Review by Superfreak8
"Evil has evolved."
Resident Evil 4
In 1996 Capcom released Resident Evil on the original Sony Playstation. This game helped to launch the survival-horror genre. Sure, there were games that were technically survival-horror but none of them did what Resident Evil did for the genre. Resident Evil offered a creepy mansion to explore with monsters around every corner. The game had puzzles, gore, action, cheesy dialog, and a bad story. Even though the game had its flaws it created a creepy atmosphere. This atmosphere made it feel like you were in a horror movie and it was your goal to survive. Many sequels followed and after the somewhat rocky reception to Resident Evil 0, a prequel to the first one, Capcom decided to go in a new direction with the fourth installment. The result is quite satisfying and I will explain why so keep reading.
Players were beginning to grow tired of the staples of the survival-horror genre. More games started to crowd the market with the same style of game play. Certain series have gone in a different direction like the Silent Hill series. These games focused more on atmosphere, creepy visuals, and twisted storylines. This was a different direction than what the Resident Evil series strived for and the Silent Hill series found its niche. No series has ever found the success of the Resident Evil series. Capcom rode on this success for years, but people were beginning to tire of the flaws that were never fixed. These flaws have all been addressed in this installment and the resulting game is terrific.
The game takes place somewhere in Europe (an exact location is never given) and you are agent Leon S. Kennedy. Your goal is to find the President's daughter who was kidnapped by some type of cult. Leon arrives outside of the village were the President's daughter is being held. When Leon arrives in the village the villagers appear to be almost possessed. They are zombie-like but they can still talk and carry out normal activities. They seem possessed in wanting to kill any outsiders, and will sacrifice themselves to stop you. The story in this game isn't one of the strongest aspects of the game, but it does give you a good enough incentive to play through the game.
Resident Evil 4 is a drastic change in many departments for the series and the camera is one of them. The developers decided to go for a more action oriented game and less puzzles. The camera has gone from fixed angles that could cause confusion to a behind the player perspective. The camera is always behind the main character Leon S. Kennedy. This camera fixes one of the major issues with the series. The new perspective eliminates confusion and makes the action easier to follow. The camera rarley results in moments where it is hard to see whats going on. Though sometimes when you tend to get surrounded by enemies confusion can follow. I really only encountered this about twice when my back was to a corner in a small room.
The game play is also a drastic change for the series. The game focuses almost entirely on action now with only a few puzzles thrown in. In some of the earlier games it felt like the other way around. The behind the back perspective allows for more precise aiming, and this allows for much more strategy in combat. This is a good thing mainly due to the fact that the game throws so many enemies at you simultaneously. Much of the combat is about crowd control and strategic aiming. An example of strategic aiming is shooting out one of the villager's legs so he can't charge at you. This allows you to focus on the remaining villagers. There are some great moments throughout the game. One example of this is fighting off a group of villagers while trapped inside a cabin. The action that follows is quite intense and is a good challenge. Other great action sequences are scattered throughout the game including one of my favorites near the end.
The boss fights in the game are also very impressive. The bosses are all incredibly detailed and have tricks to beating them. The battles are always intense and never feel forced. One example is the first boss fight with Del Lago. It starts off with you getting in a boat to cross a lake. Then as you pass the halfway point a gigantic lake monster attacks you and gets your anchor caught in his mouth. The monster drags you around as you desperately try to kill it with the spears on the boat. If he hits the boat you fall off and have to swim back before he eats you. This makes the battle very intense and nerve wracking.
About a quarter of the way through the game the President's daughter follows you around. I normally hate games that require you to escort someone for prolonged periods of time, but in this game the Artificial Intelligence for Ashley is very good. She rarely gets in your way, and she is very vocal if she is being taken away by a cultist. If she is taken out of the area you are currently in then it is game over for you. Ashley is intelligent enough to duck if you point the gun and she gets in the way.
The inventory system in the game is one aspect of the game that isn't implemented well. Inventory management is usually a chore, and involves a lot of micromanagement to fit everything in your inventory. The system is almost a game itself. Plus, the lack of a quick switch for the weapons requires switching between the inventory screen and the action quite a bit to change weapons. This can become tedious, but it doesn't tarnish the game too much.
The weapons system in the game has also been completely overhauled. You now have the ability to purchase new weapons throughout the course of the game. You can also choose to upgrade existing weapons with the merchant. This adds a whole new dimension to the game that wasn't in the previous versions. You must obtain treasure to sell to the merchant to get gold that will allow you to purchase better weapons or upgrade existing ones. There are extra puzzles that you can solve in order to obtain gems or other treasures throughout the course of the game. This system rewards players for their ability to track down treasures and gold scattered all over the game. You even have the option of purchasing treasure maps to make tracking treasures down even easier.
The graphics in the game are the best that any developer has managed to squeeze out of the Gamecube to this day. There is astounding detail in the environments, and the character models are even better. The game has no dips in the frame rate which helps to make the game more fluid. The characters in the game animate smoothly, and they look very natural with their movements. The new camera allows for a better view of the graphics, and how much detail was put into this game. Overall, the graphics in this game are superb.
The sound in the game is also extraordinary. The sounds of the weapons in the game are very satisfying. Every gun sounds like it would in an action movie, and this helps to add to the action. The cultists chant hymns as they lumber towards you in an effort to kill you. This just adds to the overall creepiness of the game. The game has no soundtrack and relies entirely on ambience. This was a great design decision and helps to heighten the tension. The voice acting is also very solid. It is probably the best voice acting in any of the Resident Evil games. This helps to make the plot more cohesive and is presented much better.
The replay value in this game adds a great amount to the overall package. The game itself on your first play through should take close to twenty hours or more. Then you can play through the game again with your upgraded weapons from your previous play through. The unlockables in this game are excellent. There is a kind of side story involving a certain character you will meet later on in the game. There is also a minigame called the Mercenaries that is quite challenging, and is very rewarding when you do beat it. You even get unlockables from completing both of these games, which you can use in the main game to further the enjoyment.
Resident Evil 4 is an extraordinary game that a fan of any survival-horror game should pick up. This game will also convert many fans who aren't fans of the genre. The game is considerably different than the ones before it, but change is a good thing and Resident Evil 4 further proves this point. This is the most refined, accessible game in the genre to date. Anybody with a Gamecube needs to add this game to their collection.
Overall score: 10/10
Highs: Great game play, extreme boss fights, great graphics.
Lows: Inventory system can be tedious, ridiculous story.
Buy or Rent: Buy it.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 04/22/05
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