Legacy in Review: Resident Evil 4

I recently played through Resident Evil 4 on my pc. It had been a couple years since I had played it last in the Wii and I was really craving the survival action. Here is my opinion on it; Resident Evil 4 is the perfect survival horror action game.

A little bit of context Resident Evil 4 came out in 2005 twelve years ago. It was a radical shift in the Resident Evil series from fixed camera angles to over the shoulder. It allowed the aiming of guns using a laser sight to see where you were shooting. It is also a masterpiece of a game and created a whole new genre that had several series copy it and it continues to influence horror games to this day.

I’m going to get the easy stuff out of the way first. The game’s story is predictable as hell and neither interesting nor uninteresting. Some old faces make an appearance and it has some great cut scenes. The thing I like about the story is that it does not take itself serious. It is pure camp. Save the president’s daughter from a religious cult in a rural Spanish village that wants to take over the world? The dialogue is… interesting. The story serves it purpose and does not get in the way with excessive cut scenes. What the story does is enable the game play by providing a perfect setting for a resident evil game.

The setting fits with the game play very well. It has the perfect progression for a plot. Start off weak in the early game fighting Spanish villagers in swamps and farms, with the occasional village. Then moving into the second act you go into a complicated castle. Your weapons get stronger and you begin fighting cultists with more complicated weapons in harder scenarios. Finally in act three you go to an industrial island where you fight enemies with stun batons, Gatling guns, and who dress in military fatigues.

Each of the stages present challenges harder than the ones that come before and that fit where they take place perfectly. The village has a chainsaw arena, a canyon with a giant, a lake with a monster, a valley filled with enemies, and a church. Various booby traps in the woods, bear traps, and mines. The castle focuses more on traps like in Resident Evil 1. A ceiling with spikes collapsing on you, living armour, blind monsters in the dungeon, catapults, a garden maze filled with dogs, a sewer filled with invisible bugs, and a giant statue of a Spanish midget that chases you trying to crush you underfoot (yes that is a thing). Then on the island you fight more science based monstrosities, the regenerators and iron maidens. You fight a monster in a playground that section by section collapses and you need to escape, a hallway laser dodging sequence, a fight with two giants in a furnace. The fights and set pieces all ooze with personality where the setting of each act takes full advantage of the possibilities.

Finally the core gameplay is the best of the series. Resident Evil 5 was pretty good with the expanded melee move set but gameplay means nothing without the setting and personality. Resident Evil 4 is just fun to play. Even when you max out your guns, it is just so much fun to shoot, kick, and knife your way through the game again even if it is easier. The guns feel great to shoot with each one being distinct. One of my complaints replaying Resident Evil 5 is that the guns lack personality and fun. In 4 there is a great variety of guns and they are all fun to shoot. You have the TMP which shoots blazing fast mowing down groups of enemies, the sniper rifles that both pack a punch, the magnums that feel great to shoot, and the shotguns where you knock back groups of enemies or pop off heads with a single shot. The guns also have distinct looks to them, the Red 9 being an old style pistol compared to the Blacktail which is more modern. Each gun has an exclusive that furthers the distinction between guns, the Red9 being the most powerful pistol, while the Punisher being able to pierce makes it a great crowd killer. Shooting enemies feels good. You can feel the impact when you hit them, popping heads brings such satisfaction, and kicking a whole group of enemies will bring a simile to anyone’s face. The game does a great job supporting the gameplay as well by presenting all sorts of different scenarios that force you to adapt on the fly and test your skills. A room where you face two blind enemies instead of the normal one you are used to and adding normal enemies to the mix forces you to stay on your toes for example.

I could go into a lot more detail but Resident Evil 4’s reputation hardly needs me to defend it. What I would like to say is that the game holds up. In a genre that has seen quite a bit of expansion with two sequels to 4 having come out, the Evil Within series, and the Dead Space series, the originator not only still holds up but I would say is still king of the genre.

The king still reigns.