Resident Evil 4 Review
Played On: PS3
Survival Horror isn’t just any video game genre for me; it’s my absolute favorite. It plays with gameplay in a fascinating way and uses its environment to create memorable and frightening moments. So is it much of a surprise for me to have Resident Evil 4 (RE4), a game that is seen as one of the best modern horror games of all-time, to be on my list? Probably Not. It perfectly brought survival horror into a new era by having one of the most beloved protagonists in series mix his action skills and quips with the gross and grotesque enemies the game had to offer.
Taking place six years after Raccoon City was destroyed from a viral outbreak, Leon Kennedy now goes from being an unlucky rookie cop to a top level government agent. His first task is to rescue the president’s daughter, Ashley, from a strange European cult that has taken her to Spain. Upon arriving, though, he realizes that the villagers aren’t exactly normal and the mysterious cult leader, Lord Saddler, has plans for another global viral outbreak. Now it’s up to Leon and his incredible set of skills and charm to stop Saddler and his associates and rescue Ashley.
Bringing the classy and lovable Leon S. Kennedy back after his stint as a rookie police officer, was the perfect move. His charismatic and action-hero persona makes him instantly enjoyable to watch. He’s also a total badass and his agile moves make for a totally mind-blowing experience.
Capcom clearly knew this too and implemented plenty of fun action-styled moments that make for some tense moments. Running from a giant statue across a crumbling bridge, blasting through swarms of enemies while on a runaway mine cart, and even dodging through laser beams are just some of the incredible action sequences that RE4 has to offer. It has moments that rival the Uncharted series (even before Uncharted existed) and feels like the Mission Impossible and Indiana Jones came together.
Now, that isn’t to say that there isn’t much horror that the series is known for and it feels like it is the game’s backbone. Instead of going for a creepy soundtrack and claustrophobic interior, RE4 goes for more of an exterior fear by creating an overwhelming fear through floods of various enemies. The game also delves into the most unique and creepy “body-horror” elements that would make Hellraiser and Hostel fans feel a little grossed out. It never goes over-board with it but shooting off head only to have disgusting parasite with dangling eyes and parasite spiders jumping off dead bodies, Resident Evil 4 is not for the faint of heart.
The gameplay also embraces its horror roots by not allowing players to shoot and move at the same time and moving to an “over-the-shoulder” or third-person perspective. For some, the inability to move and shoot is more of an annoying gameplay choice. For me, though, it was the best way to make players feel more claustrophobic and strategize as to how they want to tackle formidable odds.
Also what would be a survival horror game without the need to survive? This entry gives players a great variety of weapons that gives them an arsenal of tools to blow off head and knock mutated bugs right out of the air. There really isn’t anything more satisfying than seeing enemies heads explode from a shotgun blast or defeating a gargantuan sized enemy.
Upgrading is also a huge deal and going to see “The Merchant” character feels like a delight every time he speaks. He’s such an oddly enjoyable character and I still can’t believe how much I love seeing him even though he is just a minor character.
But that’s where RE4 outshines the rest of the games in the series for me. Sure, Leon is a complete badass and the heart of RE4. But life breathes throughout both the other protagonists and antagonists with their charming and fun personalities. Ada is always a joy to see with Leon and with the game also including a short-standalone campaign just for her shows how important she is for the franchise. Luis and Ashley also share some great banter that fuels Leon to jump back in with some quips of his own.
Saddler and his two main allies, Salazar and Jack Krauser, also add many awesome to game with intense and grueling boss battles and fun dialogue when talking with Leon. Krauser especially adds to the game as his final boss battle is probably one of the most grueling and rewarding across the genre. Their story and master plan also doesn’t dip too heavily into the over-arching story of Resident Evil. Even with it being a number iteration in the series, it feel more like a small, satisfying side-story that the series needed.
Even after the main game, there is still plenty of content to explore. As mentioned before, Ada gets her own story mode to explore the behind-the-scenes plot points and both Ada’s and Leon’s story modes get a “new game plus” mode to allow players to experience the story again with all of the weapons and upgrade received in their previous playthrough.
There’s even a horde mode that lets players survive against an endless set of enemies while playing as both Leon and Ada, but with the ability to also play as Krauser, fan-favorite Hunk, and the series’ antagonist Albert Wesker. There’s plenty of special and unique weapons and costumes that can be earned including a costume for Leon in his Resident Evil 2 police uniform and an arm laser (yes, a laser) to mow down enemies.
Honestly, playing the game this time around, I’ve more fun than ever and felt I got a very different experience this time around. I realized how different RE4 is from the rest of the series. Leon breaks the fourth wall (right at the beginning of the game), I laughed a little more, and I realized how rewarding it felt to beat the challenges of the game.
RE4 really is the best of series and offers an incredibly unique experience that can’t be found much in survival horror or in games at all. Leon and Krauser will always be among my favorite characters in gaming and even after playing dozens of times to end and still find new appreciations. It truly stands above the rest thanks to its lovable characters, great moments of horror, and stylish action sequences that rival even the best action games and movies.