Just finished Resident Evil 4 yesterday, and WOW, what a great game. It did so many interesting things, I feel like I just have to talk about some of them.
To start, I really enjoyed how different the combat felt from any other game I played, with it being slowed down, and having a huge emphasis on aiming for specific limbs to facilitate meele.
Leon's somewhat limited movement also felt extremely suitable for this game, by forcing the player to try and think carefully before just barging into a room, since depending on the way enemies were placed there, avoiding damage would become nearly impossible.
This, coupled with the resource management aspect, and the high damage done by enemies, made for a very strategic moment to moment gameplay, which I loved.
On top of that, all of the weapons in Leon's arsenal were very unique, and very uniquely useful for certain situations, which aided the resource management aspect by making me truly care about conserving ammo for some of the weapons, sometimes even choosing to take damage over wasting ammo with an enemy I considered beneath a certain gun.
The removal of item boxes like the ones in the previous Resident Evil games was also a very smart design decision. In the previous games, all that lacking inventory space meant, was that you would need to make a trip to the nearest save room to store your items. In this one, however, running out of space means having to actually discard or sell things to pick up new supplies, which often leads to players having to make interesting, difficult decisions. Key items, however, are stored separately, to not make players have to permanently get rid of supplies to pick up keys.
The addition of the merchant did lead to the looting aspect in this game being less exciting than in previous RE games, since now a lot of the times that Leon went to pick up an item, it was money instead of some supply. This drawback, however, was easily outweighed by the positives of having the merchant, namely the upgrade system, and the possibility of selling certain weapons to buy or upgrade others, all of which were fun, involved decisions for the player to make.
Another thing that impressed me a lot, was how almost no combat encounter in this game, at least after the village, felt very similar to another one. They all feel somehow unique, be it via enemy variety, level design, or another gimmick.
Moments like Salazar's statue, the catapults in the castle, the maze, the Garrador's cage, the bit you play as Ashley, the Armaduras room, the Regenerators, Krauser's section, the helicopter section, all contributed to me truly not knowing what could be waiting for me in the next room, and that felt great.
Lastly I'd like to talk about Ashley.
A lot of people seem to dislike her implementation in the game, but I actually quite liked her, so much so that I'd constantly look forward to getting her back whenever she was taken away by the story, just so I could get back to having to account for her in combat scenarios.
Not only did her involvement add extra challenge and things to worry about, it also worked wonders to line up the player's and Leon's goals in his mission: to protect Ashley.
You see, in games like The Last of Us or BioShock Infinite, we are told through the story that our main character's goal is to protect or rescue someone, but very rarely does that actually translate to gameplay. In the average combat encounter in those games, I really didn't care much about Ellie's or Elizabeth's well being, and instead just focused on taking the enemies down.
Meanwhile in Resident Evil 4, Ashley was my main worry in every combat encounter she was involved in, just like she would be for Leon.
The execution of this was also very good in my opinion, because since Ashley was, for the most part, an extention of the player's moveset and almost completely controlled by them, every time she died felt completely like my fault. Be it because I rushed into danger with her following me, or because I told her to wait in a not so safe place, her deaths could always be traced back to some mistake I made, avoiding frustrating scenarios like the ones in the earlier GTA titles, where your companions would die because of their own stupidity, and there would seemingly be very little you could do about it.
One exception to Ashley being an extention of the player, happens in the second El Gigante fight when she decides to stop following you on her own to point up at a boulder, and having her die there was indeed very frustrating, in stark contrast to the rest of the game. I believe this is a case of the exception proving the rule, tho.
One concession I will make to the Ashley haters, is that she could've had more voice lines calling for help, since hearing the same two over and over does get annoying. On the upside, I do like how loud and shrill they sound, since that helps a lot in alerting the player to the danger she's in.
All in all, RE4 is really a fantastic game, and a really unique gem. That's about all I have have to say about it. Thank you for reading, everyone.
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