A New Foundation for Video Games and Horror
The season of fear is upon us and what better way to start the month than to look back at another classic entry into the Resident Evil series. The first game defined the genre, the sequels build upon its foundation, and then it was redefined with Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil 4 was an odd entry into the series for so many reasons. From a gameplay perspective, it redefined the genre and became the foundation for the later entries and remakes that followed. From a narrative perspective, it abandoned the serious tone of previous titles to be something a little cheesy. First released for the Nintendo Game Cube then the PlayStation 2, it introduced a new generation to the iconic horror series while also paving the way for others to follow.
Since then it has been re-released on every console (to the point it has become a meme) while there are speculations of a possible remake in the works. To understand the impact it had at the time why it’s still beloved and controversial, one needs to go back to the beginning. Horror Game Icon will now look back at how Resident Evil 4 redefined the genre.
A New Nightmare Begins
Several years have passed after the Raccoon City Incident; the US Government went after Umbrella. This resulted in the collapse of the company, its assets seized by other players, and many of its leaders became wanted fugitives. Those who worked to bring down the company have moved on to prevent another Raccoon incident.
Players will once again take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy, who has now become an agent of the United States Secret Service. He has been tasked with rescuing the Presidents daughter, Ashley Graham, after she is kidnapped by a mysterious cult. He is deployed to a village in Spain where the cult is located. Upon his arrival, it’s discovered that everyone has been infected with a parasite called Las Plagas. The cult has also infected Ashley with the same parasite and wishes to use her to infect the President (in a plot to take over the world).
So like I said, the story is cheesy (but in a good way). At the time fans were mixed about this change in tone but over time began to appreciate it. The cheese is not what fans were used to (compared to past entries) but it was welcoming. At the same time, the return of Leon and Ada was welcoming while introducing other notable characters like the Merchant and Jack Krauser. The story was not its strong point, but the gameplay mechanism was major change for the genre.
Fighting the Nightmare
Resident Evil 4 redefined how we play horror games for generations and it all started by scraping the traditional setup. Gone were the fixed camera angles and the pre-rendered backgrounds. Instead, players traverse a dynamic nightmare with an over-the-shoulder camera. This gameplay setup would become the foundation for future titles and the remakes. While a shock to the first generation of fans, it was a needed change to welcome new fans to the series. In doing so it also got a new generation interested in the classics.
Another radical change was the introduction of the Merchant. Players could now buy the weapon and upgrade their weapons instead of searching for it. While unusual and first, the inclusion of an iconic character helped win fans over.
Not all the classic staples were scrapped. Many of the gameplay elements that allowed it to be a horror survival were still present. Most notable is the inventory system that required players to manage what they carry. Once again players had to manage what they take and had to drop an item if space plus its use was limited. At the same time, players still had to conserve ammo and be cautious of when they should fight. Overall, it was still a horror survival game at its core despite the radical changes.
Finally; one could not forget its lasting impact on the series, The Mercenaries. Even though the concept was first introduced in Nemesis, this version set the foundation for others to follow. It was the first one that had players try to survive before the timer hit 0. While also flawed, it was a start for the iconic mini-game.
Redefining the Genre
Prior to its launch, the game went through numerous changes with different concepts being presented and scraped. One of these versions would evolve to become Devil May Cry, itself would grow to become an iconic series in its own right. Other scrapped ideas would set the foundation for other Capcom titles (like Haunting Ground) or future Resident Evil games.
Upon its release for the Game Cube in January 2005, Resident Evil 4 was universally praised for redefining the horror survival genre. The new gameplay mechanics were welcomed for allowing players to enjoy a more open experience. Critics also praised its level of detail but were divided on the cheesy tone. 10 months later, The game would be released for the PlayStation 2 and would be hailed as the superior version for improving upon the Game Cube version.
As time passed; Resident Evil 4 would see new life on other consoles throughout the years. It was brought to the PC and the Wii in 2007 followed by a mobile port in 2009. PlayStation fans got to experience the nightmare again in 2011 with a PS3 launch (alongside an Xbox 360 release). An enhanced PC version was released in 2013 followed by an HD release for the PS5 and Xbox One in 2016. Nintendo gamers got to go back to the classic when it was re-released on the Nintendo Switch in 2019. Now; VR gamers will get to enjoy the classic as it’s set to launch on the Oculus Quest 2 this month. Like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V, the idea of Resident Evil 4 being re-released has become both a meme of its own and annoyance for fans.
While re-released has become both a meme of its own and annoyance for fans, its influence can’t be overlooked. Besides Devil May Cry and Haunting Ground, numerous games have owed their existence to the influence of Resident Evil 4. Titles like Gears of War and Uncharted have borrowed the same over-the-shoulder camera style. Titles like Dead Space were inspired to take a more action approach when creating a horror experience. Even by 2021; Capcom looked back on this entry influence when creating Resident Evil: Village. Its overall influence is a true testament to its legacy and why it’s still beloved to this day.
Redefining the Concept of Horror
Resident Evil introduced gamers to the horror survival genre, Resident Evil 2 perfected the formula, Resident Evil 4 reinvented the genre. For the horror genre, it once again set the foundation and paved the way for others to follow. Outside the genre; it inspired many titles that have become icons in their own right. Despite its shortcomings and consistent re-releases, it’s one of the most groundbreaking games of all time.
Overall; Resident Evil 4 is a true icon of horror and beyond.
Did you ever play Resident Evil 4 and what are your thoughts on it? Let us know in the comment section.
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