Back in 2005, when the Resident Evil franchise had officially worn itself thin with the aging Umbrella Corporation, and and the “terror” (huge emphasis on the air quotes) of a tiring zombie villain, they took the franchise in a different direction. Resident Evil 4 remains one of Capcom’s best releases, featuring the utterly amazing and unflappable Leon S. Kennedy. Known as both the man with perfect hair and easily the best character within Resident Evil’s canon, it’s always a welcome treat when Capcom dusts him off, and the Playstation 4 re-re-release is no exception.
If you somehow managed to miss this title in the 11 years since its initial release, I’ll sum it up for you: Leon S. Kennedy, formerly of the infamous Raccoon City S.T.A.R.S. is now in charge of rescuing the President’s daughter. She was captured by a mysterious cult calling themselves Los Illuminados (the enlightened ones, en Español), centered in a rural town in Spain. Leon discovers the evil, mind-controlling parasite Las Plagas ((the plagues, en Español), and it’s up to him to save both the world and Ashley.
It’s both amazing and testament to game design that more than a decade later, Resident Evil 4 remains not only one of the best Resident Evil games, but a damn fine action-horror game. It was, at the time of its release, one of the first successful action-horror titles, and seeing as I had not played the game since its GameCube debut, I’ll admit I had forgotten how influential it was on the genre.
The best part of Resident Evil 4 is still in tact — the swarming of Leon by parasite-controlled peasants — and as such, the gunplay and combat remains both satisfying and delightful. If not careful, it’s still remarkably easy to be overwhelmed by the bastards, and the chainsaw wielders still pose a very real and serious danger to Leon’s perfect-haired person.
Having said that, this game is 11 years old, and boy do you feel it in places. When it released, I remember thinking that Leon felt downright spry on his feet compared to previous Resident Evil games, but after a decade, he feels every bit as sluggish and tanky as his Resident Evil 2 days. Also, the inability to move and aim is still alive and well, which is a design mechanic that we, as a gaming populace, agreed was a bad idea several years ago. It doesn’t ruin the experience for gamers who played the original, but new comers might find it baffling.
The real reason for the release was, of course, the graphical upgrade and the game does look good. Granted, I admittedly never played it when it came to the Xbox 360 and PS3, so I can’t speak to how much of a graphical upgrade it is compared to last gen. For me, when compared to the GameCube’s fantastic-at-the-time graphics, I spent an easy 15 minutes of the game just marveling at how nice it looked. Though it’s important to note that this isn’t a full-blown HD release, it’s just some better textures.
Overall, the game has aged much better than any of its counterparts, and remains a marvel of the genre. It looks nice, plays nice, and it does include the original PS2-exclusive Ada Wong content, if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s a great trip down memory lane, if you haven’t played since the GameCube days, but if you played it on 360 and PS3, I’m not sure if the improved textures are enough to warrant another purchase.