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

However, all the improvements in presentation, plot, and characterization are nothing compared to all the improvements RE4 did to the gameplay. And that's not just by series’ standards, but for the entire action genre. The over-the-shoulder camera revolutionized exploration and gunplay in a move so simply intuitive that it’s a wonder no major game had done it before. Instead of random shooting at an off-screen enemy, you were able to aim and shoot with a precision normally reserved for first-person shooters. 

Watch more footage from Resident Evil 4 HD

Combat became truly fun for the first time in the series, empowering players to create new strategies for the increasingly complex combat situations. Would you try to trick the crazed enemies into running into their own traps, or perhaps you stun someone with a headshot, then kick them into a group of baddies, knocking them all back? So many options were open to you, thanks to this streamlined combat structure that made encounters fun without removing the fear the series was known for.

Those controls have inspired dozens--if not hundreds--of games that followed RE4. The creators of Gears of War openly credit RE4 for inspiring its approach to third-person gunplay, and you can see Resident Evil 4’s influence in games as wide-ranging as Dead Space, Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted, and so many other blockbusters. And though several of those games found ways to evolve the gunplay, the action in RE4 remains just as easy to embrace now as it did then.

Other additions done in RE4 might not have been as impactful as the shooting mechanic, but are no less important to why Resident Evil 4 is unforgettable. Inventory, formerly a confounding mess, was now about using space correctly. Placing items in the attaché case became a miniature puzzle game, as you searched for the best way to fit a shotgun, bullets, and regenerative herbs into the same package. It was practical while also making inventory fun instead of a chore.

Similarly important was the way the game used Quick Time Events. QTEs have become stale in their overuse, but at the time, the potential for a cutscene to be interrupted by a QTE at any moment kept us on the edge of our seats. Get too caught up in listening to Krauser’s speech and you’ll fail to deflect the knife he throws at you, treating you to one of the many creepily detailed death animations Capcom conceived for Leon. Many love the blockbuster film moments that pepper games like Uncharted 2, but they really got their start in RE4, with Leon dodging boulders and leaping between buildings.

Resident Evil 4 proves that sometimes the risk of innovation can pay off in spectacular ways. For an increasingly risk-averse medium afraid to challenge the rules of franchises just as established as Resident Evil, it’s an important lesson to learn. Sometimes a sequel can change everything.

"Why _____ is one of the best games ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

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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