Let’s take a time machine back to January 2005 when I wee little twelve-year-old kid obsessed with anything and everything Nintendo. My brother and I were fans of the Resident Evil series since the original launched in 1996, and one day my older brother decided to pick up the ‘GameCube exclusive’ game that would forever change how I feel about video games, Resident Evil 4.
After a few days went by of my brother experiencing a piece of Resident Evil 4‘s greatness upstairs in his room, he immediately told me I had to play it. It was rare that I saw my brother so passionate about something but Resident Evil 4 resonated with him greatly, so I knew I had to check it out. The Resident Evil series has always been near and dear to our hearts. I’ll never forget when I was really young watching him play through Resident Evil 1-3. After he would leave the house I’d boot up my own save file and repeat everything I just watched him do. Except I would be way more scared playing alone. It was similar with Resident Evil 4, except I never used his playthrough as guidance. Sure, he hinted at some things to help me get through the game, but most of my first playthrough was all brand new to me, making things even more incredible.
Right place. Right time.
It was around the time I was repeatedly playing through my piles of Tony Hawk games. I sort of went down the rabbit hole a bit playing a bunch of games that didn’t offer much depth in terms of realism, world-building, narrative, or immersion. Resident Evil 4 offered all of that in one epic package. Jumping into the shoes of Leon S. Kennedy and fighting off creepy Las Plagas infected traumatized me in the best way. I had never felt such fear and excitement while playing a video game before. The last time I felt so engrossed in a game was seven years prior with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Resident Evil 4‘s cheesy writing/storyline and charming characters aligned perfectly with my twelve-year-old brain. Still today, there aren’t many games, especially Resident Evil games that offer the same quirky writing and witty banter between characters. I literally know dialogue word for word throughout the entire game.
In terms of gameplay systems, the gun progression is still one of my favorite game mechanics of all time. Finding and unlocking new guns and upgrading them to have an “exclusive” power-up was so addicting and made you want to keep playing. This might sound a bit insane but my playthrough counter was actually in the 70s on my GameCube. That’s not including all the times I played through Resident Evil 4 on various other platforms (I may have even bought that crappy iOS game, don’t judge me!). What can I say, I love this game. Although, when you’re a kid with no form of income, you are kind of forced to play the same games for months at a time. (It’s not like today where there are a handful of awesome free-to-play games!)
A lot of Resident Evil fans weren’t too happy about the camera perspective change and inclusion of action elements in Resident Evil 4. As for me, I liked the change. Fixed camera angles were never really ideal. They were originally implemented due to the limited power of the hardware. Having pre-rendered backgrounds made sense in the 90’s. As the series moved forward with fixed-camera angles, the gameplay started to show its age more and more. Sure, they did add some suspense, but Resident Evil 4 and a handful of recent Resident Evil games still have plenty of that. Resident Evil 4‘s ‘tank’ controls assured some adrenaline-filled moments. You never know what is behind you unless you fully turn around, which would often result in a jump scare. And let’s not forget about the creepy whispers of infected monk people, those definitely make anyone feel uneasy.
A stepping stone
Despite the criticisms, Resident Evil 4 was still received very positively by critics, earning a 96/100 on Metacritic. The game also went on to inspire some of the biggest games that have ever released. One of the designers at Naughty Dog, Ricky Cambier, stated that Resident Evil 4 helped them shape the tone and story of The Last of Us, along with the character development.
“We always wanted to take the character building and interaction, look at something as far back as Ico, and blend it with the tension and action of Resident Evil 4. Our game doesn’t feel like either of those, but those have bits and pieces of what we wanted to do.” -Ricky Cambier
The third-person shooter genre didn’t really find its footing until Resident Evil 4. The over-the-should angle is now the standard for most third-person shooters. You’ll find it in Uncharted, Grand Theft Auto V, Mass Effect, and many, many more. Not to mention that later in the game there are even cover-based shooting segments that could have easily inspired tons of games after it.
Resident Evil 4 hit every note it attempted to. The gameplay is intense, the bosses are epic, the characters and writing are charming, and the progression system is so damn addicting. The game never lets up and it is full of surprises. And don’t even get me started on the Ada’s Separate Ways story introduced on PS2, and action-packed Mercenaries mode — both of which are basically full games on their own.
I’m eager to see more of the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake because it’s looking like it is (in some ways) a true sequel to Resident Evil 4’s style of play. I’m excited to see a new take on rookie Leon as well. I only wish the game was making its way to Nintendo Switch (maybe one day).
There are four games that have truly affected my life. Resident Evil 4 is the second of the batch. I have a video speaking about the first game of the list, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, that you can check that out here. I look forward to sharing the other two in future posts!
Related article: Resident Evil Revelations Collection Review for Nintendo Switch
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Brett Medlock is a senior editor and a lead on video production here at Enthusiast Gaming. He’s obsessed with action-adventure games, platinum trophies, and K-pop. To hear more about how lame he is, follow him on Twitter @brettnll