Review: Resident Evil 4 (Nintendo Gamecube)

Resident Evil 4
Platform: Gamecube
Genre: Survival Horror/Action
Developer/Publisher: Capcom
Rating: Mature
Release Date: 1/11/05

I remember back when the first Resident Evil game came out I used to sit around with friends passing the controller back and forth among ourselves taking turns killing zombies and all of us jumping at things like when the dog jumps through the window right at the beginning of the game. That was the first survival horror game I had played and loved it and played several more. Only thing I hated was the control system. After awhile other survival horror games realized that the game could still be scary without forcing you to fight with the controller, but the Resident Evil games continued to stick to stick to an outdated system.

Until now that is. Not only have they gotten rid of that control system they’ve also rid Resident Evil 4 of Zombies, and the main enemy is no longer Umbrella. No Zombies, Umbrella, and I don’t have to rotate around any longer? Are you sure it’s a Resident Evil game?


Story:

The story starts with Leon Kennedy, the unfortunate guy who started his first (and last) day as a police officer trying to escape Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2. He explains right away how the Umbrella Corporation went bankrupt after government contracts were withdrawn and their stock plummeted due to what happened in Raccoon City. It is now 6 years later and after extensive training over the years Leon is now a government agent who is currently in a small town in Europe looking for the Presidents daughter, who has been kidnapped and believed to have been seen in the area.

And that’s all I’ll say about the details of the story. Part of the reason the story is interesting is because trying to figure out what is going on is such a mystery. Now that you know the Umbrella Corporation is not behind this, who is? Why do they want the Presidents daughter? Why do the all the villagers hate you? For this reason I’m glad that they decided to give someone other than Umbrella a chance.

The story itself isn’t extremely complicated or full of in depth character development, and it doesn’t have to be. Much like most action movies out there is enough of a story to keep you watching and set up the action sequences, but it never gets in the way of the game or leave you wondering what that was all about after you’ve turn the system off. It is a very good balance between keeping the story interesting while never slowing the action down. The game tells the story through cutscenes and through notes lying around in the game. I know that all the Resident Evil games have notes like this laying around, however you have to start wondering about the intelligence of the bad guys when they leave interoffice memos lying around that have titles like ‘Our Plan’ for you to find. The cutscenes are well done though some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy.

8/10


Graphics:

Has to be one of the best looking games I’ve played on the Gamecube, if not one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. The cutscenes look great, and the best part? The rest of the game uses the same graphics and it looks just as good when you are controlling Leon. It is all done seamlessly with a minimal amount of loading throughout the game. The character models are all highly detailed, from the small details of the character costumes to the buckets of gore. Often there will be several enemies on screen all looking to take you down and the game doesn’t slowdown or choke on any of it, even when there are enemies that will take up half of the screen. The areas in the game are also impressive, both in size and in design. When going from the village you start out in to other areas of the game, each has a unique design that makes it enjoyable to just gawk at. When going from one of these large areas to another there’s only a very brief moment of loading as well. We’ve come a long way from the door-opening screen.

The game is done in a widescreen view with small black bars that cover the top and bottom screens, but these are almost unnoticeable and offer a wider peripheral view. There is a small amount of clipping sometimes when an enemy drops right on top of Leon or with some of the breakable boxes but it is something you will barely notice and doesn’t affect the game at all.

9/10


Sound:

The game supports Dolby Pro Logic II and is full of sounds that will make you need to change your pants.

The music is great and nerve wracking. The music will swell when surrounded by a horde of enemies making a tense situation even more intense. At one point I calmed down a little after the music went away thinking that meant I had defeated all of the villagers, until and ax ended up in Leon’s chest. The music is perfect for the situations it is used in and will leave you even more on the edge of your seat, just don’t start thinking you are safe just because there isn’t any music playing.

The voices of the villagers are a mixed assortment of grunts and groans with a mix of Spanish thrown in. You will really have to hear the their grunts and the sound of a pitchfork missing you by inches, or a head exploding to really appreciate of creepy the sounds in the game are. Speaking of voices, what happened to Leon? Over the last six years he must’ve been taking classes in witty comebacks since our hero is now a gun toting wise cracking government agent. While some of the dialogue seems heavy handed, it’s hard not to appreciate Leon swearing under his breath when encountering overpowering odds or throwing out an overconfident remark to the leader of all this mess.

10/10


Controls:

Amazing. After waiting years for just a RE with analog control they up and change the whole system. No longer do you have to worry about a fixed camera or rotating your character around, now the camera follows closely behind Leon and now it is much much easier to control. Movement is made with the joystick and you draw out a weapon with the R button. When a weapon is drawn the view will zoom in close to Leon shoulder in an almost first person perspective, while zoomed in a laser sight will help you aim whatever weapon Leon is holding. Realistically the sight moves around a bit while aiming making it harder to hit farther away enemies while still easy to hit closer enemies. Shooting is done by holding R and pressing A and you can reload at any time by holding R and pressing B. Holding the L button will have Leon draw out his knife which is useful to break boxes and in certain situations. Y will bring up the inventory quickly and Z will bring up the map quickly. The C stick lets you move the camera slightly and to zoom in and out with the rifle. X is used during the times that you are with Ashley (the presidents daughter) in order to make her follow you or stop. You can make a quick 180 at any time by flicking the control stick back and pressing B.

Then there is pressing different buttons for context sensitive situations. There will be times Leon can jump over a fence or through a window by pressing the A button. This is extremely useful during different fights to push objects in front of windows or push down ladders and it is always important to remember that you have the option to do so. This is also used outside of the fighting as well and it is important to remember to NEVER PUT THE CONTROLLER DOWN. Even during cutscenes you will not be safe from danger as there will be times that you will be required to push different buttons to escape danger. Don’t think you can just remember these combos if you die either since they are random and will change. I learned this the hard way from putting the controller down for a second to stretch after a boss fight and ended up dead.

The control system is not without a few problems. When you have a weapon drawn you cannot move and do not have the option to strafe. At the same time many of the enemies move slowly so it’s never really an issue. Aiming and turning feels kind of slow compared to what I’m used to from FPS but is never that big of an issue and the ability to do a quick 180 really helps. The biggest issue is how much I wish they had included a quick weapon select on the game pad so I wouldn’t have to access the inventory so many times during the game. Overall there are some things that I wish I could do in the game that I can’t do like aim faster or strafe, except none of that affects the gameplay at all. I honestly can’t wait for other shooting games to take this control system and see what they can do with it, almost surprising that this kind of control scheme hasn’t been thought of before.

9/10


Balance:

In many ways this game is a Resident Evil game. Also in many ways it is not. Almost the entire game is shooting and there is very little of the backtracking or Phoenix Key for the Dragon door type of puzzle solving that has been a part of the series. This game is much closer to an action style game like Devil May Cry than it is a Resident Evil game. Just because the game relies heavily on the action does it make it a brainless shooter? Not at all. One of the best things about the game is how much strategy is actually involved in taking out hundreds of these villagers. Head shots are fun so you can watch their heads explode, but when you are surrounded knee deep in enemies who are throwing explosives at you and dodging head shots aren’t always the best option. This is where Resident Evil really shines. In seconds you might have to decide who is the most dangerous and shoot their knees out so they’ll fall to the ground so you can take care of the less dangerous guys first. With a variety of weapons at Leon’s disposal there are different ways of tackling groups of enemies.

These enemies aren’t your run of the mill zombies either. At first I was pissed to hear that the zombies were gone but not anymore, these villagers are ten times worse than any zombie. They’ll dodge, throw weapons and explosives at you, try and surround you, and those are just some of the first type of enemies you’ll encounter! There are several different types of enemies that you will encounter as you go along that all have their different strengths and weaknesses. And the boss fights, oh the boss fights. Resident Evil 4 unmercifully throws at you some of the biggest and baddest bosses you can think of, and occasionally will have you face one almost right after another.

As you might be able to tell, RE4 is not and easy game. No one will ever play through this game the first time without suffering at least a couple deaths. Still it isn’t a game that is unbearable hard either, I’ve known people who have had hard times with previous RE games on easy beat this game. Even when you are almost out of ammo or health with a little bit of searching you should be able to find either, or wait till the enemy drops some. S you go along and harder enemies are introduced the game balances this by providing you with the ability to purchase health, weapon upgrades or completely new weapons with money that you find from killing different enemies or finding it located in crates. Overall the game does a great job with keeping the difficulty at a level where you will believe that Leon is facing overwhelming odds and still not feel like throwing the controller out the closest window. There are very few games like this that provide as much of a challenge without making it frustrating, and if you find it too easy then a harder level is unlock after beating the game.

10/10


Replayability:

After you’ve beat the game Capcom has given you several reasons to keep coming back. Once you’ve beaten the game you can play again with all the weapons and health that you ended the game with and with some additional weapons you can purchase, one of which is an infinite rocket launcher that costs more than you might be able to afford the first time through. Other than that there are also some parts of the game and a couple of alternate routes that I know I missed the first time through that I plan to play through again to see what I missed. Also there are mini-games! Two mini-games are unlocked once you’ve beaten the main game. There is also a shooting range type mini-game in the game near most merchants.

Operation Ada- You have to use Ada on a short mission to collect 5 samples. Except you have less health than Leon did at that point of the game and take less damage. Inventory management is more crucial and Ada does not have a knife which makes some situations a lot harder. For those looking for more of a challenge after the end of the game look no further.

Mercenaries- An arcade style RE mini-game? That’s right, in this game you try to earn the most points on four different maps. At first you start with one character and can unlock more with different abilities. The goal is to kill as many Ganados (villagers) as possible in a certain time limit. You can gain combo bonuses for killing several in a row and time bonuses as well. However in each level there is at least one enemy that is difficult to kill that is determined to chase you down and kill you.

These mini-games are really fun and will keep you coming back.

8/10


Originality:

This game doesn’t just break the mold for Resident Evil games, it is going to help change the survival horror genre. Some of the parts of Resident Evil are things lifted from other games, like how enemies drop health and ammo and the merchant/upgrade system will be familiar to fans of action games like Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry, but the combination of the new control system, the addition of the action buttons and the above merchant system while keeping some of the game standard makes this the most innovative game of the series and one of the most innovative games I’ve played recently.

9/10


Appeal:

This game will appeal to fans of the series as well as bring in fans of action games. Really if you have a Cube and are over 18 then you should give this game a shot since it is one of the best Gamecube games to come out recently. However this game is a big gorefest. With extra gore. Head exploding, things popping out of necks, people burning, rotting bodies, bodies exploding into a rain of guts, Leon swearing, believe me this game earned it’s M rating.

8/10


Addictiveness:

It is hard to believe when you sit down and play this game how much time flies. I played this game for over an hour and it only felt like minutes. That’s how addictive this game is. Half the time I wasn’t playing the game I was thinking about playing the game.

10/10


Miscellaneous:

Just to touch on this part of the game it is amazing on how different this game is from all of the other Resident Evil games, but in many ways is still a Resident Evil game. In some ways it is just cosmetic like the typewriters and green herbs, but mixing in other characters from the series and the atmosphere of the game makes it feel like a Resident Evil game even with the dramatic changes to the gameplay. Instead of just making some minor changes to a game that would likely sell well by the name alone Capcom really has gone above and beyond to create an immersive experience that takes the series in a fresh new direction. It was a bold move, but I’m glad they did it and now I can’t wait till Resident Evil 5.

10/10


Final Scores:

Story: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 10/10
Control: 9/10
Balance: 10/10
Replayability: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Addictiveness: 10/10
Appeal: 8/10
Misc: 10/10

Overall Score: 91/100
Final Score: 9/10