Resident Evil 4
Game Info
Survival Horror
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence
The Good

• Blistering edge-of-your-seat action sequences
• Jaw-dropping visuals
• Eerie sounds

The Bad

• Hammy dialogue
• Inability to cycle through weapons


Resident Evil popularized the survival/horror genre when it debuted on the Sony PlayStation in 1996. Despite its success, the proceeding installments of the series held fast to a formula that seemed increasingly out of place as time passed it by. Capcom knew they had their work cut out for them when they promised to reinvent the diminishing franchise. After a lengthy development period that saw the game go through a substantial amount of changes, Resident Evil 4 has finally arrived. The series kicks into high gear as an all new ‘over the shoulder’ camera follows you through free flowing action sequences that build and rebuild to ever increasing heights. From crescendo to glorious crescendo, Resident Evil 4 succeeds in taking the series in a bold new action oriented direction and evolving survival/horror genre as we know it.

As the story goes, Leon S. Kennedy is back six years after the now infamous incident in Raccoon City. The scene shifts to a decaying European village where Leon begins his investigation into the kidnapping of the Presidents daughter. Needless to say, the townsfolk are a little less than cooperative with his effort. Upon Leon’s first encounter with a villager, it becomes apparent that something is terribly wrong. No detective work is required, an axe slung at the hapless hero will suffice.

Early on in the game you will find refuge in a dilapidated house. Don’t get too comfortable, a barrage of fierce opposition will soon begin flooding the premises. No more of the old ‘go-through-the-door-scene-change-safety’ laws apply. This fresh breed of foe breaks down doors, and even props up ladders for easier access to the second floor windows or roof.

Chilling ‘blood soaked’ encounters hold true to the games M-rated status. Hoards of deadly enemies will hunt you with an intelligence and ferocity not previously seen in the zombies of Residents Evil’s past. This time out they aren’t zombies at all. Their breed and origin is revealed as the plot unravels. Homicidal as they are, your opposition seem somehow civilized and methodical. They can even be heard barking orders at each other in their native Spanish tongue. It doesn't end there, Resident Evil 4 is also host to some of the best boss battles ever. Going 'blow for blow' with these ungodly creations is ill advised. Utilizing interactive elements of the surrounding environment to your advantage is a must. Enemies are generally diverse, but during some segments of the game, repetition isn’t uncommon among lesser foes. Thankfully you won't be allowed much time to notice, or care. The games difficulty seemingly adapts to your increasing skill level. Challenges appear insurmountable, yet victory always remains attainable.

Hunting down enemies has never been so much fun thanks to the game’s responsive controls, and easy to read perspective. The new camera puts you right into the action, bringing the sadistic Resident Evil world into mind-blowing 3D. Gunplay is precise, and worthy of a marksmen. You still can’t run and shoot at the same time, meaning all of the tense 'I-better-reload-quick-or-I’m-gonna-get-my-damn face-chewed-off!' moments previously seen in the series are left intact. The absence of a strafe function, as usually incorporated in a game of this style, only serves to add to the tension and complements the games simple yet uniquely challenging game play. Resident Evil 4 retains the vaguely claustrophobic feel of its predecessors while offering entirely new additions to the play.

The core game play blends harmoniously with cut scene segments throughout the game. At some points during the cut scenes or in-game action, you will be prompted to push variable buttons on your control pad to avoid a grizzly death of one sort or another. Quick reflexes are a must. Familiar puzzle segments of the series remain, but not as the focal point they once were. Puzzles are a lot easier to solve this time out, providing well needed breaks between the action. In some cases a puzzle must be solved during the course of the action, challenging you to think on the fly at hectic pace. You are treated to various secrets and unlockables as you progress through a long quest that will keep you coming back for more.

The games levels are well designed and flow nicely with the action. You will rarely backtrack or find yourself lost. On the seldom occasion you take a wrong turn, the games detailed and easy to read map screen will serve as a proficient guide to aid you back on course. An extensive arsenal of weaponry will become available to you as you progress. You will still be forced to bring up your weapons screen each time you choose to alter your choice of firearms. The absence of the ability to cycle through your weapons during game play can become tedious, and disrupts the games otherwise free flowing action sequences. Thankfully, holding down the L button will have Leon switch to his trusty hunting knife which is useful for conserving ammo, opening boxes or breaking locks.

Ammo, items, and treasures can be found amidst the levels or stolen from perished enemies. You will encounter a shopkeeper in scattered areas of the game who allows you to buy, sell, and upgrade weapons. The currency being any number of the treasures, weapons or items you have amassed. Weapons and items are stored in your briefcase, which can be selected from the menu brought up by pressing the Y button at any time. Your briefcase is of limited size, so you can't take everything with you. Some items will have to be sold or simply left behind. It is up to you to determine which items are of the most value to you, and the means you will take fit them in your briefcase, a unique and well thought out challenge in itself.

Leon's frantically paced adventure leads him through beautifully rendered villages, lush gardens, graveyards, and ornately decorated castles. The attention to detail is astounding. You will notice dogs chasing chickens through a diminished barnyard, or townsfolk going about their daily chores in a decaying village. Leon kicks dust up into the air as he maneuvers, his hair swaying with his movement. The fire and water effects have to be seen to be believed. Never has such hauntingly beautiful atmosphere been realized in a game. Character models look and move so realistically it’s almost eerie, as though this masterfully crafted world has a pulse. Impossibly, the games solid frame rate doesn’t miss a step, even with 20 or more characters on the screen. Gone are the pre-rendered backgrounds and cut sequences, all aspects of the game are brought to you in stunning real time. Resident Evil 4’s graphics are both an artistic and technical marvel.

The audio portion of the game remains on par with its awe-nspiring visuals. The musical scores are well orchestrated and remain consistently on cue. Moody ambient noises serve to thicken the atmosphere throughout. The voice acting is equally impressive and enhances the distinct traits of the central cast of characters. Unfortunately the verbal interactions between characters are tawdry. Though the dialogue and story remain weak points in Resident Evil 4, they drive the action sequences that define the game.

Resident Evil 4 is a triumph of epic proportions that is sure to go down in history as one of the greatest game sequels ever made. High production value is the backbone supporting this richly engrossing gaming experience. Despite the games drastic changes it remains a must buy for fans the series and newcomers alike. Akin to what Metroid Prime did for the Metroid series, Resident Evil 4 retains the soul of the beloved series it has evolved… evil has evolved.

- - Shawn Cooper

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