Resident Evil 4 was a 2005 survival horror game for the Nintendo GameCube by Capcom. The Resident Evil series had started to grow pretty stale before this game came out. Capcom had tried to spice things up with a high-resolution remake on the GameCube of the first Resident Evil and some new game mechanics in Resident Evil 0. Both of those games reviewed well, but a common complaint of almost every reviewer and player was that Capcom needed to try something new. The gameplay was becoming stale. The direction they went in produced an absolutely superb game in Resident Evil 4.
I was initially not planning to buy Resident Evil 4. It had received good reviews, but I just wasn’t sure if I wanted another Resident Evil game. During the spring, however, I had finished my college semester well. I was feeling pretty good about myself and decided to get a new game. Since Resident Evil 4 was the most recent game with good reviews, I decided to pick it up. I was planning to get the pre-owned version to save money, but they didn’t have any. I didn’t want to leave the store empty handed though, so I ended up buying a new copy.
The story followed Leon Kennedy, a character originally from Resident Evil 2, as he investigated the disappearance of the U.S. President’s daughter, Ashley. I had really fond memories of Resident Evil 2 with Leon, so I was really happy to be able to play as the character again in the sequel. Like most Resident Evil games, what started out as a simple mission became much more than anyone expected. Somehow the authorities had tracked Ashley to a remote village. Leon had to explore this village, figure out what was going on, and rescue Ashley. Along the way he faced several scary monsters, discovered a few friendly faces, and collected many cool weapons.
Resident Evil 4 made some big changes to the formula. The series had focused mostly on slow exploration with short, intense combat sequences interspersed here and there. Resident Evil 4, on the other hand, brought the combat to the forefront. Almost every area was filled with enemies. Unlike the past games, weapons and ammunition were much more plentiful, so Leon had a lot more killing power than he did before. Some fans of the series didn’t like this new direction. Most of the survival in this horror game was gone and replaced with action. It had become just an action game with some minor horror elements. There were still some scary parts though.
The combat system really was good. Leon started out with just his trusty handgun, but eventually found shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and other cool weapons. Killing enemies and exploring rewarded the player with money. There was a mysterious merchant at certain points of the game that Leon could speak with to buy new weapons or upgrade his existing weapons. This added a ton of replay value to the game. Even after killing all the enemies and exploring everything, Leon didn’t have enough to buy and upgrade all the weapons. After finishing the game, the player could start again, retaining all the weapons and upgrades they had from before. I played through Resident Evil 4 countless times trying out different weapons. I even sometimes did challenge games, like only using handguns or no healing items. It was great fun.
Resident Evil 4 had some really nice graphics. The sound effects were good too, but it was the graphics that really impressed me technically about the game. I think it had the best graphics out of all the games on the GameCube. The characters were all nicely detailed with clear textures and few jagged edges. They had really nice animations for everything. The weapons all looked and sounded real. I really loved the cinematics in the game. At various points, these short movies moved the story forward. The voice acting wasn’t perfect but still really good. I came to really enjoy some of the characters. Even the bosses were great. They weren’t all serious or super evil. Some had a sense of humor.
I had too many good games on the GameCube to name an absolute favorite, but Resident Evil 4 was definitely in the top five. It was so amazing that a game this good came out of nowhere. Really, in 2005, almost no new games were being made for the GameCube. With the exception of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Resident Evil 4 was the last big game on the console. I am glad it came out and that I bought it on the spur of the moment. I would have missed out on one of the best games of the sixth console generation (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube).
After how good Resident Evil 4 was, I really expected the sequels to also be good. I did miss some of the survival horror, but Resident Evil 4 was good enough in other ways to make up for it. Unfortunately, Capcom really had trouble with the sequels. Maybe they will do better in the future, but both Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 were considered to be worse games. Both games moved the series further into action and away from horror. I really think Resident Evil 4 had the perfect mix of action and horror.