The early 2000s was a very important era in the video game industry. The Xbox was out, graphics were improving tremendously, and gameplay was getting more immersive. However, not every console was getting with the times.
Nintendo was the company that would set the trends rather than follow them. However, during the Gamecube era, both Sony and Microsoft took advantage of the less advanced console, and released games with the most realistic graphics that had yet to be seen. Gamecube was still hanging on with its system-sellers (“Super Smash Bros: Melee,” and “Mario Kart:Double Dash,” but it lacked a game with superb graphics and adult themes.
During this time, the “Resident Evil” franchise had more of a cult following, than anything else. Although most agree that “Resident Evil 3” is a good game, the franchise never made something revolutionary, or something that attracted hoards of thirsty gamers. However, all that changed with the release of “Resident Evil 4.”
The game had some of the best graphics ever seen. Because the game was initially a Gamecube exclusive, more people flocked to Nintendo as it had just showed the world that it could make games look as good as how Xbox could. The age of boxy polygonal faces was over.
Until this game was released, Nintendo was known for being a kid-friendly console. Aside from “Metroid” and “The Legend of Zelda,” games seldom got violent. Showing blood was unheard of for Nintendo, and the only guns allowed were ones that shot laser beams, not bullets. “Resident Evil 4” was not afraid to get violent. As you traverse the game, your character could be beheaded by means of chainsaw, have the flesh melted off his face by way of acid, be cut in half by a mutant, and several dozen other horrible ways to die.
Nowadays, the first-person-shooter genre is beaten to death, but back then, new life was breathed into it by the “Halo” games. Releasing a shooter in something other than first person seemed like a fool’s errand. However, “Resident Evil 4” was a made in a third person, over-the-shoulder, view. The player was unable to “run and gun” (move around while firing a weapon). This added to the horror in the game as there was a sense of urgency. The player had to plan out every bullet they fired, and every angle of every shot. More often than naught, a person playing “Halo” even for the first time, could beat a level within a few attempts. “Resident Evil 4” required sometimes dozens of attempts per level. This was not due to poor game mechanics, but in genuine challenge. Each boss battle would leave the player wondering what they could do differently to finally take the boss out with what little resources they had.
Ammo is typically not an issue in most modern day first-person shooters. In “Resident Evil 4” players found themselves begging for a box of shotgun shells resting atop a barrel, or for a merchant selling a rocket launcher to appear. However, this wasn’t a flaw in the game. It added to the urgency by giving the player just the amount of ammo that they needed. Players also had a limited amount of carrying space for their weapons, ammo, and medicine, and had to choose what to carry, and what to drop. For a first time player not knowing what was coming next, this could be frustrating, but it never came off as unfair.
“Resident Evil” games tend to try and be more than they can handle in terms of story. Sometimes what should just be a simple tale is instead blown out of proportion to the dismay of players. “Resident Evil 4” was essentially a search and rescue story that kept getting worse and worse for the characters, but more and more entertaining for the player.
“Resident Evil 4” in my opinion is the best game in the franchise. “Resident Evil 5” had likable aspects, but the side-kick character that kept wasting your precious ammunition despite her ability to not hit anything proved to be far more annoying than having a character you could simply ask to run and hide.