|Submitted by Jon Peplinski |
(Apr 17, 2005)
My first piece of advice is don't trust this game. It's going to try to tell you that it's a Resident Evil title, and that's likely going to give you some ideas of what to expect, and then you will find out that this series has been escalated into something different, something much better.
As the intro movie explains, gone is raccoon city. Umbrella is no more. There are no zombies in this game. There are no fixed camera angles. Leon has emerged from his marionette-like awkward interface into the smoothest 3rd-person over the shoulder gameplay experience I've ever had the pleasure to encounter. In Resident Evil 4 you will find yourself able to do button prompt dodges, leaps out of buildings, stylish kicks, heck even suplexes sometimes. If you're really slick you can shoot axes and crossbow bolts out of the air. The Leon you control here is to RE characters what a radio flyer wagon is to a loaded sports car.
Don't get carried away though! Oh sure, you're Mr. Gov't agent now. Unfortunately the enemies have stepped it up a notch or two also(or ten in the case of the Iron Maidens). Although the villagers you encounter when you first step into this grimy European nightmare are... odd they are far more dangerous than the zombies of the good old Raccoon days.
Basically Leon has found his stride just in time to get plunged into a jagged toothed war machine comprised of running, tool-weilding, trap-setting, dodging, door opening, ladder climbing, tough-to-kill maniacs. Early on if you play your cards right you will find yourself rushing into a building to evade the hostile population of a small village. You will see them surround the building, jabbering all the while in guttural sounding Spanish (and I always thought it was such a nice sounding language). They will raise ladders. One of them will rev a chainsaw a few times. Dang, not twenty minutes in and here you are besieged by the crazy bastards, better think quick cuz they'll be coming in through the top floor soon, I dont' think those shelves you pushed in front of the door are gonna do much to slow down that chainsaw either.
The pacing of this game is brilliant. What I have just described is one of many hair-raising escalating battles thrown in early on in what soon becomes a wilderness war. You will be ambushed, chopped, thrown, decapitated, crushed, hunted and surrounded many, many times before you finally escape.
Which pretty well sums up how I feel about the gameplay. It's engaging, terrifying and smooth. Moving along to the setting we have more strokes of brilliance. I won't go into much detail for spoiler's sake, but it doesn't take long for this game's atmosphere to sink it's claws into you. If you haven't seen screen shots imagine the dingiest stretch of autumn Europe from the deepest bowels of Universal horror classic hell and fill it with grimy, bloodthirsty peasants who want nothing more tahn to kill you and are quite good at doing just that.
The music is everything you'd expect from Resident Evil with the adrenaline cranked up just so that you're just that much more wound up as you seek that beauty among terrors, the perfect head-shot. The sound is pretty damn near flawless, I don't care if you hate rifles with a passion, pick up the bolt-action rifle which becomes available early on just to hear the noise as Leon cocks it between shots. Beautiful. Some of the voice-acting sounds forced unfortunately, and some of the dialogue is just brutal, but that's pretty much a staple of the series. Just don't be shocked at exchanges like, "It was unfortunate you had to eliminate my small-time associate but don't let it get to your head." "You're small-time!" I chalk most of it up to Leon's somewhat dorky personality though. If you think about being a hapless protagonist of 2 survival horror games will make anyone a bit of a fall guy.
Capcom have never been slouches about graphics and this is their strongest outing yet.
This game doesn't disappoint in the replay area either. By beating the game you unlock 2 mini-games, both of which have rewards in them which pertain to playing through the main game again. The first mini-game, Assigment Ada, kind of reminded me of Hunk's mad dash for freedom from the 4th Survivor back in the RE 2 days. Mercenaries is an all-out blastathon with hidden characters, great fun! One of the enemies you face in RE 4 is an unlockable character in mercs and he's just a total blast to play as. Also, if you want to there's a Crono Trigger-ish feature that lets you play through again with all your health upgrades, weapons and cash from the last run.
I'd say overall that if you miss this you are missing one of the best titles on a great system. The way Cubes are priced if you're halfways affluent I'd say pick one up just for this game if you're interested.