Review by Randomer

"A solid action game, but with some major flaws."

Intro:
Its Resident Evil! I'm confident that most if not all gamers have heard of the series by now. I would like to admit before I start that I am not a regular Resident Evil player and that this is my second game in the Resident Evil universe. However I still believe that this is a very accessible game for those that are not familiar to the series. Resident Evil 4 (RE4) is a lot more action based than its predecessors and this should give it more accessibility, equally however it can prove to be a flaw. RE4 is not a typical survival horror game; it is an action horror with some key influences from the survival horror genre such as very limited ammo and item combining. This review of RE4 will look at all aspects of the game and also the changes it has undergone by porting to the PC.

Gameplay:
A very key area of any game. The first thing that anyone playing this game will notice is where the camera is. Most survival horror games rely on fixed cameras which gives control difficulties sometimes. This new ‘over the shoulder' first person view allows for players to gain a new way of seeing things. The camera can be moved about when moving, but when shooting the camera becomes still and stuck over Leon's (the main dude's) shoulder. This is my first big flaw of the game; this view limits the visibility of a player and makes heavy combat very difficult. This is amplified by the nature of PC controls.

This is the biggest downfall of the PC game and something very key for anyone trying to play this game. This game has no moue support and game pad is essential, or alternatively a mouse modification, available from several sites. The controls also suffer with the new action sequences. You need to learn how your keyboard is set up very early on as the game does not direct you to press the ‘shift' button, but rather to press button ‘6', what is this button 6? It is a problem that will confuse you at the start)

The action sequences are an interesting addition, seen in a lot of games recently. It makes cut scenes less boring, but also comes at an uncomfortable surprise, especially when you combine it with the control issues. You may be watching a video only to have to press a button, the first time you are too slow, the second time you can't work out the controls and the third time the controls change! These button moments are quite possibly when you will die the most.

Beyond the control difficulties, the style of play in this game is very satisfactory. Throughout the game you are not only just shooting your enemies, but occasionally crushing them, blowing them up, or whipping out your trusty knife if any get too close. Sometimes you are not fighting to survive or conserve ammo, but more for a sick pleasure as it is often a fun thing to blast a villagers head off or set them on fire. The game also plays on the stereotypes of action, enemies can get knocked down, but they might not be dead and some enemies become more powerful when you go for headshots.

Along with the shooting there are interactive environments, traps that you can lure enemies into, bookshelves can be moved to block doors, ladders can be raised and kicked down, and doors can be shot through. The levels do have a satisfying degree of interaction within them and this is very enjoyable. The game is split into 3 scenarios each with its own areas that are all linked and often in multiple ways, this makes backtracking or finding an alternative route fun things to play at during the game. Equally however the environments are a downfall, the juxtapositions between the first third of the game and the others are so great that often it can be very displeasing to find yourself in a new location with new enemies. Equally it could be a refreshing change of pace.

A final aspect of the game play is Ashley. She is an ally who will be with you for a large portion of the game. She is a burden and often frustrating. In a typical survival horror you stand alone with other characters popping in and out of the narrative and occasionally helping you. Ashley has no ability to fight and she has very little concept of “Run like Hell!” Whilst she rarely gets stuck and is very responsive to commands, she may severely annoy gamers such as myself. If on the other hand you enjoy escorting teenage girls then you might enjoy this more than others.

Graphics:
When you first install this game, the graphics will be awful. This is due to the game being a port and there is no dynamic lighting or any of the special effects that are found in the console version, a patch adds all this in to make the game much better. This is a double edged sword. RE4 has no customisation options and therefore if you have an older computer it is best you avoid all new patches or your game will be unplayable with the new patches. I will be reviewing this game on the standard graphics with none of the patched effects.

This game is very good looking and will work on very low end systems. Leon looks great as do all the characters. The environments are lacking in detail and on lower resolutions jagged edges can ruin your day. It is therefore essential that you have a good enough computer to squeeze the most out of the new patches. Failing this however the game is very playable on sub minimum systems (I was able to play this game at a good 25-30fps with just a 64mb graphics card).

Sound:
Music is not something you really notice with survival horror games, they are much more focused on sound effects than tunes. There is music, but you will be too busy killing things to notice. The sound effects are very good, each monster has distinctive sounds and groans, the Spanish villagers speak a horrible Spanish drawl and it is the first time we've seen zombie like monsters with coherent language, anyone with knowledge of Spanish may be at a tiny advantage when these monsters curse. The barks of wild dogs and the snap of a bear trap, all are frightening sounds when you are wandering in the wilds of the mountains.

On the subject of sound I would like to note that this game does not have subtitles.

Story:
Survival horror games have a specific nature of story and this game is no different. They revolve around principals and clichés that would be absurd in RPG games. Characters can come and go freely from the narrative, people always turn up at random points, characters get caught in obvious traps, no one ever asks for advice and people never just run away. This gives it an absurd but familiar sense. It is best to take the way the story is told with a fistful of salt.

It is several years after the events of Racoon City. Leon is contracted to rescue the presidents daughter who has been kidnapped by a cult. This takes him to a strange village in the mountains where the people have turned violent. They are not zombies, they can think, talk and make tactical decisions but their behaviour is so disgustingly aggressive. As the day wears on things grow darker and by nightfall the mountain village is a very different place. Leon must find Ashley and extract her, but as in many games, it is never that easy! Along the way you meet many wicked, wild enemies and mysterious allies.

Replay Value:
The PC Version has the secret features of the PS2 and GC versions along with a set of mini levels focusing around a character called Ada. The varieties of difficulty levels also add extra playability, depending on how much you enjoy this game.

Rent or Buy:
Its PC, so its sadly only a buy, but it should be very cheap by now.

Conclusion:
I am going to give this game 7/10. For RE fans it should get a 10, I know they will enjoy it. For someone picking up this game in a store, you must be aware it has all the flaws of console to PC games, poor controls and customisation. This game is however a solid romp through the hills with plenty of thrills along the way and that should be enough to keep most gamers happy.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/03/08

Game Release: Resident Evil 4 (EU, 03/02/07)


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