by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PS3
Bringing back the dead
Up until the mid 2000s, Resident Evil was known as a survival-horror franchise, featuring gameplay that had players struggling to survive in an environment where a single zombie could mean Game Over. Slower paced gameplay, paired with fixed cameras, made for some genuinely creepy situations. Then, in January 2005, Resident Evil 4 was released for the Nintendo GameCube and it changed everything. Players assumed the role of Leon Kennedy and were tasked with rescuing the President of the USA’s daughter from a strange and mysterious cult in Europe.
The genre-changing changes brought by Resident Evil 4 were the over-the-shoulder camera that replaced the fixed-point cameras. This also included a zoom-in for precision aiming. This camera system has become the linchpin of all major shooter titles released after RE4. Another big change was the switch from normal zombies to all sorts of crazies, who were faster and more lethal than the traditional enemies in survival horror games. In short, RE4 opted to amp up the thrills and turn down the chills. This was also one of the reasons why it was criticized for abandoning the survival horror genre for more action-oriented gameplay. But, as we all know, today's console games are mostly about action and thus RE4 fit the bill perfectly.
Certainly shaking up such a widely known franchise was a risky move, but the gamble paid off; both fans and press alike received the game very well. Following on the heels of RE4’s release on the GameCube was a PS2 version eight months later, with a PC and Wii version out by mid-2007. Now, six years later, Capcom has decided to bring the title to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
While a straight re-release of the original would probably sell well, Capcom has decided to make some improvements to ensure that their latest version is the definitive one to have. The first and most noticeable change is the game’s bump to HD, which will be handled very similarly to Sony’s God of War Collection re-release. The game won’t actually be re-made, but will instead have its existing graphics touched up and enhanced with all animations and dialogue remaining the same. There hasn’t been any video footage officially released at this point, but there are a number of images floating around that gives us an idea of how much this iteration will graphically build upon the original.
From what I’ve seen so far, the game looks good. Textures are better, edges are sharper, and everything in general just seems more crisp. The game isn’t near the visual level of Resident Evil 5, but it is a clear and noticeable improvement over past versions of the game. In addition to visual upgrades, Resident Evil 4 HD will also include Separate Ways, a series or 5 mini-chapters that expand the story of RE4 through the eyes of character Ada Wong that was previously exclusive to the Wii, PC and PS2 versions.
Do we need this?
As most players of RE4 probably know, there have been unofficial HD graphics updates available for the game for a long while now. Also, as the changes only concern the graphics, there's really no reason to play the game again for those who know the plot by heart by now. But, there's a chance that those who have thus far missed the Resident Evil game that redefined the Resident Evil games may use this HD update as an attractive introduction.
We don’t know exactly when Resident Evil 4 HD will be released beyond a vague Q3 2011 window, and we don’t know how much it will cost, but we do know that the title will opt out of a traditional boxed release in favour of digital distribution through the Xbox Live Marketplace and PSN. This release may not completely satisfy those awaiting a Resident Evil 6, but it is sure to be a great opportunity for those who have to this point missed out on such an excellent game.