Video Games

What Happened Before Resident Evil 4?

What Happened Before Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 takes place far from Racoon City, where the first three games were set. Never mind zombies — there’s a whole new family of enemies to fight. But if you’re diving into the remake, it helps to know something about the events of the previous games. So, if you’re curious about what happened before Resident Evil 4, here’s the answer.

As Resident Evil 4 Begins, Umbrella Corporation May be Gone but Its Activities Have Left a Mark upon the World 

We’re not going to delve into every single scrap of lore, or every element of every game and spin-off. We’ll also skip over Resident Evil Zero since, while it’s technically canon, it introduces some odd plot holes into the series. Even so, if you’re playing or are about to play Resident Evil 4 it’s handy to know the broad strokes of the story so far. 

Resident Evil

The first three Resident Evil games take place in or around Raccoon City, where the multinational Umbrella Corporation has a great deal of influence. 

As the first game begins, there have been reports of strange murders in the nearby mountains. S.T.A.R.S., a special forces division working with the local police, is sent to investigate. The team includes Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Barry Burton, and Albert Wesker. You play as either Chris or Claire. 

The team discovers that Umbrella has been working on BOWs — Bio Organic Weapons — with a facility at (and below) a mansion in the mountains. One of their projects (the T-Virus) leaks out, turning the researchers into zombies. Other mutant creatures also roam the mansion. 

It’s revealed that Albert Wesker is secretly working for Umbrella and that S.T.A.R.S. was sent in not just to clean up evidence of Umbrella’s dirty work but also to get combat data on how the BOWs perform. Wesker plans to unleash the Tyrant, a towering, humanoid BOW., using it to kill S.T.A.R.S. Instead, he is killed by the Tyrant. 

S.T.A.R.S. succeeds in killing the Tyrant. The ending you get depends who you’re playing as and one or two choices you make. However, the canon ending is that Chris, Jill, Barry, and Rebecca all survive and the mansion is blown up when its self-destruct is activated. 

Resident Evil 2

The mansion incident is largely covered up thanks to Umbrella’s massive influence. Less than two months later, there’s a city-wide zombie outbreak. The undead walk the streets of Racoon City, devouring and/or turning the populace. 

Rookie cop Leon Kennedy arrives for his first day at work and meets Claire Redfield, who’s looking for her brother Chris. You have to play as both Leon and Claire to get the proper ending. They both end up trapped inside Racoon City police station and discover an underground Umbrella facility.

It’s revealed Umbrella sent in its security forces to capture or kill rogue researcher William Birkin who was working on a bioweapon known as the G-Virus. During the incident, which sees Birkin gunned down, the virus samples he’s trying to steal leak out, which leads to the outbreak. 

Leon also encounters (and has a brief romantic interest in) Ada Wong, who claims to be an FBI agent. She turns out to be a mercenary, looking to sell the G-Virus to the highest bidder. She apparently falls to her death but, unknown to Leon, manages to survive. 

Leon and Claire defeat a G-Virus mutated William Birkin and Mr X, a modified Tyrant sent in to clean up. Along with Birkin’s daughter Sherry, they escape as the underground lab’s self-destruct activates. They vow to keep fighting Umbrella. 

Resident Evil 3

Set at roughly the same time as Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 has Jill Valentine attempting to escape the city. Teaming up with Umbrella mercenary Carlos Oliviera, she’s pursued by Nemesis, another Tyrant-style monster. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. government decides to nuke Raccoon City to eliminate the T-Virus. Jill and Carlos defeat Nemesis and escape just as the city is wiped off the face of the Earth. 

Resident Evil — Code: Veronica

After the Raccoon City incident, the Umbrella Corporation is on its way out, with its assets being frozen. Even though (or perhaps because) it had contracts with the company, the U.S. government is bringing the hammer down. 

While trying to raiding an Umbrella facility in Paris, Claire Redfield is captured and sent to an island prison. She ultimately escapes, as you might expect, with her brother Chris Redfield arriving to help out. Very little of that has a big impact on Resident Evil’s storyline, going forward. 

However, the big surprise is that Albert Wesker is alive, having previously injected himself with a variant of the T-Virus. This let him survive the Tyrant’s attack and has given him superhuman strength and speed. Chris attempts to take him down but he survives. He no longer works for Umbrella but is a free agent, not unlike Ada Wong. 

So, How Does Resident Evil 4 Begin?

The good news is that, unlike the movies, the zombie outbreak didn’t spread. The dead haven’t risen to destroy the world. And, as Resident Evil 4 begins, the Umbrella Corporation is no more. That’s good news, right?

Not really… Umbrella’s research has leaked, ending up in the hands of various shady organizations. Wesker is also somewhere out there, as is Ada Wong. So if you’re wondering what happened before Resident Evil 4, that’s what you need to know. 

About the author

Chris McMullen
Freelance contributor at The Escapist. I've returned to writing about games after a couple of career changes, with my recent stint lasting five-plus years. I hope, through my writing work, to settle the karmic debt I incurred by persuading my parents to buy a Mega CD. Aside from writing for The Escapist, I also cover news and more for GameSpew. I've also been published at other sites including VG247, Space, and more. My tastes run to horror, the post-apocalyptic, and beyond, though I'll tackle most things that aren't exclusively sports-based.