If you’re a traditionalist looking for more of the same in Resident Evil 4, you might be a little bit disappointed. For the rest of the progressive gamers out there that want some expansion with their franchise, Resident Evil 4 delivers a fresh and frightening perspective on the survival horror genre. Capcom has outdone itself with this one.
It’s hard to beat a classic but Capcom may have done just that. Although there can never be another Resident Evil (the original version), Resident Evil 4 marks a new direction for the series. Rather than staying true to the formula, Capcom has decided to mix up the gameplay to great effect. This isn’t your dad’s Resident Evil.
Gone are the zombies. The Umbrella Corporation has all but been rendered impotent. The government has nuked Raccoon City and the surrounding areas. This time, the old place is really dead.
A new mission leads highly trained agent Leon Kennedy to a remote European area to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Blending puzzles, action, exploring, and the use of weapons, the gameplay is incredibly varied but cohesive. The cutscenes are all rendered in-engine, so they too, also blend in with the game. You are never jarred from your delusional world.
Right from the get-go the game bursts with energy and excitement. Instead of investigating some seemingly abandoned town, you are immediately under attack by supernatural entities. The CPU sets the pace, and it’s frantic as you try to run, hide and defend yourself against these deviously intelligent creatures. Instead of zombies you will encounter various monsters and other non-human characters, all with different abilities and hungers. You will have numerous tools and weapons at your disposal but it’s up to you to figure out how to deal effectively with each horrific encounter by what you use and how you use it.
Shocking, scary, violent and fun. This game is on steroids. It offers familiar controls and situations but it’s deeper than any game in the series thus far. The camera angle is third-person, so we get to see more of the environments when we enter them for the first time. Monster pop up from every nook and cranny, some with the requisite warning sounds, others appear unannounced from out of thin air. There are no shortage of chills, thrills, shock and awe. Did I mention gore? The blood will flow and the guts will spill. Sometimes they all splatter together like some kind of plasma/tissue amoebae. It’s all a bit messy. Parents should keep young kids away from this game.
Coaxing the gore out of the enemies is the job of the weapons and the targeting aiming system. A briefcase contains your inventory items which can include various pistols, rifles, explosives and first aid kits. Weapons are purchased instead of located. By finding treasures you can buy weapons from merchants as well as upgrades. Later in the game you will also be able to increase the size of your briefcase and thus increase your inventory. Being able to purchase weapons of your choice allows for a greater degree of strategy, not to mention freedom. The sniper rifle allows you to take a more methodical approach to some situations as you lie in wait while a rocket launcher removes all traces of subtlety – and creatures.
The auto aim system allows you to aim at specific body parts. You can take out most of the monsters with a headshot. You can also cripple some of them by aiming for their knee if you are low on ammo. For even more freedom an onscreen indicator will inform you of options that you can make relative to your location and situation. For instance, if you’re trapped in a room and a monster is coming at you while blocking the exit you might want to jump through the window. These action options add a new dimension to the gameplay since the choices are realistic ones that were never available previously.
A word here about the bosses. They are amazing. Not only are they truly hideous to behold, they are incredibly detailed and intelligent. No expense was spared to bring the bosses to life. Not that the other creatures aren’t great but these are probably the finest collection of bosses I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting killed by. Each one seems better than the last.
Checkpoints are more generous. So are typewriters where you can save your progress. A map indicates where saves are located as well as treasures and merchants and other information. It really comes in handy but it doesn’t give anything away for nothing. This is still a very challenging game.
Locations include darkened hallways, a graveyard, a castle, village streets, a lake, underground caves and industrial wastelands. Regardless of how ancient and decayed the locations appear, these are some of the most beautiful environments to ever grace the Cube. There is detail and dimension in every scene. Shadows appear in the twilight, rain falls at night restricting your view, flames flicker and water ripples. The facial animations are incredible. You can see exactly what’s going on in their minds. The voiceovers are believable, not overacted. The ambient soundtrack is instrumental (pun intended) in creating the chilling mood. Surround Sound puts you in the middle of this nightmare with creaks, groans, shudders, slams and screams coming at you from all directions.
Resident Evil 4 is an absolute must-buy. With Cubes under a hundred bucks, or even less at a pawnshop, this may be reason enough to pick one up.