You’re not here to read yet another review of Resident Evil 4.
By now, you’ve likely already experienced this game via one of a multitude of incarnations on GameCube, PlayStation 2, Wii, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or even iOS. You know how the game's story centers around floppy-haired US agent Leon Kennedy being sent into a mysterious village to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. You know that it reinvented the third-person shooter with its limb-specific targeting, and how it inspired a renaissance of the genre which inspired the likes of Dead Space, Gears of War, and more, standardizing the over-the-shoulder camera system. You know all of this. What you don’t know, however, is just how “ultimate” an edition of the classic game Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition is.
Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition boasts 1080p resolution running at 60fps—this much is true. But does that translate into prettier graphics? Simply put, no. While the textures have been moderately improved and the game's colors are definitely sharper and have that high-def polish, nothing has been done to make the game look any better aside from the most basic of upscaling. Those hoping for a major graphical overhaul such as the GameCube remake of the original Resident Evil will be disappointed, as this only looks a little better than Resident Evil 4’s 2007 PC port, which itself made minor superficial alterations.
In terms of gameplay, everything is as it was when the title first made its way onto store shelves back in 2005. Unlike the aforementioned 2007 PC port, this time Resident Evil 4 features mouse support, which shouldn’t be considered a new feature but rather a necessity that was a glaring omission in Capcom’s first attempt at bringing the game to PC.
The game still suffers from forcing the player to go to a menu every time they wish to change weaponry, an unnecessary mechanic which really should have been removed at this point. You’re also still forced to play Tetris with your inventory, maneuvering your equipment around in order to accommodate new guns, ammo and supplies. Both of those features add nothing to the game no matter what its most ardent supporters say, and Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition could’ve benefited from having them removed, or at the very least Capcom could’ve made them optional in order to appease the purists.
However, despite the Ultimate HD Edition being disappointing in that it doesn’t do anything more than make the game look a little bit glossier, this is still Resident Evil 4 we’re talking about here, and it’s still a bona-fide classic. The gunplay has held up surprisingly well, and while many shooting game fans will criticize how lining up your gun to shoot an enemy requires you to stand motionless, this dramatically increases the tension of each and every encounter you have with enemies, forcing you to make a decision between whether or not you want to stand and fight or run away sucking your thumb.
The variety of enemies and environments is still spectacular, transporting you from a weathered village filled with volatile farmers to an aphotic castle populated by hooded zealots. You’ll still spend the majority of the game escorting the President’s daughter Ashley Graham here, there, and everywhere, but while she can’t really handle herself in a fight, she does a good job of running to safety and mostly keeps her nose out of trouble, ensuring that the game doesn’t turn into one lengthy, excruciating escort mission. Unfortunately, she still invades your personal space as much as ever, standing uncomfortably close to you in cramped spaces and forcing you to maneuver your way around her when you want to pick up herbs, ammunition, and the like.
The Ultimate HD Edition also includes the game’s extra ‘Separate Ways’ bonus episode, in which you take control of Ada Wong in an exploration of her relationship with the villainous Albert Wesker. This bonus episode was initially included on the PS2 version of the game (and its non-HD PS2 cut-scenes still remain intact) but later made its way to the PS3, PC, Xbox 360 and Wii ports.
Speaking of which, despite Capcom branding this the “ultimate” edition of RE4 in typically hyperbolic Capcom fashion, the Wii edition still remains the very best port of the game that money can buy. The Wii-mote so perfectly befitted the game’s action that the Ultimate HD Edition can parade around its moderately improved textures all it wants, but it doesn’t add anything to the game aside from superficial upgrades.
If you’re one of the few who have never played Resident Evil 4 before, then the Ultimate HD Edition leaves the core game completely intact with a few minor graphical adjustments, thus making this a must-buy. However, for the majority of us who have played and loved this classic, the Ultimate HD Edition doesn’t offer enough to warrant a purchase, unless you wish to revisit it. A bare-bones port of a nevertheless spectacular game.
Code provide by publisher. Review based on Ultimate HD Edition PC release.