Reviewed: February 1, 2005
Released: January 11, 2005
When Resident Evil came out in 1996 it jumped started the survival horror genre. Not only that, but a series of sequels (Resident Evil 2, 3, and Code: Veronica) that appeared on the Playstation, N64, Dreamcast, and Gamecube. Each release seemed to become increasingly better. Unfortunately the series kept the same slow action/puzzle solving formula of the original and never ventured further than expanding the story, adding new weapons, puzzles, and graphics.
By early 1999 Silent Hill and later Fatal Frame (in 2002) were starting to make their names know as more mature franchises. The Resident Evil series was beginning to lose its grip on this market until their release of Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Gamecube on January 11, 2005. It is on this date that Capcom redefined the survival horror genre they started.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story behind Resident Evil 4 it takes place six years since the destruction of Raccoon City. During that time the U.S. government was able to destroy the evil Umbrella Corporation. You play the roll of Leon S. Kennedy (Raccoon Cityís rookie cop in Resident Evil 2) who is now a U.S. agent on a top-secret mission. Heís been assigned to investigate the abduction of the President's daughter and his search has led him to an eerie town somewhere in Europe.
After the short background information on the story is given youíre dropped off at a lone town house on the outskirts of the village. It is here that the story beings and you must get used to your new roll as Leon Kennedy.
After the first few minutes of exploration youíll soon recognize that this game is nothing like the others in the series. While old Resident Evil games trained you to run the heck away from anything that moved to conserve ammo this game encourages you to be brave and strategic. The best way to get additional ammunition is to continue killing your way through enemies and looting their bodies. Ammo isnít unlimited and people that are sloppy or a bad shot will quickly find themselves out of ammo. That being said, this game requires you to improve your shooting skills and youíll have a huge arsenal of weaponry to practice with including rifles, shotguns, pistols, automatics, and grenades.
Each weapon has an exceptionally powerful feel to them and all can be upgraded (minus the grenades) when you meet the arms dealer. This gives Resident Evil 4 an RPG aspect to this otherwise action intensive game. You must make some tough decisions about whether to upgrade your weapons or buy new ones. If you choose to upgrade them, you must decide how? Should you improve the weapons: power, ammo capacity, or fire speed? As you continue through the game youíll be rewarded with new optional guns to purchase so that you can continue to massacre enemies with a variety of guns.
Enemies are amazing well crafted, unique, and equally as terrifying. The further you venture through this creepy game the more powerful enemies seem to become and many will require you to use tactical options when fighting them. For example, letting an enemy get in close range to kick or slice them with your knife. Another is to throw a flash grenade to stun a group of quickly approaching enemies, and blow them all to hell by throwing a real grenade in the crowd. One more would be to shoot one in the knee and then pop a bullet in its head while it staggers toward you. Those are just a few examples of the multitude of different ways you can eliminate them.
In addition to the strategic combat, this game is filled with tiny details that add to your overall immersion and experiences. For example, you can dismantle an enemy who has lit dynamite in his hands by crippling them long enough for it to explode or you could shoot thrown items in midair (like axes, and knifes). If you choose to kill fish and chickens youíre rewarded with health and money. Itís the little details like being able to quietly open a door or kicking it open that really adds to the games overall experience.
On top of everything else, Resident Evil 4 sports some of the most incredible boss battles I have ever experienced. They are way better than the pervious games. One of the bosses will have you running up its back while another will have you holding on for dear life in tiny paddle boat. Each boss battle or mini boss battle is unique, fun, and original.
Amazingly enough thereís rarely any doubt where youíre supposed to go or what you should do next. Itís remarkable when you consider how large some of these areas can be, but the game never requires a strategy guide. However, if you do get lost you can always check your handy map which will guide you in the right direction. Fans of the series wouldnít be satisfied without the occasional, simple to solve puzzle which seem kind of forced. Itís alright because taking a break from all the action every once in a while is nice.
The most problematic thing about this game has to be switching weapons. To do this you must open your inventory screen (briefcase) and select which weapon/item you want to equip or use. This process goes along with every item in the game except your trusty knife which you can easily switch to at the touch of a button. Itís true that they could have designed this process better and it would have been nice, but thankfully it never interrupts this games superb pacing. It maintains the same great pace the whole time and the story is given in small doses throughout the game to keep you on the edge of your seat guessing whatís around the next corner.
The first thing youíll notice is the new camera the game uses. It not only is it an improvement over the pervious Resident Evil games, but it also helps correct the control issues at the same time. The camera is now positioned over Leonís shoulder and itís presented in a widescreen format which gives the game a very movie like feel. There are some issues with not being able to see things or enemies, but itís easy to turn and look around by using the right analog stick. Being able to strafe would have made the controls A+, but in the end they do take some getting used to.
The next things youíll notice are the amazing graphics and lifelike enemies. These enemies range from simple (human) villagers to knights in amour to massive guys with claws like Wolverine. They are all creepy and disturbing not only in the unexpected ways that they act, but also how lifelike their movements are. You almost wonder if Capcom implemented any motion capture elements into the character design.
Not only are the enemies creepy, but so are the cut scenes. Donít think for one second the action stops during one of these because they donít. There are times when youíll see ďPress Square RapidlyĒ to use your knife or dodge something by pressing ďL1 + R1.Ē Failing to perform these actions generally results in you dieing in a variety of cool ways. One of the best death animations is when Leon gets decapitated with a chainsaw (youíll have to see all the other cool ones for yourself). I personally tried to avoid these animations, but youíre sure to die a few times in this game.
The level design is also brilliant and I found myself looking around levels just so I didnít miss anything. Watching the clouds/fog roll by and the birds flying around really brings the world to life. After the first few minuets into the game I stopped and watched the most realistic fire Iíve ever seen (besides the real thing of course).
There are some technical issues in regards to clipping. Sometimes youíll see enemyís arms and legs sticking through doors, but thatís the only problem this game has (besides switching weapons).
The first Resident Evil featured some humorous voice acting with some pretty good sound effects. Since then both have gotten consistently better, but none have come close to Resident Evil 4ís perfection of sound.
This is one of the gameís strongest points and the one that complements the graphics perfectly in creating the gameís eerie feel. From the insanely creepy noises youíll hear in the distance to the loud echoing effects of your machine gun, this game has it all. There are even times when youíll hear a perfectly placed musical tune that will evoke a sense of dread or suspense.
All in all thereís no denying how good the audio is. In fact itís hard to decide which is better, the graphics or the sound. Either way they both work hand-in-hand to delivery an amazingly frightening atmosphere thatís presented in Dolby Pro Logic II.
After beating the game 4 times on the Gamecube I didnít think Iíd be playing through it a 5th within the next year, but as luck would have it Capcom delivered an updated version of this soon to become classic.
If you already have the Gamecube version and youíre a big fan of this series like I am then this is a must own. I played through it twice on the PS2 to get all the outfits, weapons, and everything else this game has to offer because you canít get them until you beat the game once. After beating it you obtain 3 mini-games: Assignment Ada, Separate Ways, and Mercenaries. Separate Ways is the main extra and will have you playing the roll as spy Ada Wong who finds herself in the same time period as Leon. It features some new cut scenes and helps you better understand the storyline.
Doing these can take a substantial amount of time. It took me around 9 hours to beat all of them, but doing so unlocked Wesker and Hunk from Resident Evil 2. Furthermore, if you play through the story mode a second time you unlock the weapons and costumes.
If you total that up, taking into effect that the story takes about 20 hours to complete, youíre talking about 50+ hours of gameplay. Thatís a substantially long action/adventure game and itís well worth a purchase.
This game will immerse you so deep and frighten you so bad that youíre sure to scream like a little girl. Itís extremely entertaining, fun to play, and one of the best games ever made. It features an exceptional story, amazing graphics, frighteningly good audio, creative gameplay, and an incredible atmosphere that you wonít experience in any other game. To me this game is something special and (as Tom Cruise would say in his movie Jerry McGuire) ďIt completes me.Ē