Resident Evil 4 (2005) – The Good, The Bad & The Weird
Since its debut in 2005, Resident Evil 4 has rightly been lauded as one of the best ever. Not just in Capcom’s survival horror franchise, but in the grander scale of generally “best game ever” lists and retrospectives.
Rightly so, given the way it reinvigorated the series. Breathed life into it, if you will, changing the styling so dramatically from the established main game format. Popularising the over-the-shoulder camera style, incorporating Quick-Time Events (for better or worse) and generally throwing all of the balls to any wall.
Now, eighteen years and almost as many ports later, Resident Evil 4 is getting a remake, due out on March 24th. It’s looking incredible, and hopefully staying faithful enough to appease people for the deviations that the Resident Evil 3 remake made in 2020. So naturally, the game’s an absolute masterpiece, can do no wrong and by all accounts, is faultless, right?
Well, that’s what we’re going to have a look at in this trip down memory lane. The best bits, the worst bits… and even the weirdest bits. Consider this a primer, a flashback, into the wonderful weirdness of Resident Evil 4, and let’s see what carries over into the remake, shall we?
“Where Are They Off To, Bingo?”
Action-packed beginnings aren’t uncommon in a Resident Evil title. The first not so much, but both the second and third games start with fire and explosions. Code: Veronica kicks off with a similar start with its jailbreak. So with Resident Evil 4, it would be wise to say that players were expecting… something.
But were players expecting a small village’s worth of crazies, complete with chainsaw-wielding, cloth-on-head maniac? I doubt it. It’s an assault to the senses and the player, coming on thick and fast. Yet that’s not the weird part.
After what feels like forever, the church bell rings and they all just… stop. No thrown axes, no cries of alarm, not decapitation risk. The villagers just saunter off, leaving Leon to address the weirdness with the witty retort of, “Where’s everyone going? Bingo?”.
Ah yes, this is a Resident Evil alright.
Salazar’s Gigantic, Animatronic Statue
These aren’t in any particular order, mind, nor are they “ranked”. They’re just oddities and strange moments that we [in the FG Slack] remember, with this one being mentioned the other day. It’s so… out there, so weird in its tonal shift that it deserves a high billing.
Roman Salazar is a strange one (and there’s another weird bit we’ll come to), acting all big for a diminutive little lord. He rants, he shouts, he gets into verbal battles with Leon… and he has a fifty-ish foot statue to himself in the castle. But that’s not all, narcissistic as it is.
No, that statue comes to “life” and chases Leon in one of the game’s more intense Quick Time Event (QTE) sections. QTE’s weren’t uncommon by this point, but being chased by a statue seems so out of left field it had many, even me, giving a panicked “What the hell?!” when that thing awoke. It’s a random one off, but it certainly keeps players on their toes.
You Call That A Knife Fight?
Despite telling a reasonably versed story in Resident Evil 4, there are a few gaps in the narrative that left us scratching our heads. Like, for example, who the mysterious, Bayman-from-Dead-Or-Alive-lookalike Krauser is. Or why he’s so angry all of the time. Unfortunately, we don’t really get a lot of answers to that.
What we do get, however, is a knife battle predating the slick, close-quarter battles recently seen in the John Wick movies. It comes as a surprise, not for its QTE shenanigans, but just how seemingly out of place it is. We think we’re getting a boss fight, but it becomes this Shenmue-esque standoff between two former comrades.
Yet the double-edged err, knife, is that whilst it looks great, it comes with a degree of frustration too. Mess up a prompt and you could be sent further back in the fight, making it one more of repetition and annoyance over spectacle.
But that’s on the player, not the game. The game provides a spectacle, it’s up to us to play it out properly.
Oh, It’s Not Dead. Or Undead, Again
It’s taken as pretty standard fare in anything undead-related that if one shoots or destroys it enough, it dies (or stays undead). With zombies, it’s destroying the head/spinal connection too. In Resident Evil terms, it’s that and/or just obliterating it to the point of the extreme. For the most part, it usually works. But Resident Evil 4 even spiced that up too.
Enter the Regenerator. Granted, the naming is obvious now, but at the time we didn’t know what to expect. At first these things are unassuming from a distance, just twitchy, lumpy monster things. But it’s when you start blastin’, and they don’t fall, that players begin to worry. Yes, those are its horrible, spindly limbs coming to give you a squeeze.
If, and only if, players had the foresight to bring a rifle and thermal scope, these were… well, not easy but manageable. However, if you didn’t know you had to shoot each Las Plagas parasite to fully destroy a Regenerator, these things were relentless in chomping after Leon. It was horrifying, but in a more panic-inducing fashion.
The Right Hand Slaps Back
“Your right hand… comes off?”
For sure a small person, Salazar’s influence in Leon’s adventure is quite massive. But before his literal transformation into something big and nasty (no spoiler, it’s a Resident Evil), we have to deal with one of his hands first. Yes, even after that wonderful, rapier-like retort above from Leon.
Ominous figures decked in robes, we soon discover what these things, the Verdugo duo, are: Tyrant-sized, slick-skinned hunters. Not amphibious Hunters like in the original, but another flavour of bastarding hunter. Luring Leon through a QTE-filled corridor to sealed room, the battle is pure cat and mouse.
For one, it can’t be damaged conventionally and two, it hits hard. Players can, if hot-footed and cowardly enough, evade the Verdugo for a certain time until escape becomes available. Or, if they’re up to it, they can fight fire with nitrogen. Knocking canisters over will freeze the insectoid beast, allowing Leon to strike. It takes a while, but it’s oh so worth it to tackle this thing. Thankfully, you only have to fight one of them.
Paying The Toll
Another boss fight now, but this one deserves credit for being so old fashioned in a Resident Evil game. Before this, the series has given us all kinds of freak to fight, from Tyrants and Nemeses to huge, mutated spiders and worms. Yet this one, not long after Leon escapes the village, is a troll. A standard looking troll that you’d find under an albeit large bridge.
Even the battle itself has no major gimmick. Just keep shooting at the big lug until it falls down. So far, so… boring, right? Well, to start with it is. But you wouldn’t be this far in the game without seeing gross things emerging from enemies, would you? The troll is no different, spouting a parasitic tree stump out of its back halfway through.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a standard boss fight: shoot the thing until the thing stops moving. But as a set piece, I doubt anyone had “troll battle” on their bingo card.
If that quotation sets you off, do not worry, you are not alone. There’s no support or help for it, mind. You’re just one of many scarred by hearing Ashley yelling that at the slightest hint of peril.
Escort missions were nothing new at that stage in gaming, and given that this was a rescue mission it shouldn’t be unexpected. But by christ does it get annoying when you turn around for a minute and Ashley’s been hoiked over a monk’s shoulder. Again… and again, because she can’t think to try evading the grabby hands.
The only saving grace is the later versions that allowed Ashley to don a suit of armour that stops her being picked up… but she still does that shrill yell. Can’t win them all.
This one isn’t so much bad as it is weird, yet not out of place considering the series’ history with odd inventory management. Gone were the set inventory squares of old, instead giving Leon a rather snazzy attache case instead. Quite where he hides it about his person, who knows.
Weapons naturally are the biggest items, whereas things like ammo and grenades are individual (ammo stacks, but only so much). Eggs are tiny, fish slightly bigger. All sounds simple, right? Well, it’s like packing for a holiday: you always think you have more space than you do, until you start to fill up your case.
Logic-puzzle solvers will have no problem arranging it accordingly, but for most it was a pain. Want to buy a new gun but only have five squares of space and not the required six? Do you drop a flash grenade, not knowing how secretly invaluable they are? How about wasting a herb when you’ve only been scratched?
Room For Improvement
Well, there you have it: just some of the weirdest, wonderful and wrong moments in Resident Evil 4. There are many, many more in this gem, of course, but this isn’t a retroactive review.
Is it a wishlist of what we want to see either removed or touched up in the remake? Not entirely, as we already know the Krauser knife fight has been changed. Resident Evil fans are a fickle bunch when it comes to their remakes. What we heralded in the RE2 remake was what ruined the Nemesis remake: shortened sequences, dumbed down gameplay (to an extent).
As it stands, the Resident Evil 4 remake is looking incredible. Due out in just a few weeks, the anticipation here at FGHQ is at fever pitch. Personally, I’m a die-hard Resi fan, as you can see in my reviews for both Resident Evil 2 and the third one. If you’re unsure of how good this is looking, check out our most recent piece on the newest trailer.
Tell us below what was your favourite moment in Resident Evil 4, as well what you’re looking forward to about the remake the most.
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