Written by  :  Lucas Schippers (59)
Written on  :  Mar 05, 2005

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A complete renaissance for the aging RE franchise

The Good

It's been mentioned elsewhere, but I'll run through it again: within the first twenty minutes or so, Leon Kennedy, the protagonist formerly of RE2, finds himself struggling to survive in a decaying Spanish village. Murderous (but not undead) locals mass to attack him. They take a lot of punishment. Leon ducks into a house, pushing a bureau against the door. He thinks he's safe. He's not. They break in...his ammo runs low...and then he hears the chainsaw...

This sequence is terrifying in a way that shatters the old RE paradigm. There are very few setpieces in RE4 that generate fear solely through claustrophobia. Instead, the completely rebuilt gameplay, in which the camera is always located directly behind and above Leon's right shoulder, capitalize on the new element of peripheral vision. You're seldom completely sure what is or isn't creeping up on you from behind or to the sides as you deal with nasties rushing you from the front.

The game's still about item management, but you no longer deal with tedious treks to a storage box. Rather, everything must fit in an upgradeable briefcase, and things can be discarded whenever you'd like to make room for new stuff. You still also have to worry about ammo management, but the selection of hardware easily trumps any previous RE. New to the series is a selection of sniper rifles that I found really enjoyable, but there's something in here for everyone's tastes.

The plot, such as it is (more about that below), does barrel along at a fine clip. There are some great boss encounters, absolutely stunning graphics, pretty decent music, some great bonus modes (Mercenaries is a killer, but the reward for 100% completion is a must-have) provides even more reason to pick this game up. Now.

The Bad

Ok, granted, it's not perfect. For starters, the plot pretty much stinks like garbage, and that's too bad. RE games are supposed to be cinematic, and in terms of visuals they always have been. Narrative-wise, however, they usually fail to live up to their promise. I suppose this flaw is made all the more apparent given that I've just recently lived with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, a game which delivers certainly one of the finest narratives of all time. True, RE4 is much more about visceral action, but aside from rescuing the President's daughter, there's little sense of having accomplished anything really important, nor do we learn anything really interesting that you couldn't figure out within the first forty minutes or so.

Hey, at least the dialog is good, and peppered with the odd, amusing swear word to boot.

The Bottom Line

Forget Code Veronica - THIS is cutting-edge Resident Evil.