Resident Evil 4
By: Tristan Jones on October 31, 2005  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Platform: Nintendo Gamecube
Developer: Capcom
Players: 1
Year: 2005
OFLC Rating: MA15+
Imagine a Resident Evil game without zombies, without the T-Virus or Umbrella Corp., without Raccoon City, the borderline ridiculous monsters, the wooden acting, the convoluted conspiracy stories, the clunky controls and frustrating camera angles. Can you? It's certainly not your older brother's Resident Evil, the one where you're constantly watching your ammo and the game crawls at such a slow pace (but effective nonetheless). Imagine all of that gone, and the whole series given the massive shot of testosterone it so direly needed.

Now, if you've played or read my reviews of Resident Evil 3 and Code Veronica (especially) you'll know that I have come to realise that the series was becoming stagnant. Code Veronica dug itself into a grave of ridiculous conspiracies and monsters and basically threw the proverbial spanner into the works. Resident Evil 4 pretty much allows those who've played it to erase Code Veronica from their memories. Picking up some six years after the events of the second Resident Evil, we are given an introduction to where we are by Leon Kennedy, the protagonist of Resident Evil 2. In it we learn that Umbrella is long gone and that Leon is now working as part of a special security force under command of the President of the United States. We also learn that an unknown terrorist group have kidnapped the Presidents daughter and taken her to a remote village in Eastern Europe. It's your job, as Leon, to get her back.

It's clear, as soon as you begin the game that this isn't going to be anything like what's come before it. The cinematic camera angles have been replace by an over the shoulder camera that puts you right behind Leon. When I first saw footage of this camera angle long ago, I was dubious about it's effectiveness, worried that Leon himself would be getting in the way of what I was trying to see or shoot at. Any such worry was quickly put to rest. While there are odd occasions where you need to see past Leon, you can use the C-Stick to move the location of the camera, however the controls are such that you rarely need to do this (unless you're being super cautious), as Leon moves swiftly enough to allow you to move and see wherever you want, whenever you need.

The new camera angle also gives the game a quasi-first-person shooter feel, which is a much welcomed change from the "I know you're down that corridor so I'll shoot and hope I kill you" situations the previous games often wound up in. I dare say that this would even be better than most of this generations first-person shooters, as the biggest problem I've had since the perfection that was Perfect Dark, was that enemy A.I. never reacted to being shot the way they really should. Resident Evil 4 has such a huge variety of reactions it's insane. Shoot a guy in the foot and he could dance around in pain or hit the ground immediately, it might not even do that much to slow him down. You can shoot weapons out of their hands, and god help them if you're a good shot and they're holding TNT. You can hit them anywhere in the body and they're guaranteed to react appropriately. So appropriately in fact that you will start getting a little sadistic.

The A.I. leaves every other I've come up against for dead. Your enemies will work together to get at you, wolves hunt you down in pack mentality, and you want to play something intense? Just wait until you find yourself holding up in the cottage with Louis (a local who knows more than he's letting on), Night of the Living Dead eat your heart out. It's A-grade, edge of your seat, pants-shitting material. There's even a very nice little homage to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

You do come up against oversized monsters in this one too (it IS a Resident Evil game after all!), but instead of being just another bizarre and useless creation of needless mutant experimentation, the reasoning behind the monsters is logical and once you get into why things are the way they are, you don't question their existence at all. You never really find yourself fighting one monster the same as the previous. Sure they all take some bullets, but most rely on using the environment to your advantage. One monster can be overcome with a single, well placed shot, and the monster in the lake is one of the most original boss fights I've played in a long time.

The other thing that should be pointed out is that compared to the previous titles in the series, this one is huge! Previously, the games that needed two discs on the Gamecube had only contained a small final portion of the game on the second disc, perhaps a quarter to a third of the game. Not this time my friend, the time spent playing the first disc is the same on the second. It's incredible when you think (especially once you get to the castle) that the whole game is playing in real time with graphics as good and sometimes better than those seen in both the remake of the first and Zero, and that the game is the size it is. Given too that this game was designed to the Gamecube's specifications, I would be really interested to see what was sacrificed or compromised to get the game ported across to PlayStation 2, considering the director himself said back when it was released that there was no way this game would run on Sony's machine.

Resident Evil 4 really is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors, and most of its competitors. Instead of having to overcome puzzles to get the weapons you want, they can now be bought from a mysterious travelling merchant, and ammo and health can be acquired in a variety of ways from simply killing an enemy or destroying a crate, to scaring chickens into laying eggs. The knife is also useful now too. I don't think you'll find too many more games where slitting someone's throat can become such an indulgent pleasure without getting repetitious (I'm looking at you, Manhunt). It's score is also a drastic departure from the previous titles, knowing when to an when not to use particular themes, and working perfectly with the game itself to heighten tension. There are also a slew of great extras to plough through once you finish it.

There really is too much to Resident Evil 4 for me to go into in such a small space, but if you consider yourself a fan of horror, you have to at least play this title if you can't own it. This is the anti-Silent Hill 2; it's at the other end of the spectrum. If Silent Hill 2 is a perfect example of cerebral horror gaming, then Resident Evil 4 is the perfect example of visceral horror gaming. The constant physical brutality of the title warrants this alone. Silent Hill 2 will show you something and make you think, Resident Evil 4 will saturate you in violence and make you eat your way out, without becoming gratuitous (Manhunt). It's horror gaming perfection, simple as that. Five stars.
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