Have You Played… Resident Evil 4?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Resident Evil 4 [Steam page] is a great game that I resent. I don’t resent it because the SAVE THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER PLOT is ridiculous in a way that I find grating rather than enjoyably camp, and I’m perfectly capable of brushing aside Sera and his enthusiastic reference to Ashley’s “ballistics”. The game is good enough to survive those horrors. But in among the SyFy channel mutants and daft heroics, there’s an actual horror game screaming for attention, and I feared the bombastic joys elsewhere might have strangled the terror out of Resi for good.

It’s a game that annoyed me quite simply by being so good at everything. The village fight at the beginning is a brilliant version of every zombies attacking houses thing ever, with barricaded windows, desperate escapes, and the hum of a chainsaw somewhere in the distance. It has a great lake monster, excruciatingly gruesome death animations, military vs monsters sequences, loads of variety in its locations, and great pacing. And at least two great horror scenes, with the introduction of the regeneradores and the garrador.

I wanted an entire game made up of similar scenes and Resident Evil 4 was so bloody competent throughout it seemed unlikely. If Capcom were ever going to focus on one aspect, it’d be the cheesy action-horror rather than the anxiety-inducing creepiness. Oh well. That they’d be able to capture the brilliance of Resi 4 again seemed unlikely, and 5 and 6 returned to the well to find that though it wasn’t quite dry, the water was muddy.

Now that Resident Evil 7 is at least aiming to take Resi back to basics, with limited ammo, scary monsters and super creeps, I find it easier to look at 4 as a singular masterpiece rather than an awkward turning point. I’m glad it’s not the final word on what the series can be and, instead, is one aspect of the global biotech plot. The big stuff is much more palatable when the backwoods and haunted houses aren’t entirely forgotten.

If you haven’t played Resident Evil 4, you should. You’ll almost certainly enjoy it, even if you do cringe when it Does Plot. For all that it does well, it’s a game that has a jetski escape from an exploding island.


  1. Ghostwise says:

    That Albert chap is still hard at work on his HD version, incidentally.

  2. Gwynor says:

    A great game I finished in the original version for the Cube – my personal favorite until Bioshock. The horror stuff like the masterful starting village mixed with silly peddlers, inventory tetris and cap collection. I enjoyed the Ashley stealth section as well.

    • Guvornator says:

      I ended resenting it too – thanks to it’s sheer excellence my housemate ended up hogging the Gamecube all day, the bastard. A great game and truly revolutionary, which I think was diluted by the time it took to reach the PC

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Yes! Gamecube! My memories of this are playing it with an audience of housemates, all of us jumping when a scare popped out. Great game, reminded me of the Half-Life’s in the way it kept changing things up but never letting the quality dip. There aren’t many like it.

  3. unacom says:

    Um. Did we play the same game?
    ItĀ“s because of the cringewothiness of the plot,
    the outrageously ridicoulus zealots,
    the finger-breaking keyboard in the pc-port
    and the totally unbefitting shop system that I rather not liked it very much.
    Oh. And the costumes the presidentsĀ“ daughter wears in additional playthroughs.
    I will, however, concede that the horror parts were good indeed.

    • Troubletcat says:

      The bad port aside, those are the things that made the game great for me.

      It is B-movie schtick at it’s best. Occasionally actually disturbing but more often hilarious. One-liners and big dumb action scenes (Robotic Napoleon, FIGHTING WITH KNIVES, “Saddler, you’re small-time.”) It was entertaining start to finish because of how absurd it was, not in spite of it.

      It’s more ridiculous than RE 1, 2, or 3, but those games had terrible scripts and dumb plots too. They weren’t as bombastic but they were no less ridiculous. RE4 finally embraced the fact that the series is a bit silly, really, and combined it with competent mechanics.

      There are plenty of genuine horror games on the market. I prefer my Resident Evil to be the only thing it’s ever been good at being; a fun, over-the-top ride.

    • keefybabe says:

      I consider resident evil 4 to be one of the most overrated games of all time. The control system alone (whether on PC or Gamecube) made me want to set fire to my own balls. The plot I thought was shite and I always get confused by the almost universal love this (in my eyes) turkey receives.

    • DarkFenix says:

      The game so proudly owning its absurdity is one of the reasons people love it. The over-the-top campy B-movie nonsense was fantastic because they played on it just hard enough to make it brilliantly silly, it didn’t wear itself out by trying too hard or fall short and be merely boringly stupid.

    • wxid says:

      You forgot the dodgy (and repetitive) boss fights.

      In my view, for its time it was a pretty average (at best) game, and it hasn’t aged well at all.

  4. Deptfordx says:

    I tried playing it back in 2015 on the Xbox 360, never having played it before. I found the old-fashioned RE controls made it feel totally unplayable. Gave up in disgust after an hour.

  5. Kefren says:

    A great game, my fave after RE2. Or maybe even better than RE2. I completed it 3-4 times and still have the urge to go back. I remember the first time I played being shocked by how long it was – I thought the game was near the end but then I reached the castle. I thought that would be the end but then I reached the island. Wow. It gives so much. I love it.

    I was once accused of taking the village scenes, plopping them in Wales, and using them as the basis for my first novel. I think that’s an oversimplification.

  6. Fnord73 says:

    Saving one of the Bush twin daughters was always something of a good powerfantasy, I have to admit.

    “And then the father would listen to me!”, lol.

  7. flashlight_eyes says:

    It sent the series down a horrible path, but Resident evil 4 is one of the best action games period.

    • Machocruz says:

      Same. A great game in itself, but not where I wanted RE to go.

  8. icemann says:

    If it does not contain:

    * T-Virus
    * Zombies

    Then it’s not a Resident Evil game to me. That said I’ll admit that 4 is pretty good. Code Veronica (despite it’s flaws) is my all time favorite. Second game was pretty damn good as well.

  9. DantronLesotho says:

    I remember when I first played it, I was astonished at how good and how long it was. Although there were some frustrating parts (minecart, giant ogres, that stupid tiny prince boss monster), the entire game is a bizarre goldmine of action.

  10. NailBombed says:

    Strangyah, Strangyah, Strangyah! Now THAT’s a game. Ahhhh, I’ll buy it at a hoigh proice. ……. Not enough cash, Strangyah!

    …… dang it.

  11. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Anyone else find it strange that The Evil Within never gets mentioned when people talk about wanting a new Resident Evil 4?

    • flashlight_eyes says:

      Is this true? I heard it was bad but I was very intrigued by its resemblance

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        I don’t know where all the hate comes from. I really enjoyed it but maybe because I didn’t really have expectations going in. The combat is like an updated version of RE4’s only the camera zooms in further so your body covers less of the screen. I really liked the letterboxing too. It does a similar thing to what the tank controls did in the originals in that it constricts your view so you’ll find yourself quickly looking around to make sure you can see everything like a person on edge. Most of the boss fights are really good. It looks nice. You can probably get it for dirt cheap in a sale.

        • Minglefingler says:

          I thought it was awful based purely on the controls, it seemed to be a lottery as to whether the stealth attacks worked because the game doesn’t always register your button presses properly. This often lead to my death (and in the game.) Movement was very imprecise as well, which wouldn’t be a problem except for when you’re trying to edge closer to a tripwire you need to disarm, you nudge forward slightly and your character moves about three feet, getting himself killed. I really wanted to like the game but I died so often because of control issues that I couldn’t persevere with it.

    • DarkFenix says:

      I wanted a new Resi 4, but when I played The Evil Within I thought it was terrible.

  12. thekelvingreen says:


    Ye gods, I love this one, even if it’s only a horror game for about five minutes somewhere in the middle.

  13. CartonofMilk says:

    has anybody mentioned the GODDAM AWFUL cutscenes QTE yet? My god this has to be one of the most terrible idea in gaming history.

    Anyway, this is the only RE i really played. I mean played through anyway. I played the second one about halfway through in around 2000. The whole you can only shoot while walking shit was always so annoying to me (has that changed in latter RE games?) and just well..the general combat system. And i don’t really like japanese art style or storytelling either… RE4 was ok i guess. A decent enough game to play while i waited for better games to come out. Nothing i remember that well now.

  14. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I don’t want to go back to it again, because back in the day it was thrilling, scary, alien, haunting. If I’m to try replaying it, it’s almost guaranteed to feel overfamiliar, campy, dated.

    Thank god for The Evil Within, which let you experience *something* similar, but with a slightly new feel and aesthetic.

  15. ansionnach says:

    Played the original GameCube version… and I simply don’t think it’s a good game. It’s pretty bad, largely due to the restricted, clunky movement. I had a whole list of bad game design choices in my head but I’ve forgotten them. They were enough to convince me to stop playing even though I had soldiered on quite far. Is “terrible” too strong? Maybe. Perhaps the hysteria around the game was that GameCube owners were desperate for a killer game (or even any game). I was one of them but still wasn’t blinkered by this one. Twilight Princess was also hugely disappointing, but at least there was always Super Monkey Ball 2.

    • magogjack says:

      I am truely curious; if you don’t like either of those games do you like any 3rd person games ?

  16. April March says:

    Yes, it is a brilliant game. And yes, the village attack and the sea monster fight are pretty much the platonic ideals of their categories. And it manages not to suck despite being a escort quest for the most part, like someone had stuck it there as a handicap because otherwise it’d be too excellent.

    Its greatest brilliance, in my opinion, is how the enemies are specifically described as having no sense of self-preservation. That means they do smart things like swarming you, flanking you, putting up ladders or kicking them down etc but they don’t do smart things that would slow down the game, like taking cover or holing up in a building. That concept alone also makes them, for me, the platonic ideal of a perfect video game enemy.

  17. tomek says:

    I played this on the Wii and really enjoyed it.