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Resident Evil 4 (GameCube) artwork

Resident Evil 4 (GameCube) review

"OK, so maybe Leon Scott didnít get the warmest of welcomes when he uninvitingly waltzed into some cantankerous Spaniardís house. Youíd shoot any guy angry enough to charge at you with an axe, too. After all, Leon had only asked the man a seemingly innocent question on whether or not he had seen the Presidentís daughter, Ashley Graham. No matter. Clearly desperate times call for desperate measures."

Yo, who are you really? Come on and tell us.

Like many, Leon Scott Kennedy may eat Wheaties for breakfast. Unlike many, he is a champion by nature, not by diet. If he were to eat Wheaties, magical things would surely happen. He proved his prowess in Resident Evil 2 as he navigated the ruined derelict of Raccoon City with not one but TWO hot babes pining for his company over the course of one fateful nightmarish night. Before it was even over, he had slugged through a horde of zombies and similar undead, got shot by his own partner, fended off the G-virus, and lived to tell about it . . . only after demolishing a genetically mutated Tyrant lusting over a quest for hateful revenge as an auto-destruct counted down to zero, eviscerating the whole underground lab turned battle arena in a brilliant haze of orange.


Now Leonís back, and he is aged like a fine wine. Time off from the field has made him easier to control, and heís ready to prove to the world that no amount of rain can ruin his one-man parade of testosterone-infused awesomeness. ĎRoid users like Chris Redfield should be jealous.

You are a long way from home cowboy. You have my sympathies.

OK, so maybe Leon Scott didnít get the warmest of welcomes when he uninvitingly waltzed into some cantankerous Spaniardís house. Youíd shoot any guy angry enough to charge at you with an axe, too. After all, Leon had only asked the man a seemingly innocent question on whether or not he had seen the Presidentís daughter, Ashley Graham. No matter. Clearly desperate times call for desperate measures.

In Resident Evil 4, Leon is presented with one desperate struggle after another. What begins as an eerie walk through the woods in some rural part of Europe turns into a full-blown excursion against biological extremists hell-bent on taking over the world through one brainwashing at a time. These so-called ganados are determined sonsofbitches. Infected by a parasite called las plagas, they work in groups, bare weapons, devise traps, and act tenaciously toward all but their subservient beasts of burden (though Leon can shoot these milk cows for funsies). Itís through their dreadful village in the dead of autumn that sets the tone for one of the greatest games ever devised.

Leon, armed with a handgun and box of ammo, makes his way into the village center, sees the satanic markings rife throughout, and kicks over a metaphorical hornets nest by making his presence known. Ganados swarm out in droves, some armed with knives, others with pitchforks, and yet even a brazen few with Husqvarna chainsaws revving in the wind. Itís frantic; itís seemingly hopeless, even for a man as accustomed to challenge as Leon. This pitched battle is just a taste for whatís in store.

I guess that's a localís way of breaking the ice.

Resident Evil isnít afraid of trying to make you feel afraid. Unlike its stodgy predecessors, the entire foundation of how the game is played has been redone. The old pre-rendered backgrounds, set camera angles, and wonky controls are gone. Youíve heard about this by now, Iím sure. But what may not be so apparent are some of the changes that werenít made. Leon canít run and shoot, and for that Iím all the more satisfied. Imagine if Leon could shoot up a room full of foes while simultaneously running laps around them. It would totally ruin the spirit of dread that exists throughout Resident Evil 4 so distinctly. When Leon aims his weapon, a meager laser sight trembles off into the distance. Any lesser man aiming would see it careen across the screen.

There are so many desperate outcomes that youíll get to experience as Leon. Some will have him frantically throwing harpoons into the side of a bulbous Del Lago of the lake before he can turn Leon into lunch. Others will be more of a test of wits, such as taking on the mysteriously called ďitĒ in a claustrophobic maze hanging precariously above a bottomless chasm. And still others will demand endurance and cunning, such as Leonís duel with his old comrade, a biologically malicious Jack Krauser.

Each of these confrontations is memorable and exciting. What is most impressive is how each segment flows so smoothly from one set piece to the next. After Leon makes his way through the village that first awkwardly introduces him to what he will be going up against, he makes his way eventually to an arabesque castle that seems uninviting enough on the outside and is downright evil on the inside. With the Presidentís daughter as his escort, Leon doesnít have time to contemplate how the odds might end with a horde of ganados rushing toward him and his incapable little sidekick. Once confined to the castleís perceived safety, perception turns into reality as Leon and Ashley find robed cultists running amok, whispering vile chants just within earshot. Itís here where Leon runs into a nutty little midget named Salazar, a cruel little fellow whose appearance foreshadows even stranger things to come.

I'm sure you boys didn't just tag along so we could sing Kumbiyah together at some Boy Scouts bonfire. Then again, maybe you did.

Just as things go from bad, they get to worse. Ashley will get stolen from Leon several times throughout the course of the game, and it never happens at a worse time. While Ashley is timid and unlikely to brandish a weapon to help out her rescuer, making sure a sulking cultist doesnít carry her off only adds to the tension. Itís not nearly enough to ensure that Leon doesnít get his head taken off by a moaning weirdo. Now he has to ensure the same doesnít happen for two.

One of the great equalizers to help Leon and Ashley get through this nightmarish quest comes in the form of assistance from a wandering merchant. The Merchant, who could easily star in his own game, offers an assortment of guns and other worthwhile items to the fighting man looking to turn a little extra cash into extra firepower. Unlike in Resident Evil 5 where you can upgrade your weapons at pretty much anytime you want, here the Merchant requires Leon to plunk down his hard-earned pesetas at staged intervals throughout the game. The Merchant has many stops along the way that parallel Leonís own progression throughout the game, but you can never take for granted the chance to add a greater-sized ammo clip to Leonís TMP, or cut down the reloading time on his bolt-action sniper rifle. Sometimes a few tenths of a second is the difference between life and death.

Why am I the one who always gets the short end of the stick?

Just as it seems to be ending, Resident Evil 4 manages to find new life. The build up that initiates from when Leon first enters the village, to when he rescues Ashley and makes his way to the castle, to his confrontation with Salazar, only increases the epic scope put forward. By the time Leon sends an immensely mutated Salazar to the grave, heíll only be about two thirds of the way through completing his unenviable quest.

The last part of the game, set in a military base located on an island, feels distinct enough from the earlier areas so that it almost feels like a sequel to what Leon had to previously go through. The rustic ganados and creepy cultists are gone by the wayside. Replacing them are sadistic paramilitaries (still affected by las plagas) and regenerating, whimpering little imps who would love to give Leon some spiky hugs. Leon must trespass through the military installation and get past its guardians before he can finally rescue Ashley once and for all and stop the man who devised the evil in play, Lord Saddler.

By the time Leon fires a well-placed rocket into Lord Saddlerís freakish face, heíll have traversed the most epic and well-crafted Resident Evil title thus far created. What starts as a simple rescue mission turns into an epic one-man assault against the greatest threat to mankind ever. Or at least until Resident Evil 4 had a sequel, within its own universe, strictly speaking.

Oh, you crazy American. It's a direct order from the chief himself. I tell you it's no big thing.

Whatever you say muchacho. Resident Evil 4 is awesome. Itís epic. I love it. Everyone should play it. Just be sure to do it in HD!


Fiddlesticks's avatar
Featured community review by Fiddlesticks (August 05, 2012)

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