Post Game Wrap Up! Resident Evil 4!
I had to take a break from Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s coming soon, I promise, but I realized with the free time I have to game these days, it would be another month at least before I got that out. I figured I need something else to play in-between sessions. So I decided to look for something on sale, something I didn’t own, and something I consider to be “retro” or at least old. So, thankfully, I discovered that over on the Xbox 360, some Resident Evil games were on sale. With the Resident Evil remake (or REmake, as I like to call it. ) due out on other consoles in the near future, I thought this was a great time to look back at Resident Evil 4, The game that changed it all.
Resident Evil is probably not a series that requires any real introduction, it’s been a Capcom staple since 1996. But by the series 4th release in the main series, Code Veronica on the Dreamcast, some people began to feel that the game play was getting stale. The fixed camera was a relic of older technology, and the tank controls were the best way to move with a fixed camera. As systems got more sophisticated, gamers wanted something more. In 2002, Capcom signed a deal with Nintendo of all people to bring may titles exclusively to the GameCube, with titles such as Killer 7, Okami, Viewtiful Joe and Resident Evil. In 2005, Capcom released this gem of a game that is considered to be one of the must-own GameCube titles. Now, times have changed, and looking back, does Resident Evil 4 still rise up as a must own, or like the series itself, has it soured on the its own idea?
First, right of the bat, I got to say I loved Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube. In fact, it was the last game I bought for the GameCube. The GameCube had some good titles, but not many, certainly not compared to the PS2. But I enjoyed it then, and put much time into it. Really, I picked this one because I was curious if it would have held up after all these years, especially given how the reception to the series has changed over the years.
Resident Evil 4 puts you in the role of Leon S. Kennedy, one of the few survivors from the Racoon City incident. It’s been a few years since then, and Umbrella is fully dissolved. Leon has been recruited by the US government, and when the President’s daughter, Ashley, is kidnapped while in Spain, it’s up to Leon to track down the kidnappers and save the president’s daughter. Of course, a creepy cult is involved, science fiction, and monsters. The plot is standard fare, but compared to the twists and turns games like 5 and 6 would have, it’s actually kind of refreshing to be this simple. There are subplots involving other series regulars, such as big bad Wesker, but I don’t bring them up here because.. they don’t really add much to the main story. They more serve as questions to be answered in later games and are there mainly to be vague and mysterious, but the series vets who are involved here at least feel they are supposed to. It also helps that the characters, while stock, at least feel like characters, especially the villains. A big problem 5 and 6 had were the villains in those games felt a lot like placeholder characters, but were never replaced. Here, at least the main villain, Lord Saddler has a motivation, even if we learn little about him. Motivation may not sound like much, but it’s better than Simmons from RE6, who doesn’t really didn’t seem to have much in the way of motivation.
But, people don’t talk about RE4’s masterful and impactful story. No, they talk about two things. The first thing is that the game play is completely different from any RE game that came before it. Resident Evil got a big facelift here, and at the time it was jaw dropping. Capcom had made the switch from a more methodical pacing to a more action paced one. Sure, it’s light on puzzles and traps, but RE4 makes up for greatly by being one of the best in terms of game play, being very simple and direct. See, RE4 made the series jump into the 3rd person action game. It’s a style that has remained mostly unchanged from 4 to 5 to 6. The only real differences are in 6 you can aim and move, and in 5 and 6 you must handle your inventory in real time, due to them having co-op online . RE4’s game play is all about tense action moments, and while it’s a little sad to see the series change, it was refreshing in 2005, and I’ll be damned if Capcom didn’t pull it off flawlessly. Sure, you still can’t move and shoot ( a grip the fans never grew out of) but the combat is perfect for what it’s trying to be, an 3rd person action shooter, minus cover. Aiming is simple and easy to do, the weapons feel different, and Leon actually actually moves quite well, even when heavily damaged. You can also see your health bar, so there is no guessing with phases and vague terms. But the game also knows exactly how to pace itself, and the game has many crowning moments in game play. One of the best and most effective is in the first village section, just before the end of the prologue. It’s a great section that truly leaves you tense and scared, just like the series should do, sure your mobile, but you lack the firepower and survivability to truly deal with a horde. The game has other great and memorable sections though, so even though the game shows it’s best hand early, it many more equally tense moments later. The game play improvement also makes the returning Mercenaries mode a BLAST to play, and is a great addition that continues to this day.
(I cannot tell you how often this happened to me.)
The other interesting idea that was also new to the series was the fact that enemy’s are not zombies. Sure, for all intents and purposes they are just zombies, but they are not actually zombies. Sure, the series does still have spooky monsters, but the cannon fodder human-like creatures you face are not zombies. I’ll give the series credit, for the main plot of RE4, there is no connection to Umbrella or the T-Virus. It helps the series feel like its really evolving, putting us back in unknown territory. The enemy AI for the humans is also well put together, for the time. They can dodge and weave to throw your aim off, they can throw weapons at you, including grenades( which you can shoot out of the sky/ their hands, which is awesome!) The AI is a bit limited, but it still helps add to the feeling that these guys are smarter than a zombie would be. However, the series best and creepiest creature comes from RE4. It doesn’t show up until late in the game… but when it does… it’s just as creepy now as it was then.
(still creepy after all this time)
However, the game isn’t without faults. I sort of mentioned earlier that unlike RE5 or 6, the game is not co-op. That means you’re not responsible for babysitting a brain-dead useless AI partner….. for at least a couple hours. Because sadly, after that point, your saddled with babysitting. Specifically, you actually save Ashley rather early in the game. But then it turns into a escort mission with a defense less partner. If she is killed or even carried to a different area, you die. Worse yet, you can hit her while she is being carried! Even worse than that, in order to increase her health, you have to give up increasing your own, and in order to heal her, it takes up healing items. It’s annoying, at least until a play through or two later, when you unlock Ashley’s armor costume, which makes her too heavy to carry and bullet proof. I’ll say this in regards to Ashley, at least they give you a mechanic to forget about taking care of her in a later play through. And she’s not around for boss fights, making it that much easier to focus on the boss as opposed to carrying a partner, either AI or Human. She’s also not that annoying, but it does sort of ruin this awesome feeling the game has by forcing you to babysit her through 75% of the game.
Another annoyance sadly is the games reliance on QTE’s. They are far too prevalent in the game. Every other cut scene seems to have one, and of course failure means instant death. The worst part though is even if you fail, you can fail a second time. The game only has 2 or 3 button combinations that work in QTE’s, but the game doesn’t set any in stone, rotating at random between all 3. The only one that is relatively the same every time is a boss fight later on. Yes, a boss fight starts out with QTE’s, and any failure starts the battle over. It’s cool looking sure, but I could do without it. Another issue is that sadly the game is also a little on the short side, and unless your aiming for a high score (as leader boards are now a thing thanks to the HD ports this game has) Your actually not going to have much reason to play through it all again. Sure, your character and all his inventory carry over, but after the second go around, your basically untouchable. That might be a reason itself though, as that’s why I played through this game so many times in my youth. There are also some gaps with how the science works in the game, mostly with how Saddler is actually able to control anyone is a bit of a plot hole, but to me, that’s a minor gripe. The series has more pressing plot holes than that, trust me.
On the whole, I’m really torn here. I should explain quickly that while I found them dull, I don’t hate RE5 or 6. In fact, I think 6 has a lot of good moments… it just has many, many other bad ones. But RE4 was the game to beat as far as this new breed of RE games goes. But in saying that, I do wish things were different. I wish RE4 didn’t become a escort mission. Hell, I kind of wish that we got the version of the game that was known as the hallucination version, which looked awesome. I wish the game was longer, and I wish some side characters got more fleshed out. But, RE4 is still a great time, considering it’s age. And while I would rather just play a RE game alone, if I have to choose between a babysitting gig and a useless AI partner, I’ll take the babysitting any day, at least she knows to stay out of the way and duck. RE4 does still hold up, no question. The HD port (at least on the 360) isn’t the greatest, but for under $20, you can’t go wrong. I actually do recommend this one, if only so Capcom knows this is what we prefer, not the CO-OP stuff they are doing now.
And on disc DLC. We don’t like that either, but they kind of know that by now.