Resident Evil 4 HD
The following review contains spoilers, as it is widely assumed that the reader will have already played the masterpiece that is Resident Evil 4, and would like reassurance on why buying the HD version of the game is a sound investment (read: the game’s still as seminal as ever). For any of you unfamiliar or new to the game, firstly: what’s wrong with you? And secondly, scroll down to the penultimate paragraph if you want to experience the game totally afresh, you lucky, lucky people.
Leon enters an apparently abandoned laboratory. Blinking monitors and medical machines line the room. Chemical supplies are spread across tabletops and in draws. Empty bottles stare him in the face. Across the way, through a large window, lies someone, or some thing. It’s tall and dark, but surely dead. The door to the room is locked, so Leon enters the operating theatre opposite. He notices another bed with a monstrous subject laid bare, a large parasite stuck to its back. Round the corner, Leon finds a card key in the hands of a dead human, or infected. It’s to another area of the building.
“The door opens, and there stands that thing, stalking, creeping, moaning”Suddenly, there’s a loud crash. It’s hard to distinguish the sound exactly, but it’s not good. Leon edges toward the door of the theatre. It opens, and there stands that thing he saw through the window, stalking, creeping, moaning. It’s as if its mouth is sewn shut, emitting a quiet but chilling croak, almost a breathless laugh. Leon fires a round into its gut, stopping the monster and creating a fine hole. The creature barely moves, and just then something unbelievable happens, the hole gets filled, and the thing starts moving again. Leon fires at its head – blows a great big chunk off with his trusty shotgun, only to see it reform with all the grace of an ice skating elephant. His only choice is to run, so he runs – far from the abomination that follows and never forgets. They call them The Regenerators.
It’s raining, and Leon and Ashley are tired. The Ganados are around every corner, and their supplies are getting low. They notice a house through the downpour, and find refuge in its broken furniture and flaking wallpaper. The two are joined by charming Spaniard Luis Sera, and just in the nick of time, as through the boarded up windows Leon spots fire. It’s a mob, a mob of Ganados. With pitchforks held high, there are hundreds of them, all making their way to the house. Leon tells Ashley to hide, while he and Luis barricade the windows with cupboards and the like. They gather any ammo they can find and prepare for the onslaught.
The hoard of infected slowly destroy the makeshift defences, and start to enter the house. With his trusty pistol equipped, Leon makes light work of the first lot of villagers, while Luis pops heads in the background. Blood decorates the walls, and Luis is forever making jokes. Leon switches to his shotgun, and kills two in one shot. He hears a groan from behind, and 180s to promptly pop another head, but this Ganados stays up, as a parasite surfaces from his convulsing neck. The parasite slices Leon in the neck twice before he is able to get the shot off, by which point the other villagers are hooking up ladders to the top windows.
“Ashley smashes her fists against the wardrobe doors, unable to take the smell of blood that seeps through the cracks”Leon and Luis rush upstairs to kick the ladders back down, killing a few in the process. Luis grabs a grenade and throws it down the stairs, eliminating a modest five. Leon follows suit with an Incendiary, mopping up any stragglers. Meanwhile, Ashley is smashing her fists against the wardrobe doors, unable to take the smell of blood that is now seeping through the cracks. The mob just keep on coming. Luis is struggling with four surrounding him. Leon chucks a flash grenade, and melees the blind while he heals Luis’s wounds. It’s getting heated now, and in a fit of rage, Leon changes to his TMP, unloading lead into leather, bringing hell to the parasitic invaders. Six down in seconds – Leon’s having a field day, until an axe knocks him on the back of the head. He stumbles forward, barely conscious, and turns. The Ganado is going for a successive swipe, looking to connect, until out of nowhere his head explodes in a firework display of blood. Luis stands at the top of the stairs, “that one’s on the house”, he says. The room is clear, but the sounds of the mob still ring loud outside. Leon notices the sound getting quieter. He walks to the window, relieved to see them backing away. He knows he hasn’t seen the last of them.
Ashley is all locked up. With her hands behind her back and steel bars tight around her front, she’s hopeless. She waits for hours, praying for Leon’s safety, hoping for his survival, so he can get her out of this mess and out of these metal bars. After what seems like an eternity, she hears a furore up top. She swears its Luis, or Leon, or perhaps both. Before she has time to shout, the unmistakeable sound of a man dying pollutes the air. She can only hope it’s Salazar, or Saddler. But no, it’s Sera – as Leon’s cry for his life makes clear. After a few minutes, she sees his figure, and a .50 cal rifle hanging by his side. He raises it to aim, and points it right at her. Ashley resigns herself to death – she believes Leon to be infected now, it’s the only explanation. She shuts her eyes and waits for death.
It never comes. The air is quiet but for the sound of metal on metal. She feels light, as if she’s no longer held back. She opens her eyes to see the bars now gone, and her freedom restored. Doors to the left and right open, and Salazar’s henchmen pour through, intent on fulfilling the job the steel could not. The first set fall from Leon’s sharp shooting above – Ashley is in safe hands. Pop. Pop. Pop. Heads disappear in a cloud of blood and she feels safe, even with blood on her hands. Two hooded foes in red approach her. A couple of bullets rain down on their skulls, but a metal clunk is the only payoff. She’s cornered, with no weapon at hand. She’s taken, slung over the thing’s shoulder like a common carcass. Ashley screams and slams her fists against his back. It doesn’t even feel it. Suddenly the floor rises to her face, she’s dropped. Shots fire down from the barrel of Leon’s rifle. More come, an orchestra of death ringing round the room. The open door ahead beckons Ashley. She enters.
It’s another majestic maze of beautifully painted hallways and grand furnishings. Ashley spots a Salazar follower and panics. She looks around for some weapon to give her a fighting chance. A lantern on the side seems like it could work. She launches it at the undead, and it explodes in a ball of flames, burning the priest to cinders. Through bedrooms and lounges, under tables and through hidden openings, she’s making progress, killing fiends with fire. The lighting shifts. It’s dark. She gets out her torch and presses on. Lever puzzles attempt to halt her, but they prove little challenge, and she navigates past iron gates with ease. The darkness gets worse, visibility is especially poor now. Knights litter the rooms here but don’t stir – their presence nevertheless haunts Ashley.
She spots a pedestal with stone pieces on top, and rearranges them into the emblem of a nearby door. A piece is missing. She places a tablet found earlier in the spot and the door opens. She walks through and finds a large ornament, its purpose unknown to her. She feels it must open something, so clutches it to her chest, and decides to carry on. She hears the sound of rusty metal moving, of steel boots on a stony floor. The foreboding knights she saw before are alive. One stands in the doorway, blocking her entry. It lunges for her but she’s quick enough to jump back. Ashley runs, positively frantic. Another knight stands at the end of a corridor, but isn’t mobile. Thankful, Ashley casually walks past, and in an instant the knight springs to life, his halberd raised high. With split second timing, Ashley rolls to safety, while the knight shatters to dust. She hears the distant sound of death, more knights on her tail. She backtracks through each familiar room, and notices a lever previously unusable. She inserts a key found earlier, and pushes. A ladder is revealed, and the way out. Through the final door is Leon, waiting for her.
“The days of ammo crates and health supplies may be long gone, and inventory management rarely so puzzling, but Resident Evil 4 HD is an ode to that time”There we have just three of many unforgettable experiences from Resident Evil 4. It’s generally regarded as the finest action game of all time, and it earns that accolade through sheer variety, flawless execution and perfect pacing. The game is a rollercoaster ride of non-stop thrills, with surprises around every corner and some of the most satisfying combat around. It still looks superb, too, and the sharpened textures afforded by the HD revival are entirely welcome. Sure, the visual makeover isn’t entirely convincing, with the characters and cutscenes getting the most treatment, but the beautiful art style hasn’t aged one bit. If anything, it’s simply a blessing to be able to play the classic title on modern consoles – for the Xbox gamer especially, it will likely be a new experience. The inclusion of bonus content previously seen in the PS2 version is a nice touch, although it appears the developers neglected their HD conversion. Controls feel dated and sluggish at first, but a quick configuration change and a few hours with the game soon sorts that out – in fact, they represent a simplicity seldom seen with modern games.
And does Resident Evil 4 stand up to those games? It’s a question answered after playing the peerless opening, where the narrative is blended perfectly with a chilling atmosphere, and the action is forever exciting. The days of ammo crates and health supplies may be long gone, and inventory management rarely so puzzling, but Resident Evil 4 HD is an ode to that time. Its visual improvements may not be immediately noticeable, but the gameplay is still golden. With an adventure so far unmatched for memorable moments and constant thrills, the game is truly one of a kind. It’s still a delight. It’s still endlessly replayable. It’s still your favourite game.