Review: Resident Evil 4: Ultimate HD Edition

It has been nearly ten years since the fourth iteration into the popular survival horror franchise has hit the market, but that isn’t stopping Capcom from re-releasing the game on every platform possible. While the title has been on PC in the past, it was a poorly optimized port that didn’t utilize the platform’s true potential. The Japanese developer has gone back to the source material with the Ultimate HD Edition, adding a bevy of new additions and modern standards that should hopefully have diehard fans trekking Leon’s journey once more.

The plot, like any game in the series, is pretty ridiculous. Leon S. Kennedy, a survivor of Raccoon City and one of the protagonists of Resident Evil 2, is tasked with rescuing the President’s kidnapped daughter in some rural Spanish village. Crazed villagers infected with a new virus called Las Plagas, giving them supernatural abilities, including replacing their heads with some sort of parasite being, fill the void zombies left behind, making combat far more interesting. It’s no longer the slow paced and mindless creatures we’ve become accustomed to; these are smarter and more agile enemies that will quickly take Leon down.

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While the story is just out of this world in many different ways, Resident Evil 4 has had an incredible influence on the industry, inspiring how most third person shooters are played today. Without Shinji Mikami and Capcom’s influence, we would have never seen games such as Gears of War, or at least not to the degree it found success. While the mechanics of this nine year old title feel obviously a little dated at times, namely for its unfortunate quicktime events and stiff controls, it still holds up well in 2014. So if you’ve played Resident Evil 4 in the past, just know that not a lot has changed with the Ultimate HD Edition. This surprisingly lengthy experience, spanning upwards of 20 hours for just one playthrough, has a phenomenal pace that keeps things interesting and some of the most satisfying gameplay elements available. While you won’t be able to walk while aiming, it’s the heart-pounding situations and grotesque monsters Leon will find himself encountering that will keep gamers on the edge of their seats.

The biggest differences between the original version of Resident Evil 4, or even the HD re-releases on PS3 and Xbox 360, is that the PC edition includes a much smoother frame rate and true native high resolution support. This is a big deal for the game as it was never built with these in mind, but Capcom has done a solid job in bringing the series into the HD era properly. Having played this on a 2560×1440 monitor at max settings, which includes up to 8x anti-aliasing and some rather interesting post processing effects, it runs at a silky smooth sixty frames per second and includes more defined texture work. With that said, this is a nine year old game, so even though the visuals are crisper and there are enhanced textures, it still looks a bit flat. Regardless, if you’re looking to play the sharpest version of this classic, then this is the version to get.

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Unfortunately, while the visuals were able to make the transition just fine, the audio is a different story. The sound effects are by far the most disappointing part of this port as, while the majority of them sound fine, there are a frequent number of them that sound like they were recorded at an incredibly low bitrate. It pulls you out the experience greatly and really reminds you that this was developed for a system released in 2001. Thankfully, the rest of the audio department sounds just fine, and the voice work is as good as ever.

While the keyboard and mouse controls are fine, they definitely don’t feel as well tuned as the controller is for this game. This is mainly in regards to the somewhat tank movements the series is known for, while the aiming in particular actually benefits from the precise mouse controls. The keyboard key bindings can take a little while to get used to, especially during heated combat when quick button commands are required, but they are sufficient enough to get through the campaign. There’s also the gamepad alternative as the Ultimate HD Edition is best played, or at least optimized for an Xbox 360 controller. Unfortunately, if you don’t have an Xbox 360 controller handy, it’s a crapshoot whether other third party accessories will work. I tested out the PS3, PS4 and a Logitech gamepad, and each had their share of problems, either not being recognized or not working as intended.

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Closing Comments:

If you somehow have avoided Resident Evil 4 for this long, you may as well just get it over with and play the Ultimate HD Edition. The updated PC version is by far the one to get as the buttery smooth frame rate, true high definition resolutions and refined textures only add to the immersive experience. If you have played the game before, though, then there isn’t much here to justify another purchase unless you’re a diehard fan. While the mechanics are starting to feel a little dated at this point and the sound effects lack the quality the rest of the game shows, Resident Evil 4 is still one of the greats that needs to be experienced, and the Ultimate HD Edition is the perfect excuse to do so.
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Version Reviewed: PC