Review by windcoarse

Reviewed: 01/24/05

An in-depth review on a revolutionary title

In 1996, Capcom made survival horror what it is today with the PSX title Biohazard, later to be renamed Resident Evil by Capcom’s American counterparts. Over the years a slew of sequels, prequels, and spin-offs have hit the market with varied success, yet despite minor innovations the series began to grow stagnant as fans became irritated at the series lack of progress. Nearly a decade later, Resident Evil has received a much needed overhaul. Resident Evil 4 revolutionizes survival horror in much the same way the original did as it address every grievance gamers have made about the series through the addition of major innovations.

In comparison to previous Resident Evil titles and current Gamecube games, Resident Evil is a graphics powerhouse. Not only are the graphics impressive, but level and character design all have a new fresh feeling. Facial expressions and body language are intricate and realistic. Enemies react to gunshots much in the way they should, and the in game action is on par with the drama and action of the cut scenes. Leon hurdles over fences, crashes through windows, dodges incoming attacks, reloads weapons, and takes hits all with incredible fluidity and realism. The environment is definitely a change of pace for the series as it takes the player through a run-down European village that has an almost feudal element to it. Detail in this game is painstaking, and with the new movable camera system, it can be worth it to take time to site-see. There is not much that can be said about the environments without spoiling some of the surprise, the locales are just that original. One thing notable about the maps; however, is the sheer size. The immense size of the levels have reduced the necessity for the constant backtracking that plagued the series, as it is no longer a necessary evil the developers embrace to extend the play time. There are also plenty of weapons to pick from, and they all have a very unique look and feel. Overall, finding a flaw in the visual presentation of this game is nearly impossible. Occasionally, if enemies crowd behind a locked door that they can’t open, a limb may bleed through the texture of the door, but really that is just nitpicking.

SOUND: 10/10
There is a big improvement here. Most noticeable is the change in enemy noises. Constant zombie grunts and moans have been replaced with a wider array of banter. The villagers threaten Leon and speak in a foreign tongue to one another, and the more gruesome enemy’s sounds fit their looks rather well. Of course, voice modification is used on the villagers to make them sound more diabolical, and it works pretty well. The musical score is noticeably improved from earlier games, and it really highlights the mood of the game rather well. The orchestra is subtle like in all good musical scores; you feel its effect without the music overbearing the senses. Perhaps the biggest improvement here is the change in voice acting. The voice acting is well above tolerable, even professional in many cases. No particular voices are harsh on the ears or annoying like some of the characters in previous games, and these improvements actually make the story more interesting and easy to follow. No complaints here.

The delivery of the story is much improved over the usual Resident Evil fare. The story is a near-complete arc outside all of the previous titles as well. One dramatic innovation to the cut scenes is a measure of interactivity. During crucial parts of the scene, a button or combination of buttons appear on the screen briefly, and if the player does not respond quickly Leon could meet a grizzly end. This sense of interactivity keeps the cut scenes from getting dull, and the length of the scenes have been cut down noticeably as well in comparison to the older Resident Evil games. The action is paced well in this game, from start to finish. Over all, the story line adds to the game-play in this title, it does not detract from it. There is definitely a pleasant change here.

This game plays beautifully. The old control scheme has almost been completely redone. Camera movement is no longer fixed, the camera can be controlled with the c-stick and it follows the player in chase style. Combat has undergone a complete overhaul. Aiming is assisted via a laser sight, and Leon can target different areas of his enemy’s anatomy for better results. A shot to the kneecap will drop an enemy to the ground, a shot to the arm will disarm a weapon, and shots to the face sends the enemy reeling. While an enemy is on his knees or reeling Leon can deliver a powerful roundhouse kick, dropping his foe to the ground. Certain enemy attacks allow Leon to respond by pressing a combination of buttons that appear on the screen so he may dodge out of the way of the attack as well. Reloading is now done in combat via a reload button to add to the realism. Storage has received a big change as well, puzzle items have a separate compartment, and item space is upgradeable. The storage chests have been done away with entirely as it is no longer necessary. Speaking of upgrades, Leon’s guns can have their individual stats increased during game-play. Among the stats are damage, reload time, rate of fire, and ammo capacity. This is all done through a brand new merchant system that incorporates gun upgrades and gun sales, as well as the sale of recovery items (although at a high price). Money can be found in chests or boxes, or simply taken off the decaying corpses of Leon’s foes. Combat is less focused on conservation, and more focused on accuracy and clever spending of accumulated money to improve Leon’s arsenal. Explosive barrels have made their return, and boxes and barrels can be smashed open with Leon’s knife to search for items. Another improvement is Leon’s melee attack, the knife. The knife is fixed to the left trigger button, so it does not have to be equipped from the menu, making searching boxes much easier. Also, ink ribbons are done for. Saving requires only finding a save location, nothing more. As far as the challenge goes, it is really enjoyable, not frustrating. A new continue system has been implemented, if Leon dies, and die he shall, he will restart from the nearest checkpoint. This allows for increased difficulty and decreased frustration. The game does have a professional difficulty for the hard core, but as far as the normal difficulty goes, it is challenging without being irritating. Sometimes it’s the little things; however, that really stand out. Leon can open doors discreetly or kick them in, eliminating the opening door load screen that was in the previous titles, and as far as ladders go, Leon just jumps down in most cases. Basically, Capcom has addressed every game-play grievance imaginable, from the big to the small. It is truly a stunning accomplishment.

The gargantuan maps in RE 4 have extended the play time of this game quite a lot. Even a quick player most likely will not beat this game on his first try in less than 17 hours. That is not to say that it is impossible, but there is a lot to see and do. Also, stats transfer from game to game, so completists will want to play again to max everything. There is a mini-game inside the game itself that has its own awards as well, plus two bonus games. The Mercenaries bonus game has returned from the old RE titles, and it translated to RE 4 well. Also there is an extra character, who I won’t mention, who gets their own bonus game. Both bonus games are done well. If someone plays though the game a few times, and completes the bonus games there is easily 50+ hours in this game. Hands down, this is the most re-playable RE since Resident Evil 2.

This game is a must own. This game stands toe to toe with any of the other console’s big boys like Halo and Metal Gear. Resident Evil is finally back on top again, and it has been a long time coming.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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