It’s hard to believe that Resident Evil 4 was initially released nearly twelve years ago. While most dedicated fans were disappointed where the series has gone since, for better or for worse, there’s no denying that Leon S. Kennedy’s adventures in rural Spain were influential. It was the pinnacle of its genre, inspiring games such as Gears of War and helped bring upon modern over-the-shoulder shooters. It’s not surprising that after the exclusivity deal with Nintendo concluded, Capcom would want to continuously bring this tremendous experience to as many platforms as possible. That’s exactly what the Japanese-based studio has done as there’s very few platforms you can’t find Resident Evil 4 on; heck, there’s even a crummy mobile port if you’re into that. With expectations higher than ever for games, Capcom has put in the work to make the PS4 and Xbox One ports the best versions available, at least excluding the PC Ultimate Edition and its modding community.
The biggest question for any classic game is, just how well does it hold up? Well, after so many years, Resident Evil 4 remains one of the best games in the franchise, or at least better than anything Capcom has released since. While ridiculous as the plot may be, the story progression is rock solid, never letting up on the tactical gunplay, or the strategic puzzle solving. It’s a mix of both worlds despite the “horror” genre now being converted into a thriller. There’s so many memorable scenarios that Leon has to overcome, such as fighting a colossal El Gigante creature with a befriended dog, or taking down a lake monster with a rundown boat and a couple of harpoons. There’s no shortage of exciting events in Resident Evil 4, and each is done better than most modern games. The only complaint of the gameplay, now and then, would be that splicing in the quick-time events during random occurrences and cutscenes is still not fun; you should always be on your guard when playing a Resident Evil game, but sometimes it can lead to a cheap death or two. The aiming also seems to be much swimmier than before, as if Leon no longer has much of a steady hand.
Unfortunately, after eleven years of evolution, Resident Evil 4 does feel a bit dated. Because this isn’t a remake by any means, all the mechanics are retained in the PS4 and Xbox One versions. Mind you, the gunplay still feels incredibly satisfying, and kicking a group of infected villagers in the face will always be amusing, but there are some immediate reminders that this is a game from over a decade ago. For one, movement is stiff, and while the whole “why can’t I move while aiming?” argument is valid, it’s not being able to move while reloading that feels more clunky. At the very least, there are multiple control schemes in this version, mostly revolving around being able to point and shoot with the triggers, along with changing up which stick is used to aim. Other than that, though, this will be a flash of nostalgia for anyone who played Resident Evil 4 back in the day, while at the same time holding up as still a stellar experience for newcomers.
Visually, there’s more done in this version than you’d think. Capcom could have simply slapped together yet another easy port and called it a day, but there are quite a few surprising enhancements. Of course we’re talking more than just the original Gamecube version as, if you’re somebody who hasn’t played it since its initial release, then this will blow you away. Going from 480p to 720p five years ago was impressive, but going to 1080p 60fps is a phenomenal leap that will impress even the most jaded of gamers. As much as 60fps is fantastic, a number of the animations, be it reloading weapons or special effects, weren’t originally designed for the higher frame rate and are visibly choppier from the rest of the game. It’s not a huge issue but it will raise an eyebrow or two when seeing it in action. Surprisingly, the PS4 and Xbox One versions seems to include slightly cleaned up textures on specific models, but this only applies to a few of them as the rest of the game hasn’t really improved that much. Overall, Capcom has done a lot more than expected, creating easily the definitive visual experience that rivals the PC Ultimate Edition.
Even in 2016, Resident Evil 4 remains one of the best action games available. While it has spawned multiple disappointing releases down the line due to its cinematic approach, it still retains a great sense of tension throughout the lengthy and highly engaging campaign. We’ve lost count of the number of ports Resident Evil 4 had received over the years, but somehow Capcom has been able to improve upon it over time, be it visually or through alternate controls. While the mechanics are stiff compared to modern games, it’s a blast from the past that will invoke nostalgia for those who haven’t played it since its initial release in 2005. Visually, textures seem to have slightly more detail that wasn’t there before and the benefit of having 1080p, 60fps is monumental. Despite some minor annoyances, Resident Evil 4 continues to be a standout experience.