Resident Evil 4
I’ve never been a big fan of the survival-horror genre which was practically invented with the first release of the Resident Evil series. On top of that, the series has also brought forth a bunch of crap, side-steps, and even remakes. In short: the whole has been bleeding to death. It was therefore with some scepticism that I inserted Resident Evil 4 in my purple Gamecube. But after a couple of minutes I was sold. What was shown on screen is without a doubt one of the best games I’ve ever played on any platform. If you’ve got a heart for games you just HAVE to read this review!
The introduction movie sets the tone from the very first seconds. The quality and finishing is simply amazing. Better than this you won’t get to see on the Cube and it can without a doubt compete with what we see on PC. Next to the visual details it also becomes immediately clear that on the part of voice-acting and sound effects a tremendous effort has bee done. But let’s first see how the makers succeed to create a believable and atsmopheric world with all of this.
Athmosphere is thrown at you with buckets! Crows flying away with clapping wings, dogs howling in the vicinity, small rocks cracking under your footsteps while you enter deeper into this unknown world. You feel uncomfortable from the first to the last moment, eventhough the game doesn’t intend to scare you constantly. From the second the first opponent without hesitation raises his axe to make you a little shorter you’ll keep feeling that undefined fear everywhere around you. The typewriters where you can save your progress are a welcome point of rest.
The story itself is different from what we’re used from the series. The links to the Umbrella Corporation are present but that’s it. Also the zombies appear to have vanished from the earth’s surface and traded in for a completely different kind of threat. You start as Leon Kennedy, who as American has gotten the assignment to search for Ashley, the 20-year old beautiful daughter of the president. I can’t say much about the story, for that it’s too great and filled with twists and gorgious movies, but I can assure you it won’t disappoint. An interesting addition are the parts where you need to work together with a partner. These are also accompanied by a good artificial intelligence.
The difference in setting and scenario is the first compared to the previous part, but the biggest change is without a doubt the gameplay. The radical change of the concept, which was actually very necessary to breath new life in it, makes that RE4 sets a new standard for action games in general.
We’re finally through with fixed camera viewpoints. In third person you control Leon (move left stick and look around with C-paddle) and by hitting the right shoulder button you take out your weapon. At that moment a laserpointer is shown instead of a visor and you’ll watch over the shoulder of your character. This not only succeeds in keeping the atmosphere but also gives an efficient way of aiming. You can’t move yourself when aiming though, this might be less realistic and may need some getting used to in the beginning but is very necessary to make the claustrophobic fights possible.
These firefights are very intense. You get an array of pistols, shotguns, some rifles and even a bazooka. These can all be upgraded and made stronger on four points (firepower, rate of fire, reloading speed and loading capacity). When you’re completed all weapon upgrades you can also buy an “exclusive” which will give a specific extra.
Often you’ll meet a multitude of enemies and will have to fire, reload and run away like an idiot. I don’t need to mention that these fights will stretch your nerves to the breaking point. Often you’ll have little ammo and need to shoot someone when they’re laying on the ground or kick them while they’re a bit dazed, walk back quickly, reload, shoot and repeat. On top of that, all killed enemies leave things laying around which you very much need, but after a while these will disappear again so you’ll carefully need to think on whether you want to get them or not.
The reload animations deserve a seperate mentioning because they just look terrific ! It’s a real joy to watch them but you’ll always sit at the edge of your seat, hoping Leon will do them a bit quicker: the enemy is approaching terrifyingly quick. Luckily also the animations of the latter are also fantastic, depending on where you hit them in the belly, legs or head, they’ll react different (and correct). Also the damage you do is clearly dependant of your aiming skills: the head is usually a good idea and rewards you with a bloody scene.
There’s no lack on blood and gore so your 7-year old niece would do best to leave this game in its cover. Probably she would also be quite scared of the enemies that are a lot smarter this time and will continue pursuit despite barricaded doors, fallen ladders or hammered windows. Also on the part of variation things are quite alright. They keep surprising you so that you never get the feeling you’ve seen it all and can continue using the same strategy over and over again.
The bosses are a bit stronger and without a doubt top when it comes to design and animation. Each fight is a pearl and will give you the necessary “awe”. Also all other models, characters and animations are great and need no other adjective than “impressive”.
New is also that Leon can now jump from rooftops and through windows, kick opponents down and use a knife to hurt them or open crates. Frustrating to the genre was the tons of walking around, discovering and returning but RE4 quickly ends this. The action is a lot more frequently present and you’ll need to go search for keys and such a lot less. On top of that, the auto-map is well worked out with clear indications of entrances and exits, closed passages and hallways, etc. Also the inventory management is made a bit simpler so that you won’t get any unnecessary problems from this part.
In line with this concept you’ll see some kind of interactive cut-scene in about each level. In the first chapter you’ll get to see a movie where some farmers roll a rock after you. Suddenly you’ll have to start pushing your buttons to keep ahead of the deadly stone and evade it. The same way you’ll be surprised throughout the whole game with things like these that keep the whole refreshing and exciting.
I must admit that the difficulty level has diminished a bit by all of the above but I can’t say I’m sad about it: the game has become a lot more fun. The enemies are somewhat easier to beat and when you die you don’t need to replay such a big part anymore, but in return you get so much pure, uncut, gaming fun that we can’t call this a negative point. The creepyness of the opponents however (and with that the entire game), does go down a bit because once you’ve found their weak spot, they’re easy to terminate.
As already stated, on the part of graphics we can say nothing but good stuff about the most beautiful Gamecube game ever. The locations, which are varied, are shown piece by piece with lots of love for detail. An apparantly calm lake, beautiful jungles, a castle and decayed building; everywhere that same unequalled atmosphere is present.
As with so many top games the sound is great aswell. The weapons sound strong, your footsteps real, the roaring of the monsters impressive and so on… The music for instance perfectly shows when you have to watch out and this drives the intensity to the top. It’s starting to sound a bit annoying but it’s the truth: also on this part, RE4 is without a doubt one of the best.
I almost forgot to say that there are a load of extra’s present, some only available after finishing the game (plan about 20 hours for that). Amongst others there are a higher difficulty level, new weapons, game modes where you can take on another character and get a side-step in the story or another one where you can take down hordes of enemies with other weapons in 4 new maps and with 5 different characters.
Resident Evil 4 isn’t the most scary action-adventure we’ve ever played. On the other hand, it’s one of the best action games I’ve tried out in a long time and maybe even the best ever! The finishing, the graphics and sound, the revolutionary changes in gameplay, the accessibility and perfectly worked out controls, the creative and surprising characters and bosses, the never-ending variation and beautiful storyline that keeps everything together. Resident Evil 4, my dear friends, is simply a must-have! If you don’t have a Gamecube yet, there are two things to do now: get one and add RE4 with it. And I’ve got nothing else to say about this impressive game!