Leon, a federal agent who survived the Racoon City Incident in Resident Evil 2, has been sent to a rural village in Spain to investigate the kidnapping of Ashley Graham, the daughter of the President of the United States. He is driven out to the village by a couple of Spanish policemen and is left to fend for himself. As he starts investigating the village, he is attacked by nearly every person who sees. Things begin seeming more and more dangerous and out of place as the villagers become increasingly bestial the further he moves in. And when he is captured by one of their leaders, even more sinister plots begin to arise.
The story of Resident Evil 4 is almost a complete departure from that of the previous releases, which initially left me feeling iffy. It seemed that the issues with the viruses back in America were left behind in favor of an odd parasite in this Spanish village. However, the deeper I got into the game, the more I began to realize not only how exciting the story was, but how great the connections to the main storyline were becoming. Leon’s journey from the rural village setting to the ornate maze-like castle to the high-security island complex does everything that Resident Evil does best – it takes you through a game that initially appears simple and progressively gets wilder and more conspiratorial as time goes on.
Like any explicitly or implicitly political story, this is the reason I find myself coming back to the series. That it mimics life in the way that it unfolds layer after layer. The small village has such a dense atmosphere of time and place that it sets into your mind that this will be the location of the game’s story. It is intriguing to uncover why these villagers are attacking you and what Saddler has in mind. The game becomes a race against time when you are captured and injected with the parasite causing this madness in the villagers. And finally, when Ashley is found, it provides wonderful counterplay where, while she may not be the most interesting character, much depth is added to the gameplay while trying to protect her and using her to access once locked areas.
The castle comes as the first surprise. It lies directly beside the village and you enter it in hopes of escaping the villagers. Its winding halls make for the perfect change from the more open village. While reading memos and watching cutscenes, the villains’ plans begin to unravel even more. The parasite (Las Plagas) is able to provide a type of immortality and grand power. Ada is also back and working for Wesker to get ahold of the parasite, yet she still seems to have a bit of that tenderness that she holds for Leon. Everything moves through the castle, progressing all storylines until they eventually reach the island where the finale of the story occurs.
The island introduces a variety of incredible new enemies such as the regenerators and the faster moving soldiers. It begins to feel as if this entire operation by Saddler and co. has been planned for far longer and at a much larger scale than you had initially believed in the village. The boss fights on this island (along with those previous to the island) are, by a massive margin, the best boss fights from Resident Evil so far. In the finale, we see Leon finally killing Saddler and Ada making away with the parasite sample to return to Wesker. While Leon and Ashley do make it safely off the island, the knowledge that the parasite will now be getting into Wesker’s hands has far more sinister implications.
Resident Evil 4 not only has this exciting story, but the best gameplay of the series so far. Discovering the importance and the fun in upgrading and purchasing new weapons was some of the most enjoyement I have gotten out of the series. Their upgrades scaled perfectly with the increasing difficulty of the game. Being forced to balance an inventory and conserve ammo with the increasingly massive waves of powerful enemies. Finding and combining different treasures led to a desire and almost necessity to explore the every minor detail of the game. The combat also works excellently, forcing you to keep track of enemies of varrying strength coming in from different entry points, attacking from distances, and reviving themselves. You make use of all the weapons at your disposal for a variety of possible combat situations which further improves the replayability of the game.
Overall, Resident Evil 4 is my favorite game of the series so far. I didn’t expect it to surpass the first or second game but it did by a pretty large margin. My favorite story is still that of Resident Evil 2, but every other aspect of this game was superior. I feel that if there is an issue with the game it is with the excess of TMP ammo and the very little shotgun/handgun ammo you get near the end of the game when you have finally fully upgraded those weapons. I found myself struggling a bit more even though these should have been my late-game weapons. Thankfully, this was one minor complaint in an otherwise outstanding, iconic, and influential video game.
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