Review by FFDragon

"RE4 not only lived up to its expectations... It far surpassed them. And I do mean FAR surpassed them..."

Introduction
Resident Evil has been the game that has defined the Survival Honor genre for years, ever since it's debut on Playstation. The intricate storyline involving the enigmatic Umbrella Corporation and the deadly T-Virus grabbed the attentions of hordes of fans. From the original Mansion incident, to the streets of Raccoon City, to the frozen depths of Antarctica, fans of the RE series have followed every twist and turn thrown at them with great pleasure. Through the use of “shock tactics,” haunting soundtracks, and suspense that kept you on the edge of your seat, Capcom made Resident Evil into the Zombie series to play.

Ever since the release of Code Veronica, fans have been waiting for the next chapter in the series. The anticipation for RE4, the first new game in the series in quite a while, was huge. Rumors of big changes not only to the gameplay, but to the storyline took center stage in all of the headlines, and they turned out to be true. Resident Evil 4 does take the series in an entirely new direction, shaking off a lot of made the past games a success. However, it is these changes that make Resident Evil 4 the best Action/Survival Horror game out there today.

Graphics
To put it bluntly, RE4 is the most beautiful game on Gamecube today. The graphics even rival that of Bungie's infamous Halo 2. From the character models to the environments, to the enemies, RE4 really stretches the limits of the Gamecube. The static, pre-rendered backgrounds that have been a staple of the series, despite many complaints, thankfully do not make an appearance in RE4. Instead, the camera takes an over-the-shoulder, third person view so that you can take in more of your surroundings. When you raise a weapon, the view pulls in closer to give you better accuracy with your shots. Of course, this means that your vision to your sides and back is limited, if any. This sense of claustrophobic realism really adds to the experience, as you are always shooting a glance backward to make sure nothing is following you…

RE4 also handles weather effects in a very effective way. As day turns into night and sunshine falls away into rain, the engine holds everything together smoothly and perfectly to where you almost feel like you are in the storm. Everything is presented beautifully, from the exploding head of a Ganado, to Leon covering his face from a nearby explosion. Character models run smoothly, and are less bulky then in previous installments. He only minor problem graphically is the clipping that occurs sometimes when Leon jumps through a window or stands too close to wall. A minor flaw in any otherwise spectacular presentation.

Another interesting note to point out is that there are no FMVs in RE4. The story unfolds through the use of cinematic cutscenes that simply use the game's engine... and the game doesn't suffer in the slightest from it. As a matter of fact, it leads to one of the most unique aspects of the game. You can no longer put down your controller during a cutscene, because at any moment you could be prompted to hit a certain button combination. Act to slowly and you will surely meet an unfortunate demise. I should know... I died quite a few times by letting my guard down.

If you choose your games on visual appeal alone, there is no better game on the Market right now than RE4.

10/10

Gameplay
In Resident Evil 4, you assume the role of RE2 protagonist Leon S. Kennedy, six years after the destruction of Raccoon City. Leon has become a US Government Agent assigned to the protection of the President and his family. Unfortunately, right before Leon took his position, the President's daughter, Ashley Graham, was kidnapped by an unknown group. Acting on intelligence, Leon is sent to a mysterious Village in Spain where a girl meeting Ashley's description has been spotted…

Without delving too much farther into the realm of spoilers, RE4 takes the series in an entirely new direction. No longer do you square off against Umbrella's T-Virus Zombies, because Umbrella was shut down by the government soon after the destruction of Raccoon City… However, you can't exactly call the Villagers that you come across human either… I'll just say that the story grabs your attention right from the beginning and doesn't let up until the very end… Hey, you might even meet up with someone you used to know…

The controls in the game act much like those in REMake and RE:0, but Leon doesn't feel as much like a tank as the characters of the previous game did. The third person camera helps significantly in this. Also, for the first time in the series, a multi-purpose action button has been added. You use it to do everything from knocking down ladders, to hopping over fences, to kicking a staggering enemy. A great touch that really adds variety to the gameplay. Also, the action button is sensitive to how you use it. For example, if you run up to a door and press A, Leon will kick the door in allowing him to enter quickly, but attracting a lot of attention. Conversely, simply walking up to the door and pressing A will allow Leon to slowly and silently push the door open and act a bit more stealthy. The only gripe in the control department is that there is no way to cycle through your weapons. Sure, you can exchange from your knife and firearm of choice at will, but every time you want to change a gun you have to open up the menu. It draws you away from the action momentarily, but is otherwise bearable. Some people also complain about a lack of strafing, but I really don't see the need for it in the game…

In an effort to force realism on the players, no longer can you open up your menu and reload your weapons. Leon has to manually reload his weapons before he can fire again, which means that managing your ammo is essential for your survival. Also, Leon can only so much on his person, and this is represented by a grid system. Large items, like shotguns can take up a majority of Leon's case, while herbs and grenades only take up a measly 1x2 section of grid. Twisting and turning your items to achieve the maximum space is the only way to assure that you are going to take everything you need into battle. A risky tactic, but one that really pays off as you get into the game. It only adds to the multitude of things running through your mind as you play the game. Should I pick this up? Will I have enough room? …It really keeps you thinking.

Enemies in the game are much smarter then RE fans are used too. They wield weapons ranging from knives and pitchforks to chainsaws and TNT. They talk to each other, gang up on you and even surround you. They even set up booby traps, like bear traps, tripwires, and even the occasional boulder or two. You really have to stay alert when engaging in a battle or you will surely pay the price. And that's just the human enemies. A whole new array of enemies unseen in any previous RE game leaves you scrambling from beginning to end, in a good way. Boss battles are unique and engaging, always requiring a different strategy in order to bring them down. Even though there are only a few different models for the human enemies, ala KotoR, it doesn't detract from the game in the slightest.

A RE staple- the typewriter- makes its return in RE4, but luckily you no longer need to find and cherish ink ribbons to save. Simply walking over to a typewriter will do just fine. RE4 also introduces a new checkpoint system. Every so often, when you enter an important area, the game autosaves for you. That way if you die, you can continue right from that spot, which could be minutes or even hour since you last touched a typewriter. Sure, that may take away from some of the survival horror aspect of the game, but it still a nice touch for those new to the series.

The biggest change to the game is the newest RPG like element to upgrading your weapons. Every weapon can be upgraded in four categories:
Power- How much damage each shot will connect for.
Firing Speed- How many seconds it takes between shots.
Reload Speed- How many seconds it takes to reload the weapon.
Clip size- How many shots you can hold before reloading.
Each of which costs money, that you can pay to several of the traveling merchants around the world. You can find money by defeating enemies or cutting open boxes, but you will find a lot of it. At a merchant, you can sell unwanted items for cash if you ever need to, which is a great tool early in the game. Also, you can buy new items like bigger item cases and treasure maps, new weapons, and even weapons parts from the merchant to make your currents better. Finally, you can upgrade your current arsenal to however you like it. A great twist that will have you struggling to decide what is the most beneficial move for you at that current moment. And don't worry, ammo and health are plentiful in this installment, unlike its predecessors, which is a good thing considering the mass of enemies you have to tear through.

The gameplay of RE4 is intriguing, full of action, and tactical all at the same time. A great blend of styles that makes it one of the most fun games that I have ever played.

9/10

Sound
Resident Evil has always been known for its music that always makes you edgy. A good soundtrack can make a game, and thankfully RE4 has a great soundtrack. Whenever you are spotted by an enemy, a face paced tempo begins, notifying you that you are in serious trouble… Defeat all of your foes and the music drops down to a lighter tone. The range of tracks from area to area is outstanding, and some of the tracks are very memorable. Fans of the RE series will be happy to hear that there is still an overly melodic tune for safe rooms that lets you know that you can catch a breath.

The sound effects themselves are great as well. When you shoot an axe out of the air, you hear the clink. When an explosion goes off, you hear the boom. Thunder and the lashing of rain are also brought to the forefront. The hum of a chainsaw, the screams of a Ganado, everything comes together in a chorus of sound that is actually pleasing to the ear. Just don't be surprised when your heart starts racing as the tempo picks up…

10/10

Replay Value
The game will keep you busy for 20+ hours the first time you sit down and play it, with enough incentive to play through it a second time, because once you finish RE4, the fun doesn't end there. You can replay the main game with a variety of new, more powerful weapons available to you. From the series regular Infinite Rocket Launcher to Barry Burton's custom Magnum, you'll have a great time going through the game with enough extra firepower to cut through all opposition.

And even if you don't want to replay the main game, there are a few minigames with unlockable characters that should be familiar to Resident Evil Veterans. Between the extra modes, Alternate Customs, and Added Firepower, replaying RE4 is virtually guaranteed. The only downside to replaying the main story will simply be the fact that you've already seen the story once. A small price if you ask me.

9/10.

Conclusion
Great Graphics, Storyline, Sound, Replayablity… There is nothing NOT to like about Resident Evil 4. As a fan of Resident Evil from the very beginning, I fell in love with this game instantly. Although it deviated from the norm of the series, it quickly proved to me that change was a good thing and within the first 10 minutes I was hooked. RE4 is a little more action, and a little less survival horror, but everything in the game comes together beautifully to make it one of the best games to come out in the past few years. The story is intriguing, the action is fast paced and often, and you are forced to think every step of the way. And hell, you don't even have to be a fan of the RE series to appreciate this Capcom Gem. If asked whether to rent or buy, I'd simply answer: BUY. This game is a MUST HAVE for any Gamecube owner, Resident Evil fan, or anyone who has a pulse really.

Final Score (Not an Average)
10/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/12/05


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