Resident Evil 4 Game Review
In many ways, Resident Evil is the father of survival horror as we know it. Back in the day, it was among the first and only games that challenged you to face the unknown, conquering your fears as well as the deadly abominations that sought your demise. However, this formula has been used time and time again, by this and other “copycat” contenders to such an extent that it was now tired and tedious, a stagnating series with outdated gameplay and predictable scenarios…but no longer. There is no Umbrella. There are no Zombies. Be prepared to throw everything you know about Resident Evil out the window. Resident Evil 4 begins inconspicuously enough, with our returning hero from RE2 Leon S. Kennedy filling us in, telling the story of Umbrellas collapse and his own induction into the secret service. Six years have passed since then, and the once inexperienced Leon has become quite the suave badass. Tasked with the recovery of the President’s kidnapped daughter, he is dispatched to the dark corners of Europe to investigate the last known sighting of the girl, reportedly being withheld by a group of people in a secluded village… First off, no more sulking about in tight spaces searching for obscure items, conserving ammo, or solving puzzles that have no place in context - RE4 has thrown all that Cliché out of the window along with the tired formula, rebuilding it all from the ground up! You will often be creeping through dangerous environments laden with traps and hazards dead out in the open, beset at all angles by creatures that defy nature! However, Leon is fortunate to have access to a goddamned truckload of weapons! Now I'm sure you're wondering, "how do I hold all of this shit?" well, unlike previous Resident Evil titles Leon has an attache case that has several units of space. A handgun takes up six units, while an herb takes up two, and of course bigger weapons take up more space. Luckily, as the game goes on you can purchase larger and larger cases to accomadate your growing arsenal. Be it shotguns, sniper rifles, uzis or magnums, you’ll become a veritable one man army! It doesn’t end there either; each gun is capable of being upgraded in one of four categories: Firepower, Fire Rate, Reload Speed, and Capacity. How does one upgrade weapons this time around? No, you don’t have to search for obscure boxes full of parts, but rather you use the foreign currency dropped from the bodies of your foes to purchase them. Functioning similar to Devil May Cry’s shop system, Leon will occasionally run into a merchant from which he can buy weapons of mass destruction and sell the priceless artifacts he stumbles across while exploring the uncharted region to earn more cash, which in turn affords him more upgrades and healing items to tide him over. Doesn’t sound like a Resident Evil game does it? Believe me, that’s a good thing. The actual gameplay structure of RE4 is very action packed and filled with tense moments of exploration, much unlike the previous titles in which they relied heavily upon jump out scares to keep you on your toes. Typically, you are given the goal of fighting your way through an area or collecting some sort of seal you need in order to progress into the next chapter, which in itself sounds boring, but thanks to the ingeniously designed environments and enemy encounters it never is. Each chapter is an entirely new challenge and set piece, and in some cases you have an NPC character following you that you have to watch out for. I know what you’re thinking – OH GOD NOT ANOTHER SUICIDAL A.I. – but fortunately it’s not the case. The NPC will duck when you aim at a threat behind them, hide when you tell them, and most importantly never get in your way! So, instead of these scenarios becoming tedious they become a fresh, fun experience. The control scheme too is very adapted to the new pace, giving Leon the ability to perform context sensitive actions, be it vaulting through windows, spin kicking a stunned foe, or dodging an incoming deathstrike! But most striking of all is the new over-the-shoulder perspective, which is integral to keeping the in your face intensity of the game, not to mention aiming! Unlike previous games, Leon can freely choose his targets and isn’t limited to aiming along a straight line. This skill is vital in RE4, as all enemies you encounter have hit zones and definite points of vulnerability: you can shoot the weapons from their hands, blow out their kneecaps, and of course aim for the skull for a quick decapitation with the shotgun! With all of this shooting, you might think you’d be hard-pressed for ammo but enemies often drop it by the score, not to mention the hidden cache or two you’ll discover along the way. The visuals of Resident Evil 4 are startlingly creepy. From the moment you step foot into the village of the Gando you realize you’re far, far away from familiar territory. Everything within the Village area seems decayed and strangled of all life, as if the entire world around you is falling apart. Through abandoned buildings, damp catacombs and barren forests you’ll wander in search of your objective, often stopping to admire the ghastly surroundings. While there is a vast amount of detail lavished upon these areas, the textures themselves get a tad blurred when viewed up close, but that’s easily forgivable considering how damned complex they are! Lighting effects too are present, though not as gorgeous as Silent Hill, they aptly set the mood during the later segments of the Village as you creep through a thunderstorm with only the feeble rays of a utility light to guide you. It doesn’t end there, the game continues onward into even more bizarre settings, be it the depths of an ancient castle, or the far reaches of a ruined military complex, you’ll have a lot of exploring to do! However horrifying these environments are, Leon himself and the unnatural foes you’ll encounter are even more detailed! El Gigante’s massive bulk sways and flexes with every movement, the Novistador insects beady eyes glowing hellishly in the dark as they descend upon you, and the pale, eerie visage of the Los Illuminados will make your heart race as they stalk towards you en masse… More than ever, sound defines the survival horror experience. Guns sound every bit as powerful as you’d expect, the sheer visceral punch matching the visual display you’re treated to with every blast. The haunting ambience takes full advantage of the Dolby Surround Sound, keeping you tensed and ready to blast whatever wretched thing you see into oblivion. The creatures themselves have distinguishing calls, mocking you in foreign tongues as their footsteps come from behind, their blades screaming through the air and ripping into your flesh. The voice acting itself is actually quite good this time around, the dialogue witty at times and each character having a definite personality, even the usually one-dimensional bad guys! Even after you’ve completed this download game, there is still much to do! Awesome minigames are unlocked, which upon completion unlock a number of powerful weapons for use in your second playthrough. The minigames themselves consist of you taking Leon on a rampage through familiar locales of the game, racking up high scores and unlocking secret characters with unique weapon sets and abilities that will help to get even higher scores, not to mention kick major ass! All in all, I must say I’m impressed with the turn Resident Evil has taken; Capcom could have just slacked and given us more boring gameplay and tedious action, but instead has come through and delivered the very definition of what every sequel should be.