Review by sbn4

"You CAN teach old dogs new tricks!"

When you hear the name Resident Evil, what's the first word that comes to you're mind? Horror? Gore? Cheesy heroes? Bad Dialogue? Well if you were to ask this question to a group of people, i'm willing to bet the vast majority of them will say "zombies." But what would you say if the next Resident Evil game were to have no zombies? Well, it's only natural to be skeptical about the turn-out of an RE game with no zombies. Believe it or not, Resident Evil 4 has no zombies at all. However, you can leave you're skepticism at the door because RE4 is easily the best RE games in the series.

Story

Resident Evil 4 actually takes place six years after the viral outbreak in Raccoon City. Leon Kennedy, of RE2 fame, is now an agent for the U.S. government. His first assignment is to rescue the presidents daughter Ashley, who was reportedly kidnapped by a group of individuals. He heads for a desolate village in the far reaches of Europe. However, everything goes awry from there. I don't intend to give away any story spoilers, but for the Resident Evil series, the story is pretty intriguing as well as compelling.

Gameplay 9/10

Resident Evil has been around for a long time. In that long time, the franchise has relied on the same engine throughout it's history. As a result of this, interest in the series has waned. While it still maintains above average success, the creators at Capcom knew they could do better. RE4 is now a completely different experience compared to past RE games as well as survival horror games in general. Let it be known that you do not need to be an RE fan to enjoy this game. This plays nothing like the previous games. Capcom has completely re-vamped this series, and it's absolutely wonderful.

First off, like I mentioned before, there are no zombies in this game. Instead, there are enemies called Ganados. They're much smarter and quicker than zombies, but they are much more resilient than human. A shotgun blast to the chest proves the latter. These Ganados are absolutely hell bent on Leon's death. However, Leon has the tools to defeat them. Just like previous games, you hold down the "R" button while pressing the "A" button to fire. A new implementation is that Leon can now aim for specific body parts. A Splinter Cell type perspective allows Leon to do this. All guns in RE4 are fitted with a laser sighting which makes it easy to identify what part of the body you are going to hit. Leon starts with a standard issue pistol. Shooting a Ganados in the leg, causes them to fall over, while shooting them in the chest stuns them quite a bit. However, if you think aiming for the head will always yield an instant kill, you'd be wrong. Most of the time all it does is severely damage them. Besides, if you got an instant kill for head shots, this game would be too easy. By the way, later on in the game, you actually don't want to get headshots.

A major change in RE4 is the camera. There are no longer any awkward static views anymore. The camera is now placed directly behind Leon at all times. On top of this, the camera can be manipulated with the C-stick for all intents and purposes. The camera is much improved in comparison to the previous games. No longer do you have to fear what is around the bend because of bad camera angles. The controls have always been something that has been a center of criticism. While the controls in RE4 haven't been drastically changed, they are much more fluid. The game uses the analog stick and the tank-like controls are absent.

The 180 turn is back and it's pretty useful. If you're concern is not being able to see enemies behind you, the 180 turn is helpful. RE4 is now much more interactive than any of the RE games combined. The "A" button is now officially an action button. This button allows you to interact with you're environment and areas. You can jump out of windows, open doors, kick down ladders, jump off of roofs, and even kick stunned enemies. The "A" button shows up when you can interact with something. Speaking of interactive environment, there are even enemies and traps you can interact with. For example, you can dodge boss attacks by pressing a combination of buttons when prompted. Also, the Ganados will push boulders after you. You must tap the "A" button as fast as possible to sprint from the boulder. This new level of interaction is amazing. Player can no longer reload weapons in the pause menu. All weapons are reloaded in real-time only. You can also reload even when you're gun isn't fully depleted by pressing the R and B buttons simultaneously. The inventory system is also a bit redone. You're not limited to a few items at a time. Leon now carries a rather large attache case that can carry items as long as there is space.

Even the map is nicely fleshed out. It's nicely detailed and even tells you where you're supposed to investigate next. It's really not necessary since the game's pacing is well done. Another gripe about the RE series is it's saving system. Players had to always track down an ink ribbon in order to save. Now, you can save at any typewriter without the use of ink ribbons. Also, after you've played through certain areas of the game, the game automatically prompts you to save. This is usually after the end of a chapter which is a new addition to the series as well. After you've played through certain areas, the sub-chapter ends and you begin the next. There are five chapters in the game with several sub-chapters in each.

As you can see, many things that plagued the previous games have been changed for the better. But how exactly does the game play? RE4 is perhaps one of the most exhilarating and overall one of the best horror games to date. Capcom's genre defying franchise show exactly why it's considered one of the best horror series of this generation. You can sense a lot of tension in the game simply because the zombies are removed. The Ganados are worthy opponents. They're smarter than zombies and use team-work techniques to bring you down. When you attempt to take refuge in a building, the Ganados will set up ladders, destroy barricade, and break windows to get to you. You're constantly swarmed by you're enemies and you are always outnumbered. Several enemies will be coming at you with knives, pitch-forks, spears, and even chainsaws. Don't run from them though. Fighting off the hordes of enemies is quite rewarding. Don't worry, there is enough ammo to deal with all these enemies. Besides, most enemies that are killed drop items which are represented in certain colors. Some enemies drop ammo (red marker), healing items (green marker), or pestos (blue marker). I'll get into the the use of pestos in a second. Some might complain that this takes an action oriented approach more than a survival horror game. Even despite this, the game really emphasizes survival.

Unlike other RE titles which had you scavenge for weapons and ammo, RE4 allows you to buy guns and ammo. There are merchants all through RE4 who are willing to sell you all the tools you'll need to survive. This masked merchant will provide his services to you in exchange for pestos. He sells everything from machine guns, rifles, rocket launchers, gun parts, healing items and etc. There is also an option to enhance the weapons you have. You can pay him pestos to increase you're weapon's stopping power, firing speed, reload time, and even the magazine size. You can also collect jewels and gems all throughout the game and sell them to the merchant, who'll give you pestos in exchange. You can also sell him any of you're current weaponry and ammo for credit. This RPG like change is a fresh and interesting new twist.

You might wonder if all this point and shoot gameplay will get boring. Fortunately it doesn't. The enemy variation is good as well as the enemy design. Some enemies will try to dodge you're bullets while other attempt to protect their vital areas. Some even have shields as well. Some of you're enemies can even shoot back at you with crossbows. Enemies even set up traps like bear traps and even catapults that hurl flaming debris. The enemies in RE4 are a major change over anything that you've seen in any RE game. The only negative part of all this i can think of in all this is the escort missions with Ashley. She is completely defenseless. If she's caught by an enemy, you must come to her rescue. If she's carried too far by the enemy, it'll be "game over." She's also a bit annoying because she'll walk right into traps unless you deactivate them.

The bosses in RE4 are perhaps some of the most interesting battles in any next generation game. The level of interaction required for bosses is unprecedented in the series. The lake boss is perhaps one of the most remarkable boss battles I've seen in a long time. The RE series still stays true to it's roots. Even despite all this action, there are still some classic puzzles. They are not too difficult and you'll appreciate them because they give you a break from the frenetic action. Even though the puzzles are greatly undermined by the action, it's nice that Capcom still put the puzzles in such an action packed game. Overall, RE4 is a major improvement over the old RE formula. It far surpassed what i expected and then some. Resident Evil 4 is the best survival horror game released.

Graphics and Sound- 9/10

When previews said that RE4 is an outstanding looking game, they weren't kidding. RE4 is one of the best looking console games to date. The level of detail in the enviroments and character models are amazing. The environments are vast and there are a lot of enemies on screen at once. And all the while, RE4 runs on 30 FPS. Particle effects are amazing and the lighting system is amazing. The fire effects look extremely realistic. There are a few collision detection problems, but it doesn't detract from the beauty of this game. The cinematics are well done and the game overall show just how talented Capcom is as a developer. To put it lightly, this is one great looking game on so many levels.

RE4 sounds just as good as it looks. The guns effects are well done, and the ambient music is truly fitting. The villagers are also well realized. Villagers constantly shout and chant things in Spanish. It actually makes you feel like the villagers want you dead. If Resident Evil is known for one thing, it's definitely the laughable voice acting. Believe it or not, RE4 has some decent voice-acting. Leon spouts a few corny one-liners, but over-all the voice acting is more believable than before.

Replayability- 9/10

Resident Evil has always been known to have some sort of mini-games, and RE4 is no different. It features two mini-games which can be played with various characters. Some old characters as well as new characters are available in these mini-games. As far as game length goes, this game is actually quite a long game. It takes any where from 15-20 hours based on you're skill. More skilled RE veterans might finish this within 8-10 hours.

Overall

I'll state it again. This is the best survival horror game released. There is no other RE or horror game or survival horror game that quite plays this well. Fans of the series might be disappointed in it's action oriented approach but should love it regardless for it's innovation and freshness. Gamers who weren't fans of the old RE games or horror games in general should really check this game out. RE4 is leaps and bounds beyond anything i expect, and is one of the most impressive games this generation along with the Grand Theft Autos, and Halos. RE4 was years in the making, but boy, was it worth the wait.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/13/05


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