We're cracking open the crypt and heading back to 2005 for a look at why Resident Evil 4 is the best in Capcom's zombie franchise.
While those shuffling Capcom zombies are hungry for more with Resident Evil Village in 2021, let's go back to the early days of the franchise and celebrate the anniversary of Resident Evil 4. Back when the GameCube was in its prime, Resident Evil 4 came to that little purple box and blew the competition out of the water.
Although there was the return of Resident Evil 2's Leon S. Kennedy, the third-person over-the-shoulder perspective and murky backdrop of parochial Europe made it a Resident Evil sequel in name alone. Swapping the tried and tested formula of Racoon city for a very different locale, the game also strayed from the roots of early entries with fewer survival elements and more action. It was a gamble that could've tanked the series, but thankfully, it paid off for Capcom.
More than just the best Resident Evil game, the fourth entry is held by some as one of the greatest video games of all time. If you're ready to go fishing on the lake and face the monstrous Del Lago all over again, here's why Resident Evil 4 is still the jewel in the rotting crown. Even some 15 years later.
Resident Evil 4's development
By the time Capcom came to plan Resident Evil 4, the franchise had already found great success and was sitting pretty on the legacy of Resident Evil 3 and the wildly successful REmake. Resident Evil Zero was also a big hitter on the GameCube, but there were accusations things were growing stale. Capcom threw the rulebook out the window (several times) and actually went through four iterations of Resident Evil 4.
The first idea focussed on an invincible protagonist called Tony, however, producer Shinji Mikami thought it strayed too far from what made Resident Evil what it was. Ironically, this early project was eventually reworked into Devil May Cry. A second "Fog" version took Leon to the castle-like headquarters of Umbrella, while the famous "Hook Man" iteration (seen above) was dubbed Resident Evil 4's lost version. There was the "Hallucination" version that saw Leon and his partner climb levels of the castle; however, it was deemed too expensive and was also scrapped. When Mikami went back to the drawing board, Resident Evil 4 was eventually born.
In the final version, Leon heads into darkest Spain in an attempt to rescue the President's daughter. Ashley Graham has been kidnapped by a terrifying cult, while Leon also has to face-off against parasite-controlled villagers, his own infection with Las Plagas, and escape a booby-trapped castle. If that wasn't enough, he also comes across the ghosts of his past and ties to Umbrella thanks to the appearance of a certain Mr Wesker.
Why Resident Evil 4 worked?
Although Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 grew bigger and flashier, Resident Evil 4 captured the spirit of the original game and the confines of the Spencer Mansion - albeit in a Spanish castle. Shuffling zombies were swapped out for the Las Plagas-ravaged villages, while the gloomy skies offered just enough difference to move the series forward. Away from just solving puzzles as a survival horror, the game taught you to preserve ammunition and think before you fire - with it often being wiser to avoid a battle altogether.
Even though Resident Evil has always relied on its horror elements, RE4 had this in bucket loads. Resident Evil 4 is heralded as the first modern third-person shooter, but it was so much more. Highlights included quick time events, and although they've been overused in modern games, they arguably got their start here. RE4 had a knack for keeping you on your toes, which only added to the pulse-pounding stresses of playing as Leon.
Where Resident Evil 2 may have terrified us with Mr X stalking through the corridors of the RCPD, does anything compare to the sheer cold-sweat fear that a villager was about to mutate when you've made a seemingly deadly headshot? While most games would reward you for pulling off a headshot, it was a major gamble here. Everyone was on the edge of their seats in that brief moment a headless village would stumble toward you and potentially pop a deadly parasitic worm out of their neck hole.
Aside from the main story, there were a plethora of side missions thanks to Ada Wong's arc, you could unlock the Infinite Rocket Launcher, and who didn't love dressing Ashley in a giant suit of armour? No article about the acclaimed title would be complete without mentioning Mercenaries Mode. After completing the campaign, the mode would throw wave after wave of enemies at you, allowing players to rack up points in the allotted time until the rescue chopper took them to safety. Put all of this with the ambitious story mode that took upwards of 15 hours to complete, and it's clear to see the shooter offered plenty of bang for its buck.
Resident Evil 4's legacy
Although Resident Evil 4 was an unrivalled hit, it was a win that sadly couldn't be replicated for Capcom. Resident Evil 5 tried another change of scenery as it headed to Africa, and although it remains the best-selling game in the series, it wasn't as revolutionary as Resident Evil 4. By the time we got round to Resident Evil 6., the criticisms came thick and fast that it basically played out as a movie rather than a video game.
Thankfully, the legacy of Resident Evil was channelled into Resident Evil 7. As a mix of the first and fourth game, the decaying walls of the Baker House, took a back-to-basics approach and upped the horror. To this day, Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7 are held in high regard. This brings us neatly onto what's next. It isn't just unhinged villagers that give us RE4 vibes when it comes to the upcoming eighth main-series entry. We'll have to wait until Resident Evil Village is released to see if there are more similarities, but on the face of it, you'd be forgiven for thinking the pair are direct sequels.
Looking at games since, you can see RE4's influence in everything from Grand Theft Auto to Uncharted and The Last of Us. In fact, the Gears of War creators openly admitted the game was a driving force behind their titles. Resident Evil 4 was quite literally the whole package and has kept us coming back for years thanks to remasters and ports to the likes of Nintendo Wii to PlayStation 4. The question is, will Capcop resurrect this favourite all over again?
Will there be a Resident Evil 4 remake?
The video game industry is getting ready for the next generation of consoles with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, leading to the inevitable question about whether Resident Evil 4 will also get the remake treatment. After Resident Evil 2 was remade in 2019, a whole new fanbase was found with this and 2020's Resident Evil 3 remake. As the remakes have shown, it's not just the visuals that have been given a boost. The two latest titles have boasted tweaks to character arcs and some pretty major changes to the story as a whole.
Capcom is back on top form remaking its legacy titles, and while we wait for Resident Evil Village, a remake of Resident Evil 4 would surely be a big hit. At the moment, developers are putting all their energy into Village, but once that's out the way, Resident Evil 4 could get some much-needed TLC. The title has aged remarkably well considering it's 15 years old and the GameCube wasn't exactly the PS5 in terms of graphics, but still, it's a tempting proposition to throw around. That being said, Resident Evil 4 still plays pretty well, so it's hard to see what you can change like the other remakes. Also, there's that old saying of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".
Even if we don't get a Resident Evil 4 remaster (let's be honest, it's probably coming), Capcom can sleep soundly in the knowledge it delivered a game that can be held up there with Super Mario Bros., Ocarina of Time, Tomb Raider, and all the rest. Even as the Resident Evil franchise carries on growing and Capcom continues to churn out games, we find ourselves asking, will anything ever top Resident Evil 4? Probably not!
Images via Capcom