Tuesday, December 11

Resident Evil 4 Review

I played on: Gamecube
I paid: £4.99
Available on: PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Gamecube, Wii, Mobile, PC
Notes: I first played this in 2005 on the PS2 but for this review, I played the Gamecube version.

After Code: Veronica got mediocre review scores and fans seemed to be growing tired of the fixed camera survival horror, Resident Evil needed to evolve or die. Resident Evil 4 is that evolution from the classic era of the series into the modern era.

Although Resident Evil 4 changes the formula from top to bottom, it does so without losing the identity of Resident Evil. This is still campy horror with silly characters and formidable monsters that manage to scare you through all the cheese. The cast of characters is great with a lot of charm and charisma. Leon has lightened up since Raccoon City now cracking terrible jokes that never fail to annoy his enemies. Ada returns and she is more of a badass than ever. You’re never quite sure who she works for or what she’s up to. The most memorable person, however, has to be the merchant that buys and sells items to and from you. This wonderful mysterious man will also upgrade your weapons for a price. I’ve not played Resident Evil 4 since around 2006 until this review and yet I’ve still regularly quoted this stranger. The plot involving Wesker and Chris from Code: Veronica is pushed to the background. Anyone wanting a continuation of their rivalry will have to wait for Resident Evil 5.

After surviving Raccoon City during Resident Evil 2 Leon and Clare parted ways. Clare finds her brother Chris during Code: Veronica while Leon undergoes special training from the government. He’s assigned to protect the President’s family but just before he starts their daughter Ashley is kidnapped. Leon is sent to a village in rural Spain to investigate a possible sighting. This leads to him uncovering a cult known as Los Iluminados that uses a parasite that allows the cult’s leader to gain absolute control over his subjects. For the most part, these are normal people that go about their lives just as most people do. They are not mindless zombies or genetically engineered monsters. They will attack you with weapons such as pitchforks, torches and crossbows. It’s also common for them to use a guard to look out for intruders. If one of these spots you, they will call the others to attack in force. Leon’s mission is simple, find Ashley, eliminate the cult and get both him and her home safe.

These enemies tie in with the new action focus and gameplay of Resident Evil 4. It’s very common to need to collect an item or key and then progress to your objective. This will mean fighting your way through waves of cultists and a few of their experimental creatures. Ammo, although never plentiful is common enough to allow you to fight much more than earlier games. Shooting cultists in the legs or head will stagger them, leaving them open to a special attack. Leon can now use his knife at any time to attack staggered or downed enemies to save on bullets. There is a reason this game is still popular more than a decade after it’s release. It’s just that good. Everything from the layout of the environments to the feel and sound of all the weapons is perfect. I could spend hours writing about how all the parts of this game work so well together or the insane level of polish that went into every little detail. I could, but I don’t want this review to be too long so I will just say that even today while playing the Gamecube version I’m beyond impressed.

Another change that marks that series has evolved into something new is the saving system. You still save on typewriters but gone are the days of needing to use an ink ribbon. This means you can save whenever you find one of these typewriters as much as you want. You’re also able to save at the end of each story chapter. On top of this, the game introduces frequent checkpoints so you’ll never need to replay large sections of the game if you die. This helps keep up the new faster pace of the gameplay and eliminates any problems with negative exit points. 

Despite the focus shifting away from the slower paced survival horror of the early games Resident Evil 4 still manages to be scary. The difference is that the horror is a constant during the early games and here it’s an odd occurrence that breaks up the action. There are maybe 4 or 5 sections that scare me at least a little. The best one would be when you have to fight or survive an attack from a monster that lurks in the shadows. You’re trapped in a small area with the only way out being an elevator that’s on a 4-minute delay. This creature known as the Verdugos has a lot in common with the Xenomorph from the Alien films. It hides in the shadows or on the ceiling using its razor-sharp tail to attack. You have to avoid its attack by hitting quick time events (QTEs) in time. This is the only point in the game that QTEs are used this often and it really does make you feel tense. That feeling when you can hear it close to you and you’re nervously anticipating the next button prompt is amazing. Then after you survive this encounter it’s on to business as normal taking on waves of enemies using Resident Evil 4’s awesome gun-play. The horror behind you for a decent while. This spacing out of scary moments makes each one feel more intense and nerve-racking. While I love the early game’s never-ending dread and overshadowing horror this new style works well for this game. You’re never quite expecting the horror and as such it’s allowed to catch you off guard in a way the earlier games couldn’t. I can’t say I like one style more than the other but I love that both exist and compliment each other so well in the same series.

The only bad part of Resident Evil 4 is a single puzzle. You take control of Ashley in a short section without Leon. I love most of the time playing as Ashley because although she doesn’t have Leon’s firepower she proves she can still fight. You can crawl under desks for a quick escape and throw lanterns at enemies to kill them. The terrible part is when you have to solve a random sliding square puzzle. These are never fun, always annoying and I don’t know why it’s even here. Maybe because if not for this one flaw Resident Evil 4 would quite literally be perfect and the developers knew humanity was not ready for such a gift.

Obversely I’m joking when I say that but honestly not by that much. Despite a few very minor nitpicks this game is nearly flawless. Resident Evil 4 was so popular that the odds are you have already played at least 1 version of this game. If you somehow did miss this wonderful gem of a game I would highly recommend you pick it up. This is one of gamings best achievements and you deserve to play it!

Recommendation Rating: 10 out of 10

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