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Why Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games ever made

Resident Evil 4 could have been a colossal failure. Fraught with development difficulties and behind the scenes struggles, RE4 seemed like it would be left behind in the transition from the original PlayStation to the then-current generation. That the game ended up being playable at all, let alone one that rightfully belongs on GamesRadar's top 100 games of all time list is a testament to the skills of the developers that somehow made it all work in the end.

Cancelled and restarted from scratch multiple times--in fact, the original version of Resident Evil 4 eventually became Devil May Cry--the Resident Evil team was unsure where to take the series. The fixed camera angles, stilted movement, and unintuitive controls all needed to be addressed, but the team wasn’t sure how. After so much trial and error, the team persisted and ended up with something revolutionary.  

Check out the trailer for the HD remake of RE4

Shambling zombies were replaced with an all-too-human mob of (infected) cultists, who had nabbed the President's daughter. As soon as you arrived in the rural European township of the game’s start, you're overwhelmed by the number of enemies out to kill Leon. The grey, overcast skies add to the mood, as do the corpses of townsfolk strewn about. From the outset, RE4 is building an atmosphere all its own, a distinct feeling that unfolds beautifully thanks to the expert pacing of the game. It doesn't rely on the memories of the previous games; it simply allows them to exist while creating something vastly new.

The variety of interesting enemies grows at a steady progression throughout the game. You face humongous monsters, seemingly unkillable beasts, blind brutes, and even a mechanized version of an insane little person. Each takes a new strategy and makes each collection of enemies a fresh challenge.

And unlike previous titles, the localized voice-acting wasn’t too campy or laughable. In a surprising change from previous games in the series, skilled voice actors were hired. It made us believe in Leon, hate Saddler, have trust issues with Ada, and want to protect Ashley. Even the sillier bits, like most of the lines said The Merchant, leave us with warm memories to this day. "Whatcha' buyin'?"

11 comments

  • bobby-slobby - December 12, 2012 5:53 a.m.

    I just completed this game last night. Seriously one of the best games I've ever played. I'm usually more of a retro gamer, but I really, really enjoyed Resident Evil 4.
  • ZenRobot - September 28, 2012 12:42 a.m.

    "Whatcha' buyin?" ????? did you mean "What're ya BUYin?" ????? did you play the game? yes, i'm a condescending prick. but you have NO RIGHT to misquote the merchant from RE4
  • Scrotie McBoogerballs - September 27, 2012 10:41 a.m.

    I was so excited for RE4 HD and I downloaded the damn thing only to find out that there is no Move support. How the FUCK do you not put in Move support when RE5 had it and RE4 on the Wii was the best version of that game by a MILE. ASSHOLES.
  • doominatorx6 - September 27, 2012 10:36 a.m.

    Wow! I was just talking with some buddies about this game. It STILL holds up. Maybe not one of the best games ever IMO, but it's great none the less. Unlike that sequel which, false accusations of racism aside, sucked. Hard... except that part where you beat the living shit out of a poor, defenseless boulder. That made it.
  • arinze966 - September 27, 2012 3:46 a.m.

    is it a two player game
  • Swish007 - September 26, 2012 11:36 p.m.

    Thank you. I also think this is one of the best games ever made and the people who complain about it just seem like drooling morons to me. It's kinda like someone dismissing batman begins because it wasn't as good as the Tim burton film. You might as well say "I don't feel as warm when the sun is out as when it's night time." You're either lying or your sense of feeling is way off. I also think games like this is part of what made the GameCube do so well against the ps2 and Xbox in its heyday. The fact that it was on the GameCube and looked better than most games at the time was surprising. And I also loved how well it worked with the wii. If the wii u version looks good I may have to get it just for that game.
  • TAYREL713 - September 26, 2012 7:46 p.m.

    Quite literally my favorite game. I have beat this game like 13 times over two systems (Gamecube and Wii) though not perfect it is just so very replayable that I might cop it again on the Wii U (Wii Version was my favorite).
  • Godzillarex - September 26, 2012 3:30 p.m.

    Whether or not one agrees if RE4 was a "true" Resident Evil game, the fact remains that it is a fantastic game in it's own right, and it's influence is undeniable. Over the shoulder aiming is now standard for every single third person shooter out there; something this game literally pioneered. I think RE4 brought back Resident Evil to the forefront of the industry. It was once again known for positive qualities instead of all the negative ones Resident Evil as a franchise had become associated with; such as bad voice acting, obtuse puzzles, boring fetch quests, and sluggish controls. Granted, RE5 had a huge identity crisis since it tried to be an action game, but not really, and as such it was kind of neither here nor there. So here's hoping RE6 turns out to be as good as they promise it will be!
  • freeden - September 26, 2012 2:44 p.m.

    I actually disagree considerably with the improvement of the atmosphere and story. The plot is a degradation from Code Veronica, which had a fantastic plot and greatly developed the backstory for Umbrella, creating a further intriguing mythos for the RE world. The relationship between Claire and Steve was very well developed and grew on you. Likewise, the atmosphere retained the classic RE atmosphere and brought back the survival aspect of the original game. RE4 on the other hand eliminated much of this. Not only did it completely skip over the fall of Umbrella with a lame and disappointing introduction, but it's plot was far too straight forward. The villains were boring, with the exception of Ada, and your quest had little depth to it. The atmosphere was interesting, but it lacked the creepy and unexpected factor that previous RE games had. Most importantly, it wasn't the least bit scary. RE4 was the beginning of the elimination of any true scares. Thrilling? Yes, but not more in an action horror kind of way and not in a survival horror kind of a way. Gameplay was good and fun, but the fact that this game had very little of the mythos and story that the previous games had was a deal breaker for me and I was very disappointed. Resident Evil began to appeal to me when they developed the Umbrella storyline. The moment they eliminated the depth and mythos in that story was the moment that my fandom for this series went down.
  • jimmyhill11 - September 27, 2012 5:17 a.m.

    N0 - Code Veronica was bonkers and clearly was pointing the way the series was going story wise. Being chased around the place by an incestuous transvestite with a sniper rifle was just one step away from the 'Napoleon' midget fellow in RE4. And Steve is the most annoying douche yet scene in a RE game I thought the interesting game story wise was the original game REmake on Gamecube. It was fascinating how telling the same story but in a serious and earnest manner added so much to the atmosphere and sense of dread. They completely changed tack with RE4, going for a shlocky B movie feel story wise, but I have to disagree with you when you say the game wasn't scary. Not as scary as REmake (for me the scariest console game I have ever played) but really I found the atmosphere and enemies (in particular the Garrador's and Regenerators) to creep me out big time

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