Resident Evil 4 >
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LB Review: 9.6
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Resident Evil 4 (RE4) is an amazing game that corrects every fault of the previous RE games and leaves other third-person-over-the-shoulder games in the dust.
If you played previous versions of RE games then you may know the annoyance that comes with a cruddy control system. In those games the camera angles are fixed and moving in the direction you want requires an engineering degree from MIT and some Dramamine. Understandably, the camera angles are fixed so that the game controls what you see so that you can be scared out of your wits when, for example, a zombie dog breaks through a window and attacks. In addition, there is an annoying save system where you have to find and effeciently utilize typewriter ribbons. Plus, there are the storage containers where you can store items and weapons but only in certain rooms requiring a good deal of backtracking.
Well, my fellow survival horror fans, those days are over. In its place, you are bestowed with a great control system, a completely user friendly and positionable camera, a great save system (no more typewriter ribbons although the typewriters are still there), and an upgradable attache case that you carry with you so that you don't have to dump your weapons and go back for them when needed. Now that the controls and game elements are fixed, how about the game itself?
Previous RE games are fairly zombie-dependent. This is all well and good, but does get boring after a while. In RE4, there are no more zombies. In their place you'll find a virus infected village. The villagers, while mining, ran into some nasty (alien?) virus that has caused them to become hosts for various parasites. In addition, there is a growing religious cult, the Illuminados, surrounding the town trying to isolate the virus for use in their own dastardly plans, including kidnapping the President's daughter!
And that's where you enter. Playing as ex-S.T.A.R.S. member, Leon Kennedy, you are on a mission to rescue the President's daughter. Your investigation takes you to a remote area of Spain where you meet the infected villagers and thus the fun begins. To help you take down the onslaught of very intelligent villagers who will duck, hide, and come at you en masse (ie, working together) you have a nice selection of upgradable weapons including various handguns, magnums, rifles, shotguns, and a few heavy artillery weapons: the rocket launcher and mine thrower. You also have at your disposal hand, flash, and incendiary grenades along with your trusty knife. To help you attain and upgrade these weapons you'll meet up with a Merchant at various places throughout the game. You earn money (PTAS) by finding treasures and items which you can then sell to the Merchant and thus buy and upgrade what you like. The Merchant is a great addition to the game and even comes with his own in-game mini-game, a Shooting Range, where you can practice and earn even more money.
Killing the enemies in this game is tougher than you may think, especially since enemies often surprise you by sneaking up on you. One moment you're blasting six villagers with a shotgun and all of a sudden you hear a dreadful noise; a chainsaw. Before you know it, a crazy bloody chainsaw-wielding townswoman has gone and put the chainsaw through your face. Ouch. As you progress the enemies get fiercer and trickier. The boss fights throughout the game are fun and don't get too repetitive.
Previous RE games had a large emphasis on puzzle solving and ammunition managment. Gone are both. Yes, there are still some puzzles in the game, and yes, they are challenging and fun, but they are more straightforward and make more sense in the flow of the game as opposed to previous REs. Then, there's that complex issue of ammunition managment. Actually, there's not. In RE4, you should have little or no ammo problems unless you have a nervous twitch or just like to shoot rocks.
The combination of less empahsis on puzzles, more ammo, and more enemies does shift slightly the RE series from survival horror to blow-em-up horror. However, I feel there are too many great aspects to the new gameplay that simply overpower any potential complaints that the, "Game isn't what it used to be." That's kind of the point.
I think perhaps, the greatest triumph in RE4 is the style. It's rare that a game goes beyond the basic, "The graphics were good," description and actually elevates itself to an art form. RE4 has achieved this. If you've read this far you know that the setting for the game is backwoods Spain. And, yes, you are playing in the current time, however, backwoods Spain never made it out of the 19th century and that results in some amazing design. The village and villagers have the ghostly and wretched aura of a Dickensian landscape replete with ragged clothing, pitchforks and scythes. The villagers often carry torches and there are several instances that are quite reminiscent of a Frankenstein movie with dozens of torch-carrying villagers storming the castle. The problem is, you're the one they're after. Later in the game you'll meet up with a religious cult, the Illuminados. Their castle is detailed and full of interesting artifacts, rooms, and areas, including a disturbing hedge maze. Add in to all of this some incredibly moody lighting and a torturous soundtrack and you have yourself a recipe for an exiting and harrowing experience.
The length of the game is also a Goldilocks-esque, "just right". The average gamer can probably finish the game in about 30 hours. The third time Allison and I played through it we completed it in 12 hours. Speaking of replaying this game, well, it's great. In addition to unlocking a "Professional Difficulty," a few new weapons, and a costume after you make it through through the game once, you also unlock two extremely fun mini-games: Mercenaries and Assignment Ada. In Mercenaries you are given a time limit, a shotgun, a handgun, and are placed into the village where it's your job to kill as many villagers as possible in an effort to get a good score which results in a good rating. Getting a good rating will unlock other Mercenary maps for your trigger-happy pleasure. In Assignment Ada, you play as the mysterious "Woman in Red," Ada. Your task is to collect 5 pieces of rock that contain the plaga virus. The addition of both of these mini-games both rewards you for completing the game (something that some recent games have failed to do) and adds a ton of replay value to the game.
Resident Evil 4 is the reason that gamers play video games. It's fun, challenging, scary, and ultimately entertaining. Oh, and watch out for snakes!