Resident Evil 4 (GameCube) review
"Maybe things would’ve been better if he stayed home. "
Maybe things would’ve been better if he stayed home.
After his first day on the force, our greenhorn S.T.A.R.S member Leon was thrown into a situation most men would rather be killed than be put in. Watching as decomposed corpses began to rise slowly and emerge from the scorching flames that previously took their lives was probably one heck of a first day for a new recruit. Leon reluctantly pressed on through all this, the mind-boggling puzzles, rabid mutant monsters and other gore hungry horrors to escape Raccoon City.
Unfortunately for him, this was only the beginning.
Leon is called back to duty again and sent off to a quaint town located in some obscure part of Europe that’s never disclosed. Things around here don’t look too promising; a low-lying miasma limits our vision to such a degree that we’re only able to see slightly past a few rows of the lifeless, brown trees. This dismal environment alone is enough to dispirit the most valiant of men. This feeling of dismay is quickly eliminated as the view of a lone, dilapidated cabin comes onto the screen. Maybe there was really no reason to get scared in the first place.
Approaching the cabin, we see someone watching us from afar; almost as if they are waiting for our team of officers to arrive. Curiosity gets the best of us and we proceed through the wooden door without second thought. The local villager who has made this rickety place his adobe speaks unintelligibly to us (unless you speak Spanish!) Unable to understand what he’s saying, we just apologize for our intrusion and decide to go on our way. With an axe grasped tightly in his gray hand, the villager clearly has different plan in store for us. He swings at our head to decapitate us but we’re equally as quick to drive four bullets into his body. No need to let this single encounter dishearten us though; we must press further to save the President’s daughter Ashley.
Then it begins.
Suddenly, the moans and croons of more of these possessed beasts can be heard through the window. We take care of them in the same systematic fashion as the first and the entire process is facilitated by the new control system. We now have full control of Leon when he pulls out his gun and we can aim up and down instead of just the usual left and right. The downside? We’re no longer able to move around while dumping ammo on any unlucky enemy. This qualm is easily quelled by the amount of time it takes to switch between firing and moving. Its smooth implementation makes us able to draw our weapon back at the first hint of danger so we don’t take any unnecessary damage. Helping us aim is now a bright florescent red light that shows up vividly on anything that requires the attention of our weapon. Human-eating monstrosities are able to be taken care of from a vantage point provided our aim is that great. Rifles won’t come with this option; instead, we’ll be given a scope so we’re able to zoom in from a safe distance. Ammo is limited so we won’t find ourselves sniping very often except for boss battles.
Resident Evil 4’s strongest point in its game play is that it virtually never stops throwing new ideas at us. Early on we’ll be forced to fervidly press a combination of buttons or be crushed under the weight of a four-ton boulder rolling down a slope at us. Afterwards, we’re met with dynamite-wielding townsfolk who obviously would rather blow us up than stab us with rusty pitchforks. These idiots fail to understand that we’re able to actually blow up the dynamite in midair, killing them and any of their foolhardy brethren all in one swoop. Other projectiles can be obviated in the same fashion; thrown axes and fiery arrows are able to be snipped out while soaring towards us. If monsters happen to venture too close for comfort, a prompt comes up allowing us to kick the beast far away resulting in a fair amount of damage. Of course, we’re only able to use this during certain points while fighting as not to abuse the system. These evil entities will sometimes dodge or move around so we’re unable to get a clear shot at them.
While it almost plays as an action game, RE4 presents the player with some survival horror elements. These elements surely aren’t as obvious compared to earlier installments but they’re still there. Most of the puzzles have been dumbed-down as not to interrupt the flow of the game too much. Collecting a few items and running back to a locked door makes up the most of these. One sticks in particular as giving me a hard time: a medieval-themed jigsaw puzzle. Other than that exception, most puzzles end up playing out more like quests than actual brain-busters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since RE4’s main focus is to keep the game moving at a fast pace and it does so with a flair not seen in previous adventures. Throwing new situations and hardships at us easily make up for absence of difficult puzzles.
Making things even complex is the addition of an extra character that will follow us around and make us take care of them during segments in the game. Some parts of the game will involve using this character, which cannot attack, alone against all the evil that roams around. We’ll have to be sneaky about how we go about our proceedings as one wrong move usually means death. Again, the addition of this character gives Capcom even more room to creatively think up situations to put us in. I can remember providing cover-fire for the character as they turned levers. They’re able to be carried away by these mutants and killed in one hit.
Another strong point that allows RE4 to crush its predecessors is the atmosphere created through ambient audio and life-like visuals. The urgency to complete the next task is always there. If not created by the story this sense of urgency is created by the unnerving sounds all around us as we make our way through dank mines or on top of medieval castles. The environments are really something to behold as there is hardly a shortage of diversity among them. From cruising around in boats on placid lakes to wondering aimlessly through demolished laboratories, RE4 really leaves no stone unturned. Diversity is found in of its flesh-consuming opponents as well. Gas-mask wearing freaks wielding stun clubs assail us from all sides while Russian looking men fire far away with chain guns in the distance. Bag-wearing hags (must’ve been ugly) charge us with roaring chainsaws and are liable to decapitate us. RE4 isn’t afraid to be brutal and massacre us in one hit.
The seamless integration of this new style of game play, realistic environments and such variety between all its challenges, RE4 scores big. Not very often do we see a game break the standard mold of a genre and become such a large success. Usually most of these hybrids call flat and their face. From the opening sequence depicting us driving through dense wooded areas to the ending, RE4 is sure not to disappoint.
Community review by Sclem (January 22, 2005)
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