Resident Evil 4 (henceforth referred to as 4 Resident Evil because that's what the logo says and typing it that way infers Capcom doesn't know what the hell) is one of those games that, while I hated it, I was sorely alone in that and it became more and more painfully obvious that I was going to remain that way. 4 Resident Evil has transcended that status from "good game" to "great classic" or however you want to phrase it, so with that status, it will never really get panned aside from the outliers like me who just seem bitter about its success or whatever. And maybe I am just bitter, but I'll tell you one thing I am, and that one thing is "Not Wrong". I firmly believe that I am not wrong in hating the game and thinking it's a fairly poor game because it has all the -things- that we point at in other games and say "This? This right here? THIS IS BAD." and the only reason I think that 4 Resident Evil got away with it is because it was another installment of a beloved franchise that had a very obvious leap in a few areas and had a lot of potential, even if the lot of it was completely undermined and/or unrealized.
So, the premise of 4 Resident Evil (seriously, gonna keep on doin' that) is pretty simple, even though it's really quite far removed from your 'normal' Resident Evil title. (Re-reading the Let's Play series of 0-4 with Code Veronica in there as well leads me to say that there's no 'normal' Resident Evil game) Whereas most of the Resident Evil games have you going into a situation caused one way or another by Umbrella with their wacky viruses and the like, 4 Resident Evil sees you doing something quite different in heading what is basically a search and rescue mission directly from the top brass of the United States of America. The President's daughter (who might actually just be the incumbent President's daughter, since Capcom can't be arsed to really think out dates for this type of thing) has been kidnapped by a crazy cult. 'Are you a bad enough dude to save her?!' This is basically the entire premise of the game at the start. Of course, it gets a little, er, 'deeper', but at the start of the game, it's billed as just a simple in-and-out job.
A simple in-and-out job for none other than Leon Scott Kennedy (I don't know why his middle name is important enough to get mentioned, just roll with it) who was last seen in
|It's worth mentioning that this is a cap of the PS3 remaster. Thus it's shiny.|
So, as soon as Leon gets split up with the guys who are presumably going to drive him to the place he ends up walking to minutes after their death (by the way, if you haven't noticed by now, I'm going to be spoiling the story for the whole game, so if you're not into that, maybe head off now) he encounters villagers who are a little more than hostile towards the American. In fact, they're downright rude, what with trying to bite him and such and oh, yeah, they're actually just trying to kill him. Because they are all 'zombies', or at least what 4 Resident Evil calls zombies, which are really just people with parasites in their bodies. This is sort of important. I will touch on it more in a couple paragraphs. Suffice to say, there's at least a reason why getting bitten by these guys doesn't offer an infection chance in theory (since the games prior kind of did and it was never really mentioned outside of something really silly in 3) and it's mostly because to be infected like these guys, you kind of need a giant alien parasite in your body. Not...you know, a virus or something manageable.
In the village that he walks to (which is, as I assume, the destination goal or at least a stop) he runs into more of these as well as, potentially, one of these 'zombies' who can wield a chainsaw because fuck you. This whole section is pretty infamous in its own right and it more or less sets the bar for "Will I like 4 Resident Evil?". It's one of the highest-tension moments in the game, it uses a randomization feature depending on your actions (which isn't used anywhere else in the game) and there is generally just a shit-load of 'zombies' for you to get used to the experimental control scheme that other games have since adopted and made much much better. Thereafter, the game -really- starts to get weird because it chiefly features Leon just sort of wandering around until he stumbles onto parts of the cult and destroys them and such. Also a Merchant who is a gigantic asshole because he charges the one guy going around and killing zombies for supplies with which to kill zombies.
Something heavily featured in the gameplay is QTEs which are almost universally reviled by gaming people as a whole unless they're in a game that you like which means they're okay in that game only. (Notable examples include God of War series, 4 Resident Evil, Shenmue, etc. Because it's just silly to acknowledge that maybe QTEs aren't the problem, just poor implementation is.) Said QTEs are, of course, of the "Get it right or die" variety, which is sort of the worst kind, but let's ignore that I suppose. Adds to the 'horror' and 'survival' elements in the whole 'survival horror' theme that 4 Resident Evil clearly carries. It also features the QTEs less offensive (Perception-wise) cousin: Context-sensitive actions, to the tune of "Press button to jump out a window" and the like. Both are generally not seen as positive additions to any games (with the latter being pretty much overlooked anymore), yet they don't seem to drag 4RE down in opinion like they do in other games.
Also featured is the staple tank controls (admittedly of a different design) and limited inventory space (again, different design) that have been decried in previous titles (while not being enough to outwardly despise them enough to say they're bad games). Of the former, the most note-worthy thing is the inclusion of the whole "cannot walk and aim" thing that has been series standard since the first game (and is, in fact, only being dropped in favor of good third-person controls in Resident Evil 6, as in they were still present in 5) but generally it's just awkward to get around and, at least personally, I feel the camera is usually a little too tight to accommodate the desired play-style anyways. With the latter, there's at least a 'neat' idea behind it, in pretending that Leon is carrying around a giant metal suitcase that he is never seen with that has enough space for generally more than the usual inventory, provided you're willing to organize things to eek out those extra spaces. It is, much to everyone's benefit, also upgradeable through the game, adding more and more space with which to work.
Now, the main thing I take issue with, the main problem I have with 4 Resident Evil, is far and beyond the plot of the game. What I've already said is relatively tame compared to what the rest of the game has to offer, and I can't even cover the full breadth of -dumb- that the game carries, story-wise. Not that the other Resident Evil games offer 'smart' plots or anything resembling them, but I daresay that 4 Resident Evil carries one of the dumbest stories of the entire series, just below Resident Evil Zero, which manages to retcon retcons and have the dumbest antagonist ever. I haven't played, nor experienced Resident Evil 5, so I can't comment on that, but of 0, 1 (remake included), 2, 3, 4, Code Veronica, Survivor and Dead Aim, 4 Resident Evil takes second place handily. While I'm overstating it quite a bit, also potentially setting it up to be a little less dumb than you might be anticipating, I do have to make it pretty obvious on where I stand on this, because it makes it that much easier for you to get it while I then describe the why.
I would like you to take a look at the above cutscene from 4RE. I'll offer no real input at this point beyond simply asking you to watch it so that what follows makes a little sense. And waiting....waiting....Okay, I'm going to assume at this point that you have watched it. Now I would like to make three points very very clear about what is wrong with that video and, in fact, the entire plot of the game because of it. First off, Saddler sees fit to just sort of explain the whole plan to both Leon (whom is completely unnecessary to the entire plan, more on that in a minute) and Ashley (whom the entire plot hinges on in -several- ways). That's probably in the great big list of cliches somewhere, also on the evil overlord lists and such. It's dumb. Don't do that. Because it is dumb. Under most circumstances, it is only mostly dumb, but in 4 Resident Evil's scenario, it's obscenely dumb, so much so that I had to stress it this much.
Now, the second point hinges on the first because it more or less explains why it is obscenely dumb to do the first point in the first place. The entire plan is to kidnap Ashley and inject her with a Plagas and then send her back to America so that the Plagas can incubate and hatch so that Saddler can assume control of her to wreck up America from the inside. Ignoring the glaring ways in which that could go wrong (up to and including the fact that a giant fucking tentacle thing (or an egg of a giant fucking tentacle thing) is likely to show up on an X-Ray which is probably part of the litany of tests she'd be put under upon returning to the States to ensuring her well-being) the problem is that they fucked up halfway through the plan. The entire game hinges on Leon showing up to rescue Ashely which suggests that she has been held for long enough to warrant Armed Response (barely) which means they got to the part of the plan in which they kidnap and inject her and then stopped.
The half-assed explanation is that they need to ransom Ashley off to the States before returning her so they can wait for her Plagas to hatch and then take control of the States which I'm sure you can read into why that's a half-assed explanation. That's....whatever. In that sort of scenario, I can sort of see Leon being just an interloper, even though he's trying to perform the ultimate shared goal of getting Ashley back home, which I would just sort of roll with. You don't get money immediately, of course (not like you're going to anyway because of the whole "America doesn't negotiate with terrorists" thing, the fact that they clearly know where the cult is operating from, the fact that they actually send an attack chopper to said location and the fact that they kidnapped the daughter of the man who is not President yet) but you get Ashley into the States where, presumably, nothing happens until she hatches the Plagas and shit goes golden for Saddler and his homies. Since that's part of the original plan. If you want to really play Devil's Advocate, I guess you could say that they needed to take her back so she could go through channels that would keep her sheltered from American doctors and such until the Plagas was ready, but this is the same cult that is run by a giant, the above Saddler who is loving this shit and is also into the Evil Overlord thing to the degree that it ruins his plans, and a crazy midget.
The third issue, which is kind of the biggest issue is that, directly after explaining his big smart plan to the guy who could safely be shot in the head at any point and disposed of and the girl who needs to not know any of the plan because assuming she gets back to the States, it would be best if she didn't know so that she can't say "THERE'S AN ALIEN IN MY BODY", he tries to kill both of them. I say 'he' tries to kill both of them because two dudes with Plagas in them (I'm not saying Ganados because those are the villagers, literally 'cattle' and I'm not saying Cultists because that doesn't convey the fact that they have the brain-controlling parasite from somebody's fucking basement inside of them) pop out and he can apparently control people with Plagas, which would suggest that he made them pop out with flaming crossbows and take aim at not only Leon but Ashley, upon whom their entire fucking "Get Rich and Destroy America" plan hinges on not killing. The worst part is that this is -not- an isolated incident as, in any scenario wherein Ashley is with you (and there are a lot), the Plagas dudes either attempt to re-kidnap her (which as I said is barely acceptable) or just straight-up murder her (like by burying a fucking axe in her head) through these beings that Saddler can apparently control.
The fact is that 4 Resident Evil's entire plot is pretty much made superfluous because the people actively ruining the Antagonist's plans is the Antagonists themselves. Leon running around and shooting things until they die doesn't help matters, certainly, but the plan is actively circumvented by the ones who came up with it for little reason beyond "Shit, we can't redo the entire story -again-, oh well, ship it". Being that 4 Resident Evil in its current state was like the fourth or fifth incarnation of the game itself (one of which ended up apparently being Devil May Cry, completely serious) I imagine there was something of a time crunch, especially considering two or three of the builds had been shown off as if they were going to be the game that ended up being released, which they certainly were not. So suddenly changing it around so that Leon was yet again doing something other than originally broadcast (perhaps something that actually made more sense than single-handedly rescuing the daughter of the incumbent president from a cult that was too stupid to achieve their own goals) would have probably done more harm than good to the thing overall.
Ultimately, what turned me off to the game was simply the controls as they were just too bad for them to actually be usable for me. I didn't get far enough into the game for it to reveal its stupidity to me (however, I did have a friend over who managed it, so I almost experienced it first-hand) but that's really something that it no more or less egregious depending on the way you're informed (unless, of course, you're simply being misinformed which I do not think I've done) which means I think it's pretty open for ridicule whether or not I beat the game myself. And while I don't think the game is a good one myself, I certainly don't begrudge anyone who managed to enjoy it because I certainly would have liked to. When it comes down to it, more people enjoyed the game despite its many many flaws than not, and that's why it gets its spot in success history and whether I like it or not doesn't matter. Doesn't mean I can't angrily write about it to the internet, though!