Resident Evil 4 Review (PS4) – #MaybeinMarch
“Where’s everyone going, Bingo?”
Available on: Playstation/Xbox/Steam/Switch
Genre: Survival Horror Action
Last month, I found out and participated in a collaboration blog event called #LoveYourBacklog that was created by Later Levels and Ace Asunder. Well, that was only the first part, as this month hosts the second part of it called #MaybeinMarch. #MaybeinMarch is basically when you tackle the game that you said has spent the most time in your backlog and write about it. As you probably read in my #LoveYourBacklog post, I had two games up as ones that spent the most time in my backlog: Final Fantasy 10 and Resident Evil 4. And, as you can clearly see, I choose to play Resident Evil 4. I somehow was able to avoid spoilers, apart from a speedrunning history video about the Water Room, so I went into this completely clueless. And while I’m not as scared as I was as a kid when my dad had this game, I still get scared especially since my brain can’t help but only let me play horror games around midnight. Lucky me.
I do actually have some memories still lingering that I was able to experience again or wonder where the heck did it come from. I remembered the scene where The Big Cheese just chokes Leon until he sees him sporting some red eyes for a second and the part where you’re at this watery area with those wooden platforms raised above. I was mainly scared of that second half since you can’t really shoot and go, but plant your feet and the enemies always snuck up on me. Though, one thing I remembered that didn’t actually happen was my memory of Leon getting kicked in the face and then waking up to the guy (who kicked him) saying that he almost turned since he saw his eyes. This never actually happened to my surprise and I have no idea where this came from. I obviously got the red eyes from that one cutscene, but I must have gotten the rest mixed up with another zombie (or zombie-like) game as I do remember the kick being in first person and being sudden (I’d like to say the main character tripped up and you briefly see someone walking towards you before you get kicked and become unconscious). Or it was from a movie and I like, dreamed the combination of those two scenes. Either way, it’s bothering me not knowing where this came from.
Anyway, let’s get into it.
In Resident Evil 4, you play as Leon Kennedy (who, in my opinion, looks the best in this title) who is now a U.S. government agent after the Raccoon City incident six years ago. He was originally assigned to protecting the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, but before he was going to, she was mysteriously kidnapped while returning from her classes. Luckily, it doesn’t take long for the government’s intelligence to hear about a sighting of a girl, who looks exactly like Ashley, being held by a group of people in an unnamed rural part of Europe. And that’s exactly where you’re going and will spend the rest of the game in. However, once you arrive, the situation is not what Leon was expecting nor won’t it be easy.
Right off the gate, he’s attacked by the residents of the rural village that serves as the first location of the game. It’s not until later on that you learn they’re all a part of this religious cult called Los Iluminados. And while the people here aren’t zombies (well, despite acting like zombies later on), there’s a whole new parasite called Plagas where one the egg hatches within you, influences your actions and makes you easy to control by Saddler (the Los Iluminados leader). And that’s not even all. The Plagas will even have a chance at bursting from the head to attack you (having three different varieties), but they’ll be able to be killed by their weakness: light. You’ll also come across different enemy types that pushes you to fighting with different weapons and find a way to kill them with using the least amount of ammo and less health depletion. Soon enough, you also meet Luis Sera who was kidnapped as well and seems to know more than he’s letting on to Leon (though, they do hit it off despite how scarce he makes himself).
While this does have the familiar over the shoulder perspective, the controls will take a bit to get used to (it certainly took me a while), but it did kind of grow on me and it made the game even more challenging. This technically has tank controls, but it’s not as bad once you get fully used to it (and stop moving the camera constantly haha). Leon can easily transition into a jog, turning is slow but you can do a quick turn, and aiming requires you to plant Leon’s feet right where you are so you can aim Leon’s gun where you can tell where it’s aiming at by a laser. And if you want to switch guns, or heal, you can easily go into your inventory and do just that (though you sadly can’t reload in the inventory outside of battles). While it is a bit annoying that Leon can’t move while aiming, it does bring up how careful you need to be and the desperation as you try to stay out of the enemy’s reach as well as giving you enough time to aim and shoot. Though, I did have a couple moments where Leon aimed the gun as far as he could towards one of the sides. I’m not sure what causes this, but it certainly was annoying. Leon’s also equipped with a knife at all times so you can damage enemies up close (though, you can kick them if they’re doubled over). You may also want to comb each location, and break any box/barrel with your knife, as you’ll find more ammo, money, treasure to sell off, herbs (containing the usual green, yellow, red and the ability to combine them), and grenades (hand, incendiary, and flash).
Talking about items, you may want to keep an eye on what you’re picking up or get to using them (*sweeps my grenade hoarding under the rug*). This has inventory management where every item you pick up (aside from treasures and story-related items) takes up a certain amount of grid spaces in your inventory. You can rotate them to try and fit something in and easily combine herbs or ammo stacks, but you may not be able to fit everything and you may need to leave that grenade behind (though, hopefully not some ammo) or discard something.
I didn’t know about this going in, but despite Resident Evil 4 not having any difficulty settings from the start, it does have adaptive difficulty. This means that if the game detects you performing badly (missing shots, dying, getting hit), it’ll ease up while doing good will make the game harder. You’ll get more ammo and there are enemies that won’t appear if you were doing bad. I honestly would not have noticed this if I didn’t watch a video that mentioned it. Unless you want to play on the hardest difficulty right off the bat, this helps the player not hit a wall, while also not becoming too easy.
As you get further in, you’ll be able to buy more guns, upgrade those guns, buy a rocket launcher to immediately kill a boss you’re having trouble with (though I recommend at least trying as the bosses are great and intense to fight against), make your inventory bigger, buy a map that shows where all of the big treasures are, and sell those treasures. Oh and our favorite Merchant not only sells items and upgrades, but also hosts a shooting range. This is entirely optional, but this has 4 different game types that unlock as you get further in the game. Basically, you’ll be asked which weapon set you want to use to shoot cardboard cutouts of enemies and avoid shooting the Ashley cutout (and psst you can switch weapons during this). Shooting the backdrop will even cause different effects like spawning a bunch of feathers or a shooting star that literally explodes on the field. Getting a certain score will grant you a bottle cap with hitting each target will give you a rare bottle cap (6 per type, 24 in total). Getting all bottle caps in a series will give you money and you can go in your inventory to look at them and activate a voice line. He also has a small, optional, side mission very early on where you’ll be asked to shoot Blue Medallions to get a free gun and luckily, you do get the location of them on your map.
We all hate escort missions, and thank goodness that they’re not in games that much anymore, where you have to protect someone that most likely puts themselves in harms way. Well, in this game, you have a good amount of time essentially in an escort mission with Ashley. Except, it’s not that bad. It’s a pretty good escort mission. She follows you pretty closely, she tries to be behind you when you’re shooting at enemies or at least crouch down in front of you, you can put her in a garbage bin to hide, you can tell her to stay in a safe spot and the enemies won’t go after her unless they see her (so no knowing where she is just because), and there are parts where she’ll help you. The only thing that’s annoying is her yell for help (which to be fair, is used so you know and it doesn’t really get annoying until a certain part where she must have been shouting it for hours) and she doesn’t know how to climb down ladders. Not to mention, you don’t have to deal with her for the rest of the game (which was to my surprise) as you do get moments where you have a break from her. Though, I honestly didn’t really get tired of her. I didn’t have much of a problem with Ashley, except for a few parts which she and Leon are separated (aka Water Room and when she’s on the floor below and the balcony you’re on blocks your line of vision) and I can tell they’re supposed to be hard to deal with. Plus, she has a pretty good section for herself as well.
There’s also QTEs here. My main complaint is that they go by super fast where you’ll have to press the buttons by instinct as thinking about it for even 2 seconds is too slow. There are two sets you’ll be asked to press (and sometimes they will swap when you’re replaying the section), that being the trigger buttons and the “X” and “O” buttons and you’ll encounter them when fighting bosses or certain enemies or during cutscenes where you’ll be killed if missed. Though, there are props you can give to Resident Evil 4 to how they use QTEs. They’re not used too often to where it just becomes tiring and when they do pop up, it really does catch you off guard. You do also get ones that require you to shake the analog stick quickly when being grabbed by enemies or pressing a button quickly to do something, which you’ll run into a lot on your first run. Though, I do have a sneaky suspicion that the enemy gets to do one of their little attacks no matter how fast you do it and it didn’t seem like Leon was doing an action any faster.
I can’t really put a finger on how Resident Evil 4 does it, but despite it having some pretty cheesy lines, it doesn’t at all feel terribly cheesy (like say, Kingdom Hearts), but hilarious. And this is the game where one of the bosses is nicknamed “The Big Cheese”. No matter if it’s coming from Leon (which most of them do) or from another character, it’s always brought a laugh out of me and in fact, I’m chuckling now as I’m writing this as I’m thinking back. I’m guessing it has to do to with the game hitting that perfect line of taking itself seriously while not at all at the same time that makes these lines fit, the way the character says it, not expecting Leon of all people to be the one saying most of them, and just the reactions Leon gets. Either way, I love it.
Once you finish the game once, you get quite the amount of unlocks. You’ll be able to set a save file as a New Round file (basically New Game+) which lets you start out with the equipment you ended with as well as having the Merchant have his full list of items and upgrades available from the start. Another difficulty mode is also unlocked, Professional Mode, which is the highest difficulty (with no interference from the adaptive difficulty) for when you’re starting a whole new game. The Infinite Rocket Launcher and the Matilda (3-round burst handgun) is also unlocked upon finishing and is put in the Merchant’s store. There’s a costume set for Leon, Ashley, and Ada if you want them to wear something different. You can watch all the cutscenes now if you don’t want to replay the game to get to them. And lastly, three extra game modes are unlocked: The Mercenaries, Assignment Ada, and Separate Ways.
Despite cutting it really close, I really enjoyed my time with Resident Evil 4. For being about a 16 year old game, it’s still a solid actionized survival horror that I recommend everyone interested in the Resident Evil series or the horror genre to play. Sure you have to plant yourself to shoot and the QTEs are so quick, but there’s a lot of positives here that make this such a great game. And while the community sees this as more of an action game than horror, it is still plenty scary especially if you do some mood setting by turning off the lights and wearing earbuds. I also never thought about stopping because it was bad, but because it was so intense and just the scares got to me (whether intentional or not). Nor did it feel too long as there’s always something going on and you’re always pushing forward. I’m really glad I decided to go with Resident Evil 4 and finally experience it fully.
Since I wasn’t able to check out the extra game modes in time (darn March going by way too fast) I’ll be doing a follow up! So look out for it in the coming weeks.