Review by InfernalLurker
Ah! Where to begin? Ok, for starters, throw out everything you know about the Resident Evil series. Everything. Because this newest installment is a completely different game. Fully overhauled and tuned. Consider it a drastic evolution. If it weren't for the recurrence of Resident Evil 2's lead character, Leon S. Kennedy and the series iconic healing herbs, one would be hard pressed to find anything remotely similar to the past editions.
So what are the changes? Let's start with the RE classic 3 point control scheme that was synonymous with the series- one that kept away probably a good tens of thousands of players due to its "accept it and play or hate it with a passion" nature, has been scrapped. Yes, you heard that right. Another staple gone is the pre-rendered, cinematic camera backgrounds- the game is in a fully realized 3-D "world"- yes although Code Veronica was the first of the main series to have full 3-D environments, it kept its traditional control and pre-placed camera system (but to its credit it occasionally tracked your movement) so it wasn't such a huge departure compared to RE 4. This time out, the camera will always be positioned right behind Leon and follows his movement, thus making the controls simple and effective. Tilt the stick forward to walk forward. Tilt left to turn left. Right to turn right. Back to cautiously yield backwards. You will still have to ready yourself to fire your guns, but now there is no auto-aiming. What?! Yes, my friends, no auto-aim. In its place, all of your firearms are equipped with laser sighting and you aim with precision where you want to target the baddies. A head shot early on may completely dispatch an easier foe, aiming for their arm may force them to drop their weapon, a well placed leg shot will almost always drop them painfully to the ground.
Also completely changed is the item management system. No more storage crates and 6 slot body inventory here! Now you have with you an attache case with blocks of storage. Every active item is comprised of block space. Ammo and herbs/healing items are 2 blocks in size. Your handguns range from 4-6 blocks in size, rifles and shotguns usually even larger. Your default attache case has a size of 60 blocks square, and they can be upgraded later if you prefer more space. This is the only way you will be carrying items from now on in this game. No more back-tracking to drop off goods! Everything will be readily on you. Another thing to note, the ever popular door keys (yes, they are in this game as well, but to a lesser extent) take no inventory space at all. There is a separate holding menu for keys and other treasures which seem to have no limit to it. Wait, other treasures you ask? The biggest change to the series involves a travelling merchant who sells you goods to progress through the game. The game's monetary value, Pesetas are littered through-out and you will also come across a slew of gems and jewelry which you can sell to the merchant to acquire new weapons and upgrades to your current ones. The merchant is also a good means to ditch excessive or unneeded ammo. For most players, they will be using a type of handgun and a type of shotgun- 2 weapons total in the earlier parts of the game, so many players will opt to sell ammo type they come across pertaining to other gun styles you may not use at all.
Before I go on, lets dispense with the formalities. You take control of an older, handsomer (ahem) Leon S. Kennedy, now a U.S. government agent thrown into a strange part of a European village with Spanish speaking hostiles searching for the President's Daughter presumed to be at this location. Now lets get on to the crux of it all- the gameplay! And the changes keep coming! Gone from the old game is the usually slow-paced goal from getting from point A to point B by back-tracking for keys to move on to the next area while shooting usually slow-moving zombies. Perhaps the producers felt the redundant nature of it all and here you are now presented with a series of more often than not fast-paced adrenaline induced events to open up to the next frenzied event. Although you will still be moving on a map to progress the story, less are you shuffling your feet to move to point B as you are to survive various hellish things the game throws at you in order to reward you to move to point B! Confused? Lets take a look at the first scenario which comes about 10 minutes into the game. You are thrown into a locked village which no escape while blood-hungry villagers are out for your head. As soon as you are spotted, they track you to no end and you must survive the ordeal with everything given to you in the situation. You will run from hut to hut while slowly picking off stray villagers, trying to barricade yourself in one, escaping through windows and travelling on rooftops until you dispatch about 14 of them. 14? That doesn't sound like a lot. Well, these aren't slow moving zombies after you. These guys are high A.I. ramped hostiles that work in tandem to try to cut you off and will get to you no matter where you hide. The game allows you to have limited manipulation of your environment to use at your advantage- move furniture to barricade doors and windows, climb ladders and kick them off so no one can pursue, bust through windows to make quick escapes. Well, they will pursue, and they will catch up. Doors won't stop them like previous Resident Evils. They will come busting through. It makes for some hair-raising cat and mouse scenarios while you search for the best possible tactical location to make your stand. I'm grinning just thinking about it. Well, 14 not enough still? You will come across a scenario which has you holed-up in a cabin and fending off close to 50 assailants making their way in ready to rip your head off. I can't describe to you the feeling of excitement this game offers you in these non-stop action sequences which are thrown at you quite liberally one after the other. Survival horror? How about tactical survival horror? If you are thrown in the aforementioned situations, you will find yourself looking desperately for the best possible placement that offers you the best advantage to overcome your foes. You will snipe a horde of baddies on their legs to buy yourself a quick escape and you will have a rush of adrenaline never felt before as your reload your shotgun in the nick of time before 5-6 hostiles put their filthy hands on you. Oh the feeling of imminent death.
Oh, and lets do talk about death for awhile. This game is difficult. Very difficult. I will tell you that now. You will die. No question about it. You see those save-typewriters strewn about (no need for ribbon this time)? You better use it. The game sways heavily in favor towards your use of trial and error to survive and until you find the key to overcome a situation, be prepared to continue or load a save file until you succeed. At times it becomes frustrating, but when you do beat a scenario or boss, you will indeed feel proud and you can rest easy even if it is for just a moment until your have to find your way to survive the next one.
One last thing about the game changes for those who need the specific knowledge is the music score. For anyone who loves the series, it is safe to say that Resident Evil has a recurring style of music. Almost a signature composition. This too is changed and with great results. Sneaking past a village at night while raining offers us a foreboding and eerily haunting piece of music that makes you feel cautious of every corner you come across. Travelling through parts of a religious-cultish castle gives us a strong medieval war song that heightens the situation. Ah, but don't feel too bummed, a variation of the classic "safe-room" music makes a welcome visit.
Ok, lets get on with the scoring.
Gameplay: 9. With its completly overhauled control scheme and much more functional albeit less aesthetic camera perspective, finally a RE for anyone to pick up and play! Mechanics that stress fast-paced reflexive action and on the fly thinking for quick solutions to the problems you are faced with- Its RE-Tactics! But seriously, retaining all the good elements of past games in the series and injecting it with lethal loads of white knuckle action, your blood will pump. Gameplay for the hyper kinetic.
Story: 6. The story comes in bits and pieces, the main point is fairly easy to understand but what drives the game is the intense action, so less story is fairly welcome in this situation. Also to note is fans of the series who like to soak up as much Umbrella lore as possible will be thoroughly disappointed as it is nothing more than mentioned in passing (the name Umbrella). The storyline bares just a slightest of connections to its predecessors.
Graphics: 10. Very nice, full 3-D environments, a lot of which are interactive. Truthfully, within its context, this is probably the best looking Gamecube game to date. The water looks real, the environments look organic and natural and to the less discerning individual, many portions of the game can be mistaken for pre-rendered flair.
Sound: 8. The sound is well done in this game. You will hear directional voices which will alert you to enemy presence- even the faintest which comes in handy. Environmental sounds are tossed in healthily, and the music, although at times sparse, is nicely done as well- probably some of the best in the series. The voice acting is fairly well done, especially Leon. RE has come a long way since being the "master of unlocking".
Rarely do game developers pull the rug from under the gamer and completely change every aspect of a tried and true franchise formula- it usually leads to the death of a series. But if it is done right and it works, and believe me in the case of Resident Evil 4, it reeeaallly works, it becomes a masterpiece. It is safe to say RE4 is indeed one of those masterpieces that must be played- thanks to the new control system even those unfortunate souls who never fully appreciated RE can soak in what has to be the best one to date. It truly is an evolution for the series.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/21/05
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