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Review: Resident Evil 4 (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed by Prans Dunn, posted Jun 6, 2019, last updated Jun 6, 2019
Jun 6, 2019
  • Release Date (NA): May 21, 2019
  • Release Date (EU): May 21, 2019
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genres: Survival horror
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • Also For: Android, Computer, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
This is it, the Resident Evil game that redefined horror games is out now for the Nintendo Switch! Since its release back in 2005 on the GameCube, Resident Evil 4 has been re-released on every single subsequent console generation. This time it's the Nintendo Switch's turn to be blessed with the title. How well does this 14 year old game hold up on this console?
Prans Dunn

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If you haven’t played the original game or one of its numerous re-releases, here’s a quick recap for you:

Resident Evil 4 puts you in control of Leon S. Kennedy, the police officer who was the main character in Resident Evil 2 (first disc, mind you). In this opus set six years after the happenings in Raccoon City, we come across an older, more seasoned Leon, who is now a US special agent. Oh and he sports a new, cooler haircut! Our protagonist is tasked with finding the President’s missing daughter, Ashley Graham, who was last seen somewhere in Europe, and that’s where he’s been sent to investigate. Leon soon realizes things are a bit odd in this neck of the world, with hostile villagers who not only seem to have been ordered to kill him on sight but are also infected by some… thing. To make sense of the cryptic happenings around him, Leon will have to fight horrors and face both old and new enemies in epic, thrilling, and terrifying scenes throughout the game. Will Leon be able to find Ashley in one piece and get to safety alive? Only you can decide the outcome…

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We reviewed Resident Evil 4 when it was re-released for the PS4 back in 2016. The Switch version bears no difference, and it’s not totally to its advantage. Yes, there are a lot of good things to say about this defining title on the Switch. It’s an incredibly stable port, complete with normal load times, and the revamped HD aesthetic, still packing the thrill found only in the fluid gameplay, great narrative, and exciting action sequences the Resident Evil series is known for. That being said, there is a seldom complained about, yet fundamental, issue in one of its core features, and this is what I will be focusing on.

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I played the game on GameCube and PS2, and for that era, this title was truly revolutionary. It pioneered the over-the-shoulder gameplay in horror games and coupled it perfectly with a semi-open world environment, satisfying both explorers and completionists without alienating newcomers. However, in the 14 years that have passed, a lot has changed. The gameplay of third person horror games has been polished to make the player’s experience smoother. Resident Evil 4’s Switch port stuck to its roots and did not improve on one of the game’s core elements: attacking. This works by having Leon aim his currently equipped weapon by holding ZL and directing the attack with the right stick. The caveat here is that you cannot move whilst aiming, the left stick becoming completely inoperable. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a metaphor with Leon being stuck in place as if struck by fear but I am definitely (still) on edge whenever the hordes of Ganados are coming at me with no way to move around and aim at the same time.

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Raise your hand if you hate chainsaw guy...

With how RE4 seemed to reinvent the third person horror genre when it first launched, it didn't seem to be an issue, but in 2019, with games like The Evil Within 2 and even Resident Evil 7 each enabling seamless control of characters, RE4’s controls only show that it is indeed a 14 year old game. These stale controls are ever-prominent for players of more recent titles, and coming back to RE4 all these years later presents a learning curve that ultimately becomes more annoying than enjoyable, though surmountable for those who stick with it.

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Yes, you move while you attack me Mr Ganado while I stay in place and aim at your head. 

Sure, you can argue that keeping the controls as they are will deliver the authentic experience or that perhaps it's how RE4 is meant to be played, but an improved control scheme doesn’t necessarily mean taking away from this experience. The options menu even offers different control layouts and one adapted to current styles could have been included, leaving the player to decide how best to play. The Wii version of the game is perhaps the best example of this. Considered by many to be the best version available, it deviated from the original design to include motion controls. The Switch also sporting motion control compatibility, it's surprising the option to utilize them isn't present. It's possible such options added to the portable nature of the Switch would make this the definitive version of the game, but it's something we really may never know.

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Nevertheless, if you haven’t played the game as of yet, this umpteenth iteration is the way to enjoy the game on the go. The revamped HD aesthetics do make this classic title look better, even if the graphics can’t be compared to newer titles that even the Switch can handle. Be warned that the controls are still stuck in the past though.

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Pro tip: save the dog!

Resident Evil 4 Launch Trailer (Nintendo Switch)

 

Verdict
Pros
+ Stable port
+ Improved HD graphics version
Cons
- No improvements on controls
- No motion control support
8 Presentation
Once the best looking game of its time, the HD remaster of RE4 does make the game look aesthetically better but not the best that can be seen on the Switch, but the game still packs the total charm of a classic title.
6 Gameplay
With a gameplay stuck in the past that presents with a learning curve that should not really have been there, this RE4 port only goes to show that it is indeed a 14 year old game only being milked out for cash.
8 Lasting Appeal
Make no mistake, RE4 is still a very enjoyable game on the Switch even if it shows its age. If you’ve managed to skip it so far, it’s finally time to grab it.
7.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Resident Evil 4 on the Switch is the same cult game that redefined horror games, almost to a fault. While still enjoyable, it does show its age with no improvements on its stale control scheme.


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