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How Resident Evil 4 Changed the Third-Person Shooter

The original Resident Evil 4 remains one of the most important video games of all time, setting the standard for the modern third-person shooter.

Often revered as the most influential video game of the 2000s, Resident Evil 4 redefined the third-person shooter genre with its dynamic over-the-shoulder camera and swift, pinpoint-accurate gunplay. Despite future third-person shooters building upon its foundation, Resident Evil 4 still stands as one of the greatest games of all time, mostly due to its perfect mixture of third-person combat and survival-horror customs.

Resident Evil 4 was released on January 11, 2005 to overwhelming critical acclaim. The game remains accessible to all audiences in the form of an HD re-release on modern consoles as well as an upcoming remake slated for release in March 2023. While the game was a radical departure from previous Resident Evil titles, many praised it for its bold new direction. Utilizing an over-the-shoulder camera, Resident Evil 4 forever changed the perspective of modern third-person shooters by constantly highlighting the enemies and environments, immersing the player within the game’s world. Furthermore, Resident Evil 4‘s focus on precision aiming led to a new form of combat that encouraged a more methodical, deliberate style of shooting.

Related: What We Want From The Resident Evil 4 Remake

Resident Evil 4‘s use of an over-the-shoulder camera perspective broke ground with its more intimate style of visuals, allowing players to witness all the action from their character’s perspective. By granting the player a larger scope of view, Capcom shifted from the enclosed corners of past Resident Evil titles and focused more on broad, expansive environments with enemies attacking the player from all directions. To compensate for the player’s wider field of vision, RE4 often sent enemies in swarms, forcing the player to use quick reflexes and precision aiming to successfully subdue the sheer volume of threats.

Precision aiming adds an incredible amount of depth to Resident Evil 4‘s gunplay, demanding the player strategize every shot to maximize the efficiency of their weapons. Resident Evil 4 gave a great deal of purpose to its free aim by yielding different results depending on where the player shot the enemy. For example, a player can disarm an enemy by shooting them in the arm or prevent them from moving forward by shooting their legs. Landing a headshot on an enemy allows the player to perform a melee attack, which not only conserves ammo, but provides area-of-effect damage, serving as a great means of crowd control.

Related: What Resident Evil 4 Remake Could Learn From Village

With its combination of an over-the-shoulder camera and precision aiming, Resident Evil 4 introduced a new generation of third-person shooters. The over-the-shoulder camera angle is still the industry standard for precision aiming, appearing in almost every subsequent third-party shooter. Games like Naughty Dog’s Uncharted and Epic Games’ Gears of War built upon this foundation by incorporating a free-roaming camera during exploration and reserving the over-the-shoulder camera specifically for precision aiming. Additionally, several games outside the genre took inspiration from Resident Evil 4‘s perspective, including Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which employed an over-the-shoulder view for several aim-sensitive actions, such as shooting arrows or throwing melee weapons.

Though Resident Evil 4 laid the foundation for subsequent third-person shooters, it paradoxically perfected the style of gameplay, resulting in its status as one of the greatest games ever made. Resident Evil 4 is certainly an action game at its core, but it does maintain a few threads of classic survival-horror elements within its DNA, such as resource management and limited mobility. Ammo is still an incredibly valuable resource in the game, meaning that players must conserve bullets and utilize all the game’s mechanics to efficiently take out enemy hordes. Further, Resident Evil 4‘s tank controls force the player to position themselves in such a way to minimize their risk of damage while optimizing their weapons’ firepower.

Resident Evil 4 will always remain one of the most important games of its generation, paving the way for countless critically acclaimed series to follow in its footsteps. While it redefined the third-person shooter, its influence found its way into almost every single genre of gaming. Regardless of whether Capcom succeeds in improving upon the original in its 2023 remake, nothing will eclipse the impact left on the gaming world by the original Resident Evil 4.

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