Written By Shaun McCracken

Resident Evil 4 is somewhat of a revelation for the franchise, as well as the horror genre. Capcom finally addresses all of the issues with previous RE titles, and comes up with something so fresh, and even innovative, that it makes this seem like a brand new franchise. It also turns the genre on it's ear by providing one of the most action-intense games that provides scares not just by it's character design, but by the riveting "kill or be killed" action pieces that run throughout the game. You may feel exhausted by the time you finish the game (and it's long, too), but it's one hell of a ride that you would be crazy not to take. Be warned though, this is for mature gamers only, and I'm only recommending it to people old enough to play it. It's extremely violent and graphic, so any parents reading this review, heed the warning. But this is one of the best adult games since the Gran Turismo franchise, despite the fact they're in two different genres.

Resident Evil 4 takes a radical change of pace from the previous titles. If you're familiar with the franchise, you probably know about the zombies, mutated dogs and the Umbrella Corporation. Well, much of that is pretty much tossed out. Umbrella is seemingly out of business, and RE2 veteran Leon Kennedy is now a part of the secret service for the U.S. government. This time, he's sent to a European village (which seems like a run-down village in Spain) to look for the president's kidnapped daughter, which is where they believe she is. Right off the bat, "somethin' ain't right" as the people who escorted Leon to the village are killed of by being driven off a cliff. Leon moves on to the village to find Ashley, and find out what the hell is going on. As he enters the village, he's met with the most horrifying welcome wagon imaginable. The villagers seem human, but act somewhat like zombies. Actually, they're far removed from zombies, as they're smarter and are capable of using firearms and explosives. And so does the adventure begin.

Without trying to reveal any spoilers, I can say that things just seem to keep getting worse for Leon along the road. Traps are scattered across the village, such as trip-wire bombs and bear-traps. Villagers roll boulders, or try to run you off the road with a vehicle. The further along he goes, he'll find out that these villagers are actually being controlled and possessed by something, and someone is pulling the strings. To go any further about plot details may actually spoil the game, so I'll stop right there.

Talking about game play, the one thing you'll immediately notice is how the game is played. In pretty much every Resident Evil game (except for perhaps Code Veronica), the environments were pre-rendered and the camera angles were fixed. Not here. Everything takes place from the perspective from behind Leon's shoulder. While this would sound awkward at first, it works very well, and it presents the most dramatic view for the game. If you've watched many a horror movie, you know the one camera shot that is used quite often is the "behind the shoulder" shot. Here, it's used, and the effect works in it's favor. The controls have been drastically re-worked as well. Again, if you've played any Resident Evil title (or any other survival horror game, for that matter), you know one of the biggest problems is control. Characters have controlled like tanks, and running away seemed like it was almost impossible, not to mention how difficult it was to aim for the enemy that was approaching you. In Resident Evil 4, things run smoothly with a control scheme that makes the game more addictive than frustrating. Capcom deserves a lot of credit for finally fixing something that was broken, and doing so in an ideal fashion. Walking is easy, running is easy, turning away and running is easy, and aiming and firing weapons is easy. This is extremely important in a game like this, where there are enemies around every turn and you need to unload many caps into many asses.

The whole design of the game world is executed very well here. I really can't think of too many moments where I didn't like how a certain location was designed. The game has a nice progression, as well. You begin by going through foggy forests and run-down villages, to underground caverns, to a medieval castle and other locations. You really don't go back to the same areas twice except for maybe the caverns, but at least the look changes. And as you move through the game, it does become tougher. The enemies get smarter, the bosses are bigger and certain approaches to defeating enemies change. You won't be able to shoot and kill them all, sometimes you might need to use the environment against them. Capcom has also done one of the best final-stage action pieces I have played in quite some time. Just a bit before the final boss battle, you will be thrown into something of what seems like a war zone. Things are exploding everywhere, and it's like 10 minutes or so of just intense, loud action.

Capcom also does something different with the game by throwing in some context-sensitive action sequences. At certain points, you with either have to push a button (or two), or tap one repeatedly. The interesting thing, though, is that they put quite a few of these in the cinematic sequences, which does not allow you to let your guard down. Typically, you'll watch a cinematic and not think about needing to control anything. But I made that mistake when I got a knife plunged into my throat for not paying attention to the cue. And they come up pretty quick, too. But the context cues also come up during combat, to dodge an attack, or to climb a window or ladder. I'm sure this isn't highly innovative, but it's something that does work pretty well, and does keep you on your toes.

Item management and file saving is executed much better here, too. Unlike Silent Hill 4: The Room, where better control was swapped for worse item management, Resident Evil 4 handles item management well. You're given an attache case that's fairly small in the beginning. It's big enough to hold your items in the beginning, but later on, you can buy larger cases to hold more items. What's great about the attache case is that you can move things around to fit items in. You're not limited to 10 squares, and you can hold as much as you can cram in there, and keys and special items are set off independently from your items, which means your selectable inventory only needs to consist of firearms, ammo, and health recovery. Acquiring weapons is also a different story here, as well. You can now buy items from a merchant that pops up in many places in the game. When you kill an enemy, or smash open crates or barrels, you may find money that can let you buy items. Also, if you find treasure or jems, you can sell them to make money. Use the money to buy guns or gun upgrades, or even treasure maps and larger attache cases. Too bad you can't buy ammo. Saving is a little better, with the fact that you no longer need ink ribbons to save. I wish you could save anywhere, but not having to worry about how many times I can save is still good.

Visually, it's probably the best looking game since Metroid Prime. While I was a bit put-off at first by the texture quality up-close at first, I realized that that was the same problem both Metroid Prime games have. Textures look great at a distance, but up-close they're not as attractive. Overall, though, the environments look great. There is so much detail to be seen, Capcom really didn't skimp anywhere when it came to the environments. The character models are fantastic. Probably some of the best character models in a game to date. The design of the creatures in the game also deserve some special notice as well, with some truly gruesome designs that even top some of the crazy crap seen in the Silent Hill games. The level of violence is also some of the most realistic I've seen as well. The best example is when Leon gets his head cut off by a chainsaw. It was so sudden and brutal, it was unlike anything I've seen in a game before. But the grossest stuff comes from the exploding heads of the possessed villagers (usually by a good gun blast) or when you kill one of the regenerators, which is probably one of the messiest deaths of a creature in the game. It's gritty, bloody, violent and damn hard not to look at. So good, you won't even care about the forced wide screen format.

The audio is equally great, with loud effects, creepy music and some decent voice work. I've said it before, this game is LOUD. There are moments in the game where it was actually louder than the action sequences from The Day After Tomorrow, just with all the explosions, gun blasts and creature screams. The game isn't consistently loud, but there are a few action pieces where the audio kicks into overdrive. Look, this isn't a typical horror game, it's an action game too, so the audio cues are definitely going to be different from games like Silent Hill or Eternal Darkness. The music is pretty good, although sometimes it's more ambient noise than music, but background all the same. The voice work is basically the best you'll ever get out of a Resident Evil game. While it's not on par with Metal Gear Solid 3, it's good enough not to be seen as laughable. All this is done with Dolby Pro Logic II, which really shows through in this game.

Final Thought

It's not hype, Resident Evil 4 is the real deal. This is hands-down an excellent action game, and one that will probably change the horror genre as well (we've already seen one knock-off so far in the form of Cold Fear). Every problem that cropped up in previous Resident Evil games has been fixed, re-done and re-made so much so, that it feels like a new game. The only real negative here is that this game is NOT for everyone. It is an adult game, with extreme non-stop violence and gore. I'm not recommending this to anyone under 17, because it's a game that more than earns it's M-rating. However, for adults, this is one ride worth taking. If you have a Gamecube, buy Resident Evil 4. If you don't have a Gamecube, buy one. They're selling them for $60 used at Gamestop. Well worth the investment, really.




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MATURE [17+]



Resident Evil 4 not only breathes new life into the franchise, but really turns the horror and action genre on it's ear. One of the finest action games since GoldenEye 007.

Practically every horror game out there

It will be some time before an action-horror title can beat this one

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