demonic resident 4 is widely known to be an all-time classic, but over the years have we been blinded by nostalgia for the seminal game? What does the fourth game have that makes it different from the rest of the series? The game is so acclaimed and put on a pedestal that people seem to have forgotten that it tells one of the most inconsistent and unconvincing stories in the entire series. So let’s go back and criticize a game that for years seemed immune to criticism.
The story is as simple as it gets: a prince saving the princess tale, except Leon saves the daughter of the President of the United States, Ashley, from a cult using a mind-controlling parasite. Leon goes to a town in rural Spain to rescue said daughter and discovers that all the residents are infected with something that makes them unwelcoming to outsiders. We soon learn of a local cult with a man named Saddler at the helm. The cult seeks to control the world through Ashley, whom they plan to infect with the parasite so she can transmit it to the President of the United States and use her influence to do his bidding.
There really isn’t much more to it than that. Luis is a mysterious man you meet who is also being held hostage by the villagers. Luis clearly knows something is up, but he won’t tell Leon when they meet. Of course, Luis really knows a lot, like the fact that there is a cure and the fact that he himself helped the cult gain more power. Luis does almost nothing for the plot bar to mention that there is a cure, which Ada does too anyway. Ada, who was in Resident Evil 2, was always reserved. She is a corporate spy and can be seen as a minor villain of the series (albeit one who has taken a genuine liking to our boy Leon). Ada has a tendency to fight before saying something important. At one point, she saves Leon from being attacked by Mendes, one of the cult members, delivers some pretty complicated lines that sound like a random hint of something bigger that never materializes, and then shoots off again.
How about that time we have to go to the island to save Ashley one more time, and Ada offers to take us on the jet ski? Surely now When would we finally find out what Ada’s goals are and what she’s been up to since Resident Evil 2? No, because the scene simply shows our arrival on the island, Ada says goodbye and struggles to get to the island.
It’s important to distinguish between cheesy (but charming) dialogue and poor writing. At the beginning of the game, when Leon sees that the town is empty, he says, ‘Where has everyone gone? Bingo?’ it’s an example of the former: it’s weird, it works, it’s cool, in fact it’s become such a classic line that it’s also featured in the upcoming remake.
Luis talks about how he’s a womanizer at first, then he talks about dropping something, then he talks about getting healed, and then he dies. Excellent. It’s almost as if Luis was originally going to be a more important player in the plot, but he was cut out of all the important moments of it. Luis knew about the cure and the secrets of the cult, Ada is working for the opposite side and is trying to get something out of the cult. They sound important, but they probably get around ten minutes of screen time each.
Are we supposed to think that Ada and Leon didn’t say anything important for that short trip? Or maybe they didn’t say anything at all? You’d think they’d at least awkwardly wonder something like ‘so erm hey, what have you been up to since all that Raccoon City stuff?’ so that we have some kind of context. Ada and Leon’s semi-romantic is completely missing from Resident Evil 4, which is a big step down from their complex relationship in Resident Evil 2.
The new version can fix most of these problems. The pacing of the game was fine until chapter five, where we go to the island to rescue Ashley from Saddler one more time, which slowed down the pacing and lengthened the duration. Chances are the dialogue will be changed to make the characters more human. We’ve seen evidence from the last two remakes that they can improve dialogue.
The story of Resident Evil 4 is there. All the files you can read are interesting and incredibly insightful. For example, Salazar has a great backstory. His ancestor originally fought the Enlightened and sealed the Scourge within the castle. Fast-forward, and Saddler has reignited the fire for the cult, persuading Salazar to join and protect the plague. Salazar was easy to persuade since he was isolated for much of his life. However, in reality, Salazar was just a pawn for Saddler.
This is a great backstory and gives Salazar some development. He also brings him some sympathy, as you can imagine how isolated he was in his daily life. This is the case throughout the game, where the information you find is much more compelling than the step-by-step story. Adding more of this interesting information to the plot could go a long way for the story and the characters.
Capcom could improve the overall dialogue and character development if it intertwined the files into the game. Perhaps by finding a file, Leon Leon could vocalize what he discovered, or Ashley and Leon discuss things as they walk through the castle, giving them both a welcome characterization.
Overall, Resident Evil 4 is a clumsy but charming story. If characters like Luis and Ada get more attention in the new version, it would help the plot become more coherent and memorable. Exploring interesting stories like Salazar’s and the like would give them their deserved development. If the dialogue is revamped in the new version, it would help the characters seem more real. It would be essential to keep some of that cheesy dialogue though, otherwise it wouldn’t be Resident Evil.