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Resident Evil 4 Review

By Christopher Britt (04/07/2012)3317 words
Tagged: gamecube, resident evil 4 review, the director, the gaming monolit

Resident Evil 4
Horror Reinvented

Platform: Gamecube
Release Date: Jan. 11th, 2005
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
Publisher: Capcom
Reviewed by: The Director, The Gaming Monolith

What's Hot

Perfectly Executed Gameplay
Outstanding Graphical and Art Design
Dialogue that isn't cheesy (at least all the time)
Truly Epic Boss battles

What's Not

Minute Technical flaws
Story can be corny at times
The Game ends

The original Resident Evil redefined gaming forever and created a completely new genre known as "Survival Horror". The cinematic presentation with specific camera angles and dramatic cut scenes ushered in the modern era of video games that attempted to include movie quality stories and graphics while improving gameplay. Unfortunately, the transition from old to new wasn't exactly a smooth one, at least in my opinion.

The fixed camera angles of the early RE games made combat EXTREMELY frustrating and really not fun at all. Now I know the first one came out in 1996 and this was a time when 3D gaming was in its prime but I played quite a bit of the early games and I really couldn't get the hang of them.

The story elements were also very poorly done with absolutely horrid performances by the voice actors. The ridiculous puzzle elements were a sore point as well and if examined closely, made no sense at all. It was basically beating you around the bush, solving all these puzzles to find one key or keycard or whatever and I just didn't have the patience to trek through all of that.

As for the horror side of things, at time, the games were actually scary. No one will forget the first time those f***ing demon dogs jumped through the windows, immediately followed by a change in your underwear and the scariest thing for me (I was only about ten or eleven the first time I played it) were the carefully concealed loading points. The game had to load each section you walked into and this was hidden by a door opening or a walk up some creaky stairs and I always thought something was going to either pop out of the darkness or appear in the room as soon as it loaded me into the room.

But with the exception of those two things, the scares weren't really there for me either. Most of them were the cheap, jump out of seat shocks, which can get really old, really fast if that's the only trick in the book...and it was. Anyway, a change was inevitable and I think Capcom felt the same way because nine years and six games later. Capcom released Resident Evil 4 as a flagship title for Nintendo's Gamecube and both horror games and third person action games would be never be the same again.

You star as Leon S. Kennedy, the protagonist from Resident Evil 2 and since the incident in Raccoon City on his first day on the job, Leon has risen through the ranks and become a grizzled agent working for the US Government, that's a hell of a promotion. He must be pretty good too because the first assignment he's given is to travel to a remote part of Spain to rescue the President's recently kidnapped daughter, Ashley.

Along the way, you'll uncover disturbing secrets buried within the quaint little village you arrive at and uncover a dastardly plot involving a sadistic cult. The story in Resident Evil 4 is surprisingly decent, especially taking into account Capcom's past efforts. Competent voice actors have finally been acquired to provide the dialogue which itself is, for the most part, good, except for a cheesy line every so often. The story will keep you going throughout the 20 plus hour game and generally provides some intense moments and surprises, it's a welcome addition.

At its time of release, Resident Evil 4 was the best looking game to come out. Even I was shocked at what I saw playing on Nintendo's Gamecube (I'll admit that I thought it was a stupid idea, I was wrong for the most part). Everything in the game was dripping with exquisite detail and the effects of nearly everything were jaw dropping.

The artistic design of the game was second to none and has actually only been bested by one other game as of today. From medieval castles to farms and villages, and underground caverns, every single thing looked phenomenal. The lighting was also second to none at the time. A few hours into the single player, daytime turns into night and the only light sources are bolts of lightning and torches, either hanging or being carried by the strange denizens of the creepy place in Spain. Animation is yet another high point, it's impeccable, even the creatures that don't exist in the real world look good. You'd swear they had those little motion capture thingies taped to the only living giant sea salamander or ogre that exists and that it was a paid employee of Capcom doing Mo Cap work.

The atmosphere that Capcom has crafted into this game is perfect as well. The particular way that went with creating the game made it more creepy, and downright scary, then any of the previous entries by far. Everything from the music, to the graphics, to the look and feel of the environment comes together to unleash an atmosphere that is truly menacing and unforgettable.

To this day, almost six years after its release, I think the graphics are still some of the best you'll ever see because although the textures and other things aren't that high resolution. The technical quality is only half the battle, the other half is artistic design and if a developer succeeds, the graphics stand the test of time longer.

The sheer variety in the environments is another high point of the game. Through the twenty hour plus single player portion, you'll almost never visit the same place twice. Everything from creepy villages, to foreboding castles and caverns, to abandoned industrial areas, the amount of places you'll travel too is astounding and helps the game that much more in not getting stale or boring.

Unfortunately all this fantastic work doesn't come without some hitches but they're so minute that they don't detract from the overall experience at all but this is a review so I have to mention them and it can pretty much be summed up in one word...clipping. Clipping is when an active body or object in the game world appears to float through a supposedly "solid object" in the game world, think enemy's foot or arm going through a door or wall, that's what I'm talking about and this little quirk is rampant throughout Resident Evil 4. Everything is clipping through shit, even stuff that usually gets clipped through is clipping through something BUT, because everything in the game has been designed with nothing less than perfection. This clipping issue is entirely forgivable in the long run.

Resident Evil 4 was about as a big a revolutionary step for third person action games as Halo was for first person shooters. Many of the things that RE 4 did first have become standard in nearly all third person action games, and for good reason too. Let's start with the biggest one first, the new perspective.

Now, before Resident Evil 4, third person shooters were basically just fire from the hip kind of games until Capcom decided to improve that aspect and create an entirely new way to play third action games. In Resident Evil 4, the camera is behind Leon at all times until you press the aim button. After you do that, the camera zooms in close to where it looks like it's sitting on Leon's right shoulder almost and you can aim the laser sight on your weapon with ease and intuitiveness.

We all remember the Resident Evils of old and how it was extremely awkward to aim anywhere with ease, you just had to wing it and hope you were on the mark and this new system completely changes the way Resident Evil is played and makes the combat exponentially more satisfying.

This new aiming perspective is probably the only real change to the controls because they remain largely unchanged from past games. Leon still controls like a tank, you have to press a, it works well separate button while moving forward to run but since the camera follows behind Leon now instead of being in fixed positions. The control scheme is surprisingly good in my opinion and it also made me realize, surprisingly and finally, that the main problem with past RE games wasn't the control at all but those ridiculous camera angles.

I don't recall a third person shooter in recent memory that hasn't used this setup and every single one of them can thank RE 4 for giving them an awesome control scheme to work with. It's hard to believe someone didn't think of it sooner really because it's hard to imagine playing a third person shooter without the close shoulder perspective.

The second aspect I'm going to talk about is a mechanic called "quick time events" or "action prompts", they can be called either or and, in RE 4, they're awesome. How many times in the past were you playing a game and wished you could jump through a window or climb up a ladder, climb up a ladder and then kick it down to slow your pursuers. Resident Evil 4 finally made these dreams come true because all of the above can now be accomplished in game and it is flat out awesome.

The quick time events are numerous throughout the game and include all the stuff I mentioned above plus many more. If you're able to tag an enemy in the face with a bullet, they will stagger and grasp their face in agony. At this point, you can run up and activate a prompt that will cause Leon to give a powerful roundhouse kick to whoever you shot and if they are more enemies in the immediate vicinity, they were be flown back from the kick as well.

It's a great addition that is not only extremely fun to pull off but can actually save your ass more often than not if you find yourself in a pinch. These events also spread to the cut scenes in the game, making them interactive, you can't just sit back and or watch or go get a soda during these babies because most of the events that happen during cut scenes are ones that cause death if not activated quick enough.

This makes even the cut scenes way more intense that your usual game and is yet another aspect that Resident Evil 4 does differently for the better as well. Hell, Capcom even gave Leon a few different melee attacks as you progress through the game so the act of doing it doesn't grow stale or annoying.

Now, let's spend a few minutes talking about one of the more shocking aspects of this game. The first time a zombie appeared in the original RE, it was pretty shocking and was the main enemy you fought against in many of the subsequent releases...not anymore. When Capcom set out to take the series in a bold new direction, they weren't kidding.

The number of zombies you'll find throughout your time with this game is a resounding none. That's right, the enemy that made past Resident Evils stand out is completely gone and standing in it's position are enemies called "Ganados", which is Spanish for cattle.

As nearly a polar opposite of the past game's zombies, these enemies are extremely fast, agile, and have weapons to throw at you. They're also way more frightening that the stupid, lumbering, moaning zombies. They look like people...but they're not quite people. They look like zombies...but they're not. This mystery surrounding the villagers motive and reasoning behind their murderous agenda is what makes them so menacing to fight. Why they act like this is actually built into the story as well, and will most certainly come as a complete surprise to you. I won't spoil it but let's just say it's disturbing and rather tragic.

These enemies will run full sprint at you. They will pull out axes and sickles to throw at you, with pretty good accuracy if I might add. When they're close enough, they'll lunge at you, taking you by the throat and trying to choke you to death, only a quick time event will save you from any damage in this situation.

These enemies give the combat an extremely dynamic feel and makes it scary and really fun. Wait until you get to the night sections of the game and all you see in the darkness ahead is a couple of blood red eyes staring at you and nothing else...and they're getting closer. Yep, you'll want you're mommy and you'll want her to turn on Spongebob or anything else that's just for kids so you can, hopefully, not have nightmares for three weeks.

Well then, moving on to the boss fights in the game. It's not a stretch to say that they might be the most exciting and epic boss fights you have ever encountered. Hideo Kojima and his Metal Gear Solid baddies could learn a thing or two from Resident Evil 4's beasts. All of them require skill and mastery of the controls to conquer. All of them are very different and all of them are EXTREMLY exciting to fight.

Most of them will involved doing a reasonably high amount of damage to it and some form of quick time event will occur to damage it further, but not always. Sometimes, you'll simply have to work your way through a maze before you actually fight the creature, dodging one hit kill attacks with prompts.

There's even a knife fight near the end with a particular character that is nothing more than a cut scene with some brutally fast prompts. Each boss fight one ups the boss that came before it and they never ever feel cheap or to hard and they're always satisfying and after you beat each one of them, you receive a decent sized reward, which every game should follow as well because it just makes the sense of accomplishment that much more extensive.

Speaking of reward, let's talk about the weapons%u2026and how you can upgrade them. Some of you are like, what? Upgrading weapons in a Resident Evil game? Blasphemy! They're not supposed to be shooters, they're supposed to be slow, tedious puzzle solving games with boring combat and horrible controls, duh! Haha,, this one changed the concept, remember? As you kill enemies throughout the game, you'll find them dropping something called "pesetas". This is money basically and every time you run into the game's traveling Merchant, a hooded, mysterious man with an Australian accent and who's weapon shacks are always lit up with soothing blue torches, you can spend your hard earned cash to buy different weapons and upgrade the ones you already have.

There are numerous weapons as well and each of them have a distinct feel and sound to them and most of them are an absolute blast to use. You'll definitely need to upgrade something too because as you progress through the game, the enemies will get stronger and stronger.

The money for your upgrades can be found nearly everywhere in the game. Random wooden barrels and boxes spread throughout the game can net you a few bucks. I've already mentioned the run of the mill enemies dropping it all the time. Every boss that you defeat will usually give a rather large sum and there's even sub boss characters you'll encounter that are basically stronger variants of normal enemies but they're not strong enough to be considered a main boss. An example is a burlap sack wearing, chainsaw wielding son of a bitch that can graphically slice your head off if he gets too close. Trust me, every time you here him rev his chainsaw up, your blood will run cold.

You might be thinking that you'll be making a lot of trips back to your safe room to put all of this upgraded weaponry in one of those inventory boxes like past games, considering you can only hold a limited number of items and most of the spaces were used for stupid keys or pieces of puzzles...nope.

A new and much improved inventory system has been included. You must fit all your weapons and items into an imaginary attache case that Leon carries around with him, where he actually keeps it, I don't know an it is rather odd to view this huge case in the inventory screen, yet it's not actually on Leon's character model but that's the only gripe and it's a minor one.

How the inventory works now is that the case contains a bunch of little square units and each item will take up a certain of squares and you can literally maneuver everything in your inventory to see if it will fit or not. It's kind of like a mini game by itself and can be quite challenging to figure out the correct way to move your shit so it all fits. You can even upgrade the size of the case if you have the money to do so and by the end of the game, you'll be holding enough weapons and health to arm a small country.

For those of you thinking that Capcom completely did away will puzzles, then you'd be mistaken. Puzzles are still included and quite numerous but they're not nearly as confusing or tedious as past games in the series and can actually be welcomed by the player because it gives them a break from the intense action.

Lastly, the save system has been completely revamped for the better a well. No longer will you trek hours looking for those annoying ink ribbons and then trekking all the way back to a safe room just to save your progress. You still save at typewriters found through the game and you just walk up and save you game, no muss, no fuss. You will find typewriters in droves throughout the game too so you'll almost never get pushed back to far if you end up going down.

Final Score

Presentation - 10
Everything in this game had been created with the utmost care and even under heavy scrutiny, it's it difficult to find even a mild flaw.

Graphics - 9.8
An absolutely phenomenal amount of detail covers everything in the game world. The art design is perfect and creates an eerie atmosphere that is creepy most of the time and downright frightening all the other times. Ample amounts of clipping bring it down a tiny bit but in no way, detract from the overall experience and to be honest, I'm surprised that was the only problem I ran into with something this amazing.

Gameplay - 10
The new aiming perspective makes combat way more exhilarating and intense than past entries. Disturbing new types of enemies are eons more fun to fight than zombies. Quick time events expand your moves and make the fights much more dynamic. Upgradeable weaponry and absolutely astounding boss fights round out the mix to make Resident Evil 4 one of the most satisfying and intense gaming experiences you'll have play.

Overall - 10
A revolutionary step for the third person action genre that not only improves nearly every aspect but with new ideas but somehow, someway, each fresh idea introduced works to amazing perfection, delivering one of the best games ever to grace in platform in recent memory and easily becomes one of the best games ever made. Capcom really out did themselves this time and the world of video games will never be the same.

Author - Christopher Britt (thumbnail)
Author - Christopher Britt
My name is Chris and I am the founder of The Gaming Monolith; a brand new review blog for video games and movies. I've been a gamer since the Atari days but it was Goldeneye and Mario 64 that really got me hooked. I also got into writing at a young age. I figured why not write about stuff you enjoy doing? The rest is history.