Resident Evil 4 Review – Definitive 50 GameCube Game #3

The series so far: The Definitive 50 GameCube Games.

Despite hints regarding its production dating back to 1999, RE4 didn’t actually reach players until 2005. Even though it went through a long and troubled development, RE4 is now better remembered for its revolutionary gameplay and standing as one of the finest video game titles ever produced.

Resident Evil 4 went through a whopping four scrapped iterations before the version everyone knows and loves was eventually started. Incredibly, the first effort resulted in the game now known as Devil May Cry, while three more attempts that came a little closer to Resident Evil‘s traditional style were also dropped.

The story of Resident Evil 4 begins with Raccoon City survivor Leon S. Kennedy dispatched to rural Spain. He’s there to investigate the disappearance of the American president’s daughter, Ashley. Leon discovers that the local residents aren’t just hostile, but maniacal, infected with a parasite that has turned them into unquestioning cattle for a local cult.

As Leon’s investigation unfolds, he slowly discovers the truth behind this cult, the Los Illuminados. They captured Ashley to infect her, and hope to use her to take over the United States and eventually the world.

Resident Evil 4 began the transition for its series from sluggish survival horror to fast-paced action. That’s a change many long-time series fans now protest, but fortunately, the game includes the best of both worlds. At times, taking the slow and cautious path to avoid attackers is preferable, even as creeping tension threatens to get the best of you. Other times, you’ll be forced to face Los Iluminados’ creatures head-on, in bullet-drenched confrontations made possible by improved maneuverability and behind-the-shoulder perspective.

What stands out most to me, is Resident Evil 4‘s unmatched sense of pacing. The game never seems to slow down, with each engrossing set-piece or showdown managing to wholly grip the player, then leave just enough energy to push on a little further, and find out what might be next. Of course, by then, it’s always too late, you’re already hooked, and convinced to keep playing.

RE4‘s legacy also extends well beyond its series. The game’s influence has been felt industry wide, with its over-the-shoulder solution for third person games becoming standard. The title includes numerous tropes of modern gaming: escort missions, quick time events, and a more linear style that focuses on action set-pieces rather than exploration. The thing is, Resident Evil 4 served to popularize much, if not all of this. Even if you’re sick of third person action games by now, after an entire generation of them, you still have to give RE4 credit for setting the standard and doing it so well.

Nintendo fans long complained that RE4‘s GameCube success was hindered by the announcement of a PS2 port shortly before its release, and that version did arguably top the original thanks to some extra content, despite weaker graphics. This ragged end is fitting for the last game to arrive in Capcom’s series of five supposed exclusives: of which one was cancelled and three were ported.