Resident Evil 4 Final Review

Heads require exploding

Swat has survived the totally not-undead hordes and come back with a final look at how Resident Evil 4 ended up. Did it maintain the level of greatness implied in the first impressions? Read on to find out and big thanks to Swat for the write-up!
I have fond memories of the survival horror genre. I remember the first time I saw the Alone in the Dark demo playing in Software Etc. A stuffy looking Edward Carnby walked around a musty cabin looking for a hidden switch. A disturbing howl cried out in the distance, and I noticed an indistinguishable black shape appearing from the darkness outside. It howled and bounced past the window, eager to find a way in. I really wanted Edward to find that switch. Fast. Unfortunately my parents didnÂ't think the game was suitable for me, so we walked out of the store with a very educational Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. To this day I still have no idea what the main export of Morocco is, but my first memory of survival horror remains intact.

I managed to eventually play through the AITD series, as well as some very forgettable clones in the survival horror genre. Those were some great times.

Flash forward to the launch of the original Playstation in 1996. An unknown Capcom title called Resident Evil was sitting on the shelves, so I decided to give it a try. I was hooked from start to finish, with many frightening moments and cheesy B-Movie one-liners. The opening FMV is still burned in my head as one greatest, ridiculous intros ever made.

Resident Evil was a fresh take on survival horror game. AITD had its Lovecraftian influences, but Resident Evil was all about the flesh eaters. And I have to say, IÂ'm a sucker for zombies. When it comes to zombie movies, a few great ones come to mind. RomeroÂ's Â"DeadÂ" series, ArgentoÂ's Â"DemonsÂ", Peter JacksonÂ's Â"Brain DeadÂ", and last but not least, Â"Return of the Living DeadÂ" – quite possibly the greatest zombie movie of all time.

Parts of RE4 pay direct homage to RomeroÂ's Night of the Living Dead. EveryoneÂ's had the discussion at one point in their lives. What would you do if all of a sudden zombies took over your town? You plot and plan with your friends, with visions of how you will barricade the entrances to your house, grab your dadÂ's shotgun, and hide behind the flipped over couch. In the first few hours of RE4 youÂ'll be doing this frequently, except the tension is greater because instead of watching the movie, youÂ're smack dab in the middle of it.

Leon S. Kennedy (Last seen in Resident Evil 2) is the star of RE4. HeÂ's on a mission from the President of the United States to rescue Ashley, the PresidentÂ's kidnapped daughter. The clues all point toward a creepy Eastern European village, with our hero determined to find the girl no matter how difficult the challenge. After a very unfriendly greeting by the villagers, Leon quickly realizes that thereÂ's something a bit more insidious taking place.

I found the story itself to be a bit underwhelming and cliché, but itÂ's right at home with the rest of the series. ItÂ's not to say I didnÂ't like it, but I can honestly say my main drive in getting through the game wasnÂ't to discover the truth, it was all the ass kicking in between. You can expect a number of twists and turns, and the appearance of certain characters later in the game definitely ties the series together. ThereÂ's no mistaking this as anything other than a Resident Evil game.

The village itself is pretty vile. Rundown shacks and houses dot the landscape, chickens run wild through the streets, and there are disturbing looking pots of unknown fluids scattered throughout town.

RE4 wastes no time dropping you into the action. It doesnÂ't take long before you are having a showdown with the angry mob before you. One thing youÂ'll notice early in the game is that these arenÂ't your daddyÂ's zombies. The villagers lumber towards you, but out of nowhere they can lurch with amazing speed. When you raise your weapon, they will block their faces, dodge your attacks, and lunge at you fiercely. ItÂ's a bit chilling when youÂ're spotted for the first time; a villager raises his hand and points at you while alerting the others to your location.

When it comes to controls, RE4 attempts to fix one of the most common complaints in the series, namely the tank-like movement of the characters. What results is a hybrid third person Â"over the shoulderÂ" perspective that is well suited to the action. LeonÂ's movements feel very fluid and tight when moving with the analog stick, but I had some complaints with the C-Stick. I find the Nintendo controller to be a bit awkward at times, and it made me wish I had another full analog thumb stick instead of NintendoÂ's little yellow Â"nubÂ". Looking around re-centers the camera when you let go, and I found this to be annoying when trying to peek around corners so I wouldnÂ't have to blindly rush in to my death.

Aiming is both a blessing and a curse. Nearly every weapon you acquire has a laser sight embedded, and for a good reason. RE4 has some areas where accurate sharp shooting is not only desirable, but absolutely essential. Shooting gallery mini-games will appear throughout your journey, and they are a great way to escape the tension as well as get some solid practice. Plus you can win some nifty prizes.

Individual parts of the enemy can be targeted, human or not. Limbs will snap back when fired upon, heads will crack and gush open, and legs will be blown off. You can also stop a spinning axe in mid-air by firing at it, how cool is that? The main gripe I have with this aiming system is that fact that you canÂ't move while aiming. Many times I had gotten into a jam and thought Â"wow, it sure would be nice to be able to back away from this mob while firingÂ". I realize that itÂ's supposed to add to the tension as the enemy edges closer and closer, but I found it extremely annoying. Thankfully, you are able to perform a quick 180 turn, so you arenÂ't completely helpless.

The lucky few who played through Shenmue on the Dreamcast will feel at home with the QTE (Quick Time Events) that show up throughout the journey. For those unaware, QTE requires you to press certain button combinations to avoid certain death. When those pesky villagers push a boulder off the cliff next to you, your quick button pressing skills will be tested, or you will die. I know weÂ've come a long way since DragonÂ's Lair, but these events add a unique flavor to the game. One particularly insane QTE has you rapidly pressing the Â"AÂ" button when youÂ've fallen off of your boat, as a very large sea creature rushes towards you. To say itÂ's intense is an understatement.

The weapons that you purchase throughout the game are very satisfying, and they make the killing a whole lot of fun. I was still giggling when I blew the head of my 1000th villager, red chunks flying in the air, as it continued to lumber towards me.

Buying the weapons is almost as fun as using them. RE4 has taken a great step and infused RPG like elements into its merchant system. Throughout the game, usually after an insanely intense battle, you will stumble across a merchant selling his wares. This provides a nice breather from the action, and allows you to creatively customize your Â"stockÂ". Throughout the game you will come across random treasure, be it jewels, antiques or just plain cash the bodies leave behind. These can be sold to the merchant at a premium price. You can also purchase a treasure map and do some hunting in your spare time, which definitely adds to the replay value.

Inventory is handled in a slot system similar to Deux-Ex and other RPGÂ's. You can only hold a certain number of items at a time, and your Tetris skills will come into play as you try and manipulate that first aid spray to fit snugly against the rifle ammo. Weapons can be upgraded to different levels of firepower, reload speed, and more. Handguns can be equipped with stocks, and rifles with different scopes. ItÂ's incredibly fun to try different combinations, and there are an impressive number of weapons which are freshly stocked along the way.

The enemies in this game are spectacular. The villagers are the stock cannon fodder throughout the game, but each new chapter introduces a unique set of enemies, which progressively amp up with your skill level. Just when you think you are ass-kicking hero of the year, the later acts introduce a new enemy which is quite the challenge to kill. Not to mention incredibly, incredibly disturbing.

The boss fights are some of the most impressive IÂ've seen in a game to date, bar Ninja Gaiden. There are some battles of epic proportions, and they are all very satisfying. For the most part they arenÂ't very cheap, and will leave you smiling instead of cursing afterwards. There are also some great mini-bosses that you will encounter that provide some memorable, if disturbing moments.

Graphically this is one of the finest console games to date. In the quiet moments, I found myself soaking up the beautiful atmosphere. One of my favorite experiences was walking down a dirt path toward the next village. A thunderstorm had started, and the rain slowly fell from the sky. As I walked towards the town, the lightning flashes provided a momentary peek at my surroundings; I had to strain my eyes to see if the light would point out any enemies. Within a second it was dark again, and I hoped the flash would return.

The character models are extremely detailed, and besides some minor clipping issues involving doors, there was very little to complain about.

The sound in this game is equally impressive. The weapons pack a nice punchy sound and the environmental effects are great. One enemy in particular is quite terrifying to hear; whenever it gets close you hear a disturbing breathing sound, like someone with bad asthma. It gets under your skin.

The level design in the game is excellent. Unlike previous Resident Evil games, you do very little backtracking. Rest assured, the dingy village isnÂ't the only location youÂ'll visit; in true Resident Evil fashion, some Victorian-esque locations appear later in the game. The typical Resident Evil Â"insert jewel A into door BÂ" puzzles make an appearance, but they do little to interfere with the flow of things.

Difficulty wise, Resident Evil is average. ItÂ's not hard enough to make you stop playing out of frustration, instead providing a gradually increasing level of difficulty. You can definitely tell it is geared more towards action than adventure, as some of the villagerÂ's letters you find leave little to the imagination. Completing the game gives you a harder setting to play through, for the sado-masochists out there. RE4 also has a decent length, clocking in around 20 hours of play.

Anyone with even a passing interest in the survival horror genre should give RE4 a permanent spot in their collection, as it truly is the finest representation of the genre, and is the next evolution of videogame horror. Kudos to Capcom for listening to fans and putting an incredible amount of detail in this title. HereÂ's hoping that the next in the series delves even further into the addicting RPG elements.

Now if youÂ'll excuse me, I just upgraded my uber-shotgun and thereÂ's some heads that need Â"˜explodin.

- Swat


I'm sorry I sold my 'Cube.

One day, when the Game Cube goes the way of the dreamcast, I'll be able to buy it and the few good games that come with it on a discount shelf.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. To this day I still have no idea what the main export of Morocco

My sister owned that game. I believe that correct answer is either coffee beans or coacoa beans.

karmajay wrote:

One day, when the Game Cube goes the way of the dreamcast, I'll be able to buy it and the few good games that come with it on a discount shelf.

The GC isnt' close to going the way of the dreamcast. It has sold more units world wide than the Xbox.


If this is an "Eastern European village", how come the folks are apparently Spanish?

Are the chickens that roam the streets also totally non-zombies, or they are unaffected?

The chickens just don't fit into the diabolical plan

There's no mention of where this all takes place (unless I missed a memo along the way) but it's confirmed that they all speak Spanish. I guess the "Eastern" bit isn't a good call. However, the village feels like it has a run-down Croatian/Ukranian vibe, possibly because the villagers have physical characteristics to go along with it. Larger foreheads, sunken eyes.. and of course the barrels of saurkraut lying around.

When I picture Spain, I picture sexy topless women on the beaches, and I hope to keep that memory alive

When I picture Spain, I picture sexy topless women on the beaches, and I hope to keep that memory alive

So you don't want to picture topless zombies lurching towards you filled with an all consuming hatred.

It was REALLY cool to hear the villagers speaking Spanish the first time I encountered them. It's all correctly used, too, which is kinda rare. What great attention to detail.

I'd never have believed it, but RE4 is WORTH buying a Gamecube for. I didn't even like the RE series.

Buy this game, or I'll kill you.

Buy this game, or I'll kill you.

And then I'll kill you again once you are totally not a zombie!

Mex wrote:

... RE4 is WORTH buying a Gamecube for.

I haven't played it yet, but I'd bet he's right. I mean considering how much moeny some of you guys spend on games every month, $100 for the cube won't break you and you might find some great games you'd otherwise miss.

Nice review. I'm working my way therough RE4, and let me tell you, it is pure, unadulterated gaming joyness. I'm about 8 hours in, and if this keeps up, I might end up calling it the best game i've ever played, with only a slight amount of euphoria-induced exaggeration. Damn right it's worth the price of a Gamecube.