Resident Evil 4 ReviewGreg Knoll
Call it astonishing. Call it mind blowing. Call it the game of the week, the year or maybe even the decade. Call it the best Resident Evil yet; no one is going to argue. While Capcom may have only clawed at the face of the survival horror genre with its previous installments, RE 4 full on drives a nail into its heart. This isn’t a sequel that dabbles in what previously worked or a sequel that smothers you with irrelevant new ideas. This game is evolution-Disturbing, haunting, brilliant evolution.
Resident Evil 4 is seen through the eyes of returning favorite Special Agent Leon S. Kennedy. You’ll notice the officer tagline missing from his name. That’s because Leon spent one day as a cop in Raccoon City before he retired, but one day in Raccoon City is all you need before you start making drastic changes. Leon chose to instead climb the ranks and become an agent with the government. His first assignment: Protect the President’s daughter Ashley. Six days before his job is supposed to start, Ashley is kidnapped, leaving Leon as a pistol-packing knight rather than a brooding bodyguard. With little Intel given, Leon is dropped off in a remote village somewhere in Europe. It’s up to him to find Ashley and get her out.
As Leon’s investigation ensues, he finds there is something different about the villagers…something dangerous. They aren’t zombies and he is as far away from Raccoon City as he can get. There’s a new evil he has to worry about because Umbrella-the corrupt, monster corporation that haunted every other sequel-is dead.
But the nightmares never really went away
Something has to be said about a horror game that not only plays the part but looks it as well. RE 4 is dark and gritty in the most gorgeous way possible. Lines are smooth, colors are defined and details are jaw dropping. The Ganados (zombies) are brilliant, looking somewhat human but still having slight decay and a possessed look about them. Environments are outstanding. The graves covered in moss, the decrepit walls of the castle and the eerie fog on the lake can leave you terrified, even when there’s nothing to be scared of.
The sound is somewhat dismal, though. Being a fan of Silent Hill as well, I rather enjoy the songs with lyrics that add to the emotion of the game, but sadly there wasn’t any. However, the quality bounces right back with the voice-overs. They are well acted in cut-scenes and every time the Ganados spoke, I got a chill. They never speak English and they can be quite loud. Sometimes they’re chanting, other times they are pointing you out to other villagers but when they aren’t doing either is when you have to worry. They’re plotting something, you can tell by their actions, but you never know what it is.
Save Ashley from the depths of insanity
While the entire premise of the game may seem like a rescue mission, getting Ashley out really only makes up one quarter of the game, returning her home safely makes up the rest. It sounds like a pain, I know. It’s hard enough worrying about your own survival in a Resident Evil game. But in all honesty, she’s not that bad. No, she can’t fight and she won’t pick up items that you missed but she’s still smart. Anytime you aim your gun, she either tucks herself tight behind you or she ducks out of the way. You can give her a boost to an unreachable ledge and she’ll unlock a door or turn a crank. When you tell her to hide, she will until the moment you whistle for her. She stays very close to you the entire game, hardly ever getting herself into trouble unless you’re really not paying attention. Watching her keeps you on your toes and adds to the element this game brilliantly creates.
Fear lurks around every corner
Scary? Previous Resident Evil’s were scary. A brief hiss of a Licker, a mass of zombies crowding an alley way or busting through windows worked for a time but eventually, it rotted. Having enough first aid sprays was enough to at least make me feel safe, which is why they could only cause momentary “jolt” scares. Now …I want to talk about being terrified. In RE 4, your very life is dependent on not only Leon’s reflexes, but your own. No matter how full your health is RE 4 has a good many moments where one slip up will end your life. Whether it be allowing one of the chainsaw wielding maniacs to get too close or walking right into a dynamite booby trap.
Resident Evil has interactive cut-scenes that can become quite lethal. Sometimes you find yourself running from a boulder tapping the x button to spur Leon further. Sometimes you’ll be having idle chitchat with an ex-comrade or Ganado and they’ll lash out. Suddenly, without warning, the word DODGE! flashes on the screen along with a button combination. If you’re quick enough to nail it, Leon… well, dodges. I don’t think I have to tell you what happens if you don’t.
Even boss fights make use of your button pressing skill. Take for example the lake scene. You end up fighting a huge underwater creature called “Del Lago” all inside a boat. Several times, Del Lago will slam into the boat knocking you out into the middle of the lake. The word swim flashes on the screen indicating that you again need to tap the x button. You may do it indolently at first, but when you see Del Lago’s maw creep out of the lake right behind you, I guarantee you’ll speed up.
A Macabre populace
Imagine enemies that have brains rather than eat them. Enemies that will learn your patterns in a fight, bobbing and weaving, sticking their hands in front of their face or ducking altogether just to avoid getting shot. Enemies that will act completely harmless to draw your attention while others sneak up behind you. Imagine them creeping up to give you a false sense of security, then charging at the last second catching you off guard long enough for them to slam their teeth into your neck. Now imagine hundreds of them, maybe even thousands-communicating, plotting and planning only one thing: Your demise.
These enemies are going to swing pitchforks, hurl axes and even dynamite. They will duck behind shields and wear iron masks to prevent headshots. They will pin you inside a tower and launch firebombs right at you. They will follow you to the edge of town, climb up ladders if you decide to take higher ground and stalk you until you have absolutely nowhere left to run. Resident Evil is no longer about zombies who stick their arms out and moan as they lurch towards you. The Ganados are predators-cold, calculating hunters.
Will you be able to escape
You would have to look at the map to truly appreciate how big Resident Evil 4 is. The village alone makes the infamous mansion pale in size but that is only one area. Every time I thought this game was coming to a close, a brand new spot would open up twice the size of the previous one.
It never gets boring though. I never got tired of looking at my well designed surroundings and some of the mini-games like treasure hunting and target practice broke up what may have been a long trek. There are also a few puzzles-enough to keep you entertained but not so many that it doesn’t fit. There are a good amount of cut-scenes and dialogue as well, all intricately placed to shake things up a bit.
Or even survive
Leon has everything I would expect from a special agent. Watching some of the cut-scenes where Leon flips between rows of lasers or sick knife fights in slow motion made me realize the guy has some moves, but he’s also got the firepower to back up his slick acrobatics. RE 4 follows the same route as Nemesis as it provides with not only different guns, but different gun types. For example, there are five types of handguns that you can get. Some provide more firepower, faster reload or more stability. You can also evolve from your flintlock rifle to a semi-automatic one, choose shotguns-from the traditional pump action to a brutal riot gun-and pick wild west or modern day with both a revolver magnum and a .45.
If you like one certain gun but it’s not as powerful as you would hope, you can upgrade it by increasing its firepower, capacity, reload speed and firing speed. The merchant provides you with everything you need to customize your own arsenal. The one problem with the guns: Not enough room to hold all of them.
To say I was on edge with Resident Evil 4 is an understatement. I have never played anything that latched onto my psyche so fierce it had me enjoyably dreading every step and every scene. The graphics, the fear, the constant paranoia and the genius A.I. mesh together so incredibly that whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, you have to play it at least once to see how damn near perfect this game is. Resident Evil 4 isn’t just survival horror at its finest, but video games entirely. Grand Theft what?
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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