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SummaryWhat? I’ve been playing this game for over 30 hours?
The GoodNever before have I been so totally immersed in a game before, so utterly sucked into the whole experience that I have willingly played through the same scenario time and time again in successive play throughs. The amazing thing is, I never get sick of it. I have never looked at my copy of Resident Evil 4 and said “Meh, I’ll play something else.” The only other game I can say does this to me is Sonic Adventure, but for completely different reasons. No, there is something amazingly indescribable about Resident Evil 4 that transcends genre and established conventions. It’s the experience on a whole that is so addictive, so masterfully executed.
Playing Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 2 you must infiltrate a small European village that is supposed to be harboring the kidnapped daughter of the US President. From here, the rollercoaster begins and Leon is subjected to all manner of physically demanding endeavors to save his, and Ashley’s lives. From the village you travel to the castle of a local tyrant, the sewers beneath it and even a military installation on a far island. Each location is so unique in its atmosphere and presentation that you never tire of anything, no environments or scenarios are every re-used, you’ll only ever see puzzles once and each indescribably awesome act of heroism performed by Leon is always unique and exciting. It’s this sense of driving pace and rapid transitions between environments that keeps the game feeling fresh even if you have beaten it several hundred times, like myself. Leon controls exquisitely. His movements are slick and he turns on a dime, his basic move set is pure survival horror. His weapon is readied with the a depression of the R button and it is fired when A is pressed. Holding down the L button readies Leon’s knife which can be a last minute form of defense or a method of saving ammunition or breaking boxes and barrels to collect items. The enemies Leon encounters all have different reactions to being attacked on specific areas of their bodies. For instance shooting a standard Ganado (Basic sort of zombie like enemy) in the knee will cause his leg to buckle, allowing you to follow up with a swift kick to send him flying into a crowd giving you time to retreat. If you shoot him in the face you will get the same reaction however this will not work on all enemies and some like the Novistadors (flying, insect like things that kind of resemble Drain Demons from Resident Evil 3) cannot be staggered and must simple be overpowered. They can however be counterattacked at certain times. The way the enemies move, act and work together to block you and crowd you is claustrophobic and panic enducing. In lieu of traditional horror effects this method of panicking the player works perfectly.
From regular old enemies to cinematic boss encounters the action in Resident Evil 4 rarely slows down and just when you think you’ve got everything figured out you get burdened with Ashley; The President’s daughter. She is dead weight, but forces you to modify how you play, trying not to harm her and protect her simultaneously from the crowds of enemies that are often just as intimidating as the ones when Ashley isn’t hanging off you like a clingy girlfriend.
Graphically Resident Evil 4 is by far the most beautiful game on the Gamecube. Character’s move fluidly and realistically, there is no ghosting and very few frame rate problems. I was very, very impressed with the way Leon looked and animated from his swaying hair to his immaculately detailed jacket. There is no faulting the aesthetics of Resident Evil 4, nit pick if you must however you will come up with nothing. The only graphical trick the game seems to lack is bump mapping.
The sound design in the game is to be applauded. The enemies don’t speak English with forced European accents, they speak Spanish. They actually speak Spanish. The acting is very competent and the music is exciting, chilling and works seamlessly with the action onscreen to work you into a fevered panic.
The best part about Resident Evil 4 however is the various little extras that are bestowed upon you for finishing the game. When you’ve finished the main scenario which can take anywhere from 7 to 12 hours you are then able to play Ada’s little side story wherein you are tasked with finding 5 Plaga samples on the Island. When this is over you unlock yet another weapon which can be bought and used in successive play throughs of the main scenario. After buying all of the extra weapons and trying out all of the costumes you can then play through Mercenaries Mode, unlock yet another hidden weapon and then go back to the main scenario, buy it, play around with it and then simply poke around and try and find everything the game has to offer. You will NOT find everything in the game the first time through, unless you’ve already watched someone play it or you‘re incredibly meticulous. I’m still finding things I’ve missed in the past. Even if these things are small like treasures or little cache’s of ammunition or money, the point is the game is packed with these little surprises to encourage to keep playing. Which you will, for many, many hours.
The BadThe bad things about this game are small and piddling, however there are issues related to the fundamentals of the Resident Evil series which cannot be skirted around.
I’ll get all of the specific things out of the way first.
To begin with Resident Evil 4 is letterboxed and if you’re playing on a small CRT, forget about it. Also if you’re playing without component cables on a High Definition television this game is going to look muddy and horrible. Playing it in 480p or on a wide screen CRT TV are your only options to enjoy the visual fidelity as it was intended.
There are many moments in Resident Evil 4 that you will probably hate. I know there are certain parts of the game I’d rather weren’t there at all, they won’t completely spoil your run of the game, but they will frustrate you greatly. Expect Ashley to die a lot and expect to spend a while on the slider puzzle in the Castle.
At first the bosses in the game are intimidating and often times gargantuan struggles that you will just scrape out of in the harder difficulties. However, once you learn that the Rocket Launcher kills everything in one shot, including bosses then you won’t be able to resist the temptation to simply buy one before the fight and blow the boss to hell in the opening moments.
Then there is the elephant in the room. What the hell happened to the Zombies? I was one of the people asking that very same question when this game came out. Sure, it is fantastic however it also has next to nothing to do with the well established Resident Evil mythos. I love the characters but the characters don’t mean anything if the other elements us Resident Evil fan boys and girls love so much are completely missing. The horror is gone, the zombies are gone and the T-Virus is a total no show. I have a big problem with this. It is all well and good having a sort of reboot of your franchise, but completely omitting every single element that was popular with the fans in the first place is akin to spitting in their face. Would it have been so hard to make this game, but with Zombies? Replace the Ganado’s with Zombies and no one would be able to tell the difference. Is it the speed you’re worried about? You introduced Crimson Heads in the remake back in 2002 for crying out loud. To me, the remake of Resident Evil back in 2002 had enough of a contemporary edge to make the series relevant again. It introduced strategic elements like burning bodies, gave us a fluid control scheme and the fantastic defensive weapons system.