The Resident Evil Kick continues. This time, we are going to be looking into my favorite game in the series: Resident Evil 4. I was initially going back and forth on whether I was going to write anything on It because honestly: what more can even be said at this point? If you’ve played any video game in the last 15 or so years, chances are it has a bit of RE4 in there. Be it through the use of the over-the-shoulder camera and corresponding aiming or quick-time events (Remember when those were all over the place? Weird time.), it’s proven to be quite possibly one of the most influential games of the 21st century. It was a radical departure from the established Resident Evil gameplay formula, opting for more of an action-oriented approach as opposed to a horror-focused one. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s also a dang fine video game in its own right.
Taking place 6 years after the Raccoon City incident and Umbrella’s closure after being outed as the evil bioweapons manufacturer they are in a rare showing of corporations suffering actual consequences; you once again take control of Leon S. Kennedy, recipient of the “Worst First Day On The Job” award turned Secret Service agent tasked with finding and rescuing Ashley Graham, the president’s daughter in rural Spain. Things immediately take a turn for the worse when he’s beset by the local population who are under the control of Los Illuminados, an evil cult who’s up to some messed up stuff. From here, it’s a protracted mission taking place over a day to find Ashley, take down the cult, and get the hell out of dodge.
The tone for the proceedings has changed the most because while there’s still the gameplay tension that is felt with managing your ammo and weapons, Resident Evil 4 carries itself with more of the confidence of a cheesy action movie with hints of B-Movie horror sprinkled in. A huge chunk of this is because Resident Evil 4 feels like it’s a game that isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself now and then, usually in the form of Leon cracking a one-liner, my favorite being “hey, Where’s Everyone Going? Bingo?” after having fended off a group of hostile villagers. It gives the energy of a person who’s been through this kind of nonsense before and is (in their mind at least) rightly taking the piss out of it. That’s not to say that Leon completely steals the show (even though he kind of does a lot of the time), several of the characters you meet along the way are entertaining in their own right, most of all being the Merchant, whose gruff voice and over the top British accent stand out to make him the quite possibly one of the best shopkeeps in video games. The fact that he sells you a bunch of cool stuff helps.
Part of what makes Resident Evil 4’s gameplay work as well as it does is the use of the iterative design on its core gameplay loop. The Main loop is basically “run, stop, shoot” and for the course of the entire game, it’s all about finding a way to vary that simple, three-part loop. The aforementioned villagers and cult are the main way of doing this. Due to being under the effects of parasitic infection as opposed to a zombifying virus, the Ganados and Los Illuminados all still have their mental faculties intact. This causes them to change their tactics considerably throughout the game; from swarming you with sheer numbers and using farm equipment with orders being barked in coarse Spanish, to the robed cultists using wooden shields to block gunfire and medieval weapons to take a chunk out of you. Another major change occurs when you finally find Ashley at the end of the first chapter. From there, the game also gives you the objective of protecting Ashley and it’s a mission failure if you die or she gets dragged out of the area. It’s not too much of an issue since Ashley’s A.I. is good enough that you don’t have to worry about her getting in the way, and some of the bigger encounters also give her places to hide to keep things from getting too hectic, which is appreciated.
That’s not to say that the monsters of the past are completely gone, it’s just that they are used much more sparingly this time around. Usually as some of the game’s rad as heck boss fights, all of which take the gameplay loop to its logical extreme with how you use it to take these giant beasties down.
But a lot of this wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have a slew of weapons to help take these obstacles down. Leon’s arsenal starts with a standard pistol, but eventually gets his hands on several flavors of shotgun that would make Civve11 proud, long-range hunting rifles, a very reliable SMG called the TMP (which I’m assuming is an abbreviation for “Tempest”), a mine thrower to lay traps, and if need be, purchasable RPGs (only to be used if you have excess funds and don’t want to deal with bosses) and quite possibly the most lethal knife in the Resident Evil franchise. All of these are held in quite possibly my favorite inventory system in all of video games: the attache case. Why is it my favorite? Because it’s Tetris and this combined with the distinct lack of storage boxes this time around straight up forces you to use the items you have. I adore it because it prevents you from hoarding stuff you know you won’t use.
And this is all in the main game! I haven’t even gotten into the Mercenaries mode that basically distillate the game down to its purest score attack essence (that would be perfected in Resident Evil 5), Or the bonus campaigns where you play as Ada Wong, Certified Badass, and Leon’s kind of love interest and goes into what she does in between the times you run into her.
Resident Evil 4 is a game I love and I hope I’ve done a good job of illustrating why. Aside from its importance to the medium of video games, it’s also a great game in its own right. One with a singular vision and experience it has in mind and executes it flawlessly. For me, this game is Peak Resident Evil, everything I could ever want out of a game from this series and then some.
But that’s not to say I’m not open to new experiences. Come back next week. Because I’m finishing up the Resident Evil Kick with one last trip to Raccoon City before checking back in with Ethan Winters.