Resident Evil 4 marked a serious departure from the style used in previous games…this was the future of Resident Evil games & it all started so promisingly.
Note: These screenshots are taken from a varity of versions such as the Gamecube, PS2, PC & Xbox 360 HD update.
Six years after the events of Resident evil 2, Leon S. Kennedy is on a mission to rescue the U.S. President’s daughter, Ashley Graham who has been kidnapped by a cult. Arriving in a village in rural Spain, Leon is attacked by a group of villager who are all part of the cult that kidnapped Ashley, Los Illuminados.
While hunting for Ashley, Leon comes up against the village chief who capture him & infects him with a parasite known as Las Plagus. It is this parasite that is controlling the villagers & it will eventually take over Leon’s mind & body. He manages to escape with the help of Luis Sera a former researcher for the cult who helps Leon along the way. Leon discovers were Ashley is being held & rescues her but it turns out she is also infected with the parasite.
The leader of the cult, Saddler plans to use her to spread the infection throughout America causing a worldwide disaster.
Playing as Leon it’s up to the player to rescue Ashley, find a way to remove the parasite & escape the deadly cult. Along the way a few old friends will turn up to both help & hinder progress.
Resident Evil 4’s first big change was in how you controlled the character; it employed a 3rd person over the shoulder look that zooms in closer when Leon aims his weapon. The game is much more focused on action & set-pieces then the old-school survival horror elements. You find yourself up against numerous enemies at once & have to use your surroundings to gain distance & then get shooting. Combat is made easy thanks to a laser sight that helps with aiming.
Leon is a lot more versatile then characters from previous games. He has to be as enemies come from all directions with weapons that reach further & some that can be thrown. You can’t stay still for too long & running & gunning plays a big part. Shoot someone in their leg & they will stumble & fall, shoot someone in the arm & they will drop their weapon. A little bit of strategy helps & the constant threat is as close to survival horror as you can get in RE 4.
Some of the other changes involve QTE’s (yay…) & the ability to climb ladders, jump out windows & leap fences to escape your attackers. It all adds to the action feel of the game overall & while new abilities might be fun QTE’s are just incredibly lazy & tend to revolve around boss moments.
Those moments are few though & most of your battles are as interactive as you chose to make them. The villagers are all infected with Las Plagus & it controls their minds, they will give their lives to take Leon out. There are some seriously sweaty moments when coming up against hordes of villagers holding pitchforks & torches. Eventually once you’ve rescued Ashley a new gameplay mechanic opens up…protection.
Now normally having to spend large parts of a game making sure someone doesn’t get killed would annoy the hell out of me but it’s done really well in Resident Evil 4. Ashley is not useless & most of the Los Illuminados just want to recapture her not kill her so if they do get hold of her you just need to stop them carrying her away.
Later in the game enemies become more fearsome as you make your way further into the cults’ hideout. Some are really cool additions to the Resident Evil franchise such as the Regenadors (the most legitimate scary enemy in the game) while others serve as a bad reminder of what would be come in future Resident Evil games…enemies with guns. Sigh…
Another change was the inventory system that sees a grid-like system replacing the chests of old with each item taking up a number of spaces. Upgradable in size you rarely will have to worry about running out of room & there is very little challenge in inventory management. Items & treasures you find throughout can be sold to a merchant that appears throughout the game…he is basically a walking shop with no explanation as to why he is helping you. It’s not something I welcomed & removes the game even further away from its survival horror roots.
Perhaps the best thing about Resident Evil 4 is its setting…the village is dirty & feels out of time with its old style look. This area at night is genuinely scary as you don’t really know what lurks just out of sight. Later areas such as the castle & island facility don’t quite manage to have the same impact but are still interesting to explore.
In addition to the main game an unlockable mini-game (beat the main game) called The Mercenaries were the aim is kill as many enemies as possible in a set amount of time to gain points. At the end the player is given a rank depending on how well they did. A number of characters from the main game are playable all with different weapons & items adding different levels of difficulty.
It’s a fun little mode that does no harm by offering something more challenging then the actual main game.
Completing the game will also unlock, Assignment Ada…a short non-canon section that sees the player controlling Ada as she collects several Las Plagus samples for Wesker.
The GameCube version missed out on more content that would appear in later versions with the PS2 getting, Separate Ways a playable Ada Wong side-story detailing her experience within the game. A much more fulfilling experience compared to Assignment Ada.
Unlockable weapons & costumes give you a reason to go back & play Resident Evil more then once. With a completion time of a couple of hours getting through it is far from a long trek.
Resident Evil 4 does lack a really memorable soundtrack in comparison to the games that came before. By no means is it bad but it just doesn’t have the same impact…I miss those zombie groans.
Reflecting on Resident Evil 4 it gets harder & harder to appreciate just what a good game it was. It is now better known as the first game in the franchise that signalled the end of the survival horror RE games. That’s a pity as it is a really good game with some interesting & clever changes to a formula that was getting stale on the PS1.
Resident Evil 4