DJ Arruda ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Almost a decade after its release, Resident Evil 4 remains one of the most popular games of its generation. Putting players in control of Resident Evil 2 protagonist Leon S. Kennedy as he tracks down the president’s daughter, the game was truly groundbreaking when it was first released in January 2005.
With an HD re-release on Steam earlier this year, the game shows no signs of going away. And why should it? When it first came out, its over-the-shoulder camera was revolutionary, not only for the Resident Evil series, but for the industry as a whole. For that simple gameplay fact alone, Resident Evil 4 has withstood the past nine years of the industry as a superior game. Indeed, by trading in zombies and Raccoon City for Plagas-infested villagers and castles, Capcom redefined their brand and the genre. Who can forget their first time being trapped in the house and Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw cutting through the cold, pastoral air? Or their first foray through the castle sewers, being stalked by invisible insects? These moments stick with the player years after they are first experienced and are a testament to the success of the game.
The atmosphere of the game was haunting and palpable, from the first villager swinging an axe as Leon asks a simple question to the terrifying science experiments on the island. No longer relying on shambling zombies and urban war zones, Capcom took players to a remote village in Spain and presented enemies who looked human, but were possessed by evil. In implementing the third-person camera, combat became more strategic and engaging – players had to stand still to shoot, but could target different body parts for different desired effects. The story was offbeat and entertaining in the way the series is, although Resident Evil 4 is more solid than most in the series, drawing in some familiar faces but still standing on its own.
The progression of Leon in both the weapons he could wield and the enemies he faced was well done, as was the inventory and upgrade system, as players were taken from the village to the castle to the island. From this game on, the series was shaped around the new camera angle and the more action-heavy segments, which made the games less scary but more widely-received. In this game, however, the balance was perfect, as it was new, fresh, and fun. With the addition of “Assignment Ada” and “Separate Ways,” parallel campaigns following Ada Wong, as well as the devilishly enjoyable “Mercenaries” mode, the game offers much and more to return to time after time.
Resident Evil was popular when it began, but this installment took the series to new heights. Players who had never played the games before could jump in, and whether or not people realize it, the modern third-person shooter originated in this game. No other game in the series has been so defining and revolutionary, and hopefully the seventh game will return to this high water mark, with remakes of the remastered Resident Evil and Revelations 2 also coming early next year. The fact that the game is still played and discussed to this day cements it as one of the best games in the past decade, and the perfect one to return to around Halloween, as its ability to be replayed means it never gets old.