After a brief one hour taste of Resident Evil 4 last night I'm glad Swat is around to write some impressions while I play in small bursts during the day with the afternoon sun streaming into my living room and my cat close by to watch my back. He's been playing with his significant other though so maybe I'm not alone in the wuss club. Take it away Swat!
Ã‚"Jesus Christ, theyÃ‚'re coming through the door! Run baby, run!Ã‚"
The scene I have just described is commonplace in CapcomÃ‚'s latest entry in the Resident Evil series. RE4 has taken a fresh new approach to a genre that was desperately in need of change.
Leon S. Kennedy is familiar to those whoÃ‚'ve followed the series over the years, but in this outing he has given up his police uniform for a slight metrosexual attire. On assignment from the President to find his kidnapped daughter, our hero follows the clues to a remote European village. After a run in with one of the locals, itÃ‚'s pretty easy to see that heÃ‚'s not welcome.
One of the first things youÃ‚'ll notice is the new point of view. Best described as a hybrid third person, over the shoulder view, it seems to be a good fit for the action. ThereÃ‚'s a sense of fluidity in LeonÃ‚'s movements, and a great deal of the environment can be interacted with. Jumping over fences and through windows is a seamless process. The camera can be an annoyance at times as it doesnÃ‚'t provide the same viewing radius as other games, and I found the C-Stick to be too snappy and less fluid for taking a peak around those critical corners. However, the viewpoint definitely enhances the claustrophobia youÃ‚'ll be feeling during the game.
The villagers themselves are relentless. They are not zombies, but are they human? I made the mistake of falling back on my old Resident Evil skills. I calmly steadied my weapon (which you manually aim by holding down the right trigger) and let them lurch towards me. I had a bit of a rude awakening when I realized the suckers are fast. Very fast. They swarmed upon me quickly, and before I could fire off two rounds an axe had been buried in my skull. One of the male villagers dodged my attacks while another shielded its face. One of the women villagers grabbed me violently and I shook her off. I realized that I had to change my tactics, and more importantly, get the hell out of dodge fast. I ran down the path further into town and I was spotted quickly. One of the villagers raised his arm in the air and shouted something foreign, and before I knew it a small mob was forming. RE4 has no problem throwing you into the intensity right away.
The weapons are familiar to the series Ã‚– standard issue pistol, shotgun, rifle, and more. A nice addition however comes from upgrading these weapons. Throughout the game a mysterious Ã‚"vendorÃ‚" will appear and offer his wares and services. Money and treasure can be found throughout town and from fallen villagers, and thereÃ‚'s a nice balance to the system so you can save for certain items. Weapons can receive upgrades such as accuracy and firepower.
The violence is extremely gratifying. Early on you feel overpowered by the weaker pistol, but as soon as you acquire the shotgun, itÃ‚'s go-time baby. The shotgun has a very nice kickback, easily dispatching the villagerÃ‚'s heads. ItÃ‚'s also useful for blowing back the swarming mob when they are inches away from clawing into you. Thrown axes and dynamite can be shot out of mid-air, and specific body parts can be targeted Ã‚– when you shoot them, limbs violently snap back.
Sadly enough, a few puzzles made it into the game. Earlier Resident Evil puzzles were a bit illogical; they seemed to be a cheap device to give the players a break from zombie killing. In RE4 however the puzzles seem more suited to the village. Using a crest to open the door of a cultish church makes more sense than using that same crest at a Police station. They donÃ‚'t interrupt the flow of game play as much, but they are still the wacky puzzles youÃ‚'ve either grown to love or hate.
Graphically, RE4 is easily one of the most impressive console games to date. ThatÃ‚'s quite a claim, but when you see it in action you will be a believer. The village and surrounding woods look and feel very convincing. The atmosphere is so thick you can almost smell the putrid stench of decaying bodies. ItÃ‚'s hard to believe that the little cube is capable of such beauty. The sound is equally impressive, making great use of Pro Logic-II.
Other than some minor control gripes and camera issues, IÃ‚'m hard pressed to find any flaws so far. Everything seems to fit together nicely, and itÃ‚'s very balanced. RE4 truly is the next step in the evolution of the survival horror genre; the bar has been set, the gauntlet has been thrown down.
I can still hear my girlfriendÃ‚'s frantic cries as they broke through the front door of that house. My hiding spot wasnÃ‚'t safe for long, and I had nowhere to go. I had been outsmarted and outnumbered by the villagers. All I heard was the throbbing beat of my heart as I drowned out all other noise. I focused on the door. I steadied my handgun.