“What’s Old Is New”
With a constantly growing backlog of games to revisit, choosing titles to cross off the list can be overwhelming. However, such mind games of self-imposed prioritization weren’t a concern when it came to picking up Resident Evil 4’s latest port to current generation hardware. Sitting among the top of my backlog for years now, I was eager to dive into RE4 and curious find out what all the buzz has been about. Akin to most games over a decade old, there are certainly aspects to Resident Evil 4 that haven’t stood the test of time. However, beyond the signs of age, Capcom’s horror magnum opus never failed to keep my attention through both thick and thin.
From the ominous opening moments, I found myself swept up in the evocative atmosphere, smart level design, and tension-rich combat. Aside from some terrible dialogue and generally stiff writing, my ventures within the eerie, nameless, rural village located somewhere in Spain were home to memorable moments of terror and intrigue. All these years later and there are still attributes to Resident Evil 4 to write home about, even when looking at the package through a modernized critical lens. You don’t need to put yourself in the mindset of someone picking up the game in 2005 to recognize its strengths and lasting influence on the medium; a sign of hard-earned legacy that continues to impress to this day.For the uninitiated, Resident Evil 4 puts you in the shoes of government agent Leon S. Kennedy, tasked with the typical mission of rescuing the daughter of the president of the United States from captivity. In theory, the central narrative is interesting, yet stale dialogue and weakly fleshed out characters bring down the potential of the wide-spreading story applications. Instead, world design and the intoxicating tension therein, successfully steal the show. While moving throughout the Spanish countryside in search of Ashley Graham, Leon is met with the resistance of a mysterious religious cult, armed with a haunting darkness to keep you on edge as you progress. It soon becomes apparent there are more evil forces at play than simply territorial villagers, causing for Resident Evil 4’s now iconic, action-heavy horror to ensue. The result is a clever culmination of tension and mechanical composition, with creative touches such as restricting the ability to move when aiming a weapon, enhancing the overall dread of combat.
THERE’S NO NEED FOR A DATED MINDSET TO SEE RE4’S STRENGTHS
Keeping the core gameplay engaging until the end, Resident Evil 4 is constantly introducing new and elaborate set pieces to participate in. Whether it be the game’s abundance of boss battles, going toe to toe with various daunting enemy types, or simply reveling in the consistently original level design, RE4 knows where its strengths lie and never loses sight of them. Although there are aspects that fail to hit the same highs as others, Resident Evil 4 only runs into a few truly detrimental flaws. Chief to the lineup is the obnoxious inventory management system, making weapon switching and healing particularly tedious tasks. This same jankiness transcends to other aspects of the package, with problematic pacing and disappointing boss encounters toward the end which restricts the otherwise commendable sense of agency placed on the player. However, those low points can almost be forgotten when exploring the detailed environments that present themselves with a sense of character. Laden with gloom and mystery, navigating the fear-inducing setting is sometimes enough to raise the hairs on your neck, especially when the creepily crafted sound design kicks in.While I don’t align with the consensus that RE4 remains a masterpiece in the face of modern releases, I can certainly recognize that the project was well ahead of its time. With much of its presentation driven by design sensibilities that weren’t fully adopted during the window of its initial launch, Capcom’s decision to take the series in a new direction was one that clearly paid off. Employing so many forward thinking aspects into the rather lengthy campaign has allowed the journey to maintain the weight of its various twists over the years. There’s still novelty in the way the game teases and reveals its new layers, consistently raising a new motive to continue. In spite of few general signs of age, poor pacing toward the latter half, and weak writing throughout, I found myself enthralled in Resident Evil 4’s world.
Once having become accustom to the initially stiff feeling core mechanics, the clever level design and excellent atmosphere put into motion an experience I won’t soon forget. As the millions of players who’ve experienced Resident Evil 4 are already aware of, there’s a lasting impression to Capcom’s horror showpiece that hangs onto your side as you exit its desperate and bleak world. Overcome with a tangible sense of solemn, RE4 successfully instills the range of emotions that come with completing a great journey. Excelling when it comes to setting, tension, and select areas of design presentation, it’s worth tolerating a few lesser moments in order to experience what’s undoubtably one of the best horror action games ever made.
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