Resident Evil 4 (PC)

I’m in a weird spot when it comes to this game. I remember reading the previews in Nintendo Power and being psyched, right up until I realized I didn’t have a Gamecube and wasn’t likely to get one any time soon. I did manage to catch it on the PS2, but it was well after the port came out. So I’m… half nostalgic for it? I don’t know.

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Anyway, RE4 was a Resident Evil game a bunch of people liked, so much so that people that hadn’t noticed or cared for the series beforehand started paying attention, myself included. Some of the bits that were shiny and intriguing back then are a little less so today, so I decided to play through again, see if it was still fun. We’re covering the so-called “Ultimate HD Edition,” (released February of 2014) which has all the neat bits they introduced in the ports, from what I understand… I wonder if the knife is still buffed.

For anyone that missed this title the first time around, you play as Leon Kennedy, badass survivor of the Resident Evil universe. He’s currently working for the President of the United States and has traveled to a remote Spanish village to find the President’s recently kidnapped daughter. Of course, he’s stumbled right into a dangerous plot relating to horrible monsters, because that’s the kind of universe he’s in. From there, he fights his way through angry villagers and scary creatures in a few different settings, using scrounged money and valuables to buy new weapons or upgrade his existing ones. The dialogue is rather cheesy, but in that B-movie “we know this is a bit ridiculous so we may as well go all in” manner.

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Conversations between Salazar and Leon are oddly amusing.

Jumping back in, the game is still enjoyable, even knowing half the maps and enemies by heart. The game’s constantly throwing new challenges at you in terms of enemies and traps and terrain, though puzzles are more static in their difficulty. Not surprising, considering half their puzzles are “get pieces of key to next room and combine them in your inventory.” It seemed somewhat novel when I first played, but I’m getting more of an impression of padding now. There are still some neat ones in the mix, at least, such as the light combining puzzle in the chapel. The main task of the game is escorting Ashley, but to the game’s credit it’s one of the more manageable escort missions in video game history. Ashley will gladly hide in a bin or stay back while you clear out the area ahead if you so instruct her, and the loud shriek she lets out upon being grabbed at least lets you know to drop everything and bail her out. My only complaint is she could stand to dodge attacks on her own once in a while.

Since the enemies in this are ridiculously tough compared to, say, a modern military FPS, the combat is less about dropping enemies quickly as it is managing large groups and your limited munitions. Basic enemies walk a little faster than a shuffle, so it’s not difficult to herd them all into a big group and chuck a grenade at the lot of them, for example. This point is hammered home in the initial (very well made) sequence where the entire village tries to overwhelm you with sheer numbers and if you haven’t played this game or even series at all, I suggest at least playing this one for that.2016-01-21_00002

This is definitely a game that rewards exploration, as each little niche will hold extra treasure that can be spent on those upgrades I mentioned previously. Thankfully the latter weapons are side-grades more than outright improvements, and you could easily play through using your favorites. And there’s a neat new game + feature, so you can go back to the village assault and see how you fare with a full allotment of powerful weapons.

Graphics… eh. For an Ultimate HD Edition, they didn’t look noticeably better. Leon looks a little alien in his codec conversations with his face appearing pale and blotchy, and a number of the textures just look bad. The graphical quality over all is still serviceable, just… far enough behind today’s standards that they’re starting to feel underwhelming.

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The graphics haven’t aged well, but the variety of environments is a nice touch.

My other main complaint is that if you’re going in blind, like I did, there’s no indication that different guns will be available until they appear at the shop. I remember being very annoyed that I spent a bunch of money upgrading the starting pistol and shotgun only for something (apparently) better to pop up a quarter of the way into the game, and again around the 2/3rds point. Each weapon has a specialty once it’s fully upgraded but you wouldn’t know that ahead of time and it’s stupid to make you wait until that point. Also, your starting health is wimpy, such that a couple good hits will drop you even after taking 3 or 4 yellow herbs to boost the maximum. The enemies are usually forgiving enough that you need to make some serious tactical errors to get hit that much, but I may as well mention it. Last point, quicktime events are a thing in this title, this being one of the big games to popularize the concept. Maybe it’s my nostalgia talking, but I don’t think it’s a detriment to the game that they exist (though I’m less than thrilled about the trend they inspired).

Resident Evil 4 is $20 on Steam. If you like Survival Horror games where you can actually fight back rather than hide in a corner, give this game a look. The graphics and the lock & key puzzles haven’t aged all that well, but the remainder of the game is still a solid experience.

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