Review by grasu
"Once upon a time there were zombies... and then they went poof, and a better game came out of it!"
There are many games that didn't invent their genre's, but they ended up getting credit for it anyway because they were so damn superior to anything else seen before. Resident Evil is among those games.
As to not leave the reader totally baffled, a short history of RE is in order. Resident Evil was Capcom's new baby after their SF series went down with the sinking ship that was arcades, especially in America (don't bother to contradict me, if you want proof, look at Neo-Geo). In spite of these "downers" Capcom recuperated and managed to push a new series amidst many SF remakes and Vs. games.
The previously mentioned series, RE, spawned a histeria among most gamers. For those true adventure fans, a reinvigorated game that presented the genre's puzzles, trademark engrossing storylines, AND allowed you to actually shoot that bastard sitting at the door was both a blessing and a curse. Action gamers found out that guns in games actually require "ammo", and the rest, were just scared out of their minds.
The RE series spawned a huge, convoluted, and plot hole ridden, conspiracy tale about zombies, viruses, and a nuke.
Enter RE4. Within mere months of the game's official unveiling we knew that the conspiracy tales were dead, zombies were on vacation, and nukes didn't quite cross international borders so well. Some, including me, saw this as an impending disaster. Others did not.
Boy, am I lucky to be wrong.
Generally my reviewing style seems to be going against the tide in some respect or another, and I must say, that I'm doing again. I'm not exactly sure what reviewers and other players are looking at while playing RE4.
The polygonal characters are animated beautifully and their flow of motions is perfectly synchronized with the real life version, but the actual monster models look down right, bad. The villagers in RE4 are nowhere near as detailed as the zombies of RE. Zombies had layers of clothes, gaps in their flesh, spilling blood, etc. These guys have one layer of cemented clothes and their best blood spilling effects last for 15 seconds at most, just before their bodies vanish into thin air.
Then there is the environment. Sometimes it looks surreally beautiful, El Lago and The Ancient Ruins are great examples of lighting used correctly and just an abundance of polygons on screen at the same time. El Pueblo, on the other hand, is a disaster. Emphasis on dark tones of brown highlighted by NO outside lighting sources, drab, uninspired design, and more, plague the first stages of the game.
Furthermore, the graphics are very blurry as a whole. Thanks, in no small part, to the lack of any HDTV support the colors are blurred and superimposed in many instances. The cleanliness seen in Onimusha 3 is not even achieved here. Color separation and sound suffer due to the fact that GC component cables run the gamut at around $50 and are impossible to find in stores.
That's not to say the graphics are bad. No, not at all. Even though some areas could use more detail and a better palette of colors would help, these are some mighty impressive graphics we're shown here. The character models for the main characters are impeccably motion captured, and lip-synched. They too could use some more detail, like dripping blood for example, but they don't look bad by any means.
RE4 is also devoid of ANY framerate slowdown, even with virtually HUNDREDS of enemies on screen. That's definitely impressive for a game running on about 40MB RAM. The flame and water effects are also, predictably, impeccable. RE4 features some of the most convincing flames ever to grace console video games.
The RE series has been generally known for having a great soundtrack, and RE4 does not disappoint.
However, there is ONE veritably annoying thing about RE's sound effects: the chanting. My <insert deity of choice her> did that chanting get ON MY NERVES!! Villagers repeat the same 3-6 phrases in Spanish to an annoying degree (either "Kill him!", "To die is to live", "Capture him!", "Get him!", or the s-word in Spanish). In fact, as far as the s-word is concerned, one scene in the game has the villagers say nothing BUT the s-word for about 3 minutes straight. For no damn reason. Congratulations to the idiot who thought of that!
Other than that minor annoyance, I find it completely idiotic that some of the best music in RE4 is confined to the obligatory Battle Mode. The music would fit the mood perfectly for the psychotic shoot-outs in the main game.
There are no other major problems with RE's sound besides the two aforementioned ones. RE4 delivers well in just about every aspect of the sound category that you could think of. Voice acting has improved tremendously from the past few games, ESPECIALLY, from RE: CV (which apparently got bad voice actors due to fan's demands).
Sound effects in generally, from exploding craniums, to the shrieks of the psycho-women are all realized very well and are quite clear for a console without cheap component cables.
RE4 is nothing like any RE before it. Not only does this game *lightly* (and I emphasize that) touch on the Umbrella subject, but it isn't really all that much of a survival horror game to begin with. And there in lies RE4's biggest problem: It's not scary. That's not to say the mood is Contra, but there isn't a single good scare in all of RE4. Some of the environments are moody and dark, and that's about it.
Now, if you continued reading on, that's the ONLY major problem with RE4. It's nearly perfect in every aspect from here on.
The game stars RE2-rookie-cop, Leon S. Kennedy and he's new mission: Save the president's daughter (seemingly ripped out of a bad 1980s action flick). The plot thickens though as the villagers are none to pleased to see Leon and are ready, at a moment's notice, to take up axes, sickles, hammers and chainsaws in an attempt to stop Mr. Kennedy from finishing his job.
The story in RE4 needs to be addressed as the RE series has as many hysterical fans as the Heroes series. If you don't want even the MOST OBVIOUS things SPOILED, then don't read this paragraph. The story in RE4 lightly touches on Umbrella issues, within the first five minutes you find out that they went kazzam thanks to the government (funny, didn't Wesker say something about the government's "famed reason for bombing Raccoon city"?). As you later find out, RE4 still retains the Resident Evil title, as the game deals with a scientifically backed (quite extensively) plot involving parasites, and viruses. Personally, I have no idea what Mikami is looking to obtain with this change, but as the game reveals the major villains from the other RE's are FAR from dead.
RE4 introduces numerous changes in addition to the story, the biggest of which deal with enemies, camera, and weapons.
Enemies in RE4 are smart, fast, and DEADLY! This, of course, becomes clearly obvious as you are assaulted by virtually dozens of them in the first mass-melee scene in the game. And speaking of mass-melee... that's another big change to RE monster encounters. Instead of relying on one by one attacks and increasingly more powerful monsters, RE4 assaults you with as many monsters as RAM allows. During numerous game sequences you'll have to blast your way through battalions of villagers in order to reach the next stage of the game, and it never gets old. I don't know what kind of genius did it, but I killed some 1100 enemies on my first flight through RE4 and I never got bored. If you can name another game where you did that, you've had more experience than I did as not even games like the original Shinobi kept me entertained through so many dead bodies.
Make no mistake though, the villagers you fight aren't exactly push overs even later in the game They develop an inner parasite which surfaces during night sequences and gives the attacker a second chance at the player (think, Crimson Heads). These new parasites could've found better ways of escaping then when the monster's head is blown off (why would you reward players who SUCK at shooting?), never-the less, there are numerous ways to deal with them. Also, in true RE tradition, the boss battles here are gigantic, literally (just look at the back of the box). The monsters you will face in RE4 are both a throwback to the golden days of the action shooter and a statement of how far action games have come. Some monsters are just big, and have to be shot dead, while others, must be caught in traps or killed by pressing a sequence of buttons (displayed on screen). Regardless of killing method, every single boss encounter leaves you craving more action as the actual fighting and death scenes are down right spectacular. Even more so than those in MGS3.
What's surprising about monsters though, is that there isn't a lot of variety. Yeah, it's true that REs were dominated by zombies, but, in the end, other creations proved to be your un-doing. In all fairness, there are only 4 different types of monsters in RE4: Villagers, dogs, regenerators, and big bugs. Yeah, they come in a million flavors, but that doesn't make them any less identical from each other.. especially as weapons increase in power.
To succeed in your mission you'll need weapons, and to aim those weapons, you'll need an aiming system. RE4 has both, in near perfect condition. The classical-RE camera is no more. As in dead, kaput, finished. Capcom loses scares due to that, but gains everything else. The behind the shoulder camera is amazing. The aiming system, cumbersome to get used to at first, quickly becomes second nature and, thanks to the greater draw distance, things such as the sniper rifle are of REAL USE, for the first time in an RE.
In the weapons department, RE4 walks all over any RE before it! In fact, it walks all over all of them COMBINED! There are, roughly, 15 weapons in this game. 4 pistols, 4 shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, mine throwers, etc. All upgradeable in 4 different categories (power, firing speed, reload speed, clip size), and, as if all of this was not enough, some may have an extra, exclusive upgrade.
The way you acquire these weapons in RE4 is radically different than any other RE before it. There are only 2 "permanent" weapons you find throughout the game (Rocket launchers are one-shot-weapons and disappear after they've been used), the rest of the weapons, upgrades, and most of your fist aid sprays, come from a mysterious merchant. Horror takes another hit in favor of gameplay, as the merchant appears at nearly EVERY single save point in RE4. Merchants sell all the weapons in RE4, even those that can be found otherwise. They also sell inventory extensions, treasure maps, expansions for weapons, upgrades for weapons and a bevy of other things you certainly WILL find useful throughout the game. In fact, the only thing merchants do not sell is ammo. On the other hand, monsters drop just about every single type of ammo imaginable: grenades, pistol ammo, shootie ammo, herbs, sprays, etc.
RE4 is plagued (clever RE put, Heshin a go-go baby!) by other equally great changes. For the first time in the series' history you don't have a magical box. You also don't have ink ribbons, or huge-ass fetch quests and backtracking galore. This makes RE4 the leading RE game as far as gameplay goes.
You'll travel through tons of environments including: villages, houses, castles, an island, and more. Solving puzzles and battling monsters has never been so much fun, as now, you can use the environment to your advantage. Is that monster over there climbing that ladder, push the ladder to the ground. Is that door about to break? Put a cabinet in front of it. Other such examples abound throughout RE4 and, combined with some clever scripted events, make the click-buttons-when-displayed-on-screen system a genius idea. Why didn't they think of this earlier?
Adventure fans will be a bit disappointed with the puzzles in RE4, as they're really dumbed down. At first, I found that to be problematic, but then I slowly realized something: No more friggin' back tracking! Regardless of whether or not the puzzles are bad, the fact that I don't have to tread familiar ground 10 times within the course of an hour beats brain-busting-puzzles any day of the week. Along with the new-and-improved puzzle system RE4 may be the first RE to make an escort mission fun... no, wait, scratch that, the first game to make an escort mission fun. You'll have to guide Ashley through nearly a third of the game, but Capcom was smart enough to realize players don't want their dumb NPC slain in an instant by a marauding chainsaw psycho, so they made hundreds of intelligent ways to protect Ashley.
But wait, there's more. Even the controls in RE4 are improved, Leon is far more nimble and is far more likely to be able to use the 180-degree quick turn than all previous RE characters combined (by the way, how many times have I combined all previous REs at this point?). Not to mention, the fact that this game has plenty of ammo and healing for you to never be required to clear a room 3-4 dozen times (happened to me once in RE:0... I never did play after that) just to conserve 2 bullets is an indescribable joy. The same can be said about tricky scenes, as I didn't have to replay any part more than 5 times.
In general, RE4 is a thrill ride through and through. You'll be jumping on roof tops, avoiding bear traps, 'nadeing enemy bunkers, and fighting a huge fish-thing, within the first 2:30 hours of game time. Better yet, the game never loses that pace for roughly 19 to 22 hours straight. Not bad Capcom, not bad at all.
There are a few minor quibbles though, that don't quite fit in any category. Grenades in the game, are, for the most part, infernally deadly paperweights. When you don't have'm, you'd wish you did, and when you don't want them, you can't kill a zomb... villager without he or she dropping one. RE4, a long game as it may be, kinda lacks extras to be quite honest. An extra scenario, a crappy battle-mode (4 stages, that's all) and a few extra weapons are all that you'll find after spending dozens of hours on this game. Finally, I saved the worst for last: Besides the fact that it's not scary, after you're done with this game, it's not likely you'll ever remember the story. That's not to say it doesn't keep you on edge, but, by the end, you'll pretty much come to the conclusion that this should've been more of an "RE Gaiden" than a straight up RE4.
After RE:0, I'll pass... for ever!
Skimpy on plot and maybe not all that scary, RE4 isn't exactly a fanboy's wet dream... but it's the best RE, gameplay-wise, *period*. You won't find a more exciting thrill ride or a story that'll keep you on edge (while your playing, key here is the "while" and story) than RE4's. You won't think about it much after, like you did with all other REs, but Capcom has once again demonstrated that they have a knack for making you go totally cu-cu after a mere 20 hours of game time with some of the most cliche characters ever. Bravo Capcom, you're easily reinventing yourselves and passing on the fighter trophy for truly great 3rd person titles... and, I for one, am truly satisfied with that!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/22/05
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