Resident Evil 4 (GameCube) review
"My first day at work consisted of washing countertops and cleaning dishes. Rookie cop Leon Kennedy wasn't so on the safe side. He arrived on the job expected to be berated for tardiness by his superior officer, but ended up battling his way through hordes of mindless zombies in the mountain resort Raccoon City. The Umbrella Corporation, an international pharmaceutical company that was the backbone of Raccoon City’s economy, had secretly been experimenting with viruses that changed inner biologic..."
My first day at work consisted of washing countertops and cleaning dishes. Rookie cop Leon Kennedy wasn't so on the safe side. He arrived on the job expected to be berated for tardiness by his superior officer, but ended up battling his way through hordes of mindless zombies in the mountain resort Raccoon City. The Umbrella Corporation, an international pharmaceutical company that was the backbone of Raccoon City’s economy, had secretly been experimenting with viruses that changed inner biological workings of any creature the virus came in contact with in an old deserted mansion outside of town.
The “T-Virus”, only the first in line of a series of twisted viruses that would completely mutate the host’s genetic data, escaped the mansion after a group of S.T.A.R.S., specialist police forces, had infiltrated the mansion and learned the workings of Umbrella. Thankfully for Kennedy, the virus was dead by the time he came in, with no more victims to claim. In a dramatic night that nobody could ever forget, Kennedy felled both sides of the conflict that had made Raccoon City a deathtrap – the Umbrella Corporation, and a rebellious Umbrella scientist named William Birkin, whom had developed the “G-Virus”; an upgrade of the T-Virus with even nastier surprises up its sleeves.
Six years later…
Although inside knowledge of the now-disbanded Umbrella Corporation’s viruses might have factored in, it was really Leon Kennedy’s capability to make it through the hellish nightmare of six years ago that allowed him to climb the ranks and become a personal bodyguard of the president himself. Leon’s latest assignment was simple; he was merely to go to Pueblo, Spain, and see if he could locate the President’s kidnapped daughter, Ashley Graham.
Little did he know that he was getting a second invitation to hell.
Anybody could tell that something was wrong the instant they started walking to the lone house in the distance. Nothing stood out from the beautifully distinguished autumn forest, but things just seemed…wrong. Walking through the bare deciduous, a lifelike FMV is shown of a human shadow from inside the house. Your worst fears are confirmed as the single Pueblo resident in the building attacks Leon with an axe – something is amiss, and this villager was not an isolated case. The game then toys with us, as a movie is shown with Leon’s ride from the Spanish police suddenly driving off. Leaping out of a second-story window, the animation of Leon’s somersault comparable with the main in-game aesthetics, a group of villagers gang up on Leon. They may be like zombies past in some aspects, but they are intelligent; they will do whatever it takes to kill Leon.
Welcome to Resident Evil 4, folks. The five-year hiatus between 3 and 4 was long, but the wait was well worth it.
The residents of Pueblo are tough little suckers, sometimes taking as many as four or five shots to the head before they fall. If they sense that they can’t accomplish something on their own, they’ll band together and surround you. But they have their weak points. Aiming for the head? Their heads will explode in a sickening fashion with a few well-placed shots. Aiming for the knees? They’ll trip over, and lay on the ground for a couple of moments, giving you the time to deal a few rounds of gunfire or a swipe or two of the trusty hand-knife. It’s always satisfying to find a new way to hurt them, whether it’s kicking them while they’re bent over, grabbing them and suplexing them over your back, or just plain knocking them off a high cliff by using the might of your arsenal of artillery to push them over.
These same villagers are fast, too, and they come equipped with a good selection of weapons. Although you can protect yourself from simple harm at first by keeping away from your foes, they will quickly abandon their hand scythes in favor of bows, torches, swords, dynamite, and the infamous chainsaw. Resident Evil 4 gives you an easy learning curve, giving you a chance to adjust to the system of aiming, and then throwing the heavy duty at you. Capcom didn’t stick with the same old Resident Evil formula this time through; instead of the disliked aiming system of yore, Resident Evil 4 is a third-person shooter. When you’re not moving around, you can point your gun with R, and use the left analog stick to aim a red laser pointer at your target.
To complement the difficulty of the enemies, ammo is now lying around in ample amounts. Additionally, as many of your nemesis’ corpses disintegrate into the ground, they leave behind items and ammo. A neat RPG aspect that Capcom snuck in were the yellow herbs and upgrading your HP; when you find a yellow herb, you can combine it with a green herb, and use it to raise your total health. Lastly, a treasure trove of the Spanish Currency, Ptas, is laying around the village of Pueblo.
Once you make it into the village, there’s a lot of exploring to be done. However, not every square inch of land is hostile, and there are a few havens throughout Pueblo. At these sanctuaries, there are often typewriters to save at (no ribbons required), and merchants. Merchants are the backbone of your firepower – they’ll sell you weapons and other miscellaneous items, along with powering up your personal armory, all for the simple price of some Ptas. Sans the necessity of having ribbons on your person, typewriters will serve a vital role in your game, as Resident Evil 4 cannot be defeated in three hours; it takes twenty hours!
The first chapter is proof to the testament that you cannot make it through the game in one sitting. Your first encounter with the townsmen of Pueblo, meeting up with the feared chainsaw man (vrrm, VRRRRM!) and fighting Del Lago, a gigantic seafaring serpent, all of these take away your courage in broad daylight. Things couldn’t get worse, could they?
Then night falls.
In this fortitude of darkness, you have no hope to make it out alive. But that’s precisely what Leon Kennedy does best; make it out alive despite there being no room for hope. Luis Sera, a local cop-turned researcher, clears the truth up for Kennedy. Sera was a researcher of age-old fossilized parasitic organisms which could communicate in a harmonious unison to control a host body. Once he realized the true purpose of his research – to revive the parasites and use them to take over the world – he betrayed the mastermind of this operation.
But this knowledge only further cements desperation, as the ability to control humans from the interior means that anybody could be an enemy. What enemies there are that are open in their hostile nature are not to be taken lightly, either. Once it turns to night, adult parasites will emerge out of the heads of the villagers. These creatures will take a big dose of ammunition before they go down. The situation doesn’t improve, as you move on to fight monks, army personnel, invisible mammoth bugs, super-speedy guard dogs, and most of all, the infamous Regenerators. These gray humanoids have been inhabited by several parasites, contributing to the ability to regrow body parts at an insanely fast pace, and requiring enough firepower to take down a regular military platoon. When you hear the raspy breathing of a Regenerator, or even worse, the Regenerator’s upgrade, known as an Iron Maiden (equipped with spikes, more resistant to damage, AND can attack from a much further distance), your heart pace does not stay level. It spikes immediately, as you think, ”Oh shit.”
Not to mention, the further you tread into the heart of Pueblo, the worse things get. After rescuing Ashley Graham by solving a unique and thoughtful puzzle, you finally meet the head of this scheme; Osmund Saddler, priest and leader of the Los Illuminados, the religious cult group involved in this mess. He makes it clear how bad your situation is, adding that eggs of the parasites, known as the Las Plagas, have been injected into Leon’s and Ashley’s body; once they hatch, he can have total control over the two as he wishes. That alone is bad news; however, Ramon Salazar, Castellan of the nearby fortress, makes it clear that no denizen of his almighty castle guard will let Leon escape. Ashley herself gets recaptured by the enemy on several occasions, and shadows of Leon’s past return to make this second night of hell even more arduous.
In fact, Resident Evil 4 is rife with bosses, each one more imaginative and powerful than before. Mutated by the Las Plagas, the El Gigante is a mammoth-sized green humanoid, but the differences end there. El Gigante can stomp on you, grab you in his hand and squeeze you, throw you over his shoulder, or roll a large boulder at you. Only perseverance and a long battle can get you through this fight, as you must first shoot it’s head with a handgun, and then stab the parasite that emerges from it’s back. Chief Mendez is a colossal human, who only after taking splintering damage to the spine, will split into two. His torso will start swinging from the ceilings towards you, aiming to trap you within a burning house and slay you for good. Only the most powerful of your carefully selected and upgraded weapons can blast him down to the ground, momentarily stunning him from grabbing hold of the roof railings. U3 is an experimental dog-like behemoth that can perch on the ceilings and drop down at random. Contained in a building that is about to fall into a bottomless pit at any moment, you must fire at him repeatedly in the head, making him run away while you tread into the next section of the collapsing building. Once you get out, U3 claws his way up the chasm, and faces off with you in one final showdown. An unfortunate side of things is that many bosses have instant-kill attacks, and may use them often; Salazar’s mouth chomp comes to mind with ease, able to envelop a wide area and fast. Many of these moves are cheap, designed to force you through another playthrough.
But it gets better.
This and everything else all contribute to what is the driving force of the Resident Evil series; the atmosphere. The watered-down colors of the environments and character models alike are thoroughly detailed, with everything being crisp and clear. The villager ambush soon after meeting Saddler which involves a co-op between Leon and Luis is the epitome of the word badass. Villagers are coming in through the stairways and climbing through the second-floor windows by use of ladders, and you can stop them. Push a drawer here, it blockades the window. Knock over a ladder, it slows the villager’s progress. As dozens of enemies pour onto the screen at once, the game doesn’t slow down, showing off the sleek capabilities of the GameCube’s processing power. Only rarely does the game encounter slowdown, the first being on this occasion and the second being another long battle very late in the game. Music plays a key role, as well; the full-fledged battle music is adrenaline-pumping, whereas the other type of battle music – the music where there are still enemies on screen, but you can’t see them around – makes you incredibly wary. A stop off at any of the havens (completely safe places) provides you with a soothing yet mysterious music that at the same time forces you into musing over the latest events.
Of course, Capcom was nice enough to go the extra mile in pleasing those who bought this game with extras. Completing the game gives you a New Game+ option, in which all your weapons and items from the end of your first game are kept, and you can wear a special costume, in addition to three new weapons to purchase. Also available is Assignment Ada, a side-story where you play as Ada while she infiltrates the bastion of the Los Illuminados and retrieve the Las Plagas samples. Lastly is Mercenaries, a game that combines the goal of trying to get as high a score as you can with four different characters and new Mercenaries-exclusive abilities. There is also a Professional Mode, an upgraded difficulty of the regular storyline.
The Resident Evil series wasn’t always this way. The original Resident Evil 4, at the last moment, underwent a cosmetic change and became Devil May Cry. It is ironic at how Resident Evil 4 seems fated to take a radical path. Although scares still remain the focus of the series, a good amount of the gameplay has changed. No longer are you forced to abide sluggish controls and movement, as you can now move in all directions and aim with more freedom. No longer is the game about trying to conserve as much ammo as possible; now, it’s a true fight for survival. Resident Evil 4 took a path once ignored, and for that, I am glad.
I’m also glad that the controls don’t suck anymore.
Community review by yamishuryou (March 11, 2005)
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