‘Resident Evil 4’ is still a top horror action game

Resident Evil 4 was re-released on Nintendo Switch May 21 (along with the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0), making this the perfect time to revisit one of the greatest games of all time.

Resident Evil 4 is a masterpiece of action horror. Released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2005, this game reshaped the landscape of the genre into what it looks like today.

After nearly 15 years, the game still holds up wonderfully. It was given the HD treatment back in 2011 and has since seen released on nearly every major platform including PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, making it accessible to just about anyone who plays video games.

It’s no wonder Resident Evil 4 has been remastered and re-released so many times — it’s one of the most memorable games you’ll encounter in your life.

The story

Resident Evil 4 stars Leon S. Kennedy, a cop-turned-hero who, after surviving the Raccoon City incident of Resident Evil 2, has been dispatched to Spain in search of the president’s kidnapped daughter.

Resident Evil 4 is one of the best and most impactful action horror games of all time

The inciting incident is a bit hacky, but what unfolds is an intriguingly terrifying tale full of twists and turns wrapped inside a remarkably gripping environment.

The residents of this Spanish village that Leon finds himself in are relentlessly violent. They will stop at (almost) nothing to tear him apart, but they aren’t zombies like in previous Resident Evil games. No, they look normal and they’re still alive and much smarter than your average undead.

Eventually, you learn that they’ve been infected with a monstrous little creature that turns them into zombie-like pawns to a greater evil figure, someone who wants to take control of people’s minds around the world.

Everything is so spooky.

Everything is so spooky.

Leon winds his way through the treacherous village, a sinister castle, and beyond to get to the bottom of this threat, encountering traps, ambushes, and hordes of enemies that want to remove the life from his eyes (and sometimes the head from his body).

While the story does a great job of driving progression, Resident Evil 4 is best-known for its atmosphere and set pieces.

Perfectly executed vibes

Resident Evil 4 has such a foreboding presence that even walking through areas you know you cleared out is unnerving.

The world is decorated with the creepiest landscapes and even more disturbing accouterments. Wells buzz with flies, blood and bile stain countless surfaces, buildings sit in abandoned disarray. Look in the wrong place and Leon will come face to face with a corpse — or pile of corpses —that tell a tale unseen.

Bubbling beneath it is a soundtrack worthy of an award on its own, amping up the mood at all the right moments. It’s intense, to say the least, setting a scene of constant fear without using cheap scare tactics.

Punctuating the steady stream of horror are some incredible set pieces.

There are the moments when enemies pour in from all around and Leon is forced to run away to momentary safety to take a few shots before the distance closes again and other enemies appear from behind. There’s the chainsaw guy whose unmistakable revving will turn your blood to ice, knowing that if he gets too close he’ll remove Leon’s head in a bloody, violent spray.

The Prisoner is a blind boss with some interesting mechanics.

The Prisoner is a blind boss with some interesting mechanics.

And then there are the boss fights and special encounters. The first big fight Leon faces is a giant monster that lives in a lake and he’s forced to improvise with harpoons as he’s dragged around the water in a rowboat. There’s El Gigante, who uses his absurd size and strength to pummel Leon around a makeshift arena. There’s the Big Cheese, who traps Leon in a burning barn and turns out to be more monster than man.

There are others I won’t spoil, but each one is so memorable that even without the story you’d want to keep playing just to see what they came up with next.

Expert design decisions

Resident Evil 4 is one of the best and most impactful action horror games of all time, marking a point in the genre where few games that followed could match its expertise in so many areas.

Opting for an over-the-shoulder camera rather than the fixed camera angles seen in past Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 4 delivered a deeper sense of connection between players and the main character. Players can’t see what’s happening behind Leon just as much as Leon can’t, giving an extra claustrophobic spin on every single moment of the game.

Every moment is up close and personal.

Every moment is up close and personal.

Is something chasing Leon? Might as well keep sprinting just in case.

Developers also made the decision to go in an unconventional direction in terms of combat. Where most third-person shooters use one analog stick to move and the other to aim, Resident Evil 4 forces players to stop in their tracks in order to aim and shoot. There’s no running and gunning in Resident Evil 4, making every action sequence that much more intense.

It’s what differentiates it between regular action games and its own brand of action horror and part of what makes it so worth playing almost 15 years after its initial release.

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