Resident Evil 4 is a survival horror third-person shooter video game developed by Capcom Production Studio 4 and published by Capcom. A major installment in the Resident Evil series, it was originally released for the GameCube in 2005. Players control U.S. government special agent Leon S. Kennedy, who is sent on a mission to rescue the U.S. president’s daughter Ashley Graham, who has been kidnapped by a cult. In a rural part of Europe, Leon fights hordes of villagers infected by a mind-controlling parasite, and reunites with the spy Ada Wong.
Development began for PlayStation 2 in 1999. Four proposed versions were discarded; the first attempt was directed by Hideki Kamiya after producer Shinji Mikami. In a departure from the fixed camera angles and slower survival horror gameplay of previous instalments, the team focused on developing more dynamic shooting action.
Resident Evil 4 was announced as a GameCube exclusive as part of the Capcom Five, but was ported to numerous formats, becoming a cross-platform hit, selling over 10 million copies across all platforms. It garnered universal acclaim for its story, gameplay, graphics, voice acting, and characters, and is often named one of the best video games ever made, winning multiple Game of the Year awards in 2005. It influenced the evolution of the survival horror and third-person genres, popularizing the “over-the-shoulder” third-person view. A sequel, Resident Evil 5, was released in 2009.
The player controls the protagonist, Leon S. Kennedy, from a third-person perspective. Departing significantly from the series’ previous games, the gameplay focuses on action and shootouts with fewer survival horror elements. The camera is placed behind Leon and zooms in for an over-the-shoulder view when aiming a weapon, or a first-person view when aiming with a sniper rifle. There is no crosshair for firearms; instead, every firearm has a laser sight. Unlike previous games where players can only shoot straight, up, or down, players have more options. For example, shots to the feet can cause enemies to stumble, and shots to the arms can make them drop their weapons. Players can also shoot down projectiles like thrown axes or scythes.
Resident Evil 4 adds context-sensitive controls. Based on the situation, players can interact with the environment: kicking down a ladder, jumping out of a window, dodging an attack or executing a “finishing move” on weakened enemies. There are also quick time events, in which the player must press buttons indicated on-screen to execute actions such as dodging a falling boulder or wrestling an enemy to stay alive. These are often incorporated into the game’s many boss fights, in which the player must avoid instant-kill attacks.
The main enemies are violent villagers referred to as Los Ganados (“The Cattle” in Spanish). Los Ganados can dodge, wield melee and projectile weapons, and are capable of working collectively and communicating with each other.
The inventory system features a grid system, represented by an attaché case, that has each item take up a certain number of spaces. The case can be upgraded several times, allowing for more space. Weapons, ammunition, and healing items are kept in the case, while key items and treasures are kept in a separate menu. Items may be bought from and sold to a merchant that appears in various locations. He sells first aid sprays, weapons, allows for weapons to be upgraded and buys various treasures that Leon finds. The various weapons each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Capcom added content for the PlayStation 2 version, which was later incorporated into the PC and Wii releases. The largest addition is “Separate Ways”, a minigame which focuses on Ada Wong’s involvement in Resident Evil 4 and her connection to the series’ villain Albert Wesker. “Ada’s Report”, a five-part documentary, analyzes Ada’s relationship with Wesker and his role in the plot. Other unlockable content in all versions includes the minigames “The Mercenaries” and “Assignment Ada” (using Ada to retrieve Las Plagas samples), new costumes for Leon and Ashley, new weapons, and a cutscene browser.