Shuffling into the #17 Spot…
As we get closer to the #1 spot on our countdown, these games are only getting better and better. Because that’s the way these things work. If it was the other way around, well, that’d just be silly. So it comes as no surprise that here in the top 20, a Resident Evil game lays in wait. It’s even less of a surprise that it’s Resident Evil 4. Some people may disagree about whether it’s the best of the series, but let’s admit it; they’re wrong. Capcom learned well from the previous entries in the series, honed what worked, trimmed whatever didn’t, and wound up crafting a new standard for their genre.
A New Tenant
The previous three Resident Evil games had come out in fairly short order: They all saw release within a three-year period of each other. While there were minor releases between the third installment and Resident Evil 4, there was a total of six years between Resident Evil 3 and 4.
The wait was worth it. The plot starts off simple: rescue the president’s daughter from a cult called ‘Los Illuminados’ (‘The Enlightened Ones’ in Spanish). To me, that’s classic; classic enough to work. The protagonist, Leon S. Kennedy, arrives in a small European village only to find the villagers hostile and that the cult is using mind controlling parasites known as ‘Las Plagas’ (I’ll let you guess what that one means). The game follows Leon as he tries to save Ashley Graham, (that’s the president’s daughter, who comes and goes throughout the game), uncover the truth behind Los Illuminados, and find a way to keep himself and Ashley safe from infection.
The enemies, weaponry, and controls are all expanded greatly from the previous games. The beginning of the game pits you against human enemies, but as the game progresses, the parasite creates more volatile creatures that are the definition of horror. Some are humanoid, such as the spike-ridden Iron Maiden, others animalistic like the Colmillos, (wolves infected with the parasite, with tentacles growing on their backs), and the Novistador (a bug-like creature able to camouflage itself to the point of virtual invisibility). While the game placed a heavy focus on action, the signature-style puzzles of the Resident Evil series still have a place, and pop up frequently throughout the course of the game. This gives a nice contrast between the action and a quieter, slower pace, leaving room for horror in the Gothic setting of the Spanish village.
During its development, Resident Evil 4 went through a lot of renditions that ended up in the scrap heap; at least four different iterations of the game never saw daylight. Eventually, the game shifted towards the action-horror genre, rather than the previous fixed-camera pure horror games its predecessors had been. This caused some strife within the development team, but they eventually rallied behind the title. It was originally developed for the PlayStation 2, but by the end it was eventually released on several platforms, starting with the Nintendo Game Cube, then later in the year, on PlayStation 2. It was ported again onto Nintendo and Sony’s next generation of consoles, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Over the six years that Resident Evil 4 was being worked on, there were many ups and downs, but eventually what came out was a well-polished game that, after being spread over so many platforms, allowed all varieties of gamers to enjoy the final product.
RE4 took some flak for not having the ‘classic zombies’ the previous three games had and a story completely separate from the Umbrella corporation. I even heard people say it wasn’t a “real” Resident Evil game. But in the long run, it was definitely the right direction for the game. It allowed them to explore new ideas and designs for enemies and bosses. I think that’s the biggest reason successful sequels are successful: when storytellers explore new ideas within the universe of the franchise, and don’t just recycle the same ideas or content until it’s exhausted and dead. Nobody wants to watch their favorite game series wither and die. Resident Evil 4 was a shot of new life into the veins of (what felt like at the time) the walking dead. It didn’t just reinvigorate the Resident Evil Franchise; it gave a massive shot in the arm to the third-person shooter itself, and you can still see it’s influence in games like Grand Theft Auto and The Last of Us.
This why it sits so high among a list of amazing games: Though its development had some hard times, that difficulty forged a game that has created what are now standards for its genre, in terms of gameplay and the balance of action and tension. Resident Evil 4 gets 5 out of 5, and rightfully takes its place as one of the greatest games of it’s generation.