Review by ShyningFade

"And I quote, "What? What is this?!""

Resident Evil. It all began with unforgettable moments such as, "I hope this isn't Chris's blood.", "This might be helpful if you, the master of unlocking..." and "You were almost a jibble sandwich!"

Released nearly ten years ago, many of the scenes in the very first Resident Evil are now the stuff of video game legend - for better, or for worse. Now in 2005, after many sequels and spin-offs, I can safely say that things have become much, MUCH better. How beautiful progress is.

First Impressions:
I remember when I first heard of Resident Evil coming to the Gamecube, and exclusively at that. It was a little surprising to hear of a series that had become established on another platform move to one with such a, I daresay, "kiddy" audience. I was completely stunned, and wondered how well this would work.

REmake was a very impressive title, and a great compliment to the original game. Then RE2 and 3 were ported from the playstation, and Code Veronica from the dreamcast after that. After three nearly direct ports, things were starting to scream out "disappointment!" for this once major announcement. RE0 was released, and although it was graphically stunning, it left much to be desired, and offered a similar experience to the previous. Many feared that the RE franchise had become stale and was on it's last legs.

Then, along came RE4.

It seemed that the newest batch of established survival horror games (Resident Evil and Silent Hill) would receive drastic changes in their formula to ensure a unique experience. It seems like Capcom lived up to their promise, and in an awe-inspiring way.

Story:
Most Resident Evils follow a set path, which mirror many of the more famous horror films of days past. You have your zombies, and underlying mystery, and plenty of tense moments. And while most of those elements remain in Resident Evil 4, you can tell that the new plot deviates from the standard, and as a result, injects this game with features that just weren't possible in previous title.

Taking the role of Leon S. Kennedy, from Resident Evil 2 fame, you are sent to a remote village in Europe under the president's orders to rescue his daughter, Ashley Graham. What starts off as a plot more fit to be in an action movie, quickly becomes something any horror fan can be proud of. Moving to the village, you discover that the villagers aren't exactly the friendliest of folk, and things become much more interesting.

Along the way there are plenty of characters, my favorite being Luis Sera, and on our message boards, "MIIIIIIIKE!" seems to be a hit as well. You might also meet up with an old friend... which adds even more intrigue to a story that's enraveled with questions aplenty, and keeps you more than interested. I must say, the previous stories in Resident Evil were pretty good, but the atmosphere that this one provides is stellar. Not only is it creepy, but it also has it's share of laughs, all in all providing a good experience. Not bad for an "action" game, eh?

Gameplay:
Speaking of an action game, many people are hesitant to classify this title as survival horror, simply because of the immense action taking place at nearly all times. Allow me to ask a quick question, and summarize the opening sequence along the way...

You enter a village, which seems like any other. Except for the impaled police officer who's burning on a stake in the center. You try to sneak around, since the thought of being mobbed isn't something you look forward to. Next thing you know, someone spots you, and you've got a ton of angry villagers who don't feel like being bothered, and from the looks of it, are happy to kill.

Armed with only a knife and a handgun, you attempt to fight them off, but the overwhelming numbers start to get the best of you. You make a mad dash for the house, and bar the door shut with a dresser you push over. Trying to gather your senses, you hear a ladder shatter the upstairs window, which makes you realize you don't exactly have a lot of time in that house. So rush up the stairs, and push over the ladders, knocking off any villagers who were planning on climbing inside. Right when you think you're doing good, you hear the downstairs door shatter as the angry mob breaks through. Oh yeah, I can't forget to mention the lovely sound of a chainsaw humming gleefully in anticipation of some fresh blood. Jumping from rooftop to roof top, crashing through windows, and climbing up a watchtower (which is generously assailed by flaming torches if you stay up there too long - the villagers may resemble zombies, but they're smarter than them, that's for sure), I don't know how else one can stress that this game is indeed about survival. And it provides plenty of opportunities to do that.

And unlike certain games, such as the Medal of Honor franchise, which tend to have an explosive introductory scene, and slowly fade into boring, systematic style of gameplay, Resident Evil 4 starts out strong, and only gets better as time goes on. It's amazing to see one sequence that completely leaves you floored, and completely overwhelmed, and then minutes later, encounter another scene that puts the previous to shame. It's a real achievement for a creator of any type of media, be it music, movies, whatever, to create a product that gets progressively better the more time you spend with it. But to do that for almost 20 hours? Pure insanity.

One issue that people might address are the controls. If you've ever played a previous Resident Evil, you'll know the controls. Hey, wait, don't try and run away from me just yet. Although they seem to be the same old, archaic "combat for atari" controls, they work much, much better, thanks to a new behind the back perspective. Which in turn means, no more prerendered backgrounds. Plus, given the ability to change the angle with the C stick, you'll no longer find yourself as a midnight snack to one of the hungry inhabitants of this game.

The R-Button readies your current weapon, which brings me to what is quite possibly the best thing to ever happen to a Resident Evil game: The ability to aim. What sounds like basic improvement at best, turns out to be one of the most well implemented, and most needed features that this game has. Now you can freely target someone's head, chest, stomach, legs, arms... or even the weapons they have. Someone throwing an axe at you? Shoot the sum***** out the sky. Is one of your friends lighting a stick of dynamite with the fire that his momma told him not to play with? Teach him a lesson by shooting the dynamite directly. Capcom beautifully takes advantage of this setup by providing a world that is very interactive; there is much to uncover, such as traps which can be used to your advantage. All in all, this one, simple step has started a revolution for the Resident Evil franchise. But I get ahead of myself...

Gone are the days of limited inventory space. Gone are the days of saying, "Why can I lug around a shotgun, but not three of these coins that I can easily jam in my shoe or something?". In yet another improvement, Capcom has graciously added a Diablo-like interface. Available to Leon is an Attache case, which has a grid that can be filled with various objects. So now, if you decide to load up on guns, you give up valuable space for other things. But if you decided to keep a bunch of items (which range from healing items, to grenades, and ammo), you can organize it neatly without too much clutter. If you feel like carrying 10 healing items, go for it. And unlike past REs, it won't take up all of your inventory space. Simple, but very, VERY effective.

And on the topic of inventory, Capcom has also decided to give us a ton of variety when it comes to weapons. Remember back in the day, where we would get our staple handgun, then shotgun, and so on, so forth? Now, we have plenty of variety in our weapons. Instead of the standard handgun, we have a variety of 5, each with their own unique stats and upgrades. There's a few magnums, rifles, and shotguns too, not to mention a grenade thrower and TMP. And those aren't even the extras... each weapons has it's own set of stats as I mentioned. Shot power, ammo capacity, reload time (which must be done in real time now, and adds a TON to the tension), and shot time. Each gun has it's own pros and cons, and come in different shapes in sizes. Do you want a powerful handgun that rivals the shotguns power and give up inventory space in the process? Or go with the more convenient gun that takes up nearly half the space, fires twice as fast, and still packs a punch? All of these choices impact how playable this game is. This is the kind of game that you'll want to replay again and again... but i'm not even done with all of the features yet.

Taking a page from the RE0 book, you again have to work with a partner. Except this time, she's not really a partner... you're the one responsible to save her. Leon can tell Ashley to follow or wait, which doesn't sound like much, but it does help in a few puzzles. She also has a lot of context sensitive actions, such as hiding in a dumpster while Leon fights, or getting a lift over a gate so she can jump to the other side, unlocking it. Then there's cute moments like catching her after you fearlessly jump 40 feet and land on the ground like nothing happened. It's a game, right?

The last thing I believe I should mention, is the fact that yes, this game is more action oriented. Puzzles are few and far between, but in my honest opinion, it's for the better. This isn't just mindless action we're talking about here. Even though enemies come in droves and you've tempted to just fire away like a madman, strategy is required, and the variety in weapons add to that. Some guns can pierce more than one enemies. Flash grenades can blind groups so you can rush by. Headshots might not be the best course of action.... so yes, it's a matter of survival. And survival means thinking on your feet. If you want thinking, yes, you'll find it here. Just applied differently than most expect.

Graphics:
After nearly exhausting myself (and probably you, if you're still reading this) by going into the gameplay, let me sum up the graphics in RE4 as simple as possible.

THEY ARE FLIPPIN BEAUTIFUL. GOSH!

Ahem. These are quite possibly the greatest real-time graphics the gamecube has ever seen. Lighting effects are amazing, as is the water, and rain effects. Wooden doors splinter when hit by a shotgun blast. Gasoline barrels explode with life like flames erupting from them. And clues to fighting them can be seen in their appearances as well, if you pay enough attention.

It really adds to the experience, and if it weren't for all the overwhelming enhancements to gameplay, i'd say that the graphics truly play a major role in making this game what it is today. Character models are good, enemies are good... and one topic that most people don't address as graphics, I will. The animations are stellar. Games with amazing graphics tend to look like crap if people waddle around like lego guys with a bad case of hemorrhoids. The quality for both of these are great, and with the exception of a few VERY rare instances, it's more than I could have ever asked for. Excellent job on the presentation, no complaints from me.

Sound/Music:
One of the things that I noticed, is that RE4's music direction seemed more akin to those in the Silent Hill series. Ambient tunes suddenly rage with heavily synthesized beats, pounding just as heavy as your heart surely will. And while there is the dramatic RE "action" musics and the tranquil, "YES! A typewriter! I feel so calm!", the music has definitely changed as well. Once again, it's for the better.

Voice acting in this game is excellent, bar a few tiny mishaps. (Notice a trend here?) The absolute BEST part of the voice acting, is the fact that all of the villagers speak spanish. Thank god I'm hispanic! :) Nothing like hearing villagers curse all day. Hilarious stuff as first, although downright spooky in the later parts.

Each gun has it's own distinct sound as well, and each shot will be heard loud and clear. The sound is something that is overlooked with this title, especially considering how many other departments it has to compete again, but I definitely have to give it it's dues. Thanks, sound/music people!

Closing thoughts:
Whew. After looking back, i've noticed that i've been giving a lot of high scores lately with games. It kinda makes me feel like a cheap hooker, but I guess it's safe to say that the past year has been filled with overwhelmingly good games. Although the year has just started, I really think this will be game of the year, if for nothing else, at least gamecube's best. Sure, the new Zelda is around the corner, but don't let the 4 in this title fool you. This game is more than a sequel. It's a revolution.

If you don't have a gamecube: BUY ONE. Sure, you can wait a year for the ps2 version, but if you got the chance to play it, i'm sure you wouldn't be able to resist it. This game easily competes with the Halos and Grand Thefts out there, and deserves all the sales it gets.

I'm tired from all the writing. Go play. RE. 4. Itchy. Tasty.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/23/05


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