Review by XtremePlaga

"The Star Attraction"

Resident Evil has long been a franchise that has blown previous entries in its lineup out of the water in terms of engaging gameplay, amazing visuals, and edge of your seat horror. All these elements have always been glued together by a story with so many layers that often people play through them dozens of times just to make sure they have everything right. Resident Evil 4 does these things, and improves upon them in ways that few games before ever managed to achieve.

The story is pretty straightforward, which is surprising considering how Resident Evil loves twists and turns in the characterization of the most unimportant characters. Leon S. Kennedy has been training for the sole purpose of protecting the President's family. On what is slated to be his first day on the job, the President's daughter is kidnapped, and it's up to Leon to rescue her. As you can see, previous titles in the Resident Evil series have done better. Not to say that the story is not entertaining, mind you; just that you should not expect any plot twists or surprises.

The game features a behind-the-shoulder camera that allows you to see everything that Leon can see. This means that no longer will you be forced to shoot blindly at an enemy that cannot be seen. Capcom might have been able to take advantage of this perspective by having enemies silently approach you from behind and attack, but such a thing rarely happens because enemies seem to have the need to taunt you a full five seconds before they strike.

But do not become too complacent… Often enemies manage to strike your unprotected back simply because there are too many of them to deal with. That is another element that Resident Evil 4 improves upon. The enemy this time around, which are being controlled by creatures called Plagas, are called Ganados. They do things such as try and flank you from multiple sides, use weapons (often axes or pitchforks), and move their head around to try and avoid a headshot. As you can tell, these Ganados are much more advanced than the zombies of previous games.

Aiming has also gone through a major change. Unlike before, where you had to choose between shooting an enemy in the abdomen, or wasting ammo by shooting the ceiling or the floor, this time around you are able to aim anywhere you want. So if an enemy is approaching you with an axe in his hand, you have the option to shoot his arm and make him drop his weapon. On top of that, all weapons have laser-sights on them, so you will never have any doubt about where your bullet is going to end up.

The A button, also called the Action Button in the game, serves for a wide purpose of things. Most prominently are the action commands. Let me explain; when you shoot a Ganado, either in the head or on the leg, sometimes he clutches his body in pain. When he does this, if you get up-close, you can activate an action command by pressing A. Action commands include kicks and suplexes. The action command has other uses too, such as jumping through windows (always fun), knocking down ladders (fun if there was an enemy that was climbing it), or opening doors.

Something that should be noted is that unlike past games, not all doors require load times. So sometimes a single area might have many doors and large open spaces. Also, you have the option between calmly opening a door or kicking it open. Do not expect to send an enemy sprawling to the floor by kicking open a door while he was on the other side, but sometimes the hit from the door sets up an action command to be activated.

On your course through the game, you will come across a mysterious man with a long coat carrying a backpack around. This guy is called “The Merchant” and he is going to become your best friend. You see, here in Resident Evil 4, you can buy new weapons or upgrade the ones you already have. These options are not free mind you. You see, all of these options cost money. Which you get by selling “treasure” you find along with leftover money found all over the place.

If you ever run out of ammo, which happens more often than you might think, you have your trusty knife throughout the whole game to help you out when you need it. You might be tempted to sell the knife first chance you get (you cannot by the way), but the knife had become much more useful than previous incarnations of it. Thanks to the aiming system, you can choose with exact precision at what degree you want to swing the knife. So you can aim slightly upward to slash a Ganado's face or aim more downward to slash at his legs.

As far as the age-old question of whether you should buy or rent Resident Evil 4 goes. I highly recommend that you buy this game if you have not yet. Resident Evil 4 is the kind of game that you can pop in and play years later. In fact… you might find yourself ignoring your newer purchases.

Not all is fine in paradise however. All games have bad points in them, and Resident Evil 4 is sadly no exception. There are a lot of collision issues. You can see objects share the same space at various places throughout the entire game, but often these instances can be accredited to Leon wearing an alternate costume or carrying around one of the special weapons you can unlock.

There's also the fact that there are action commands in the cutscenes. At first I thought that making the cutscenes interactive was a brilliant move in Capcom's part. Indeed, you might feel that way too. But I quickly grew tired of dying over and over in the same place because I couldn't hit a pair of buttons quick enough. That's another thing about it, it is always random whether you need to press L+R or Ab, so if you die and think you got memorized what you need to press when, prepare to be humbled.

For about more than half of the game you will be accompanied by the person you got sent to rescue, Ashley Graham. In fact, there are a few puzzles where her presence is indispensable in order for you to continue. But sometimes, especially when you're fighting a larger group of enemies and things start to get hectic, she can start to feel like a ball & chain that's weighing you down.

As far as plot development goes. Capcom seems to be using Resident Evil 4 as nothing more than a launching pad for future games in the Resident Evil franchise. The files return, but usually they do not really explain anything that you did not already know.

Then there's the linearity of the game. Unlike past games, where you had to think hard about where you should go next, there is never any doubt to which door you should take. Usually because there is only one door that you are able to go through at any given time. You can backtrack for treasure you might have missed or just to make sure you found all the items laying around to make the next situation easier; but as far as forward movement goes, there is only option A.

So… sometimes, even though you have a great game in your hands, you ca not help but feel like you got shafted in some weird way. But now that the game is being sold at $20, you can rest easy knowing you got the same great game that those dopes that bought it when it was $60 got. In fact, if one of your friends bought it back then and he just would not stop talking about how dumb you were for not buying it. You can turn around and show him how smart you were to wait out the price drop.

But wait… there's more! Aside from the main game, there is a minigame called “Mercenaries”. The object of this game is to kill as many Ganados as possible within the time limit. If you are the kind of gamer that just has to get the top score in a game, then chances are this is where you will spend the majority of your time with Resident Evil 4. And it is a blast to play. No one else to worry about, no need to get frustrated over not pressing the appropriate button in time… just you, a ton of enemies coming at you from all over, and the distinct feeling that too much ammo is just not enough.

There is an alternate mission that you can play as a hidden character, which is fun. But sadly, it does not tie in to the main game. So you are left wondering if any of it is a part of the continuity or not.

No matter whether you beat the game for the twentieth time or replay mercenaries just to try and add a few extra points to your high-score, chances are you will have a blast doing it. Just keep in mind that there might be a few hiccups along the way. At the end of the day, a few hiccups are just not enough to take away from a game of this caliber.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/16/07

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