Capcom basically started from scratch with RE4. There were major overhauls to the camera, inventory, and combat systems (more on these later, though). Character models also received a drastic redesign. In summation, RE4 was basically an in-continuity reboot. The Umbrella/T-virus plotline was stale by the end of RE:CV, so Capcom took a big risk and tried some new ideas. And, boy, did they hit the jackpot.
RE4‘s plot goes like this: Leon Kennedy, long-removed from the events of RE2, is now an NSA agent tasked with finding the President’s kidnapped daughter, Ashley. Following a lead, Leon arrives at a small village in rural Spain and things
go incredibly well promptly go bananas. Along the way, Leon encounters some old friends and a religious cult led by the menacing Lord Saddler.
Leon is one of RE’s most reliable and beloved leads. His return in this game was received enthusiastically by fans. He leads an absolutely ace cast this time around as well. RE4 also introduced my favorite one-and-done character in the series: Jack Krauser, an old “friend” of Leon’s.
RE4‘s plot is arguably the strongest of any game in the series. There’s a tangible air of mystery that can be found in the introductory chapters. The potential energy build-up from the early chapters explodes brilliantly in the game’s climax, which leads to a fantastic, high-energy, race-to-the-finish. Overall, I can’t find anything serious to complain about regarding the plot and characters.
Sound – 9.0/10
The voice-acting was top-notch. A strong cast delivered a wonderful, dramatic performance that really sucks you in. Leon has a lot of great dialogue, particularly with Krauser and another character whose identity I’ll withhold in the interest of keeping this free of spoilers. The only thing really missing is more of a musical presence. The moody background tracks are mostly replaced by diegetic sounds. There are still the usual musical queues, and the game’s most dramatic encounters and scenes have some backing, but still, most of the things you hear inn the game are the rustling of trees or rambling Spanish curses being heaved at you by the villains.
Graphics – 10/10
The entire visual atmosphere of this game was a complete departure from its predecessors. The bleak rural village in the opening acts is contrasted brilliantly by the more lavish environments from the later acts. Characters are way more detailed and animated than in previous games as well, which definitely helps you get more attached to them. The visual atmosphere in RE4 is fully developed and just absolutely fantastic.
RE4 is a rare case in gaming: so many of the developers ideas about gameplay translated perfectly from idea-to-realization. A redesigned camera system allowed players to explore environments with greater freedom than in previous titles. The new inventory system gave you more freedom in preparing your arsenal. The updates to the combat system increased maneuverability and gave players more opportunities for crowd control.
Leon gained an awesome counter-attack system that allowed you to kick away dazed enemies (sometimes causing their heads to violently explode). This is one of the game’s best additions. It allows you to move back enemies and really reposition yourself when you get stuck in a tough situation. RE4 also explored a concept that the remake of the original RE touched on: reanimating the undead. After a certain point in the game, all regular enemies have the chance to fully manifest the parasite inside their bodies. As is always the case with parasites taking over the host: the process ain’t pretty. An enemy’s head will violently explode after taking a few shots and out from the bloody mess will emerge a writing, screaming parasite.
RE4 also came with a revamped version of The Mercenaries which featured most of the game’s cast and a few old favorites (Hunk and Wesker) as playable characters. It was a timed, kill-all-the-zombies event much like its predecessor from RE3. One big difference this time around was that each character handled incredibly differently. There were a lot of really cool scenarios and very tough moments in RE4‘s The Mercenaries mode.
I can’t finish this review without discussing RE4‘s crowning gameplay achievement: boss fights. There are a respectable amount of boss fights in RE4 and, honestly, each of them is unique and memorable. The developers really did a great job with creating a series of fantastic and intuitive encounters that really challenge you. Some are strictly-combat encounters, while others are more based on an environment or, in some cases, puzzle solving. I don’t really want to spoil anything, so I won’t include a video of my favorite boss fight; however, one of the most discussed boss fights is the lake fight, which is also one of the first. Check it out below:
Overall – 10/10
I’ll forgive the small blemish with the soundtrack, since that’s mostly a trivial complaint compared to just how spectacular everything else was in this game. Critics also heaped massive amounts of praise on the game. According to GameRankings, the original Gamecube version is the second-highest-rated game of the year, the highest-rated Gamecube game of the year, the overall third-highest-rated Gamecube title of all time, and the current eighteenth-highest-rated game of all time. It has been re-released several times. A PS2 version added in some new weapons and a “Separate Ways” campaign mode that follows one of the supporting characters through their exploits. A Wii version took everything from the PS2 version and added motion controls. The recently-released PSN and XBLA HD versions reframed the game in an HD-friendly aspect ratio and added online leaderboards. RE4 was a massive moment of gaming. Every RE game since has been modeled after the changes implemented in RE4.
Thanks for keeping up with this month’s special Throwback Thursdays. We’ll get back to more general reviews next week. Thanks for reading, and, as always, stay tuned to Comic Booked!