RESIDENT EVIL 4 is widely regarded as one of the greatest games of all-time and that isn’t without reason. During a point at which the series had become dull and formulaic, Capcom offered up a drastic change that didn’t just reinvent what Resident Evil was, but also moved the entire third-person shooter genre forward. It seems odd to think about a lot of what it does as groundbreaking in a 2019 context, as so much of RE4 is now commonplace, but its over-the-shoulder aiming and quick-time events were revolutionary in 2005. Despite it being 14 years later, the gunplay in the Resident Evil 4 Switch version is still great.
Sure, it’s a bit silly that an action hero like Leon Kennedy can’t aim while moving around and instead stands grounded, but it allows for combat to have a methodical and satisfying feel to it. Watching the infected villagers close in on Leon while he desperately tries to get a shot off is a tense affair as the actual guns all feel fantastic to use. Ragdolling enemies with the almighty shotgun still hasn’t gotten old despite the game’s many ports.
While Resident Evil 4 moved the series to a more action-oriented direction, it’s still a survival game at heart. Enemies are often bullet sponges if not dealt with carefully. Even though these foes aren’t zombies, the importance of headshots and ammo conservation can’t be overstated. If you use your ammo without care and try to blast away every villager you see, you’ll wind up out of bullets and totally screwed sooner or later. It’s this balance between action and survival-horror that makes the entire game so much fun to get through, and it’s what was lost in both Resident Evil 5 and 6.
Resident Evil 4 Switch Review | Brilliant design holds up
Even though many of its innovations aren’t worth celebrating today, there are no shortage of memorable moments throughout RE 4. It kicks off in the beginning as the opening confrontation in the village is just as intense as when it was on the GameCube. It’s where players are first introduced to the frightening chainsaw-wielding foe that has given people nightmares for over a decade and shows that the simplest designs can be the scariest things. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of fantastical battles to be had as the great lake monster boss fight is still a highlight.
While its design screams the mid-2000s more than My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, it’s surprising just how well everything holds up. There are some muddy textures that are ugly when seen up-close and the movement can feel stilted compared to modern standards, but everything is rooted in smart, timeless design choices. It wasn’t a revelatory experience, but diving back into Resident Evil 4 is still a rewarding time investment nearly 15 years later.
Helping matters is that the Switch release is the first time that the classic title can be played on the go. It feels fantastic in handheld mode and there are no performance issues to speak of. It’s clearly built off the high definition re-release that came out on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (although it was later ported to current consoles and PC) and players get the same exact experience here. Load times are kept to a minimum and there are 20 save slots to use to your liking. Overall, this is one of the best versions of an all-time great and only the modding capability of the PC version helps it edge the Switch version out as being the definitive offering.
Resident Evil 4 Switch Review | A few lingering plagas
While the conversion is pretty much perfect, it doesn’t have subtitles. It’s still listed in the options, but it’s instead grayed out and unable to be selected. It’s a baffling decision and one that creates a huge accessibility issue as those that are hard of hearing cannot enjoy the story anymore. Hopefully this gets patched as soon as possible as it’s a black mark on what is otherwise an example of a Switch port done right.
It also would have been nice to see a few tweaks done to make Resident Evil 4 more playable to players who don’t have nostalgia for this classic. For example, the weapon swapping in the game is absolutely horrendous when viewed through a modern-day lens. Having to go into a menu to change your weapon each time is nothing more than an annoyance and the unused D-pad could have easily been a way to quickly change weapons if the change was made.
It also lacks motion controls. While it has been trendy to trash motion controls for the past decade, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition was one of the strongest arguments for them. The over-the-shoulder aiming felt amazing with the Wii remote and there is no reason why this couldn’t have been implemented on the Switch. However, that would’ve been more work than simply porting over the existing HD version. It’s understandable, but it would have been an added reason for people to buy RE4 for potentially the fifth or sixth time, especially since there are no sort of extras or behind-the-scenes features to check out here. This is a very bare-bones release of a game that deserves to be celebrated.
Capcom should probably be doing more to keep Resident Evil 4 feeling like the classic it is, but it still fares well for itself in its current form. Leon Kennedy’s best adventure is still a blast from start to finish and rescuing the President’s daughter has never been easier thanks to the Switch’s portability. No matter if it is your first time dealing with the plagas or you know RE4‘s map like the back of your hand, this is a worthwhile version that should be replayed. Even in 2019, this is still Capcom’s crowning achievement and a master class in game design.
GameRevolution reviewed Resident Evil 4 on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.