I’ll buy it at a high price, stranger!
Resident Evil 4 is one of the most acclaimed video games of all time - and for good reason. It sits somewhere between the pure survival horror of its predecessors and the over-the-top action of the later Resident Evil games, and it manages to find the perfect balance of the two styles. RE4 was a seminal entry into the classic horror franchise that changed the face of the series forever - for better or worse - and it’s astounding just how well it holds up over a decade later.
The remastered port of RE4 is perfectly fine, but it’s also nothing special. The Switch version runs in 1080p at 60fps, and although I did see a few dropped frames in the bigger environments the framerate stayed smooth and solid for the majority of the campaign. Despite the high framerate, some animations such as particle effects and reloading play at their original speed of 30fps. The audio quality can also be inconsistent with some enemy callouts being a noticeably lower bitrate than the rest of the voice acting. Bizarrely there also don’t appear to be any english subtitles; there is an option for subtitles in the game’s video settings, but no matter what I did this option stayed grayed out for my entire playthrough. None of these problems were bad enough to actually affect my enjoyment of the game, but it still would’ve been nice to see some of these issues ironed out after they were all present in the Xbox One and PS4 ports from 2016.
For the few people on Earth who - like me - have never played Resident Evil 4, it stars Leon Kennedy, an American agent who’s been sent to track down the president’s missing daughter Ashley Graham. Upon arriving in the rural town Ashley was last seen in, Leon finds the town has been plagued by an infection known as Las Plagas, a parasite that puts its victims under control of the local cult Los Illuminados. The victims of Las Plagas behave similarly to zombies, and over the course of Leon’s mission you’ll encounter more powerful monsters made from mutated members of Los Illuminados.
Leon isn’t very nimble in a fight, so you’ll need to be careful and deliberate with your actions. Because you can easily be overwhelmed by a group of enemies early in the game when you’ve only got a pistol, sometimes you’ll find that it’s a better option simply to avoid fighting altogether. This is reinforced by the scarce pickups and limited inventory you’ll have throughout the game - you can’t just buy ammo or healing items, so you’ll have to make a choice whether you should engage an opponent or simply play it safe and keep your distance. It’s worth noting that the Switch version of Resident Evil 4 does not have motion controls like the Wii version from 2007. As someone who’s never played RE4 I didn’t notice their absence, and I think the dual-analog aiming holds up pretty well. Nevertheless, you will be disappointed if you preferred the Wii Remote’s pointer controls.
As you get further in the story you’ll be able to purchase more versatile weapons from the shop such as a long-range rifle or a quick-firing submachine gun. These increase Leon’s power, but at a cost; every weapon needs to take up space in your inventory, reducing the amount of items you’re able to carry at any given time. By deciding whether you want your inventory to be full of powerful guns or disposable resources, you get to make the choice of whether you want Leon to be able to take on enemies with guns blazing or be able to slowly wear them down in a war of attrition. The result is a versatile experience that offers two completely different paces to the gameplay.
Despite its acclaim, Resident Evil 4 isn’t a perfect game. There are a number of nitpicks I have such as some areas that rely too much on trial-and-error, or a frustratingly boring boss fight that appears as many as three times. The biggest issue I had was the lack of a mini-map to quickly tell which direction you’re supposed to be going. It would be one thing if Capcom wanted to hide information from the player to make navigation more challenging, but your current location and destination are both clearly marked on a detailed map available at all times. Regularly pausing to open a map screen to get my bearings gets annoying pretty quick, and as the level layouts started to get more complex later in the game I really started to wish navigation was more streamlined.
If that seems like a minor thing to make my biggest complaint, you’d be right; the faults in Resident Evil 4 don’t add up to very much. It’s astonishing just how well RE4 has held up after nearly fifteen years, but it still managed to draw me in and keep me playing no matter what intermittent problems I ran into. There’s a reason this game has been so celebrated over the years, and if you’re like me and have been ignoring it for over a decade, then there’s no better time to see what the big deal is than right now.