Resident Evil 4 Reader Review
Just look. Stop running about shooting shuffling villagers to the floor and look. Itís day-time; the sun is streaming through the suffocated sky; the birds are chirping above the rotting corpses of your enemy, your hunter, your prey. Take away the weapon from your hand and lay down a sun-bed and you could quite easily sunbathe here. Just watch out for the huge troll stomping down the road.
It really is quite beautiful, so much attention has been put into the dreary surroundings that you wonder how they managed to have enough time to make such visceral, heart-pounding action. You are Leon. S. Kennedy, the very man that was handled with investigating the U.M.B.R.E.L.L.A Corporation in previous incarnations of Resident Evil. You arrive in a little Eastern European village by means of two Mexicans and a little down-trodden car.
Ten minutes later and youíre in the village centre, where one of those Mexicans corpses is making a nice flame on the barbecue. Itís that kind of incidental detail that really hammers home the horror to you. This game knows exactly how to get your heart beating faster, and has excellent set pieces and music to achieve it.
The flow of action generally goes like this: You enter an area and immediately there are twenty villagers scrambling towards you, pick-axes and scythes in their hands. You desperately shoot them off with your pistol but they keep on coming. You take out your shotgun and wait until their heads are all in a line. Aim. Fire. They drop. Phew. Suddenly a villager grips you from behind, and others come from the sides. You have to use the analogue stick to shake them off then try and get rid of them, whether this means kicking them in the face or blasting them to the floor with a flurry of sub-machine gun fire is entirely up to you.
The music follows the action, so when things get heated the music is high and ecstatic. After the action the music stops and you can hear the chirping of birds, or the dripping of water, or simply your own footsteps. You get the chance to explore the area and look for goodies.
The inventory system is excellent, as is the upgrade system. Ammo, herbs (for health) and cash can be found in crates, barrels and boxes lying around. These go into your inventory area, where you can store a limited but sizable amount of items. Cash can be exchanged for goods, such as new weapons or treasure maps when the merchant appears. He also allows you to upgrade weapons for cash; you can improve the firing rate; the capacity of the cartridge, the reload speed or the damage caused by each bullet.
The quietness after the action creates a great level of anticipation. You know something is going to happen, just not quite sure what or when. These are the scariest bits of the game, not when countless enemies are leaping at you but when youíre alone, in a dead-mans-house, breaking open his cabinet to get the shotgun ammo, hoping his wife isnít around the corner with an axe in hand. Inevitably, the quiet bits are the calm before the stormÖ
Ö minutes later and youíre dodging fireballs in a castle, using your thermal goggles to pinpoint little plasma strings in an attempt to kill a regenerative mutant in a bloodied research facility, throwing harpoons at an enormous sea beast, firing rockets at a pair of marauding trolls in a fiery arena. Again, the music keeps on par with the action. It suddenly kicks in the moment the action starts and rises to a soaring crescendo, the boss battles themselves are challenging and varied and as old-school as they may seem, great fun.
The game itself is split into chapters, with each chapter having around four or five sub-chapters. It can last anywhere between 25-40 hours depending on the difficulty level and how much time you spend in each area. Thereís a lot to see and do if youíre prepared to look hard enough.
I could ramble on about its many nuances and subtleties, the effectiveness of how its various systems work and how well everything comes together. I could tell you about the story, but as cheesy and derivative as the story is, itís still an integral part to the game that isnít worth revealing.
I will be contempt with just saying how beautiful it is, what an astounding experience it is. It takes you by the hand and leads you through dark, dank basements and towering majestic structures. Every step of the way you are compelled to carry on, sometimes to find out what happens next; often just because itís so god damn fun.
Itís not just great to play either, watching it is like watching all of the 100 Best Horror Movies according to Channel 4 in a row. Tension, action, gore, a grim sense of humour. Itís all there, in one way or another. While this game has no multiplayer, you can still invite all your friends over, get out the popcorn, close the curtains and turn the lights off, put the volume up to max and immerse yourself in the best adult experience available for the Cube.
This game certainly isnít for kids, and goes a long way to breaking the child-like perception of the Cube. Itís a gory, no holds barred game. It has swearing, lots of blood, and a man with blond hair so bright it could be used as a replacement Sun. Every Resident Evil apart from this one has featured zombies. This one has no zombies, although it does have mutant humans, cultist humans, infected humans, fanatical humans, big ugly creatures such as trolls or sea serpents and much more. It keeps things extremely varied and actually requires higher skill levels as the game progresses.
You improve as the game gets harder, you donít just get Damage Level 4 for your shotgun, you get better- you learn how to cope with certain situations and just as you come close to mastering them a whole new set of rules is thrown at you. But past experience builds on this, you already know how to use that shotgun, just not in that way.
Ah the shotgun, definitely the best gun. According to me. Thereís a decent variety of weapons with which to hand out death with, but nothing beats downing your foes with the sort of meaty impact that the shotgun hands out.
By the end of the game you really are a better player than at the start, a feat which many other games fail to achieve. By the end of the game youíre also ready to play again, and this time you can get the ultimate upgrades for each weapon, if you have the cash. Playing through with an infinite rocket launcher is just as fun as with a pistol with scarcely any ammo.
Itís a linear game yet circumstances and methods can change within the linear pathways. It has real replay value, inevitably some bits will repeat themselves but you can still play in a completely different style each time.
So the flaws? Well if you are looking for an easy game that will be a breeze to get through, then Resident Evil 4 isnít for you. Even on the Easy difficulty level itís a hard game- but this just adds to the experience. Why bother spending so much time on a game that doesnít challenge you, it would get boring pretty quickly.
Ammo can get scarily low sometimes, if you are too trigger happy you might have to restart from a previous save point because you havenít conserved your ammo, and while this can serve to frustrate it does add a deal of realism to the proceedings.
Linearity can also prove annoying, while some areas are quite large as soon as you try to step off the path into the beautiful faded leaf forests you find an invisible wall, but this does channel the action and keep you on your feet. Linearity can be a mixed blessing.
However, these are all pretty minor flaws for a game that does so much so well. Resident Evil 4 really is at the top of its game, itís a top class action-thriller-horror game that will keep you happy/scared for many weeks. I really canít recommend it highly enough; itís worth buying a Cube for. Or a Playstation 2 for that matter.
The Playstation 2 version does have some extra content on it but cuts a few graphical corners, so itís really a case of whether you want a tiny bit more content or the slight edge on atmosphere. Itís also coming to the PC soon, so watch out (and a buy a gamepad of some sort). No matter what version you buy it for, just buy it!
10 / 10