Resident Evil 4 was released in the UK exactly 13 years ago today, and a celebrates the fact by looking back at one of the best games ever.

On the 18th March Resident Evil 4 is 13 years old in the UK! I’d never been into the previous games in the series much but this new style, which seemed more action-packed, just grabbed my attention and I bought it (and a GameCube to play it on!) on launch day. Quite simply it blew my mind and still does today, even after countless playthroughs on multiple consoles over the years.

Here are some of the things that I think make it so special:

Perfect pacing
I’d played a lot of games before it, and even more after it, but I can’t think of any other game that is so well paced. It’s constantly outdoing itself with new enemies and set pieces but considering it’s a pretty long, linear, single-player game (my first playthrough was well over the 10 hour mark) it never puts a foot wrong. Nothing ever gets repetitive or outstays it’s welcome, which I feel is a rarity in games.

Memorable encounters
Some of these are traditional boss fights, others not, but Resident Evil 4 is packed with so many memorable encounters. The first one for me is meeting Dr Salvador (the iconic dude with a sack over his head as he wields a chainsaw!) near the start of the game. Then over the course of your adventure you also get to fight Del Lago, a beast of a fish, while you’re stuck in a little rowboat (which thoughtfully has an endless supply of harpoons); El Gigante, who’s a huge, hulking giant so he earns his name well; Chief Mendez who transforms into a grotesque monster who’s a pain to finish off (seriously, stop swinging about in those rafters!).

Then there’s the Garrador, who’s blind but has huge deadly claws; Colmillos (wolves with tentacles sprouting out of their backs!) that leap out at you as you navigate your way through a garden maze; Novistors, disgusting giant insects that can go invisible, walk on the ceiling and puke acid over you; Verdigo, which becomes a deadly game of hide and seek in the sewers; and Salazar, first you get chased by a giant clockwork version of him, then after battling up a tower you confront the little creep personally.

The sinister Regenerators live up to their name as when you shoot their limbs off they grow back (you need a lot of firepower to take them down or the thermal scope to shoot the parasites in them). And there’s Krauser, who you first go up against via a very cool QTE knife fight and then confront properly later on in a game of cat and mouse. The monstrous U-3, who mutates halfway through the fight to have a giant set of pincers, and finally the guy behind it all Saddler, who transforms into a weird spider-like creature.

Even the basic cannon fodder Ganados are brilliant, screaming and cursing at you in Spanish! I love how they react to your attacks: aim too long at their heads and they will cover their face with their hands or move themselves away from where you’re aiming, shoot them in a limb and they will react in pain and drop weapons. Then there’s the whole shoot their heads off and tentacles burst out – eek! Making these regular enemies so responsive really adds to the brilliant gameplay.

The Merchant
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Even after all these years The Merchant is still one of my favourite non-player characters. In a world where almost everyone else is trying to kill you, having a friendly guy (with an awesome voice!) willing to trade with you makes for a little oasis of calm.

Two interesting facts about my favourite purveyor of armed goods:

  1. He’s voiced by the same guy (Paul Mercier) who voices Leon (talk about vocal range!).
  2. At times in the game he is showing the same red eyes as the Ganados! Is he infected too? I’m just glad he doesn’t turn murderous with all the weapons he has!

Leon S. Kennedy
OK, so I know he’s got a ridiculous haircut, and he certainly isn’t the greatest or deepest video game character, but I like him! While Chris Redfield is so serious and brooding (probably the effect of having to put up with Sheva for a whole game!) Leon is far more laid back and has plenty of time for cheesy one liners, making his company far more enjoyable.

Salazar and Saddler
These two are amongst my favourite antagonists. Salazar is like a Looney Tunes character: not very bright, prone to temper tantrums when things don’t go his way, and ridiculously funny. Saddler on the other hand is more controlled but is also so sarcastic, constantly sneering at Leon. When the time came for both of them to meet the business end of my rocket launcher, I was very pleased indeed!

From basic pistols (including The Punisher you can win by shooting blue medallions that are hanging up around the place) to the crazy power of the rocket launcher and the Chicago Typewriter (a Tommy Gun with unlimited ammo), and not forgetting a wide assortment of shotguns, Magnums, sniper rifles, sub-machineguns, and even a mine thrower in between. Even after all this time every weapon is a joy to not only fire but reload (the reloading animation for the Broken Butterfly Magnum is so cool!) and you can also upgrade them as you go via the ever helpful Merchant.

The little touches
It’s the little things that add atmosphere. Freeing that dog from a trap in the woods (the dog later returns and helps distract El Gigante while you fight him); the chickens on the farm that get all agitated and flap around if you get too close to them (they also lay eggs, which are good for your health and throwing at people!); going fishing, which usually means lobbing a grenade in the water but you can pick up the fish afterwards and use them for health; shooting at bird nests, which usually have ammo or money in them; and last but not least the shooting galleries provided by The Merchant, which are a lot of fun and can earn you a lot of cash.

The controls
After playing games such as Uncharted, where you can run and gun, Resident Evil 4’s controls feel so incredibly rigid but that’s what makes it so special. If you could run around spraying bullets everywhere the game and its gunplay would lose so much of its brilliant tension.

The end is only the beginning
Once you’ve completed the main game there’s so much more. Firstly there’s New Game+ where you can carry over all your awesome weapons, Assignment Ada is a separate mission playing as Ada Wong on the PlayStation 2 (and later editions). You also got five new missions in Separate Ways where again you got to play as Ada, this includes new weapons (explosive crossbow!) and a new environment which sees you sinking a battleship! Then last but certainly not least is the brilliantly addictive Mercenaries mode where you have a limited amount of time to rack up kills.

So that’s my thoughts on what is one of my most favourite games of all time, 13 years old and just as awesome as ever! Happy birthday Resident Evil 4!

By reader LastYearsModel09 (PSN ID)

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Celebrating 13 years of Resident Evil 4 – Reader’s Feature