Monday, August 08, 2005

Resident Evil 4

From Capcom, the company that revolutionized survival horror, comes Resident Evil 4, perhaps the best game in the genre ever to hit shelves. However, instead of sticking to the traditional and proven formula that Capcom admitted was becoming stale, the company decided to create a brand new experience for true fans of and newcomers to the series. The most obvious change presents itself right from the start in that there are no zombies, a staple for the franchise up until now; luckily, the amazing gameplay experience and ambience more than make up for that seeming loss as the title truly takes the franchise into a previously unreached realm of survival gaming.

STORY (9.0/10):
Resident Evil 4 takes place six years after the events portrayed in Resident Evil 2. The Umbrella Company is in ruins due to a stock price plummet after the government nuked Raccoon City in response to the release of the T-Virus. During this time, Leon S. Kennedy of Resident Evil 2 fame began his government training as a highly specialized agent. This newest Resident Evil installment begins as Leon is sent on a top-secret mission to retrieve the President's daughter from a religious cult in a remote area of Europe.

GAMEPLAY (9.5/10):
Unlike previous installments in the franchise, Resident Evil 4 moves at a blistering pace and wastes no time in getting started. Throughout the title is an overwhelming sense of urgency and despair, providing a truly frightening experience- moreso than any given in any other title to date. Perhaps the greatest reason for this is that almost completely absent are times where Leon can set his own pace of progression; instead, the consistent barrage of frenzied enemy attacks maintain the enveloping experience.

Fortunately for traditionalists, Resident Evil 4 is able to appeal to every type of horror fan. The new, over-the-shoulder third-person viewpoint creates some truly intuitive control and movement, allowing gamers to see and prepare for everything surrounding and approaching Leon and Ashley. Alternatively, Capcom has remained loyal to traditionalists by incorporating moments purely for fright. Enemies will moan out in the dark, break down doorways, and quickly run in to eliminate the American threat. This old-school fear is clearly put into focus in several portions of the game, including run-ins in a graveyard, in a hedge maze, and in darkened hallways. Perhaps the most startling and most welcome inclusion in Resident Evil 4 is the opportunity to control Ashley, the girl often captured and often in need of an escort. Though nearly helpless, armed only with a flashlight, Ashley must quickly sneak past enemies while raising and lowering gates to avoid capture. These scenes are perhaps the most suspenseful in an already action-packed title, and they definitely help to put Resident Evil 4 in an entirely new level of gaming.

Additionally, Capcom has incorporated several new control aspects that greatly improve the gaming experience. As mentioned previously, the flexible camera now shows the action from behind Leon, greatly limiting moments with disorientation and unseen enemies. The R button has also become an essential tool for combat, though. Holding it down allows full analog control of weaponry, a superb addition that greatly changes the gameplay for the better. Headshots are fairly good for quick kills, especially at the beginning of the game, whereas shots to the leg can temporarily clear a running path when low on ammo and in need of a quick escape. Sniping from afar, blasting from up close with a wide array of guns, and even combating by knife can all be executed seamlessly and satisfyingly. Finally, Capcom has also implemented new interaction-based moments. When Leon nears certain objects or is in the middle of some particular sequences, button commands will appear on screen cueing what the player need do next. Seemingly a simple addition, this feature greatly expands Leon's freedom for exploration in the vast locales, once again making for an even more enjoyable experience. Though a strafe feature is noticeably absent, the overall control and gameplay of Resident Evil 4 is fantastic.

Though usually not mentioned in a review, both the bosses and upgraded save system simply must be mentioned to do justice to this title. Somehow, Capcom has managed to create some of the most visually appealing and overall engrossing boss creatures ever to grace a console. From giant ogres to monstrous underwater menaces, each boss in Resident Evil 4 is extremely intuitive and engaging, and players will have to both use and overcome the environment as Leon searches for the clever weakness always present. As for the save system, the usual typewriters are still in place. However, the ribbon-based aspect has been eliminated; any found typewriter can be used to save. Additionally, each level includes several checkpoints which thankfully eliminates the need for tedious replays to continue. Capcom has truly come a long way in terms of presenting a dynamic gaming experience, and the twenty-plus hours of Resident Evil 4 shine in every area because of it.

GRAPHICS (10/10):
Resident Evil 4 is simply the most beautiful GameCube title to date, even surpassing the likes of Metroid Prime. Every aspect is excellently polished and overflowing with creativity more than supported by the amazingly detailed character models, all of which fluidly run at thirty frames per second. Featuring motion-captured movement, both the bodies and the faces of enemies spring to life with energy and detail rarely seen in games so far. Environmental effects are also beautiful- from the realistic lighting and texture effects to the spectacular sight of simple rain falling and heat waves rising at all times of day. Little can be said about the amazing graphical feats Capcom has performed with Resident Evil 4 that hasn't been said plenty of times before, but every ounce of praise is extremely well deserved.

SOUND (9.0/10):
In a first for the Resident Evil series, every aspect of sound is very well done. Like always, the sound effects of thumping, screeching, and yelling are excellent and very believable, a small feature that truly adds to the realism of the fantasy environment. However, Resident Evil 4 also features solid voice acting, made all the better due to Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound capabilities. Finally, the soundtrack mixes excellently with every environment and situation presented. Both subtle and overpowering musical pieces truly add to the overall ambience in this truly remarkable piece of work.

OVERALL (9.5/10):
Capcom, to put it simply, has resurrected what is perhaps its most famed franchise in Resident Evil 4. Featuring absolutely amazing graphics, a new control and camera system, and excellent sound, there is very little Resident Evil 4 doesn't do right. This title had extremely high expectations throughout its development cycle, and it more than delivered upon its release. Resident Evil 4 is definitely a must-have for Nintendo's GameCube.

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