Resident Evil 4 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Leo Epema 01.09.2016 2

Review for Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 4

Resident Evil 4 is the first of the instalments that changed up the traditional Resident Evil formula. Whether or not it was a change for the better is partly subjective, of course, so the question is why is the game loved so much? Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 were widely criticised for their lack of horror—as well as survival—but how does RE4 fare in this regard? Now ported once more for a new generation, Cubed3 provides a fresh take on the fourth mainline entry for those that have still yet to play it.

Resident Evil 4 stars Leon Kennedy. Six years after the events of Resident Evil 2, he is tasked with going to a village somewhere in Spain to rescue the U.S. President's daughter, Ashley, who was abducted by mysterious figures. As it turns out, it isn't just any typical criminal organisation behind her disappearance. Without spoiling too much, it's a power-hungry cult. The intro explaining the backstory of the events of Raccoon City and Leon's new job is very clear, and it never becomes drawn-out. It just makes the theme of the series understandable for newcomers. Then a cut-scene starts, showing Leon being brought to the Spanish village by the police, and it's got a nice feel to it—like a classic horror movie that starts out with a road trip. Immediately, the tone is set: this is a bleak, almost claustrophobic part of Spain, with a kind of fog representing the uncertainty the player is thrust into. As the policemen escorting Leon to the village say to him: Leon is on his own. That sense of uncertainty and isolation is a good selling point for the game.

The plot is really well told. Unlike Resident Evil 5, this game actually manages to feel like a movie—a thriller with decent amounts of horror, rather than an action movie. It even includes parts that play out like light mysteries, with the reason for the appearance of a character from a previous game remaining unclear for a long time. Luis Sera, a researcher and self-professed (through one oddly expository line in an otherwise natural conversation) ladies' man, sporadically meets up with Leon throughout the beginning of the game, keeping the player invested in seeing what will happen to him and what he's all about. Luis's motivations are explained in a fairly lacklustre way through a scrap of paper.

Screenshot for Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 4

Unfortunately, this highlights one of RE4's problems: the characters are rather one-dimensional (and are sometimes voiced in a hammy way). That makes it hard to care about what they do and what happens to them, even blemishing the gameplay. Many of the cut-scenes are uninteresting because the characters barely have any rapport or even funny things to say, and it feels like the characters never stop to catch their breath. You'd think somebody as trained as Leon would want to immediately forge an understanding with Ashley, who he needs to escort. It would've been far more enjoyable if there were secrets to be found, whether obscure corners, or hidden or unlockable rooms. As it is, it feels barren and on-rails, unlike the classic games and the original that took place in a mansion. That mansion felt like it had been lived in, like it had history.

What Resident Evil 4 gets right is the plot: it's never confusing or filled with plot-holes. It also explains what's going on behind the scenes with other characters through items strewn about the locales, giving excellent pacing. As on-rails as it may be, it manages to feel less tedious than most games because of the lack of an objective marker or characters leading Leon to where he needs to be. Instead, the only indication Leon is going the right way comes from the traveling merchant, who is quite the sight for sore eyes—a blue-flamed torch bringing some peace of mind in the harsh grey and/or brown locales. Often, a soothing ethereal save room theme accompanies the merchant, which is still oddly hinting there's something wrong in this town. The locales are not even as varied as the ones from RE5, numbing the mind after a few hours. Not only are the places pretty similar in architecture, their colours are very often identical. On the flipside, they're quite detailed and set the tone well.

Thankfully, the dull environments contain some scary enemies, like invisible ones encountered in the sewers. The reason why those are frightening is because the environments are built around them, unlike with the villager and cultist-type enemies. There's almost no place to go, and they can jump Leon very quickly. That, combined with the shimmering of water, can make them hard to see, and the sound effects make their approach all the more unnerving. One boss fight is especially horror-like, with a humanoid monster running after Leon in tight corridors, with the latter needing to wait for an elevator to arrive.

Screenshot for Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 4

Unfortunately, many enemies lose their appeal as Leon acquires better weaponry. The Plagas-infested townsfolk become so underpowered that they can be killed in two shots with a shotgun, sniped from a distance because they approach far too slowly, and will always recoil back about three feet when shot in the head. If they're kicked afterwards, it will have a crowd-control function that renders the encounters even easier. Clearly, some enemies needed to be upgraded (not just health-wise) to keep up with the weaponry. There are also too many weak humanoid enemies. That, coupled with the abundance of ammo and healing items, makes the game too easy and barely survival-oriented.

When it comes to weaponry, there's a pistol for little damage, but high accuracy and speed; shotguns for blasting away shields and exposed parasites; rifles for high damage and accuracy at range; and SMGs for speed and DPS. There's multiple of each type of weapon, with different damage and reload speed, and so on. In addition, some weapons have a special effect when fully upgraded, such as being able to penetrate multiple enemies. All of this affords quite a bit of customisation, though it's mostly confined to the pistols.

The controls are comfortable, with pistols having lasers that bob a lot to simulate natural body tremors and breathing, lending badly-needed tension to enemy encounters in spacious areas with slow-moving villagers. Like in RE5, the impossibility of walking while aiming requires good positioning of Leon. It essentially serves as a replacement of the fixed camera angles from the classics, though the fixed angles lent far more of a cinematic and frightening quality. They made spaces feel more cramped than they were, and had a strong psychological effect, also because of the enemies often being hidden by the angles and allowing them to come from unexpected places. RE4's approach is to stack the odds against the player by letting invisible enemies fight them, send hordes of enemies, and basically to rely on thrills and reaction time more than situational and visual horror.

Screenshot for Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 4

An improvement over RE5 and RE6 is that encounters are (sometimes) less scripted. Instead of picking up an item and triggering a cut-scene of enemies moving toward Leon, enemies can now be put on attention because of firing a gun. Enemies also sometimes come from unexpected places, though the game reverts to more scripted encounters later, with enemies that know where Leon is, making fighting inevitable. At that point, it becomes a game of picking the right weapon. While the beginning of RE4 features open and dangerous encounters, with traps on the ground for added tension, the later stages fail to impress. It even seems like puzzles are introduced as ways to fill up space, but some puzzles do manage to be tough. They're also varied: one may be a jigsaw puzzle that requires tablets to be shoved around, while another goes, "Hey, line up these patterns to create the original. See, isn't this a nice little colourful image? Now, back to shooting off faces."

The inventory management is done through a menu, which breaks up the gameplay, but isn't a big problem. Another plus is that the right to carry many items needs to be earned: by buying a bigger attaché case. That makes it a matter of making hard choices: buy a healing item, a new weapon, upgrade weapons, or buy an attaché case to improve survivability? What isn't good about the game is that it's not focused on survival, really, but more on keeping one's cool. In the old instalments, it wasn't a good idea to just shoot all enemies encountered, because ammo was scarce, enemies might resurrect, and the ammo might be needed for tougher encounters. This aspect was almost completely removed from Resident Evil 4.

Screenshot for Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Resident Evil 4 is fun. It's excellently paced and contains fairly frightening cut-scenes. The characters are paper-thin and their actors ham it up, but it's more about the overall plot, anyway. The soundtrack increases the feeling of dread. It's just a shame so many environments have the same colours and atmosphere. Some enemies become underpowered and aren't as visually scary as they could be. Perhaps worst of all, the encounters become more and more scripted, and the locales more on-rails. As long as enemies' vitals are hit, ammo will pile up, making survival too easy. That said, it's as tense as Resident Evil 5, scarier, well-rounded, and doesn't rely on bullet sponge bosses. It's survival-action with decent horror, and worth a buy to see the series' wasted potential.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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Looking back, I think the game could've been great if there were more enemy variety. Unfortunately, the amount of humanoid enemies is staggering, and many of them don't feel very different from each other, as they all have the same kinds of attacks, the same attack range, and all use the same tactics. In addition, the enemies can't work together to trap you in any way. That's why the game had to rely on bear traps and lasers at the beginning to supply the thrills - the spacious environments just don't lend themselves well to the type of game RE4 (and, ultimately, the entire series) is.

It seems as though the developers became conflicted half-way through the development process as to what type of game they were trying to create. This resulted in the jarringly RE5-like last half or so.

It's such a shame, because RE4 showed great potential in its first level. Here's hoping Resident Evil 7 will revolutionize the franchise optimally.


( Edited 04.09.2016 12:42 by Leo Epema )

10/10 game

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