How Resident Evil 4 Changing the Survival Horror Genre Forever

Resident Evil 4 Changing the Survival Horror Genre Forever

Resident Evil 4 is remembered as a highly influential entry in the survival horror genre for perfectly combining competent action game experience with chaos.

Resident Evil 4's revolutionary design forever changed the survival horror genre. Since the original Resident Evil in 1996, the Resident Evil franchise has been regarded as the pinnacle of survival horror. However, as this formula became stale, Resident Evil 4 was tasked with revitalizing the series in order to keep it from being cancelled. RE 4 did much more than that: it not only delighted audiences, but it also established the standard for all third-person shooters to follow.

This shift, however, drew criticism from some critics: Resident Evil 4 was accused of having a story that was more action than horror. Leon delivered one-liners, performed incredible feats of athleticism, and even addressed the camera in the opening cutscene. With Leon adopting this sardonic demeanor, it's difficult to believe he's ever in real danger. Some felt that these Hollywood B-movie tropes detracted from the scares in Resident Evil 4, and that they diluted the survival horror essence of the Resident Evil series and all future survival horror games.

Resident Evil 4 redefined survival horror by allowing the player to control the situation.

Resident Evil 4 redefined survival horror

Resident Evil 4 director Shinji Mikami sees survival horror in a completely different light than most critics, dismissing their concerns about the game's inclusion of action entirely. In the West, popular opinion holds that survival horror games constantly put the player at a disadvantage in order to maintain the player's sense of helplessness. This is why the characters in the best survival horror games are usually weak and difficult to control. However, Mikami defines survival horror as "a game where fear and a sense of exhilaration coincide" (via Game Informer). With this definition, action is an ideal companion to horror.

Resident Evil 4's improvements made it a standout in the survival horror genre.

Mikami acquires this action integration by giving the player more control over the camera. In previous Resident Evil games, the camera was fixed in place, which not only overcame hardware limitations but also gave horrific moments a cinematic staging. However, in order to meet the action-oriented demands of modern players, this camera system had to be replaced. Resident Evil 4 instead used an over-the-shoulder perspective, giving the player more control over their firearm aim and allowing them to direct the action. This change also made Resident Evil's tank controls more intuitive, as well as hiding enemies out of sight behind players for more realistic scares.

Along with this shift in perspective, RE 4 provides Leon with a larger arsenal to choose from. The increased firepower contributes to Mikami's "sense of exhilaration" through over-the-top violence, but this change benefits more than just the game's action. The abundance of resources encourages players to use ammo more frequently in the short term rather than saving it for a hypothetical future situation. This heightens the tension because the player must act quickly in order to survive. The opening village sequence exemplifies this philosophy, pitting Leon against a swarm of hive-minded enemies and requiring the player to make the best use of the limited resources.

Mikami's vision of a then-modern survival horror game was served by Resident Evil 4's over-the-shoulder camera and heightened combat. While some critics believe that the increased emphasis on action tainted the genre for years to come, there is no doubt that the development of RE 4 spawned a slew of well-known franchises. Devil May Cry is the most well-known example, taking edgy action to its logical conclusion, but Dead Space and The Last of Us both credit RE 4 as an inspiration for their eerie gameplay. Resident Evil 4 demonstrates that the genre must be adaptable and flexible.

How has Resident Evil 4 influenced gaming?

Resident Evil 4 was able to provide organic cinematic sequences in exchange for a more linear overall game design that largely replaced exploration and puzzle solving with a series of carefully orchestrated moments. It was no longer necessary to simply watch a game's film-like moments.

On January 11, 2005, Resident Evil 4 was released. While the rest of the world was celebrating the release of what was widely regarded as an instant classic, these gamers stood on the sidelines, shaking their heads at how this latest installment was a shambles. "It's not even a Resident Evil title," they claimed. Or, as Eurogamer put it in their 2005 review of the game, "we're not entirely convinced that the long-term adventurer will appreciate having the need for lateral thought replaced with action." Those who questioned Resident Evil 4 insisted they didn't want to spoil anyone's fun, but they couldn't help but notice the clouds on the horizon.

Resident Evil 4 influenced gaming

Resident Evil 4 was able to bring the survival horror genre – and video games in general to the next generation thanks to this change. Its camera movement, button prompts, and challenging enemies paved the way for later third-person shooter titles like Uncharted and The Last of Us.

Everyone else laughed at the time. Resident Evil 4 was more than just a great game; it was a true revolution. Capcom's desire to revitalize the Resident Evil franchise went through several failed incarnations during development (one of which became Devil May Cry), but the studio knew that the fourth Resident Evil title needed to destroy most of the series' conventions.

With games like Dead Space and The Last of Us popularizing the "over-the-shoulder" third-person view, it influenced the evolution of the survival horror and third-person hybrid genre. Resident Evil 4 will be remade for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows in 2023.

Source: Game Informar, Playstation/Youtube, Screenrant, Denofgeek

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