‘Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition’ Review: There And Back Again

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Over the course of my five-year writing “career” I’ve reviewed Capcom’s seminal action horror masterpiece Resident Evil 4 an impressive three times. This will be number four, and while I’m always happy to return to one of my all-time favorites, I can’t help but wonder why Capcom is so hesitant to stop teasing us with HD remasters and just remake it already. Like Half-Life 2 and BioShock, this is a monumentally influential video game that should be on every gamer’s must-play list.

With its latest re-release, Capcom has wrapped it up in improved textures and a silky smooth frame-rate (60 FPS) and dubbed it the Ultimate HD Edition. If you grab it on Steam, it also brings with it a suite of achievements, leaderboards, trading cards, and Steam Cloud support. Let’s decide whether or not all that’s enough to truly make this the ultimate edition in our review.

The gaming industry is going through a bit of a change right now as we welcome the next generation of consoles and the promise of more fully realized virtual worlds they each offer. Unfortunately, this means Resident Evil 4 is officially last-last-gen, and in terms of visuals, it shows.

When the game was re-released on consoles in HD alongside its predecessor, Code Veronica X, its age was showing. The last three years haven’t treated it terribly well, even with the slightly crisper resolution and improved textures. There’s only so much improvement a now ten year-old game can endure, and I’m afraid this one has reached its limit. Any further improvement would require new models, and I don’t see Capcom doing that anytime soon.

Resident Evil 4 still looks good, and is right about on the border of being able to pass as a last-gen launch title. To me, the tweak that packed the biggest punch is the option to run it at a silky-smooth 60 FPS. It makes a noticeable difference, especially when you combine it with the handful of other graphical perks this version comes with.

(Note: there’s a bug some users are experiencing that drastically slows down the game at 60 FPS, for now the fix is to choose the 30 FPS option until something more official is released to remedy the issue.)

Now, if you have yet to experience the wondrous gaming experience that is Resident Evil 4, it follows fan-favorite Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 2. Kennedy’s been tasked with rescuing the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, who’s been whisked away to a remote European village by a cult called the Los Illuminados. This was the first game in the series to throw those traditional, shambling, moaning zombies out the window in favor of Ganados — a more intelligent and capable enemy.

The Resident Evil series has never been known to control very well, and while this game may have evolved the way the third person genre played back in over the last generation, by today’s standards, the character controls are approaching tank-like. Thankfully, there’s an option to customize them a bit — an incredibly handy feature if aiming with the right trigger and firing with X feels as awkward as it does to write — and, for the most part, it controls all right.

I say “for the most part,” because every so often the controller would be rendered unresponsive. I couldn’t find out what triggered the issue, but it happened twice over roughly 15 hours of play. The only solution that worked for me was to relaunch the game, and that worked both times.

Like the previous HD port, the Ultimate HD Edition comes bundled with all of the extras from the previous versions, including the Mercenaries mode, where you can step into the shoes of several well-known characters from the series to combat waves of enemies and a time limit, the Ada Wong-centric ‘Separate Ways’ epilogue campaign and ‘Assignment Ada’ mission, an unlockable (and unforgiving) Professional difficulty, and a bevy of unlockables. Don’t fret, you’ll get your $20 worth of content.

The Final Word: Resident Evil 4 has been showing its age for some time, but Capcom has put a solid effort into making the Ultimate HD Edition a must-buy for fans of the genre, as well as those who are itching to return to it or anyone who missed it the first (second, third, fourth, fifth…) time around.

On a related note, we’ll be playing this game in all its HD, 60 FPS glory on the official Bloody Disgusting YouTube channel. If you have time, you should consider joining us.

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  • Stu_T

    Great review, classic game but I don’t think I’ll be buying it a third time. I was wondering does Seperate Ways still have those low quality FMVs? I can’t imagine they would actually redo them in game.

    • Adam Dodd

      Yes, they’re still very much in there, and they look awful.

  • ThunderDragoon

    “I can’t help but wonder why Capcom is so hesitant to stop teasing us with HD remasters and just remake it already.”

    For me personally, I don’t think it needs a remake. It’s already had way too many re-releases. RE2 and RE3 are the ones in the franchise that need to be remade. And I seriously don’t know what’s taking them so long to re-release the REmake on other platforms. It’s very strange. Anyways, great review. Just wanted to put in my two cents.

  • mickaelmc

    I still find Resident Evil 4 as one of the best games ever made. The only game I can think of that’s better is the recent The Last of Us, which borrowed a lot of mechanics from RE4.
    As far as the tank-like controls. I honestly feel that it helped with making the game more tense. There’s a fine line between a lack of control and poor controls. This game purposefully had bare bones control that made you plant your feet down in order to shoot. Where the controls for Resident Evil 1 through 3 were, and especially now, are poor, RE4 made great use of the old controls and made slight adjustments to turn the poor controls into a lack of them. The red-dot sight for all the weapons and the quick 180 degree turn was all that was needed and it’s perfect for it.