Following from the plot of the Raccoon City incident in the predecessors of the Resident Evil video game series, Resident Evil 4 has a unique take on its story line and action by not pursuing the theme of ravenous hordes of mindless zombies. Instead, it bases its gameplay on fighting a cult (known in the game as the Los Illuminados i.e. “The Enlightened Ones”) comprised of villagers, monks and militia members of whom all are infected by an intelligent parasite known as the Las Plagas. Set in an un-named region in Spain, Osmund Saddler is the leader of this religious community and controls his subjects via the plaga to work towards a common goal which he says to be the destruction of the United States of America and its dissolution as the police of the world.
Despite having been released as long ago as 2005, this third-person perspective shooter developed by the Japanese company Capcom Production has stood the test of time. The game begins with brief background information on a U.S. agent by the name of Leon S. Kennedy as one of the survivors of the Raccoon City incident (http://residentevil.wikia.com/wiki/Raccoon_City_Destruction_Incident), now tasked with a rescue operation to save the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham, who was abducted by a clandestine organisation later known as the aforementioned cult. Their plan is to infect the president’s daughter with the parasite and have her returned to her father to cause discord in the White House accomplished through the dispersal of spores from the host of the Las Plagas. But Leon is no ordinary operative, as he manages to continuously foil their plans throughout the five chapters…as long as the player survives.
Chapter One begins with Leon trying to find Ashley Graham in a Spanish village (as a note, almost all opponents in the game speak Spanish), but his inquiry of one of the inhabitants ends up with the nondescript villager dressed in nondescript clothes trying to kill him. And so initiates the horror-themed adventure of fending off hordes of mind-controlled cultists while trying to complete the main objective of rescuing the president’s daughter in a gory and hostile environment with occasional puzzles. Definitely not in the category of family-friendly ludums.
The aspects of Resident Evil 4 that have made it timelessly enjoying and addictive is the freedom it gives to its players. People have the choice to choose from a variety of weapons in which they can sell and upgrade to a mysterious character in the game known as the merchant as long as they are carrying money in the form of Pesetas – the local currency of the damned Spanish region. Although the features of being able to loot buildings of their cash and trading with a merchant with whom any treasures that you may find along the way such as headdresses can be sold to him for a “very high price” seem outlandish or unrealistic, they provide an excellent way for providing varied gameplay by offering players the chance to buy and sell an assortment of weapons depending on the situation they are in. For instance, handguns such as the Red9 are great for single enemy encounters but for bosses magnums and shotguns are more effective. However, because of this, some strategy and planning is required which could leave players causing more harm than good to themselves if they make frivolous choices concerning the weapons they buy and the items they sell which can be anything from your inventory, including ammo. Selling items to the merchant usually reduces their value, heading caution in snap-decisions.
Next is the challenging but not nearly frustrating aspect of the gameplay. Trying not to die during boss battles, especially in the latter chapters such as The Castle, can prove exceedingly difficult but they are not overtly tedious or mind-numbing to surpass. Unlike in certain gems such as the three-dimensional Link series of the fifth generation of game consoles, where missing one item at the very beginning of the game or figuring out a puzzle in the wrong order can leave the game locked and with the player having to restart the entire process, Resident Evil 4 is forgiving in this nature as even when you are low on ammo or have a mis-match of arms it is still possible to progress if you are quick-enough with a knife, have tenacity and are not sluggish with movement. To conclude, it is a 10/10 experience which I would highly recommend to play with the Wii as the remote and joystick controllers are the most versatile.
The atmosphere is well designed, with a nice compromise between aesthetics and gameplay. The effort put into the setting can be seen in the chants of the monks, morir es vivir (life is death), and the impressive structures encountered throughout.
To me, Resident Evil 4 would be the best game in the franchise with its position helped by its tracking third-person orientation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_camera_system#Third-person_view) which is easy on the eyes and the mind. Ludums akin to the MS-DOS Alone in the Dark and GameCube Resident Evil 2 are close in manner to the varied action and puzzles of the game under review but are tricky to navigate due to their fixed camera angles. What also sets this cult-inspired ludum apart from others related to it is the mobility it endows players with providing them with complete maneuverability in the routes they choose and complete freedom of choice concerning armaments and upgrades. Having completed one round, you would never look at its successors in the series the same way again as they come out appearing dumbed down in the aforementioned respects.
It is a shame that Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles are not even one-tenth of the worth of Resident Evil 4, but they make this game even more unique.