Resident Evil 4 was known for being somewhat revolutionary, but if you are not overly familiar with the franchise, you can be excused for being somewhat confused by its vast array of titles. There are so many of them and on different platforms, so many editions and so many sub-titles that it's hard to keep them straight. The first game was released to great success on Playstation in 1996, followed by RE 2 in 1998 and RE 3: Nemesis in 1999. From there it starts to get hazy. Although there were other games in between, these were spin-offs not part of the canon series. It was decided that Resident Evil 4 would be developed as an exclusive for the GameCube and was only later ported to Windows, PS and Wii. In February of 2014, RE 4 was re-released in the form of an Ultimate HD Edition.
The theme of the Resident Evil series revolves around the T-virus, which is a mutagen that was created by the fictitious pharmaceutical company, The Umbrella Corporation, during research into bio-organic weapons called "BOWS". At one of their prominent research facilities near Raccoon City, the virus leaked and contaminated most of the surrounding area. The effects turned exposed people into either zombies or grotesque monsters. This formed the basis of the First Resident Evil and in subsequent sequels, bioterrorist organizations made use of the T-virus research to intentionally infect people.
However, Resident Evil 4 veers away from the T-virus theme and introduces a new style of gameplay. You play as one of the primary characters of the series, Leon Scott Kennedy, who first appeared in RE2 as a Raccoon City cop, and then later in RE6. (Chris Redfield is the main protagonist of RE1 and RE5 and Jill Valentine of RE1 and RE3) At this point in time, six years after the events of RE2, Leon is now a US Government special agent. The president's daughter, Ashley Graham, has been kidnapped by a sinister cult called Los Illuminados and Leon is sent to a remote location of rural Spain to effect an under-the-radar rescue. However, very quickly, Leon discovers that the area is populated by hostile and mutated villagers. The mutations are caused by something called Las Plagas, which is a parasite that invades the body to use as a host. The villagers were used by this cult to mine these plagas buried deep in the earth and as a result became infected, which allows the Los Illuminados to control them. Ashley has been kidnapped and infected with the intention of spreading the plague throughout the US. When Leon is also captured by the village chief and injected with the parasite, time starts to run out for both of them.
During the game, there are times when you find Ashley and play segments where you must protect her. She cannot do anything to protect herself, although she can help you with areas that require two people to progress or reach a treasure. In one short segment, you also play as Ashley. For the majority of the game, you are alone as you try to relocate her each time she is re-captured.
Although Resident Evil 4 follows the traditional series with similar tank mechanics and a horror survival theme, it also introduces 3rd person shooter mechanics. This combination can take a bit of getting used to as you can't move while shooting and the only thing that compensates for this is slower moving enemies. Dodging and running around to put some distance between you is the way to avoiding damage. Most people recommend using a controller, but it can be played with the keyboard and mouse as I did. Both have drawbacks. Controller aiming is always a problem, but keyboard movements have no strafing, so chose your poison. As you grow used to the controls, they become liveable, but the QTEs "quicktime events" are still a royal pain in the behind and are prevalent in all RE games. I personally detest them and this one makes life difficult by requiring an odd combination of the non-rebindable X+C keys for many of them, although it likes to fool you at times by throwing in LM+RM and you never know which prompt you're going to get. The problem is always the short window of time you get to react to these. Although, these keys are not re-mappable in the menu, some time after release, Capcom made it possible to change them in the input.ini file, however, on screen prompts will not reflect the change, so you have to remember the new keys when prompted with the old keys. In terms of general remapping, this can only be done after you have started the game. There is no option in the main menu before that.
The visuals are not particularly appealing as everything has a monochromatic brown tint, but you will probably be too busy trying to survive to notice it much. It's only when you start looking at so many screenshots that you start to wonder if the artist had a one-color fetish.
Your weapon selection can be purchased or upgraded through merchants located throughout and the currency is treasure found in the game. You can also purchase a treasure map for the locations of special treasures within areas. There are three sizes of inventory attache cases as well, which you will need as weapons take up a large number of slots. Occasionally, during the game, you will run across a blue door next to the merchant. This is a shooting range mini-game, that rewards you with bottlecap trophies and money. You can also collect blue medallions throughout the game.
Another inventory hog is Health, which comes in the form of 3 different colored plants that can be combined. When not combined, they give only partial health. You can also heal Ashley with these, but will find she won't need them very often.
There are checkpoint and manual saves, which are usually found in the same location as the merchant and indicated by a typewriter. If you die, you go back to the checkpoint, but if you close the game, you go back to the manual save point.
Leon's unrequited love interest, Ada Wong, occasionally makes an appearance and after you complete the main game, there are several unlockables including Ada's campaign Separate Ways, which tells the same story from her point of view.
Regardless of all the little irritations with RE games, they have a certain quality about them that keeps us coming back for more. After playing this I went on an RE kick and replayed RE5 followed by RE6 and purchased the RE2 remake. So, I guess I liked them well enough.Note: Sidebar information may differ between the original game and the HD remake for topics that involve altering code, such as mods, cheats, etc,
From its conception in 1999, Resident Evil 4 underwent several lengthy development revisions. The first iteration actually ended up as an entirely different game and the Devil May Cry franchise was born from the ashes.
After several more scrapped versions, it was decided to re-invent the series and shift to a new gameplay system. Proposed changes included a different theme that did not center on the Umbrella Corporation and also featured a different type of enemy from the previous RE games. RE 4 was also acclaimed for it's over-the-shoulder aiming and is said to have set the standard for this camera view.
Although RE4 received very high scores on release and is considered one of the best games of all time, the PC port did not fair as well. It had no mouse support, frustrating keyboard controls, low quality cut-scenes, and choppy graphics. The remastered version released in 2014 included a visual overhaul, allowed for 60fps, and added keyboard, mouse and full controller support. It's still not the perfect port and you may experience some resolution-related problems, so be sure to do your research first.