his green herbs (or green with red, if you’re going for a full heal).
On occasion, you can stumble upon various shooting ranges. The reward for getting all the bottle caps (which are just collectable figurines, much like Resident Evil 5’s) is a nice amount of cash and an achievement. Not bad.
As you advance, you’ll meet enemies with mutations of the virus called “Las Plagas.” These can be dispatched with continual gunfire, or with a simple flash grenade. You’ll also meet bosses with insane mutations, far beyond what you’ll experience from anyone else. You’ll also get to enjoy the infamous escort section of the game (which I didn’t seem to mind at all, so why do people hate it again?).
The escort sections involve you walking Ashley around and keeping her safe. You can shoot her dead very easily, but she can take a few hits from various enemies. Enemies can pick her up and take her to the room exit, which is also an instant game over. You can also heal her and increase her health just like you can with Leon’s. You can tell her to stay where she is, or even tell her to hide in dumpsters where she can’t be found. Seriously guys, the escort sections in this game aren’t bad. In fact, the non-linearity of the level design implies that you’re meant to explore the levels again with Ashley (which they do at least once in every area of the game), so you can find secret areas you couldn’t originally reach. You can get the most powerful weapon in the game, the Broken Butterfly, this way.
Speaking of level design, it’s incredible. Each level is very intricately designed so there are various treasures strewn about and meticulously hidden. There are branching paths that require specific things, like key items or Ashley, to explore. You spend about two chapter acts in each area, giving you about 3-5 hours to explore each “region.” This game, overall, should take about 15 hours to complete.
Once you’re done, you can play through the game again with New Game +, which lets you keep all your weapons and upgrades, money, health upgrades for both Ashley and Leon, and lets you choose a harder difficulty. You also unlock new costumes for both Leon and Ashley, including a suit of knight’s armor for Ashley, which means she can’t be picked up. You unlock new weapons along the way, as well. There are a lot of options for replayability because of this.
Along with this, a campaign named “Separate Ways,” which allows you to play through Ada’s side of the story, becomes available to you. As well as Assignment: Ada (a mini-game involving Ada in a unique military uniform obtaining Plagas samples), and the famous “The Mercenaries” mode. If you beat the game on Normal, then you can play through the game again in “Professional” mode, which is infamously difficult to beat in any non-New Game + mode.
You know what they say about if something isn’t broken. Capcom clearly knew this wasn’t something that needed to be fixed, and I’m more than glad they didn’t change a thing with gameplay. The only major issue I’ve seen is that there are very rare crashes during a level transition. Among other things, I find myself constantly returning to the game for “just one more chapter.”
Here’s my qualm with any remake. If you want to call your remake the “ultimate version,” you have to pull all of the stops, including with your audio quality. Sadly, the audio quality seems to have been ignored. Sound effects? Unchanged. Music? Higher quality, but not redone. Voices? Same, but that’s to be expected.
It’s one thing to just reuse audio assets from the original title, but it’s another thing to recycle pre-compiled audio assets (like entire cutscenes combined into a single audio file) and call it good. This opens up many flaws between the audiovisual experience, including desyncs. This happens when the game doesn’t compensate for visual lag by any means, which causes anywhere from split-second to five second desyncs from the visuals to the audio. This sadly drags down the experience at times, and is actually the sole reason behind why I don’t play at 60 FPS; because if the cutscene lags at any point for however long, it ruins the entire scene and the experience.
Also, there are no in-game sound options. Kind of a bad thing, really. Although this game is very alt-tab friendly, which is good.
Afternote: Upon editing some footage for a graphics comparison I was going to use for this review, I realized that almost every sound in the game has been improved for a higher quality. The music, sound effects, and even the voices are higher quality than the original. Although hard to tell, it’s very noticeable when comparing the two. I apologize for this overlooked part, but the sounds are at least higher quality, and that means Capcom did indeed pull out all the stops.
As such, I’ve raised the score by one point. It’s truly great to know that they did update the sounds. I still have to mark down the score due to desyncing issues and some sounds glitching/looping every so often.
Overall: 9 (Amazing)
So the entire experience boils down to one thing: Does the game still hold up in today’s standards, and do the updates help? The answer is, wholeheartedly yes. I never played the game when it first released, so my first time playing this game was with the PC version. Playing this, nothing felt dated or aged. Even with the audio issues, I still had a blast playing it. Do I think it’s incredibly amazing? In places, yes. In others, not really. It doesn’t mean this game is bad; in fact, quite the opposite. Even after 10 years, Resident Evil 4 still stands as probably one of the best survival horror shooters out there.
Getting the PC version is really only a good idea if you have a decent PC to play the game in HD, but if you don’t have a good computer then you might be better off buying the other versions. The game itself is a must-buy for anyone looking for a great survival horror shooter, and at an affordable price for a game with amazing replayability.
Resident Evil 4: Ultimate HD Edition is available on Steam for $19.99 USD. Other versions of the game are available on GameCube, Wii, and PlayStation 2. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are also available in “HD.”