Resident Evil 4 (GameCube) review
"A car rolls up onto a small dirt road located just outside a small village. A man, wielding a handgun, walks towards a small village house. Inside the home, he produces a photograph of a young girl and questions the villager. Almost immediately, the man is attacked by the villager who now holds an axe in his hand. After unsuccessfully commanding the axe man to freeze, the man neutralizes him on the spot. This is Resident Evil 4. "
A car rolls up onto a small dirt road located just outside a small village. A man, wielding a handgun, walks towards a small village house. Inside the home, he produces a photograph of a young girl and questions the villager. Almost immediately, the man is attacked by the villager who now holds an axe in his hand. After unsuccessfully commanding the axe man to freeze, the man neutralizes him on the spot. This is Resident Evil 4.
In Resident Evil 4 you play as Leon S. Kennedy - a smart-ass government agent who loves to defy the odds set against him. Your objective is to secure the kidnapped president's daughter and bring her back home. However, your mission gets extremely dangerous once setting foot in this remote, European locale. After silencing the attacking villager, you will be left thinking to yourself "Just what the hell is going on here?"
Upon taking control of Leon, you can see that the series has changed course in a bold, new direction with its new game play mechanics. A behind-the-back perspective has replaced the old camera position, and this allows full freedom of control. Unlike the past Resident Evil games, you won't have to continuously press D-pad buttons to move Leon in the general direction you want to him to go. You can move Leon in any direction by pushing the control stick in whichever direction you desire. With this addition, Leon can easily move around the environment while trying to evade the villagers' onslaught or he can take them on through a variety of means with his arsenal.
Another important change is the hit zone aiming system, which gives you the ability to aim your weapon anywhere on the enemy's body. Each gun has a laser sight, which allows you to aim accurately and precisely. Simply hold the "R" button to ready your gun and aim with the control stick. The average person would think that aiming for the head would kill everything quickly and easily; however, Capcom has done an outstanding job by limiting the usefulness of the head shot. Many enemies have head protectors or some other sort of "evolution" that prevents vulnerability in the upper extremities. The hit zone aiming system creates a plethora of ways to take down all the creatures that come to cross your path. For example, you can shoot a Ganado in the knee to drop him on the ground and finish him off with swift bullet to a weak point.
Over the course of the adventure, Leon will come across many dark, mysterious, and cloaked figures hiding away from the attacking creatures. These lonesome fellows are the merchants of this game, and they will help you out in many ways. You can purchase attache case extensions and weapons such as handguns, shotguns, rifles, and more from these guys, or you can choose to take a different course of action. If you choose to upgrade your weapon, a fee (sometimes quite hefty) will be imposed so you can power up your shots, speed up reload times, fire more quickly, or stock more rounds in your weapon. The upgrade feature creates new strategies because now you can either sell your current weapon, or you can upgrade it to make it just as good (or even better) as the one in the shop. Whichever method you choose is up to you, as these choices create different experiences every time.
After a few short hours of game play, Leon will finally come into contact with Ashley (the president's daughter). This point adds a new element to the game, because she will accompany through the dangerous territories that lay ahead of you. If she dies or is taken away by the enemy, then you fail your mission and will have to start at the most recent checkpoint. You can have Ashley stay put in a secure location by pressing the "X" button, and you can call her to you by pressing it again. Escorting her actually proves to be fun for the majority of the time, because now you have more than just yourself to look after. On the other hand, sometimes she can be a burden to you, but there's no job that Leon can't handle!
One major difference from the predecessors that you can recognize immediately is that there are no zombies in this game. If you inspect the first villager after killing him, you get a message saying "He's not a zombie…." Believe it or not, this game is much better without the zombies. The zombies from the previous Resident Evil games were mindless and nothing short of forgettable. Our humanoid enemies are much smarter, faster, and more powerful than the zombies you once knew. Once a villager spots Leon, he or she will communicate to the others in Spanish: the villagers will be informed of your location, they will set up an attack pattern, and they will run at you. These enemies are more unsettling than the zombies of yesteryear, because these guys will throw axes, dynamite, and many other projectiles at you. Of course, these villagers are just the tip of the iceberg - many unimaginable horrors await Leon in this "cage of torment…"
Perhaps the greatest moments of Resident Evil 4 are the boss battles. The battles are creative, challenging, and fun. You will be presented with bosses that stand equal to Leon in size, but the majority of the time you will come across nature defying creatures that are no less than twice the size of Leon. These are not the point-and-shoot boss fights that you encounter in other games, but they are fights where you have to think. Sometimes the bosses will be invincible until you have Leon weaken them through some special means; sometimes the bosses won't be weak to any of your guns; sometimes the bosses will turn the tides of the battle after you think you've won; and sometimes you will be trying to complete some sort of objective while fighting the boss. Capcom produces some battles that present what seems to insurmountable odds, and your success in those fights makes the victory that much sweeter.
In case you die in the boss battles, or just normal course of the game, the save system has been changed to be more convenient for the player. Typewriters return, but the ribbons are no longer necessary to save. Just tap "A" at a typewriter, and you can save your progress. Sometimes you will die between typewriters, and that's just fine seeing as how Capcom pulled a brilliant move by adding invisible checkpoints. These are almost like save stations, except that you can't take over from there if you have reset the game or turned the GameCube off. Either way, you should be happy that these exist because the previous games in this series forced you to restart from your most recent save.
The graphical representation of Resident Evil 4 boasts some of the most superior visuals in gaming history. You will enjoy this game even if you are just sitting beside your friend and watching him play it. Attention to detail is given a whole new meaning when looking at this game, because Capcom has put an extreme level of detail in here. Capping a villager will result in a fountain of blood springing from the neck area, firing from a shotgun will create a flash, and witnessing the fire from an incendiary grenade can make you feel the heat. The fire in this game is easily the most realistic looking fire that I have ever seen in a video game. To give this game a cinematic feel, the developers decided to present the game in widescreen format. This allows for greater peripheral vision, and it also creates the illusion of being a part of some sort of horror movie.
The cinematics use the game's engine instead of utilizing pre-rendered graphics. This occurrence, as well as the lack of load times, allows the game to run fluidly. The best part about the cut scenes is that you still need to hold the controller in your hand. You will often have to press certain buttons to avoid death during the cut scenes! Command such as "Press A" or "Press L+R" will pop up on the bottom of the screen during these scenes, and if you don't press them fast enough you'll either lose a lot of health or die. These button commands don't show up in just cut scenes though. Certain boss battles will force you to react quickly, some situations will force you to jump through a window by tapping "A," and kicking enemies is also done through this system of commands. The system doesn't get as complex as the Quick Timing Events (QTEs) from Shenmue II, but they are very satisfying in the long run.
The voice acting is surprisingly first-rate and immensely pleasing here. Characters convey their emotions very well and there are plenty of worthy quotes from the characters during the game. To accompany the high quality voice acting, Capcom has stuck in a worthy soundtrack. The soundtrack is very fitting and creates a horror filled atmosphere similar to the previous games of the series. Especially befitting is the music that is played during the end credits. This music makes you believe that there is something still out there lurking for you, just waiting to trap you in the next installment of the series.
Completion of the two disc, single player campaign will unlock the "Professional" difficulty, two mini-games, and a couple of expensive weapons. All of these provide for a high replay value in Resident Evil 4. The two mini-games will net you the most powerful weapons in the game, and the Professional difficulty makes the enemies smarter and harder to defeat. In case you don't want to try those, you can always replay the game on Normal Mode with the equipment from your cleared game file and blast the hell out of anything that used to give you trouble. There are clear incentives in playing all of these modes, but the choice is always left up to you.
The only major gripe that comes to mind when I think about this game is the lack of a scary atmosphere. While Capcom creates a dark and oppressive atmosphere, they don't make it scary like the predecessors. You don't have that feeling of loneliness because Ashley is on your back throughout most of the game, and sometimes you know exactly where some creature will pop out. To combat this occurrence, the guys at Capcom created one of the most intense games of all time. You will be walking down a hall for ten seconds just knowing that something is going to happen, and even though you know that, the suspense is almost enough to kill you. To add to that, whenever you are walking in a dungeon you get this notion that you will die. No exceptions. Knowing that on your first play through you will die creates such a high level of intensity that it sometimes sends chills down your spine. However, the intensity still doesn't make the game very scary. If they somehow created a horrifying intensity then I say that this game would have been perfect.
Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games ever to be released on the Gamecube. Capcom's magnificent formula of great game play, high production quality, and sheer intensity has evolved the series into a work of beauty. It's not really enough to say that this game is currently the top contender for Game of the Year 2005. What we really need to be contemplating is whether or not Resident Evil 4 is the best game this generation, because so far I firmly believe it to be THE greatest title in this current video game era.
Community review by subcontinental (August 09, 2005)
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