Review: Resident Evil 4
October 15, 2006
Scarier Than the Future of Social Security
Capcom / Gamecube, Playstation 2 / Mature
With the release of Resident Evil: Outbreak it became painfully clear that the genre-defining series was quickly growing stale. Capcom has now released the fourth RE and it is evident that it is the revitalization of the series and, the mature killer app Gamecube owners have been praying for.
Gamers play the familiar haunted cop, Leon Kennedy from RE2, who has been called upon by the U.S. government to save the oft-kidnapped president’s daughter. When Leon arrives in the small town, where the first daughter is rumored to be, things start to go seriously wrong. Zombie villagers begin attacking Leon and his escorts.
It is obvious within five minutes of starting the game that this is a new style RE. The biggest change is in the camera. The old frustrating fixed camera is gone and in its place is a partially controllable one, which watches over Leon’s shoulder Splinter Cell style. While it is significantly more playable the best part of the game is still the constant sense of fear and tension that the series is known for.
Enemies are slow but attack in groups, swarming quickly, and triggering an adrenaline rush rarely found in games. Also contributing to the tense feeling are bear traps and other pitfalls sprinkled about the level that are very easy to walk into if players aren’t paying attention.
Big improvements in the combat system highlight the scare factor. A quality control scheme makes movement and fighting much easier and the strategic gunplay means players have to think quickly to slow down or stop the zombie villagers. Shooting one in the leg or arm will cause them to react realistically and drop their weapons, giving gamers precious milliseconds to make their next move. Additionally, inventory is now easier to manage. Weapons, herbs, and ammo are stored Diablo-style with each item taking up a certain amount of space on an inventory plane. Resources can now be bought from a mysterious vendor with an Australian accent who sells herbs, weapon upgrades, and more storage space, that can all be lifesavers in a tight situation.
The best part of this game is that after many attempts Capcom has finally struck the perfect balance between playability and the fear factor. Level design is very well balanced with just the right amount of ammo, health, and enemies. This flawlessly bridges the gap between mind numbingly easy and frustratingly difficult that many lesser horror games struggle with. While Leon will die often, checkpoints are well placed and never again will gamers be forced to replay half an hour of the game after dying.
This move towards the casual gamer has the potential to anger faithful series fans, but fear not, for they are well accounted for. The biggest fan service that has been revealed is the return of the mysterious Ada Wong from RE 2 whose disappearance was never explained. While this may not be enough to appease hardcore fans, the new gameplay will show the joy of Resident Evil to those who may have never played before, and should bring in hundreds of fans giving a major boost to Gamecube popularity while putting an early candidate on game of the year lists everywhere.
RE 4 represents an evolution of the survival-horror genre and a bright future for Capcom’s flagship shooter series. This is an amazing horror game that all gamers can enjoy.
By Zack Rovinsky