So, here we are again guys and girls, it’s time for your weekly look at the biggest franchises in gaming history. The ones that are loved, and the ones that have to live in the cupboard under the stairs (with no magical letter to save them). For the past two articles we have been very positive, looking at the first two Resident Evil games, but this week, as promised, we will take a look at the negative side of the franchise. Now, my choice may be controversial, as this game when released was met by universal critical acclaim. It revolutionised the third-person shooter and inspired games like Gears of War and Dead Space with its presentation and gunplay mechanics. I myself LOVED this game and still do. So, why on earth have I chosen this as the negative game in the Resident Evil series? I do love this game, yes, but I also hate what it turned the series into. So, this week on “The Good and the Bad”, we take a look at the worst game in the series….Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil 4 was released back in 2005, originally on Nintendo’s much ignored little gem of a console, the GameCube. It went through a somewhat troubled development, and the originally planned release was scrapped. This version of the game was even further away from the first four Resident Evil games than the released RE4 would turn out to be. It wasn’t all bad news though as this scrapped version of the game had some slight re-writes and other minor corrections, eventually becoming the first game in another much-loved Capcom franchise, as well as a game that ranks very high in my list of favourite games of all time…Devil May Cry. So, just take minute to think about this, it only went through basic script changes to turn it from RE4 to Devil May Cry. That just shows how Capcom were thinking at the time when they were making the next RE instalment.
So, it took a bit longer for us to get our hands on the 4th chapter of the main series (excluding the actual fourth game which is Code: Veronica X). When we did eventually get our hands on it though….amazing. No other words for it, I remember vividly playing it for the first time. It had a complete overhaul of the tricky ‘tank controls’ of the previous instalments. Now we have the camera directly over returning favourite Leon S. Kennedy’s shoulder, and with this shift of camera placement we can finally do something properly for the first time in Resident Evil history… WE CAN AIM!. Head-shot galore, body shots to slow the new terrifying enemy, Los Illuminados, down. With this new and improved combat system, Resident Evil 4 moved away from the claustrophobic, methodical, and limited amount of killings and instead gave us wide open areas, a tone of ammunition, and dozens and dozens of Los Illuminados to shoot down at our pleasure. Even though this was by far the most action orientated instalment so far, it still had good scares and that vintage Resident Evil panic. Replacing the fear of your inability to take down two zombies from the classic games, instead you could have 10 Los Illuminados chasing you down, accompanied by the series’ newest mini bosses..the Chainsaw Ganado.
The plot also follows the typical Resident Evil conspiracy driven epic. As previously mentioned, Leon S. Kennedy is back and a lot has happened to our favourite rookie RCPD officer. He was recruited by the US government after he was eventually tracked down after the Raccoon City incident. At the time when Resident Evil 4 is set, Leon has been tasked by the new president of the US to guard his family. However, shortly after his appointment, the president’s daughter Ashley is kidnapped. Leon tracks her down to a remote part of Spain, and he is sent there to rescue Ashley. This, of course, wasn’t to be the usual sort of search and rescue mission. Ashley had been kidnapped by Los Illuminados, a religious cult whose name when translated into English means “The Enlightened Ones”. This group has turned all of the local people into the terrifying zombie-like monsters we have to fight. Leon manages to find Ashley being held in a local church and learns that it is the leader of Los Illuminados, Osmund Saddler’s, plan to use Ashley (who is infected with the same parasite the villagers are) to infect her father, the president of the US. This would allow Saddler to control the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth and begin his plan for global domination. We also get to see two very important people from Resident Evil history, Ada Wong and perhaps the most loved character of the entire series…Albert Wesker. Wesker is now working for a rival company of Umbrella’s and has sent Ada to obtain a sample of the parasite that Los Illuminados use to create the monsters we have to fight.
So, Resident Evil 4 has it all: a great story with fun and well working gameplay mechanics, however, I did state at the beginning of this article that it is not the game itself which qualifies it as the worst instalment in the series. It is the legacy and influence it had on the next two games. Resident Evil 5 again was not a bad game. However, it is NOT a Resident Evil game. Where Resident Evil 4 was predominantly an action game, it did retain a lot of its survival horror lineage. Resident Evil 5 was just an all out action fest, with one of the worst AI controlled characters of all time (a second player can control her, but it’s still not great). As an action game, RE5 is great fun, but there are no heart racing panic moments, no sense of terror, and to be quite honest, it was a bit easy. Resident Evil 6 with its four different campaigns was awful. Leon’s campaign tried to get back to the survival horror roots of the early instalments but didn’t get anywhere close.
I know this is a controversial view, many people will claim that you cannot just keep releasing the same sort of games over and over again without change. This is the case with many franchises though. Halo and Call of Duty have changed very little in the overall scheme of things but still are as popular as ever. Silent Hill, the rival to the Resident Evil series, has made minimal changes over the years, as well. The later games aren’t great, but they have stayed true to the series and the survival horror genre. If we ever get a new Dead Space game, I cannot picture it being anything less than a more epic survival horror. Resident Evil 4 was and still is a great game, but its legacy took the leading name in survival horror and turned it into just another action series. Ask fans of the franchise what they are more excited for, Resident Evil 7 or the remake of Resident Evil 2, and I guarantee it will be the latter. Resident Evil 4 belongs alongside the classic titles, its just its legacy that doesn’t.
So, that’s it for the Resident Evil series. Next week we start taking a brand new look at “The Good and the Bad” of…Splinter Cell.