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Development began for PlayStation 2 in 1999. Four proposed versions were discarded; the first attempt was directed by Hideki Kamiya. In a departure from the fixed camera angles and slower survival horror gameplay of previous Resident Evil games, the team focused on developing more dynamic shooting action.
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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 side story 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 minigame "The Mercenaries" and short scenario "Assignment Ada" (using Ada to retrieve Las Plagas samples), new costumes for Leon and Ashley, new weapons, and a cutscene browser.
In 1999, producer Shinji Mikami said a Resident Evil sequel was in development for PlayStation 2. Resident Evil 4 underwent a lengthy development, during which at least four versions of the game were discarded. The first version was directed by Hideki Kamiya. Around the turn of the millennium, Resident Evil 2 writer Noboru Sugimura created a story for the game, based on Kamiya's idea to make a "cool" and "stylish" action game. The story was based on unraveling the mystery surrounding the body of the protagonist, Tony, an invincible man with skills and an intellect exceeding that of normal people, with his superhuman abilities explained with biotechnology. As Kamiya felt the playable character did not look brave and heroic enough in battles from a fixed angle, he decided to drop the prerendered backgrounds from previous installments and use a dynamic camera system. The team spent 11 days in the United Kingdom and Spain, photographing objects such as Gothic statues, bricks, and stone pavements for use in textures.
Development on Resident Evil 4 restarted at the end of 2001. The first announcement was made in November 2002, as one of five games exclusively developed for the GameCube by Capcom Production Studio 4, the Capcom Five. This revision, commonly dubbed the "fog version", was directed by Hiroshi Shibata and was 40 percent finished at that time. The game saw Leon S. Kennedy struggling to survive after having infiltrated the castle-like Umbrella's main headquarters located in Europe and featured traditional Resident Evil monsters such as zombies. During the course of the new story which was again written by Sugimura's scenario creation company Flagship, Leon became infected with the Progenitor Virus and possessed a hidden power in his left hand. The producer of the final version also pointed out that Ashley did not appear back then, though there was a different girl who was never revealed to the public. The game was to feature some first-person elements.
The Hallucination version had only a basic story concept, having dropped the previous scenario penned by Noboru Sugimura of Flagship. In 2012, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis scenario writer Yasuhisa Kawamura said he was responsible for this version, as he wanted to make Biohazard 4 scarier "and suggested using a particular scene from the film Lost Souls, where the main character [...] suddenly finds herself in a derelict building with a killer on the loose. An arranged version of this idea eventually turned into Hook Man. The idea went through several iterations as Mr. Sugimura and I carefully refined this world (which, I have to say, was very romantic). Leon infiltrates the castle of Spencer seeking the truth, while inside a laboratory located deep within, a young girl wakes up. Accompanied by a B.O.W. [an abbreviation for "Bio Organic Weapon" in the series' lore] dog, the two start to make their way up the castle. Unfortunately, there were many obstacles that needed to be overcome and the cost of development was deemed too expensive." Kawamura added he was very sorry and "even ashamed" that Mikami had to step in and scrap this version. After this attempt, the last cancelled revision featured classic zombies again. However, it was discontinued after a few months, and before it was ever shown to the public, as the developers felt it was too formulaic.
Following that, it was decided to reinvent the series. Mikami took over directorial duties from Shibata and began working on the version that was released. In an interview with Game Informer, Mikami explained his decision to shift to a new gameplay system is due to the feeling that the older system is "more of the same" after playing Resident Evil Zero. He says that he only felt nervous once more when playing with the newer system. Speaking for the team, game producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi mentioned how the staff was "tired of the same thing" and how some got bored and moved on to other projects. In addition to that, the producer also felt that the older format was "stuck in a cookie cutter mold" and described it as "shackles holding us down".
Along with Resident Evil: Dead Aim and Resident Evil Outbreak, two side story games that did not fall under the exclusive policy, it was announced on October 31, 2004 that Resident Evil 4 would come to the PlayStation 2 in 2005, citing increased profit, changing market conditions, and increased consumer satisfaction as the key reasons. The PlayStation 2 version included new features, primarily a new sub-game featuring Ada Wong. On February 1, 2006, Ubisoft announced that they would be publishing the game on the PC for Windows. On April 4, 2007, a Wii version was announced and was launched later in the year. The game features all of the extras in the PS2 version, along with other additions, including a trailer for Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.
The original version for the GameCube featured two different collector's editions. The first was available as a pre-order that included the game, the Prologue art book, and a T-shirt. GameStop offered another limited edition that was packaged in a tin box with the art book, a cel of Leon, and a soundtrack CD. Australia received an exclusive collector's edition that came with the game and a bonus disc with interviews and creator's footage.
Resident Evil 4 was ported to the PlayStation 2 after Capcom stated that it did not fall under the exclusivity deal with Nintendo. It was released in North America on October 25, 2005. The largest addition is "Separate Ways", a new scenario for Ada written by Haruo Murata. According to producer Masachika Kawata, the Separate Ways campaign was something thought up by the PS2 porting team and was added after getting approval from Shinji Mikami. The port was later included with Code: Veronica X and Resident Evil Outbreak as part of the compilation Resident Evil: The Essentials. The PlayStation 2 version featured two standard and collector's bundles from pre-orders. The standard package included the game and a T-shirt, while the collector's bundle also included a figurine of Leon, and the soundtrack Biohazard Sound Chronicle Best Track Box. This quickly sold out, and a second pressing was released that included an Ada figurine. Another, called the Resident Evil 4: Premium Edition, was packaged in a SteelBook media case, along with the art book, a documentary DVD, and a cel art of Ada.
Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition was released in Japan for au's BREW 4.0 on February 1, 2008. It was announced by Capcom at TGS 2007. Differences from the original include changing the flow of the story from being continuous to being divided into sections such as "Village", "Ravene", "Fortress" and "Subterranean Tunnel". There is also a more challenging Mercenary Mode. The game uses the MascotCapsule eruption engine and was adapted to the Zeebo and iOS platforms. On July 13, 2009, without any formal announcement, Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition was released by Capcom for the iOS platform via the App Store in Japan, but was quickly removed, though some players were able to purchase and download it. The game has since been released in Japan and North America. Later, Capcom made an update that had different difficulty levels and high scores. Capcom released a new separate version called Resident Evil 4 for Beginners, which offers the first two levels (three counting a training level) of both Story Mode and Mercenary Mode. However, the rest of the levels are available for purchase in-game as downloadable content. Due to the release of the iPad, Capcom recreated the iPhone version of Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition and updated it to HD graphics as Resident Evil 4: iPad Edition.
In October 2021, Capcom released a virtual reality (VR) version of Resident Evil 4 for the Oculus Quest 2. Developed by the American Armature Studio, many elements of gameplay like combat and inventory management were changed to accommodate VR. This version, which runs on Unreal Engine 4, also includes redesigned textures with increased resolution. The VR version was heavily criticized by fans, both in Japan and the West, due to Armature Studio's censorship of content. The developers and executive producer Tom Ivey, who stated that the changes were made to "update the game for a modern audience", removed a number of in-game animations (such as the animation triggered when players attempted to look up Ashley's skirt), dialogue and flirtatious banter between characters. Some of these changes were made at the expense of continuity and context in cutscenes essential to the game's plot. The controversy continued when in April 2022 the VR version's executive producer Tom Ivey stood by the changes: "I definitely agree with the changes we made to the game so, we're definitely on board with that, we think it's the right thing".[c]