This week we are celebrating Shinji Mikami’s 30th year birthday in the industry. As such, it seems like an opportune time to look back and reflect on Resident Evil 4. The GameCube release of the series’ 4th entry is Mikami’s highest rated game, and a bona fide masterpiece.
The GameCube Needed a Mega Hit
Keeping the tradition of the Nintendo 64, the GameCube had great games, but releases were far and few in between. Its greatest titles were all first and 2nd party efforts. By late 2004, the GameCube’s landscape felt barren. I remember spending most of my time playing the original Xbox and the PlayStation 2 at this time.
The GC was a powerful machine. Much more powerful than the PlayStation 2 even, but a lesser machine to Microsoft’s behemoth. Yet, apart from Metroid Prime, it didn’t seem like the machine was fully utilized until the release of Resident Evil 4 in January 2005. Resident Evil 4 looked better than anything on the PS2 (PS2’s eventual RE4 port looks muddy, and has paired down visuals), and on par with the Xbox’s best efforts.
Reading all of the perfect scores that RE4 received from publications in 2005, I decided to invest in the game right at launch. Resident Evil 4 holds a 96 Metacritic rating, the second highest score that a GameCube game ever received (Metroid Prime holds a 97).
The game sold 1.60 million units in the machine. A solid number, but not enough to dethrone Nintendo’s hits on the sales charts. Still, Resident Evil 4 blessed the GameCube with an extraordinary looking, and ground-breaking action- adventure game that made me proud to own the little system.
Resident Evil 4 Created One of the Most Popular Play Styles of the Past Two Decades
Take a look at the following franchises: Uncharted, Gears of War, and The Last of Us. What do they have in common? Yes, all are highly successful critical, and commercial hits that dominated the landscape for the last 15 years. But, they have something else in common; the over shoulder 3rd person perspective when shooting, and cinematic story driven campaigns.
A good argument can be made that they all take after Resident Evil 4, as Mikami’s masterpiece was the first to popularize such a perspective, and gameplay style within the action adventure genre. Resident Evil 4 did many of the things that would later make games like the Last of Us successful first.
The Game Itself
Until the Resident Evil 2 Remake (2019), a case can be made that no other Resident Evil has come close to matching RE4’s greatness. The game felt like a very different experience from anything else back in 2005. The fact, that the recent remakes, and The Last of Us: Part II continue to resemble the 15 year old masterpiece, is all that you need to know about how amazing an experience Resident Evil 4 was in its heyday.
Leon Kennedy, Resident Evil 2’s protagonist, takes center stage here. The story about saving the president’s daughter from a village filled with infected, and violent individuals who would stop at nothing in order to kill him was also a refreshing change of scenario from Resident Evil’s typical Zombie romp.
I was mesmerized by the visuals, and the game’s atmosphere. The shooting felt tight, and its gameplay polished to perfection, which is quite a contrast from some modern game releases ( *cough* Cyberpunk *cough*). Resident Evil was finally free from its “Tank Controls” shackles, and Leon played like a true powerhouse. Upgrading guns, was addictive and the key to success in the game.
Combating bosses always felt like an epic undertaking, from a “Predator” type of creature, to a gigantic killer fish that had me on the edge of my seat as I threw harpoons at it from a small boat.
In retrospective, both Resident Evil 5, and 6 felt like major letdowns after how great Resident Evil 4 had been on the GameCube.
A PlayStation 2 port was made the following year. It is in this platform that perhaps most people got to play the game. It was a great game on the PlayStation 2 as well, but a noticeable graphical downgrade for those of us lucky enough to have played the superior GameCube version.
How to Play it Today
Resident Evil 4 is available in HD form on most gaming platforms. In my opinion, the best – and most convenient – way to play it is in the Switch’s port of the game. On Switch, it can be played anywhere, and the smaller 720p screen manages to hide some of the now outdated texture work. In this form, the game remains a pleasing feast for the eyes.
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