Resident Evil 4 HD Review

"What are you buying?" "What are you selling?"


Resident Evil 4 remains a pinnacle of video game perfection in my eyes. When the game hit store shelves on January 11, 2005, I bought a GameCube for the sole purpose of stepping into Leon's shoes once more. The years have been kind to Resident Evil 4, from the visuals to the controls, but I’ll get the negative out of the way first: There is no way to move while aiming. Thanks to the limitations of the GameCube's one proper analog stick, Leon could not fire his pistol and strafe left or right. A direct port, not counting the pre-rendered cutscenes, was released on the PlayStation 2 later the same year, so the lack of a shoot-and-move mechanic was still understandable. But it’s 2011, and with the amount of detailing that went into preparing Resident Evil 4 for XBLA and PSN, did the development team not consider the possibility? The same feature was mysteriously absent in Resident Evil 5, so I guess we can chalk this one up as wishful thinking.

Except the tank-like controls may serve as the ultimate turn off to new players. The controls are responsive, but trying to navigate the environment presents its own challenge. Aiming with RT, firing with X, and controlling the camera with the left analog stick can be cumbersome initially, but it wasn’t long before I was dropping maniacal villagers left and right. The alternative control scheme also solves most of these issues, delivering a controller experience similar to Resident Evil 5, but why Capcom defaulted to a defunct layout baffles me.

It also pains me to say the high definition upgrade is the least impressive part of the presentation. Most environmental textures were left untouched, as were the cutscenes. I have never been put off by poor visuals, but it would have been nice to see a graphical leap comparable to other HD collections released of late. Anyone hoping for an aesthetic experience that rivals Resident Evil 5 will be sorely disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. The graphics are nothing to scoff at considering Resident Evil 4's early 2005 release; the character themselves still delight. I popped in my old GameCube RE4 disc for old time’s sake, and their models looked quite blurry once I removed the rose-tinted glasses.


I think I saw this in an anime once...


For the handful of people that never touched a prior Resident Evil 4 release, here’s a brief recap. Why the president’s children have an affinity for getting kidnapped I’ll never know. This time it’s the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham. A group of religious fanatics called Los Illuminados are holding the girl hostage, so Leon S. Kennedy is sent to Spain on a one-man rescue mission. Leon is no longer the Raccoon City Police recruit from Resident Evil 2, trading his rookie cop status for Secret Service training. The duo’s escape is a harrowing journey, taking place in the rundown village of Bitores Mendez, the eerie castle of Ramon Salazar, and the experimental testing facility of Osmund Saddler.

Leon encounters a cast of characters – including Ada Wong – that want the Las Plagas, the virus that has turned everyone into mind-controlled “zombies”. I use that term lightly, because technically there are no zombies in Resident Evil 4. Before you hem and haw about the lack of shambling undead, let me say the villagers, cultists, and soldiers exhibit greater intelligence. They duck under shots, shield their heads, throw projectiles, and attempt to kidnap Ashley when you get swarmed, but Leon possesses the firepower to counter. Handguns, shotguns, and rifles enhance your anti-zombie insurance, but more unique weaponry like an infinite ammo rocket launcher or gangster-era Tommy Gun round out the roster. The inclusion of a New Game+ encourages multiple playthroughs, adding more bang for buck to an already worthwhile package.

The narrative is by far the most coherent of any Resident Evil iteration, but several plot holes were left unfilled. Through subsequent releases, players learned the truth to questions originally left unanswered. The Darkside Chronicles details the backstory of Krauser and Leon, Resident Evil 5 reveals Wesker’s ultimate intentions, and Resident Evil: Degeneration explains what Leon has been up to since his return from Europe.


Facial textures sport less jagged edges.


All the popular side missions for Resident Evil 4 return. “Separate Ways” shadows Ada Wong’s involvement in saving Leon Kennedy, and reveals Albert Wesker as the man pulling the strings. “Assignment Ada” tasks the lady in red with collecting five Las Plagas samples for her contractors, but easier said than done with a legion of undead soldiers standing in her way.

Of the popular modes, “Mercenaries” is the most notable, spanning five playable characters (Leon, Ada, Wesker, Krauser, and HUNK) and four arenas. The concept shares the same traits as Resident Evil 5, minus the co-op. Killing villagers, cultists, and mercenaries in rapid succession adds to the score multiplier, though the count resets after a brief period if no enemies are slain. That window is extremely narrow, so players must learn where and when targets spawn. Every round begins with a set time limit, but breaking hourglasses restores crucial seconds to the clock. Should you five-star each level with every character, you’ll receive a nice consolation prize (the Handcannon!).

Modes aside, my favorite mechanic will always be the attaché case. Instead of the nine inventory slots of Resident Evil 5, Leon stores his health and weapons in a Tetris-styled briefcase. While some players will hate loading into a separate menu to equip a new firearm or use a first aid spray, I enjoyed organizing my inventory and utilizing every last block of space. 


Remember those damn Regenerators? Now they're annoying in HD!


On a side note, I played the original Resident Evil 4 on GameCube 17 times to completion, and I never tired of the excellent pacing. Being as this is a 360 and PS3 release, achievements and trophies are this masterpiece’s first. Earning all 12 achievements is relatively easy, but I did not need the extra motivation to drop $20 on this exceptional title again.

Fans of the series will undoubtedly complain about Resident Evil 4's deviation from the original infected trilogy, but the over-the-shoulder camera perspective set the standard for ensuing third-person shooters. The inability to walk and shoot certainly sucks at times, though the HD upgrade, fantastic story, inventory management, and price tag more than make up the difference. After six years, Leon’s return still lives up to the hype as a thrill ride of action and suspense. Resident Evil 4 was a must-play experience in 2005, and now a must-play experience in 2011.

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms:  Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3

Jenne's picture

I wouldn't even care if they let Leon move while aiming (although it would be nice) if they just fixed which analog stick does what. I played RE4 on the Gamecube, and when I started playing this on the PS3, aiming with the left analog stick wasn't exactly...Pleasant.

My question is, in 2011, why are game companies not letting us fully customize our controls? You can do it for PC games. There's no reason not to let us do it for console games as well.

Josh Kowbel's picture

Yeah, I know the feeling. Aiming with the left analog stick and right trigger is less than optimal. Resident Evil 5 got it right with left trigger to aim and right trigger to fire.

Maybe they are trying to prevent some gamers getting an unfair advantage? I'm sure it's not that much of a coding issue.

Jenne's picture

So instead they're putting everyone at a disadvantage by implementing terrible controls. ;)

brodyitis's picture

@Boss Kowbel

I don't think it's about advantages/disadvantages at this point; because the Wii version actually had the best controls. (Believe it or not) I think it was just laziness on the part of the developers. Just like it always is when there aren't customizable controls in a video game.

Josh Kowbel's picture

I agree the Wii had the best controls. Aiming with the Wiimote made targeting specific body parts a breeze. Capcom could have at least utilized the Resident Evil 5 controls, but RE4's controls are sufficient once you get used to them.

JoesShittyOs's picture

Not being able to move while aiming was kind of the point.  It's one of those few games where weird shitty controls are what makes the game fun and challenging (though clunky movement is no excuse).  I really don't think "not being able to move while aiming" is something that it can really be marked down for.

While the aiming with RT and shooting with X thing sounds completely idiotic, I'm pretty sure they had an alternate control scheme that took care of that.

chad'spenis's picture

No movement while aiming and the controls are necessary for the game. If it were any other way, the game would be much worse.


But yeah, I agree that you can't really give a 6 year old port a perfect score, even if it deserves it.

GuardianJosh's picture

The damn controls are fine. I never had a problem. Not on the Gamecube, nor the PS2 nor the 360. Also, THERE IS A SECONDARY CONTROL SETTING. Next time check first before bitching about the controls.

I am a little pissed about the graphics not getting a complete overhaul, especially since this is supposed to be RE 4 "HD". And the cutscene graphics in Separate Ways still look like PS2 graphics.

Those things aside, I still love this game. I do not regret my purchase at all. I beat this over 50 times on the PS2, lets see how many times I'll beat it this time.

brodyitis's picture


Stop bitching about a review where the reviewer states that the game is a definite buy.

Reid Wildenhaus's picture

Before I buy:

Does it start off slow and pick up? I remember playing it on the wii and both the difficulty of the game and the sort of awkward start drove me off.

Jenne's picture

The secondary control setting isn't much better. And only having two options? Really? Plus, there's no way to change the sensitivity, which is a huge issue.

It's one thing to like the game, it's another to defend controls that are sub-par. When they decided to turn the series into more of an action-shooter, they should have updated the controls accordingly. And yes, you get used to them within fifteen minutes of playing, but the point is, the controls still aren't great. I don't think there's anything wrong with a person voicing their distaste for them.

Razzler's picture

I think the controls were more of a balance issue than anything, if it played like an action game and you could fire while moving then there would be absolutely no challenge to the game. You could gradually move out of attack range and practically face-roll the entire game. Stopping and shooting requires aiming in the right place and using the knock back of your kick to your advantage in the harder parts of the game.

MarioDragon's picture

I never liked this game. When I played it on the GameCube, it was just so... Boring. I'm probably gonna try the HD remake again, just cause I can, but after getting halfway through Resident Evil 5 and getting bored I don't think I'll change my mind.

Controls were fun though, always thought it was cool how the enemies could get RIGHT NEXT to you and still have to be one step closer to hurt you.

rje5's picture

Not moving is on purpose, it's supposed to be scary. Giving you guns against zombies gives you an advantage, but being able to move ceases to make it scary at all. If they let you move it would ruin the experience. 

The only gripe I have is in the secondary setting where you look down the sights with left trigger, you have to aim with left stick, instead of the right one. That strikes me as lazy and an oversight, seeing as how every current gen console uses right stick to aim.

Jenne's picture

I feel like if a game is truly scary, they won't have to rely on not letting you move and aim at the same time. The only part of this game that I found remotely scary was when they forced you to play as Ashley. And even then, it was only because she had no way to defend herself.

Just my opinion. :)

Josh Kowbel's picture


It depends on where you stopped playing, but yes the gameplay does pick up once you purchase/upgrade more weapons and start tackling the myriad of bosses.  

@Everyone commenting on my review of the controls:

I never said I hated the controls. I was simply stating that the way in which Leon moves and shoots is less than fluid.

I do realize there is the Type II control scheme similar to that of Resident Evil 5, but why would the developers default the controls to a shoddy scheme when the other option makes better use of the button layouts? Honestly, how many gamers actually check for customizable controls when they boot up the options menu?

I was simply making a point that the default control scheme feels awkward on a 360 controller whereas on the GameCube, the buttons were much larger and so the configuration made more sense.

I love Resident Evil 4, but I wanted to get the point across that controls that were once excellent in 2005 are merely average by my standard's today. Again, I highly recommend everyone play this game regardless of my whether or not you agree with my final judgments. 

Reid Wildenhaus's picture

@Boss Kowbel

I got about 20 minutes in when you come upon a town and 20 people ambush you. I don't know what to do. I could always look up a walkthrough if need be, though.

Josh Kowbel's picture


There is a shotgun in the two story house that comes in handy, but I highly recommend you play a couple of hours just to see if it's your type of game. The eerie atmosphere makes the village my favorite section of the game. 

Goldteddy's picture

Good review getting all the new stuff while talking about your own experience with the game before it's HD remake.

Now you can see Leon die HD!


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