If you’ve been following me on Twitter (which you should), you may have noticed that I’ve been playing Resident Evil 5. I’ll have a full article on that tomorrow but for now I’m more concerned with its predecessor, Resident Evil 4. RE4 is without question one of the best games of all time and easily within my top 10, if not top 5. Why was that? Well hold on because I’m about to tell you since RE4 is today’s Game You Should Have Played.
A Classic By Any Other Name
The Resident Evil series is regarded by many to have begun the survival horror genre in video games. The games themselves, while being classics, aren’t exactly what you’d consider fantastic. Characters are stiff, the camera is a pain to deal with, and the dialogue can be laughably awful. Despite all this, the series pushed forward as an overwhelming success for years to come with a few sequels, some prequels, and more remakes than I’d care to remember. Problem was, after a while the formula became somewhat tired and dated. Enter Resident Evil 4 to change all that.
RE4 takes Leon Kennedy, last seen in RE2, and sends him to a rural village in Spain, tasking him with rescuing the President’s daughter, Ashley. It’s simple enough, but within a few minutes Leon has explained the needed backstory of the series and fallen into a heck of a lot of trouble involving the local villagers being possessed by something called Las Plagas. They are not zombies, though you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference from a few feet away.
You don’t Need Much Backstory For a Game Like This
The story itself is nice since it takes the series and decides it doesn’t have to be in a mansion or Raccoon City at all. In fact, it doesn’t have to be anywhere near any of those things, nor anything relating to the Raccoon City Incident or the T-Virus. Wonderful. I went in to RE4 having no clue to the series’ story and that has made all the difference.
Also gone are the series’ rigid controls and camera. No more pre-rendered background to deal with, breaking way to allow Leon full roam of his space. The camera stays over his shoulder, a style used all over after RE4, and allows you to aim with a surprising amount of accuracy. This is where the series becomes less about survival horror and more about action horror, but I’m all in favor of such a shift. Let Silent Hill deal with the actual scary things; I’m fine with a gun that can do some damage if I need.
One of the other big contributors to the shift is the inclusion of Quicktime Events within actual Cut Scenes. You’ve heard me complain about Quicktime Events in numerous articles at this point, but RE4 was still early on in the use of such a game mechanic, especially in a Cut Scene. They were smooth and original for the time, and the knife fight scene is still one of the game’s highlights, but they never overstayed their welcome. They just ensured you were paying attention even when characters were talking.
No other game has completely reenergized a series the same way RE4 has. It was such a hit with critics and gamers, Capcom decided to break their promise with Nintendo to keep it a GameCube exclusive and ported it right over to the PS2. Naturally, as soon as the Wii showed up, RE4 found its way over to the new platform with updated controls and extras. There are even versions for the iPhone and the PC. Essentially, I’m telling you that you have no good excuse for not having played Resident Evil 4 unless you’re a kid since, yes, it is very gory. I had a heck of a time finding screenshots that didn’t contain extremely graphic violence, so thank me for that.
Everything about RE4 is near perfect with everything it does. Sure, having to take care of Ashley is rather frustrating, especially when you get through a tough section only to accidentally knife her and get a Game Over. But otherwise the characters are enjoyable, the setting is eerie enough without getting too bogged down in itself, and you never feel cheated by the game at any point. Bosses are still fun and the difficulty is high but fair, plus there is heavy replay value due to unlockable weapons and such. Also, the Mercenaries mode just ate hours of my time.
I just can’t recommend RE4 enough. RE5 on the other hand…well that’s an article left for tomorrow.