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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.
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'?"
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