Zombies are possibly the most used idea in video games at the moment. They’re being shoehorned into every single genre, even ones where they are completely out of place. Personally, save for the Dead Rising games, I have never really found a zombie game I actually like but there was always one that I thought might be able to change my mind. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to play Resident Evil 4 during its original release, but I had made a mental note of giving it a try when I got a chance. That chance reared its head with the recent release of the new HD version on PC.
I have heard many good things about this game, so was itching to get my hands on it. First impressions were good. The opening of the game was exceedingly well received when it first game out with the protagonist, Leon, finding himself being hunted down by the civilians of a small farming village in Spain. It is extremely well executed with the game preferring to let you wander around blindly trying to search for an escape route while being pursued by a horde of angry zombies. In reality, all you seem to have to do is survive a certain amount of time until a bell rings and the zombies all head off for Mass for some reason. It certainly shows what can happen when a game is allowed to be dynamic and flowing. In any other modern game the camera would have been wrestled off you to show you a five minute pre-rendered cut scene, which would have completely smothered all the tension. Games are scariest when you are in control and Resident Evil 4 seems to understand that.
However, the game might have an unfair advantage. I found myself getting extremely tense very quickly, but I soon realised I wasn’t actually scared of the enemies: I was scared of the controls. I found them clunky, unintuitive and the reason for ninety percent of my deaths. For some baffling reason Leon cannot shoot and move at the same time. I was lead to believe through cut scenes that he used to be a policeman, although only for a day until some Racoons escaped into a city or something. I would have thought day one of police training is how to hold a gun and day two is learning to move and shoot at the same time. To top matters off, because of the awkward over the shoulder aspect, your weapons cross-hair is never in the centre of the screen, so being set upon suddenly by an enemy means you have to quickly fumble your weapon into your hands, finding yourself aiming a meter away from him as a result. This is made even more annoying when you have the audacity to try and see what you’re doing. You have to move the pointer all the way to the side of the screen in order for it to move, usually resulting in you overshooting and by the time you have the gun trained on an undead, you’ve already been killed, stuffed and take pride of place on a zombies mantle. I thought we had shooter controls down pretty well. All of this could have been avoided first off if Leon could move and shoot at the same time and I will never forgive the game for this, or by allowing us to zoom out of the stupid over the shoulder perspective.
The game seems to understand this though and says, “You can’t aim your gun? That’s fine. You can only find ammo sporadically anyway, and if you do, only ten shoots. So we’ll make it so that it takes four or five hits to kill one zombie! That way you won’t be able to shoot!” I know that it’s not realistic to have ammo dotted around everywhere, I know it goes hand in hand with the survival horror genre, but for the love of God, if you’re going to make ammo hard to find have a decent backup! In Resident Evil 4 all you can do is hold up your knife and flail it limply a meter or so in front of your face. All the zombies have a longer reach than you and Leon can’t even move while using his knife! All in all, the combat is such a mess it barely even works at all and the only time I was ever having any fun was when I got the shotgun and a decent amount of ammo and was able to blow a few heads off. But all too quickly my ammo dried up.
Let’s take a break from ratting on the game for a while and talk about the two letters in the title I have ignored up to this point; “HD”. Unfortunately, I never played the original game so will struggle to compare the graphics of the two. All I can say is it looks quite pretty on PC. Not your Crysis, beautifully designed environments but it does the job and, in fact, the dark, murky areas helped create the atmosphere. I’m not sure how much work was put into porting the game, however. There were a few weird features, such as a subtitles option without the ability to turn it on. It was greyed out. I don’t know whether it’s not been implemented yet and will come in a patch or whether I had a bug, but if you’re hearing impaired maybe wait until it’s put in properly.
Reading back on this article fills me with a little bit of sorrow. I was so looking forward to this game, it was hyped up by friends and colleagues alike and yet, it all seems very disappointing to me. The good things are lost under the bad until nothing of the good remains and yet, there is so much potential here. The combat could have been great if Leon could actually move and the controls weren’t so clunky. The atmosphere would be the best I have ever seen if you weren’t more scared of the controls causing you to die than the enemies actually killing you. The characters would be good if they weren’t so hilariously badly written, which I am led to believe is a staple of the series and the graphics would be good if it wasn’t for the glitchy animations.
If you liked the original Resident Evil 4, buy this one as it’s essentially the same but slightly better looking. If you liked other Resident Evil‘s but not this one, this version is as good as any. If you don’t like dodgy controls, not being able to move as you shoot or dying every ten minutes, I would suggest giving this game a miss.