Review by NeoTS

"Horror Like Never Before"

You know why action/horror movies don't work? It's because there's really no way to get under the skin of the characters, to show the fear that they're really feeling. It all looks glamorous, blowing up wave after wave of enemies, but it simply isn't scary. It's cool to watch, and it might get you excited, but it certainly won't scare you. This is why action/horror movies don't work, and should simply be called action movies. Unless you actually are the person fending off multitudes of ungodly creatures with a fantastic arsenal that may just not be enough, there is no way to be scared or feel any fear whatsoever. Until now. Resident Evil 4 does not welcome you to the world of survival-horror. It throws you in and locks the door behind you. And then, you become a slave to the chaos, the fear and the action. Let's hope you have an itchy trigger finger, because you're gonna need it.

Leon Kennedy is reporting for duty once again. We last saw him as a rookie police officer during the T-Virus outbreak in Raccoon City. 6 years have passed since then, and Umbrella has all but crumbled. Leon's no longer a naive rookie, but a skilled field agent working for the President. His latest mission takes him to a small European village hidden deep in a dark forest. The President's daughter, Ashley, has been kidnapped by a sort of cult in the area, and it's up to Leon to get her back. But if it were that easy, Leon wouldn't have been sent in. It seems the townsfolk are just a little on the crazy side, something is clearly wrong with them. After a run-in with a local, the rest of them all rush Leon, trying to kill him. They not heed their own well-being, and they get back up when shot with bullets. They aren't zombies. What could they be? If there's one person that could get to the bottom of this, it's Leon. For all you RE fanatics out there, fear not, the story will leave you begging for more by the games end.

So they aren't zombies. Zombies don't throw axes, knives, try to stab you with pitchforks and lop your head off with a chainsaw. They don't communicate with each other, they don't flank you, they don't force you into a trap and they certainly don't run at you. But these guys do, the Ganado's they are known as. They rush you first, and ask questions when they're standing over your mutilated corpse. This is what makes the game so freakishly intense and can get the fear pumping through your body. You'll feel yourself grimacing as you pivot in place, blasting hordes of enemies in the face. Thankfully, the RE engine has been completely redone and is nothing at all like we once knew. You've still got to hold 'B' to run, and there isn't analog control, but Leon handles just about as well as anyone could hope. Plus he can leap through windows, hurdle fences and do whatever he needs to do to survive. He is fully mobile. The camera now follows Leon with a behind/over the shoulder perspective, which in turns, allows you to aim at specific body parts. This can lead to some very cool deaths, and other special moves Leon can perform. If a Ganado is charging at you, shooting his kneecap will cause him fly forward and grab a face full of dirt. Shoot him in the head to stun him, and Leon will unleash a devastating kick that's great for clearing crowds. See that dude about to blow fire at you? Shoot his hand, and watch it backfire for hilarious results. Weapons thrown at you can be shot right out of the air, and explosive barrels can be shot at for an extremely satisfying shower of body parts and gore.

By the time this game is over, the Ganado's will be the least of your worries. Every single enemy in Resident Evil 4 is brand new, and each one requires a unique strategy to beat. Granted, you could just blast the basic enemies, but that isn't a great idea for 2/3rds of the game. One enemy is blind, but has super-hearing. Did I mention that he has massive claws that he uses to impale your forehead? But if you distract him, if weak point his on his back. The boss fights are easily the best, and most exciting parts of this game. They put all the bosses of previous Resident Evil games to shame. In fact, this game features some of the boss fights EVER. This is due mostly to their extreme size, and a nifty little feature that allows you to react to a certain situation. When one of these situations presents itself, a button combination will flash on the screen, and you better do what it says. In the first boss fight, you must fight a huge lake creature that will knock you out of your boat if it gets too close. When this happens, you've got to tap 'A' as quickly as possible to swim back to the boat or the creature will have you for lunch. These context-sensitive situations are not limited to boss fights, in fact, they aren't even limited to gameplay. In a devious way to push the relentlessness of this game to another level, there are also cutscenes with this feature. Sure, the story is going on, but it could be lights out for you if you're not paying attention. Set that controller down for a second, and BAM! Knife through the jugular and a game over. These scenes are way to good to be spoiled.

Capcom must have known the relentless pacing would catch up with gamers sooner or later, and they've done a great job of implementing a continue system that usually gets you close to the spot you died at. You could say that this makes the game a little less tense... but no... no you couldn't. You'll come to love the save rooms and seeing that you've completed a chapter just so you can sit back and breathe. To add even more of a challenge, you'll have to protect Ashley for a good portion of the game. Fear not! This is not tedious like just about every other escort mission ever created. Ashley is very smart, and tried to hide right behind you, but if she can't help it, she'll duck when you point your weapon in her direction. She even points out clues to puzzles, and will hide in certain areas where no enemy can touch her. She's alright I tell ya, and actually a lot of fun to protect.

One of the best new features implemented in Resident Evil 4 is the Merchant. This mysterious dude can be found at various places throughout the game, and he sells guns, for the most part. He'll also buy any treasure you find, and he can even upgrade your guns. This makes money important, so make sure you have a lot of it. It adds yet another level of depth on this already huge game. Treasure hunting can be fun, and maxxing out a gun is actually worth it and is a rewarding experience. He doesn't sell ammo though, so you've got to conserve a little. Just a little though.

Oh boy, I haven't talked about these mouth-watering graphics! This game is so realistic looking that you can practically feel it. Leaves cover the forest ground, as you make your way through dead trees to an old log cabin. The wind blows an ominous looking sign. Chickens run through the village, past a bonfire with your escort handing on a hook in the middle. A gray mist floats over the lake and settles onto the graveyard, which sits beneath a medieval type church. Explosions from catapults rock the castle, and a strong wind blows the curtains in a poorly lit room. No matter where you are, you will be continuously amazed by what environment this game is forcing you into. Leon's character model is excellent. As he reloads his guns, you can see the small muscles of his back moving. All the enemies and characters are just as meticulous. It's the best looking console game I've ever seen, blowing away the competition with a blast from those beautiful explosions. I wouldn't feel right if I didn't include a blurb about the types of deaths poor Leon can be done in by. Having his head cut, being crushed, or being pulled into lava, it all looks great. Poor, poor Leon. Indeed, this is also the most violent game I've ever played. Not for the kids.

The music, or lack thereof, enhance the creepiness of this game fairly significantly. It's usually exciting type of stuff, but in certain areas, it can be downright scary and you'll just want to leave the room. The enemies are really the scariest part of the audio experience, especially when a cultist muttering some inane gibberish sneaks up behind you. His voice will be louder, meaning he's right near you. I can't remember how many times this made me jump out of my skin. There is one enemy that emits a noise so foul and disturbing that I had a hard time making my way through the room so I could find him and kill it. I just wanted him to stop so I could breathe easy. Every single gun has a very satisfying boom to it, especially the shotguns. Nothing says 'mission accomplished' like a booming shotgun and the juicy splattering of a head coming apart. Heh heh.

True to Resident Evil tradition, there are two mini-games upon completion of the game, as well as a harder difficulty, special costumes and more guns to unlock. You'll be playing this game for a long while if you want everything it has to offer. But you'll be having nonstop fun while doing it.

If you haven't guessed at this point, Resident Evil 4 is the best game I've ever played. It is polished to such a degree of perfection that I find it hard to make one bad comment about it. There are no glitches, no framerate drops, no control issues. If you can't do something, it isn't the games fault, it's YOUR fault. Aim better, hone those reflexes or run a little quicker, if you can't do it, then practicing will make it better. Few games can say that. In this manner, Resident Evil 4 provides a true challenge, and you'll definitely feel that it was worth it when you've beaten the game. Just as the original Resident Evil essentially created the survival-horror genre, RE4 completely reinvents it. This game is the bar, not just for horror games, but for all games. Layer after layer of depth. Classic moment after classic moment. Epic boss fight after epic boss fight.

This just may very well be the defining game for this generation of consoles.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/25/05

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