Resident Evil 4 has been called many things since its release in 2005. Outstanding. Fantastic. Revolutionary. The best game of all time. Stunning. Overrated.
That last one was me, and I’ve had years of criticism thrown at me for it. Don’t get me wrong; I do love Resident Evil 4; however, I don’t find it to be anywhere close to being the best Resident Evil game, let alone the best game ever. If it is your favorite game, I won’t argue as you’re entitled to your own opinions. The world would be boring if everyone liked all the same things all of the time.
I am a massive fan of the Resident Evil franchise and will always argue its case. It’s a series I have loved ever since the very first game came out on the PlayStation, with Resident Evil 2 being one of my favorite games ever. When Resident 4 was announced, I was beyond excited, just as I had been with the announcements of every game after the first one.
I’ve bought countless copies on different consoles and in different languages. The only reason I ever purchased a Game Cube and Dreamcast initially was to play new games in the series that had been announced as exclusives. I adore the series, yet I find its most popular entry to be overrated and always have done.
When Resident Evil 4 first released in North America, it was January 2005. I couldn’t play it, and I was devastated as I was being forced to wait until the European release in the middle of March. I wouldn’t stand for it. I bought myself the freeloader disc, which allowed me to play a Canadian copy I got hold of.
Thus, the credits for Resident 4 had rolled on my TV before the game had even come out in my country. I loved it but didn’t get the same feeling as I did from the others. This, to my shame, was also the last time I had finished the game, despite numerous other attempted playthroughs.
I thought a retrospective would be a good time to put this right and see if I still found the game overrated.
My Game Cube is currently in need of repair, so I decided to buy the Switch version. The core game is pretty much the same, don’t expect me to talk about the graphics too much as everything looks crisper and less murky than on the original version.
Back in 2005, Resident 4 completely changed the entire formula the series had been known for. Gone were the fixed camera angles and tense survival horror moments. These were replaced with an over the shoulder viewpoint that allowed players to aim anywhere to fend off waves of enemies in a far more action-packed game.
The controls were heralded as revolutionary, and they were. The face of third-person shooters probably wouldn’t be the same without it. In 2019 they take a bit of getting used to again as the camera can’t be manipulated as it can in newer games.
One thing I did enjoy was the fact that tank controls were still present and accounted for. Many people complain that the original style games are unplayable because of these and in the same breath, compare Resident 4 to the Sistine Chapel. I will admit, though, that having a third person view does make them easier for the uninitiated.
Once I had acclimatized to the control scheme, I headed for the opening village — a portion of the game that is just as tense and satisfying as ever. Endless enemies swarmed me as I made a desperate bid for survival while trying to save as much ammunition as I could. Then, after a specific moment, I heard it — the chainsaw.
The opening village remains an immense gaming experience that I love. It isn’t scary, but boy, is it tense and remains my second favorite moment in the entire game. It’s after this that things start to go downhill for me as, unfortunately, I never found that opening tension again.
There is a last stand in a house that was also pretty good but didn’t come close to replicating the village. Once again, I’d like to point out that I do love this game, even if it sounds like I don’t. It’s just that after the opening section, the whole affair feels much more by the numbers.
Until Ashley arrives.
I hate Ashley. I hate her with a passion, and if I were Leon, I would have left her somewhere while I took down the stories’ bad guys. To paraphrase Ivan Drago, “if she dies, she dies.”
After meeting her, the game becomes a giant escort mission. This is fun for a while but goes on too long for my liking and sees Ashley being a general pain and being kidnapped countless times. Also, the fact she won’t climb down from things and expects Leon to catch her makes her seem too self-important, and quite frankly, she can get in the bin.
To counter her, we have the merchant. He’s great, has a fantastic dialogue (which you’ve now said in your head if you’ve made it this far), and he sells guns. Finding treasures and upgrading the weaponry in Resident Evil 4 is still immensely fun as is trying to fit it all in the attache case Tetris style.
Despite missing the item boxes of the past, I do love the inventory system in 4, and it was a shame when they changed it up for future games. Quite why the Merchant buys jewels that Leon finds in the same room as him is another question entirely.
The guns themselves are still very satisfying to use; Resident 4 did get that right. Using one of the shotguns at close range for a headshot will never get old.
Storywise, things are ridiculous. Despite having built Umbrella up for several games, four does away with them entirely in the opening cutscene, which is disappointing as I would have liked to have taken them down myself with a visit to the HQ, as was one of the original stories to the game.
The actual story is crazy, with some very odd moments. We aren’t;t talking Resident Evil 6 here, but there is a particular dwarf that we all know of who also happens to have a robotic statue that chases you.
The less said about the boss fight with Krauser, the better. Quite why he has Metal Gear Solid style robots is anyone’s guess.
Resident Evil 7 has come into some criticism from players for not being a Resident Evil game; I feel that if Capcom had decided to use a new protagonist, instead of Leon, fans would be saying the same about 4. In fact, there are many complaints labeled against seven that I could use here, but I’ll save those for another day.
Overall, I still find the tone of Resident Evil 4 to be all over the place. It’s as if the developers didn’t know what sort of game they wanted to make at times. There are moments filled with tension; there’s over the top action segments; there are even dreaded quick-time events.
Two things that are missing, for the most part, are things that would have dramatically pushed the game up my list of favorites: horror and puzzles. Resident Evil 4 does not have puzzles besides extremely rudimentary examples, and this makes me sad.
There’s not much horror either, except near the end during my favorite portion of the game. When the Regenerators appear, things do start to get genuinely creepy as they stumble down the corridor towards you, making a hideous noise. Hearing that noise when you can’t see them is even better.
I loved these grotesque monsters and would have liked to have seen more moments like this throughout the game. Mixing them in with some puzzles and sections like the village would have been a masterstroke. Instead, we get minigun wielding enemies, and Ahsley “catch me Leon” Graham.
Having waited 14 years to complete my second playthrough of Resident 4, I breezed through it. There were some challenging moments, but nothing that couldn’t be conquered with a couple of tries, except maybe the ridiculous jet ski section at the end on which I failed about ten times for some reason.
I had more ammunition left over than I’ve had in the entirety of some of the older games, even with some of them over the top, bullet sponge bosses. I will be settling down to play it on professional mode next, so I’ll see how that goes.
Overall, I still very much loved playing through Resident Evil 4 again. Do I still find it overrated? Yes. That’s not a bad thing, though, as games can still be amazing even if I don’t agree with the feverish level of praise that’s heaped upon them.
As I say, I still like it, but I will stand by putting it 10th in my list of Resident games. If it is your number 1, I won’t argue, as I’ve said, it’s all down to opinion and personal preference.
I will apologize for ranting on at you for so long despite not getting too much covered. I’ll also direct you to the comments section.
Feel free to criticize, disagree, and call me an idiot, keep it PG-rated. Let me know your thoughts on Resident Evil 4 in general. Is it your favorite? Do you find parts to be overrated, and where would you like the series to go next?
If you are one of the few people who have never played Resident 4, first off, congratulations on making it to the end of this article, secondly, what are you waiting for? It’s available for almost every console ever.
Steve is the resident Englishman, just don’t hold that against him. He’s been playing games for the best part of 3 decades and will continue to do so for as long as his thumbs hold up. When they no longer work, he’ll still find a way to play Resident Evil 2. Lover of most things nerdy Steve also likes sports. Go sports!