Platform: By now? Almost everything.

For the next few weeks, The 405 will be taking a look at one of gaming's most iconic survival horror franchises - Resident Evil. Each week, one of our writers will revisiting one of Capcom's zombie slaying classics as we build up to the release of Resident Evil 6

Before I get down to the meat of this, a small confession: I never enjoyed a Resident Evil game until I bought this one. Though people often use superlatives to describe the earlier installments in this now multi-format game, film and book-spanning franchise, until Resident Evil 4 came out (on the Wii, no less!) the gameplay and story just never struck me as particularly enjoyable. With that in mind, on with the review!

Resident Evil 4, despite the title, is the sixth installment in the main series of the franchise, and is set 6 years after the Raccoon City incident of the previous games. Somehow managing to escape the seemingly ubiquitous influence of the Raccoon City disaster, it is set in the wilds of rural Spain (that most notorious of horror locations), beginning by plonking you on the way to a village which quickly goes from being a slightly unnerving setting to the location of a fairly comprehensive genocide of the (definitely evil) residents by your protagonist, Leon Kennedy. This is due to the fact that they’ve been infected with ancient organisms, wrested from the earth by an equally age-indeterminate cult, in order to kidnap and infect the President’s daughter. The plot continues in this vein throughout, combining schlocky 60s horror with some excellent psychological thriller sequences. The pacing of the whole game is consistently well thought-out, allowing frenetic action moments to blend with more classic Resi survival horror. The relative abundance of ammunition on the easier modes and the far superior shooting mechanics, mainly due to the addition of an over the shoulder camera, seem designed to encourage new players to try the game, whilst the harder modes allow a return to the more cerebral gaming style of the earlier installments. The changes to camera angles and shooting are most effective on the Wii version of the game, where the use of the Wiimote for aiming really shows how far gaming and the Resident Evil series in particular have come since the original outing on the PS1.

re4p2These guys are definitely going to be friendly NPC's, right?

Even with these improved (in my opinion, some Resi fanatics may differ) mechanics, which could have allowed the game to focus entirely on gunplay and still be enjoyable, RE4 doesn’t skimp on the puzzle aspect that has been a major part of the series from the very beginning. In fact, some of the most fiendish puzzles to date are present in this installment, and whilst overall they are very well designed, some can put a major dampener on the fun. Several of them can require a lot of backtracking over an area if you've missed something, which really does break down the enjoyment as there is no constant threat to push you forwards, unlike in RE3:Nemesis, something that Ed touched on in his review.

On the other hand, these are definitely the low points of an otherwise exceptionally well rounded experience. The plot, whilst being absolutely nuts, keeps you interested throughout the fairly long story mode, and there are a dearth of unlocks, upgrades and cool new weapons that encourage exploration and collection of treasures.

re4p3Inventory management? TEN OUTTA TEN.

The game also has an exceptional replay value, with new game plus letting you start over with all your items from a previous save, a harder "Professional" difficulty with less ammo and more enemies, promoting ammo conservation and run and gun tactics over simply mowing down every villager in your path. The addition and improvement of Mercenaries mode from Resident Evil 3: Nemesis allows the player to unlock costumes and weapons for purchase in story mode, whilst gunning down hordes of rampaging enemies for delicious points as one of five characters from the series, all with their own weapons and differing playstyles.

Overall, Resident Evil 4 is one of the most solid titles in the series, setting the tone and game style for later entries without losing any of the immersion and storytelling of the earlier titles. The art style, setting and exceptional music all contribute to making a game that really drags you in to its world, without questioning the bizarre plot, with its myriad twists, or comparing it to any fondly-remembered precursors. This is a game that stands exceptionally well in its own right and, if anything, should be the benchmark that later games are brought up against.