The notion that video games just keep on getting bigger and better is a dominant ideology that has taken root in gamers’ collective sub-conscience. While I find it easy enough to agree with the former, I sometimes find it hard to swallow the jagged little pill of the latter. Bigger? Sure. But better? That’s a little more complicated.
With that context in mind, let’s place Capcom’s latest Nintendo Switch port of Resident Evil 4 under the microscope. Simply put, how well does a 14-year-old survival horror title stand up in the modern age of battle royale this and games-as-a-service that? Somewhat unsurprisingly, it’s safe to say that its revolutionary blend of action, horror, and pick-up-and-play gameplay is just as pulse-poundingly nail-biting as ever. I mean, classic game design will always remain timeless, right?
That all being said, the other salient question is: Do you need to pull the trigger and buy Shinji Mikami’s grizzly magnum opus for the umpteenth time? Well, if you’re anything like me, you probably already own it on about three other platforms! (I know, I know, I think I have a problem.) As a result, this makes it a lot trickier for me to give a wholehearted blanket recommendation for this newly fangled Switch iteration.
Dollars to donuts, if you’re on the market to pick this specific version up, you’ll be wondering how it fares on the go. Even though it’s a lot of fun to play in handheld mode, there’s still the big ol’ zombified elephant in the room, which is its shockingly high price-point on Nintendo’s hybrid system. Long story short, Resident Evil 4 on the Switch is a wee bit overpriced. Nevertheless, we’re talking about a bonafide masterpiece here, and thankfully, the core experience has aged pretty damn well.
Set six years after the events of Resident Evil 2, Leon Kennedy — one of the few survivors of the Raccoon City biological disaster — must travel across the globe to a remote village in Spain. The ex-cop turned secret government agent’s mission is a simple one: To save the President of the United State’s daughter, Ashley Graham, who has been kidnapped by a creepy cult, known as the Los Illuminados.
Suffice to say, the shit hits the blood-spattered fan when it turns out that the locals have been exposed to nasty parasites, dubbed the Las Plagas. These buggers turn their victims into mindless killing machines that really love popping out of their prey’s heads, mutating into horrible bug-like monstrosities. Hey, dude, you want an aspirin for that?
What truly revolutionized the Resident Evil formula was this fourth chapter’s switch to an over-the-shoulder perspective. Sounds simple, but back in 2005, this was a revelation. Not only did the seemingly minor adjustment help immerse players in the visceral and terrifying action, but it also mitigated a bugbear that often tripped up many horror games from yesteryear: the controls finally felt super smooth and intuitive.
Yes, this new over-the-shoulder viewpoint was groundbreaking at the time, and it’s easy to see this embryonic DNA proliferate amongst many of the big-budget horror games that followed it, like the underrated Silent Hill: Homecoming and terrific Dead Space, to name but a few. However, the downside was simple — not everyone was pleased with Resident Evil 4’s newfound direction.
Its new focus on action over the slower-paced survival horror of its predecessors led to a subsection of the fanbase feeling unsatisfied and crestfallen. You can’t please everyone, I guess. But for me personally, I always considered 2005’s installment as my favorite of Capcom’s iconic franchise due to its killer pacing, tense action, and memorable set-pieces. Oh, and who could forget the mysterious merchant, who is possibly the coolest trader in any video game, ever? Isn’t that right, stranger?
But let’s change gear and take a look specifically at the technical performance of this new Switch port, then. Visually, it’s fairly comparable to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One HD re-releases from 2016. Compared to the original GameCube version, draw distances have been improved, textures have been spruced up, and the environmental lighting has been enhanced. Furthermore, load times are punchy and the framerate mostly runs at a solid 60 FPS, too. Additionally, it’s worth noting that motion controls are completely absent from this iteration, unlike last year’s Resident Evil Revelations Collection.
From an aural perspective, however, this new Switch version’s audio quality sounds slightly rough and tinny, possibly due to compression. It’s by no means a dealbreaker, but it’s a noticeable issue that I hope Capcom can patch in a future update. As well as the aforementioned audio quality misstep, it’s also worth mentioning that the controls are beginning to show their age. By 2019’s standards, both the camera and the aiming can often feel a little finicky. However, other than those nitpicks, this is a very solid port of an amazing game.
Ultimately, Resident Evil 4 is still just as incredible as it always has been. Its killer pacing, terrifying action, addictive progression, memorable set-pieces, and nightmarish bosses all coalesce into a horror experience that is simply second to none. That all being said, the question still remains: Do you need to buy this yet again on Switch? Our advice? Maybe wait for a sale, before pulling the trigger on one of the finest video games of the last couple of decades. Simple as that, stranger.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Capcom.
Resident Evil 4 is still as timeless as ever, but due to its high price-point on Switch, we suggest waiting for a sale before pulling the trigger on this one.