Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
Yeah, you read the title right. It’s true. Resident Evil 4 is the greatest video game of all time.
It’s greater than Final Fantasy VII, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario Bros. 3. It’s even greater than Portal, Bioshock, the entire Mass Effect trilogy, both Batman: Arkham games and all the Call of Duties combined.
I love the Metal Gear Solid series, but yes, Resident Evil 4 is even greater than Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, or 3.
Resident Evil 4 is the best game ever.
How can I come to such a conclusion with this much confidence?
First of all, it looks great. Even for a game first released eight years ago, it holds up pretty well. I played the PlayStation 2 port, and even though its graphics were scaled down from the Gamecube, it still portrayed a visually immersive world. Dead trees with black branches crack the sky, grime-covered facades masking abandoned houses, bed sheets caked with dried blood, skulls lining cobweb-lined closets; the stench of death is everywhere, and that’s just the first third of the game.
The character models look even better. Rookie cop turned-hero-turned-bodyguard-turned-ACTION STAR Leon Kennedy has those boyish good looks with a hint of world weariness in the bags under his eyes. Lord Saddler was a pioneer in OLD MAN FACES. Every plaga you encounter in their corrupted hosts and in their true tentacle alien form are shockingly grotesque.
And of course, there’s the “bitch in the red dress”.
Compare that to LEGOS, GREEN BLOCKS, NEON NIGHTMARES, MELTY FACES and GRAY EVERYWHERE, Resident Evil 4 is the clear winner.
Speaking of characters, each one is just brimming with LIFE. Leon dispenses SICK BURNS deadpan just as much as he blows the heads off of ganados. Ashley rightfully shouts at you every time you try looking up her skirt (not that I would know from actual in-game experience). Salazar, the little shit, talks down on you with his smug pale foppish dwarf ass. Luis Sera wins you over with his suave Latino charm and the powerful pistol he packs in his pants if you know what I’m saying.
Even the enemies you face are bursting with personality!
Those poor Plagas-controlled villagers scream out some of the most colorful language when you’re rampaging through their quiet creepy backwater town. Inside Spanish Warwick Davis’ castle, you get to meet the Los Illuminados–scythe-wielding, fire arrow-shooting, goat skull-wearing, pale-as-fuck freaks that fill the halls with eerie chants of “morir es vivir”.
And those are just the generics you’ll be mowing down!
You’ve also got to deal with blind armor-clad dual-clawed garradors (or as I’d like to call them, gimp Wolverines) that go berserk at the drop of a dime. There are LOTR reject trolls that are somehow even uglier, carrying a nasty surprise in their backs. There are flying insectoids that wall-crawl and can turn invisible. There are slow-moving charred black corpse-like monsters that hiss and twitch eerily as they inch closer towards you, regenerating entire body parts after you shoot them off.
Facing each one of these enemies in a narrow hallway or within groups of distracting mooks is the height of tension.
No wait, the height of tension is when you’re getting chased down by Saddler’s pet abomination in a locked cage with a timer ticking away till the entire structure falls. No wait, that’s when you’re getting relentlessly pursued by Salazar’s nigh-invulnerable right hand in tight corridors. No wait, that’s when you’re getting hounded by the Los Illuminados and Plagas-controlled living armors in the dark when you’re playing as freakin’ Ashley.
Yep, all this time you get to be the badass special agent already fearing for your life fighting all sorts of monstrosities in between nerve-wracking, quiet eeriness and fist-pumping, epic instances. Suddenly, the game puts you in the shoes of the proverbial damsel in distress with nary a gun or a knife in hand. For the very first time, you feel absolutely vulnerable. For a short time, the action horror game becomes survival horror again.
That’s not to say that the core gameplay is lacking. It’s fantastic. This bit where you have to play as Ashley just served as a great interlude that helped highlight the sheer awesomeness of flooring ganados with a shotgun blasts, slicing up their faces with well-timed knife attacks, roundhouse kicking them as they wince in pain, and German suplexing their candy asses, leaving a pool of blood where their heads used to be.
The arsenal of weapons the game provides you is impressive as well, with just about every one of them being incredibly useful, especially when fully upgraded, and just plain fun to use. This opens up many different play styles to suit your mood. Love the feel of popping heads one after the other? Use the Blacktail or the Red9, and get to popping. Wanna keep your distance and pick off hordes? Choose either the BAR or the SAR. Just want to blow away everyone including bosses in a shot or two? Whip out your magnum and unload.
That’s not even touching the cool unlockable weapons you get upon completing certain conditions. There’s the Chicago Typewriter, an old-school Tommy gun with infinite ammo, and the PRL 412, which is basically a laser rifle that can work as a flash bang and as an instakill button.
Aside from the new toys you can play with, Resident Evil 4 is chock-full of even more extra content that extends the game’s replayability for hours and hours. There’s the target range within the castle area where you can test your skills with the different guns in timed sessions. Getting high scores unlocks nifty bottle caps and earns you a good amount of pesetas.
Leon and Ashley get new digs that aren’t solely for aesthetics. By having Ashley wear the Knight outfit, the fully body plate mail makes her completely impervious to any damage, allowing you to express whatever frustrations you might have had against her with no consequences.
It also makes her way too heavy for enemies to pick up, removing any sense of danger and responsibility on your part!
As for Leon’s extra costumes, he can either go retro with a RCPD outfit or go really retro with a pimpin’ 20s gangster getup with a fedora he can do a neat trick with.
Then there’s the side missions, “Assignment Ada” and “Separate Ways”, letting you play as the lovely double agent Ada Wong, where you uncover more dark secrets about Saddler’s nefarious plot and its connection to the rest of the Resident Evil universe. Although they’re mostly treading through the same areas Leon runs through in the main game, the contrasting perspective and the small gameplay differences such as the limited inventory and lower health traded off for faster walking speed make for a fresh experience.
If the extra five+ hours isn’t enough, you can spend days getting higher and higher scores on the action-packed “Mercenaries” mini game. The objective is simple; kill as many enemies as you can before time runs out using only the initial equipment given to you. What’s so great about it is the thrill of discovering more efficient ways of racking up consecutive kills and gaining time extensions all the while surviving the never-ending waves of bloodlusted enemies with a boss unit appearing every now and again.
And to keep it from getting monotonous, there are four levels to play in with their own distinctive layouts and sets of enemies to deal with. This includes the infamous Super Salvador that leaps towers in a single bound and carries a smoking dual-bladed chainsaw. I would’ve been content with that, but Capcom really made the most out out by allowing players to use four other characters besides Leon.
There’s the femme fatale Ada Wong, the muscle-bound maniac Jack Krauser, Umbrella operative and neck-snapper extraordinaire HUNK, and the master manipulator himself, Albert Wesker. Each one brings a unique offense and demands different strategies to suit their strengths. Ada is nimble but vulnerable, offsetting it with a balanced inventory. Krauser relies on his lethal bows and Plagas-enhancedblade arm. HUNK flies through enemies with his special TMP and incredibly quick melee finisher. Wesker is power personified.
To think Capcom crammed this much content into a single game without charging extra (unless you happen to be the sucker who bought it on the Gamecube LOL). And contrast that to how it’s already expected of them today to lock content already on the disc of their games, asking you to shell out more cash to access it.
To further show the stroke of genius Capcom had when it came out with Resident Evil 4, they actually revolutionized the action genre with RE4’s smooth over-the-shoulder third person shooting mechanics. This gameplay feature has since become the standard for a lot of AAA action games such as the Gears of War and Mass Effect franchises. Its clever use of QTEs kept players on their toes even during cutscenes, and added a lot more tension to already frenetic battles, also popularizing its use in other mainstream titles.
They could get tiresome though, considering you’d usually die and have to go through the same sequence until you got it right. But RE4 wouldn’t be the best game ever if it it didn’t manage to turn a flaw into an entertaining bonus of gruesome deaths!
All the effort put into the game is also evident in the little touches.
You’ve got all these crows nesting in the gnarled trees; dispersing whenever shots are fired, congregating on corpses, and even dropping pesetas, jewelry, ammunition, and grenades when they’re killed.
Trinkets and treasures are scattered throughout all the areas, requiring a keen eye and a willingness to explore to discover. Indiscriminately break boxes to get goodies, and you might just get a SNAKE TO YOUR FACE. Roaming chickens in the village lay eggs, which you can either consume for health, or chuck at enemies to give them one more reason to stick a pitchfork in your gut.
Enemies react accordingly to how you engage them. They block their faces or duck when you aim for their heads, and they sidestep if you take a second too long before pulling the trigger. If you’re a good distance away and they’re carrying axes, get ready to dodge whirling blades of steel.
Shoot their hands, and they either drop their weapons, accidentally set themselves on fire if they’re carrying torches, or blow themselves up if they’ve got a lit stick of dynamite. Shoot their legs, and they fall to their knees or faceplant when they’re running. Kick one in the noggin, and everyone behind gets knocked back as the sorry sap goes flying.
Groups covered in shields rush you to box you in. Good thing you can break them, leaving gaping holes where you inflicted damage that serve as weakspots.
This attention to detail is remarkable, all of which adds up to a fully realized world of fear and fun.
To top it all off, the game overcame what should have been the death knell that is development hell. Its origins can be traced back to 1999 when it was first being developed for the early days of the PlayStation 2. That first version would wind up as the prototype for one of the most popular hack-n-slash video games, Devil May Cry.
It would undergo a couple more game-changing revisions that lasted for 5 years before it finally saw the light of day in 2005 for the Gamecube thanks to the VISIONARY GENIUS of Shinki Mikami. Capcom, the business savvy sons of bitches, made the right move of porting it to its once original console of choice, the PS2.
So yes, Resident Evil 4 even managed to buck the odds of coming out as a terrible disappointment because of a troubled development cycle, reflexively reinforcing its theme of WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE.
It’s got top-notch presentation that mostly holds up to this day and creates an engaging atmosphere. It’s got countless memorable moments both in dialogue and setpieces. Most importantly, it’s got insanely addictive, game-changing and straight-up fun gameplay that lasts for hours and hours and hours. No convoluted plot bordering on the pretentious, no game-breaking mechanics, technical flaws, monotonous lulls, and shitty anti-consumer restrictions that weigh it down.
And it even did a Resident Evil, rising from its development grave to feast on video game fans’ praise brains.
It is the perfect video game, and that is why Resident Evil 4 is the best game ever.