In the retro gaming canon, there are certain titles (like “Goldeneye” for the N64) that seek to function as guideposts for gamers. They seem to say on their face “hey, this is what a first person shooter looks like” or “this is how you do action-based survival horror”. With regards to Resident Evil 4, the latter is true – this really is a combination survival horror rail shooter and something else, like an awesome template on how to make an engaging 3rd person action game. At the same time, RE4 is a visceral and familiar nightmare, incorporating elements of its past glory neatly into the now standard over-the-shoulder viewpoint utilized by all subsequent games in the series.
What makes Capcom’s wildly stylish Resident Evil 4 so amazing though is its setting and tension –generating gameplay format. Some will immediately decry the fact that you can’t run and shoot at the same time, but in all honesty, this only serves to increase the title’s overall appeal in some strange way. For example, in your typical horror-filled game, it is a lack of real danger that ends up destroying the whole experience. With RE4 however, the mechanic of having to actually stop and aim means that you’re forced to you know…survive, rather than easily dominate a room full of foes. Some might call it feedback-based gameplay, where the situational resistance supplies all the drama.
For instance, in one of the game’s first segments you find yourself in a strange Spanish town full of crazed villagers. After spotting you they immediately decide that it’s time for you to die, giving way to chase. Running inside a building, you quickly bar the door and watch in horror as dozens of bona-fide zombies begin to crowd around your shelter, in typical “night of the living dead” fashion. Even worse, it appears that they actually know how to use ladders. It’s these sorts of moments which force you to both think tactically and react with paranoid violence that makes RE4 such an entertaining retro choice.
Moreover, RE4 presents you with a rather intriguing array of enemies throughout, including variations on standard goons found in various levels as well as demented and terrifying mutant boss creatures. It’s basically a fun house roller coaster carnival ride in the form of a video game with some lucid nightmare thrown in for good measure. The story alone should be enough to keep any true gamer captivated to the very end, but it also seamlessly blends in challenging but rewarding gameplay as well.
Unlike a lot of other linear titles, Resident Evil 4 is one of those games that’s just really fun to run through over and over again, especially considering that you can carry over saved games and so forth. The whole experience is great – from the character design, story, graphics, combat, level design, and overall “creepiness” factor. For example, just walking around in the decrepit castle with all those cult-like monks mumbling to themselves; even worse when their heads fall off and reveal an extended millipede like appendage that can deal massive damage.