Is it weird I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil games yet I haven’t really played many of them? I began to love the series because, when I was a whole lot younger, I would watch my brother go through them on his original PlayStation. I was just a kid so, while I knew it was supposed to be a scary game, they never really struck me as particularly frightening. That all changed when I tried playing Resident Evil 7, a game that really scared the beejeezus out of me! It got to the point when I just trudged through it just to finish it! I didn’t find too much enjoyment out of it because of how frightened I was throughout the game.
However, because of that game, I did manage to steel myself and try the other games in the franchise. I played Resident Evil 2 Remake, basically a retelling of the original Capcom classic on modern consoles and I loved my time in Raccoon City. Since then, I also played Resident Evil 3 Remake and even went back to trying out the original games on my brother’s beat up original gray PlayStation. So, by this point, I have played a lot of the Resident Evil games which have garnered a lot of praise from fans and critics alike. There was, however, one game I hadn’t played yet and it’s the one which has the most accolades and touted to be the crowning glory of the Resident Evil suite of games.
I did remedy this issue because I finally did have a go at Resident Evil 4 last weekend.
Unlike a lot of retro games, it was super easy to get my hands on a copy of Resident Evil 4. It does seem like Capcom ported this game over to all available systems. I can’t blame them since fans still gobble them up when it gets re-released over and over again! Why stop the gravy train, right? Well, funny story. I had to resort to playing the game on an old PlayStation 2! My original plan was to go through the game on my Nintendo Switch. I went ahead and purchased a copy from the online store and started to play through the first several chapters of the game.
Too bad something in my Nintendo Switch decided to stop working properly! More specifically, my left Joy-Con stick kept on moving to the right! No matter how much I tried to reset the stick, push it in, clean the surrounding area with a cotton swab or recalibrate the entire Nintendo Switch, it still would continuously tell the console to move right. Well, that was money well spent! I guess I’ll have to figure out if it’s most cost effective to have the Joy-Con repaired or just buy a new one outright. I could’ve bought it on my PlayStation 4 but why waste the money when I could dig out my brother’s old PlayStation 2 and copy of Resident Evil 4? In retrospect, maybe that’s what I should’ve done in the first place. Que sera sera.
In case you’re unaware, Resident Evil 4 takes place a few years after Resident Evil 2. Umbrella has finally been taken down and Leon Kennedy, one of the heroes from the 2nd game, is now a special agent working for the United States government. When the president’s daughter is kidnapped in Europe, Leon is sent to retrieve her all by his lonesome to a supposedly quaint little village. Little does he know that the village holds a lot of secrets and a few crazies as well.
I will say I really enjoyed Resident Evil 4 but I will say the first few minutes playing it was a little more arduous than I expected. It was very easy for me to get accustomed to controlling Leon as they control scheme feels a whole lot like Resident Evil 2 Remake. This did make making Leon do all of his weird action movie moves a whole lot easier since I didn’t have to learn something new. As easy as it was familiarizing myself with the controller, it also felt rather slippery. I should have checked if there was a way to slow down the camera/aiming speed because it did move too fast for my liking. I did get used to it but it definitely took me a while to get the right feel for it.
However, that wasn’t why I felt the earlier moments of Resident Evil 4. Honestly, things were going swimmingly at the start. I loved the combat system where you don’t need to kill enemies by shooting at them only. I do love how Leon learned a whole slew of new skills, like jumping out of second story windows without taking any damage and performing devastating roundhouse kicks powerful enough to explode people’s heads! I did hit a huge roadblock when I reached the village proper and the entire population started gunning for Leon! I have vague memories of laughing at my brother when he reached this point in the game. Now that it was happening to me, I didn’t find it so funny anymore! I became deathly afraid of the chainsaw wielding maniac because, for my first couple of encounters with him, he would one-hit kill me by sawing my head off!
In fact, I really hated those stages where you have to survive in one location while the game send hundreds upon hundreds of enemies at you. The first time I just mentioned. The second time is when you’re barricaded inside a house with Luis Sera. You can fortify the location but these barricades will eventually give way. The reason I hate these moments is because I have no idea how to progress! Am I supposed to kill a specific number of enemies? Should I just hold out for a specific amount of time? Without any indication of what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m always doing second guessing myself if I should off as many enemies to get things over quicker or if I should conserve my ammo intelligently and wait for the timer to end.
I also didn’t care too much for the secondary characters of Resident Evil 4. Luis Sera is supposed to be the suave and cool ladies man but I’m sorry. The plot twist about him being a highly skilled scientist just didn’t work for me. The chief, Menendez, was just a silent brute with very little personality. I did have a lot of fun fighting him as a boss, though. The big baddie, Sadler, was one of those boring, one note villains with a singular purpose and no personality besides wanting to take over the world. Krauser, Leon’s old partner, seems to come from out of nowhere! It’s almost like Capcom forgot the abandoned army base needed a boss so they quickly dove into their vault of unused villains and drew him out of the lot!
The worst side character is, hands down, Ashley, the girl Leon is supposed to save! I get she’s a damsel in distress but she comes off as virtually worthless when you have to protect her! She just crouches down in a fetal position and cowers in fear. Yeah, maybe I would be like that in real life but, by the 17th time I’m snatched up by a baddie and after going it alone for a while during that sequence where you take control of her and face off against baddies all by her lonesome, I’d probably be a little battle hardened and not all that squeamish during combat anymore!
Not all of the characters are duds, though. Ada Wong makes her return here and she is definitely more fabulous here since she can drop the act and be her stylish and villainous self in front of Leon now. She even gets her own side adventure in Resident Evil 4, which is always welcome. I also kind of like Hannigan, Leon’s handler, although I can’t really form a strong opinion on her since she only does appear in a very few scenes via the communicator. Still, seeing their interactions, albeit as brief as they are, I ship Leon with her and not Leon with Claire Redfield.
My favorite side character has to be Ramon Salazar, the little person with a huge Napoleon complex! Capcom didn’t need to make Ramon Salazar a little person. His size doesn’t even factor to the story in any such way. However, making him a diminutive man with a superiority complex definitely made him memorable. I also love how many cheesy conversations he gets with Leon. That bit with Leon being incredibly dense and stating Salazar’s right hand detaches is just gold. Stupid and goofy gold.
Oh, I also do have to comment on how the difficulty escalates very smoothly. I guess it does help for Capcom to throw you in the figurative fire at the start of the game when they throw swarms of baddies at you because you do get accustomed to all the hectic shooting and fighting later on. Giving Leon a lot of new and useful skills like the aforementioned jumping acrobatics can help you escape tight situations. There’s a lot more to it, though. Being able to shoot thrown weapons, especially explosives so they detonate prematurely or shoot them in the arm to cause them to drop the incendiary devices, can clear out a crowd almost immediately! Thanks for doing the job of killing your friends for me!
I also did love most of the boss fights. They’re basically repetitive but they’re still a lot of fun most of the time. My least favorite is the one against the giant fish because, for some reason, I kept on getting knocked off the boat and have to start mashing the buttons to swim back! Fighting Menendez is fun because he has a couple of forms to take down. Fighting the weird creature with the doors can be enjoyable once you know which doors to activate. The battle with Krauser, with all the quicktime events kept me on my toes. The final battle with Saddler was the typical “do enough damage and wait for the rocket launcher” we’ve all become familiar with. It can be maddening but it’s still nostalgic all the same.
My favorite boss battle is when you face El Gigante for the first time but only because of the Easter Egg. It does feel like your ordinary boss fight as you’re simply targeting the very ominous weak point as much as you can to take him down. However, if you save a dog early in the game, the animal will sort of help you in the fight. I do kind of wish he became a loyal friend who accompanies you throughout the adventure. He’d me much more helpful than Ashley, that’s for sure!
As much fun as I had with Resident Evil 4, my only real major complaint I have is with the story and how cornball it is. Perhaps this was Capcom’s intention to borrow a lot of cheesy elements from B-grade movie plots. Granted, the other Resident Evil also used these elements, intentionally or not. It’s more on how these elements are threaded together I have an issue with. Okay, there’s a creepy village with brainwashed villagers. Fine. You get trapped in a big, spooky castle with boobytraps and monsters. I can get that. Once Leon reached the abandoned military base and research station, the game lost me. It just didn’t fit in with the rest of the motif.
That’s just a nitpick compared to how many things Resident Evil 4 gets right, though. Even with someone who doesn’t wear nostalgia glasses for this game, I can see why a lot of fans were drawn to it. It’s really well made and still holds up even today. I can finally see why some fans would want a remaster. At the same time, though, I do have to question why they would want that. Resident Evil 4 is still worth playing now. Why try to fix something that isn’t broken?
What’s your favorite memory of Resident Evil 4? Let me know in the comments section below!