A little under 15 years ago, Capcom treated us to a game that instantly became a classic. Resident Evil 4 was such a leap forward in so many different ways, that it influenced a whole generation of action games. It was ahead of its time. It did away with what we knew as Resident Evil and moved it into a more action-oriented type of game, whilst retaining some of its survival horror roots. In a weird sort of way, it was because of Resident Evil 4 that the series ended up losing its way, as Capcom then went too far with the action part of the game. Nevertheless, this is one of the all-time greats.
For a game that has been ported and released on seemingly every console since its GameCube debut, it is no surprise to see it now making its way onto the Switch. It is a great fit for the Switch too. Being able to play the full experience on a handheld device wherever I want to is amazing. Fourteen-year-old me would be so jealous.
The story kicks off with one of Resident Evil 2’s stars (no pun intended), Leon S Kennedy, entrusted with rescuing the president’s daughter, who has been kidnapped by a mysterious cult, known as the Los Iluminados. He encounters a local villager and asks for help, but he is attacked without warning. As he makes his way into the village, he soon comes to realize that everybody here wants to kill him too, as they are infected with the Las Plagas parasite. Just another day in the Resident Evil universe.
This particular version is based on the HD editions released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at the start of the decade and I have to say, it holds up relatively well. Sure, some of the textures are a bit blurry and rough and they certainly look worse when you get up close and inspect them thoroughly. To tell the truth though, when playing in handheld form, it is not a million miles away from most games on the Switch, which is remarkable. When playing on the TV, however, the graphical impurities do show up much more than they do whilst playing on the handheld screen, especially if you mostly play on the latest PlayStation 4 or Xbox One games.
The controls are now also slightly dated, but that is only to be expected. I do feel like not changing them for these re-releases was the best option though, as it was designed with them in mind. Start changing it up and the experience will not necessarily get better. If you are playing this for the first time or you are coming back to it a good number of years down the line, then it will take some getting used to. For starters, it still technically has the tank controls from the first few Resident Evil games, just now from an over the shoulder viewpoint.
What this means is you cannot strafe from side to side. Pressing left or right simply means you turn your character that particular direction. There is also the issue of not being able to move around whilst aiming your gun; you are routed to the spot. Again, that is something that has rightly been left untouched. Changing that now would not only make the game easier but also ruin the sheer panic of having to line up a headshot as a horde of enemies makes their way towards you. It makes sense to keep it as it is. Having said all of that, one change I would make, would be a way of equipping weapons without having to pause the game first. This could be mapped to the D-pad, which is something that most current games do and I think that it would have been beneficial to the experience.
The best version (in my opinion) of Resident Evil 4, to date, is still the Wii version. The sole reason for this is motion and pointer controls. They felt so intuitive and made an already incredible experience, that much better. It is a rather strange omission then, that the Switch version does not have any sort of motion or gyro controls. Even stranger, when you consider that the Resident Evil Revelations re-release on Switch incorporated them as an optional extra. It is a missed opportunity, in my eyes.
What matters more than anything though is the gameplay, and it is still an amazing game to play. It is crazy to think just what Resident Evil 4 brought to the table back when it was first released, things that we now take for granted. For starters, you can target enemies legs in order to make them drop down to the floor, either relieving you from danger for a brief moment or to give you an easier kill. Enemies will try to duck and dodge out of the way of bullets and they are not stupid either, they will even use different access points to surround you when you are in a building, for example, such as using ladders to climb through windows. It is the kind of stuff we simply had not seen before and there are still many elements in use here that haven’t been bettered since.
On top of the 15 or so hours you’ll spend playing the main game, there’s plenty of extra content to keep you playing, such as Ada Wong’s side-mission. This gives you a bit more backstory and it cleverly crosses paths with events in the main game. The excellent Mercenaries mode is here too, which is one of the most addictive modes in any game ever and it will take many, many hours to get the best rank in each stage. The Switch version also comes equipped with in-game achievements to earn, which are just the other versions actual achievement/trophy lists, but it is a nice extra to have.
The lack of Wii-like motion controls hurts this release, as it means this isn’t the best way to play the game. However, the fact you can play it on the go for the first time is probably the next best thing. If you have somehow managed to miss playing this title in the past 15 years, then go ahead and add another point to the score, as those that have played the many re-releases over the years won’t be quite as impressed as they once were. Having said that, Resident Evil 4 is and forever will be, one of the greatest video games ever made.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom