First Impressions: Resident Evil 4 (Nintendo Gamecube)

As a fan of the series there’s just something satisfying about waiting in anticipation for the game to be released then booting the game up to hear that deep voice say “Resident Evil Four“. You’ve got to give the guy who does the voice credit for being able to make the number four sound like something you’d be afraid to meet in a dark alley. But it’s one of the staples of the Resident Evil series and gets you back into the zombie killing mood. Except there are no zombies this time around…

Right away the game explains some of the background of what happened in Racoon City and the Umbrella Corporation, and then explains that six years have passed. The story moves on to Leon Kennedy, the rookie cop from Resident Evil 2, who is now a government agent looking for the Presidents missing daughter in some remote European location. Leon with two other local law officers stop near a village to ask is anyone has seen the girl, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

That’s also when you get to take over control of Leon, and when you’ll start noticing some of the major differences to the game. For one thing, now you don’t have to worry about some of the crappy fixed camera angles, the camera follows Leon from a third person perspective right at the back of his head. You can move the camera around with the C stick as well. Holding down R draws whatever weapon you have equipped, Leon starts with a Handgun. He also always has a knife that can be quickly drawn out by holding the L button. When the handgun is drawn the camera perspective zooms in closer and the handgun has a laser sight to aim with.

Another immediate difference is the enemies you’ll face. No more zombies, now you’ve got villagers to fight. I know what your thinking, fighting a bunch of Europeans? What kind of challenge is that? These are no ordinary villagers though, something you’ll notice when you shoot a couple of rounds into one of them and they still keep getting up. Or how after you kill them they’ll melt like a barbie in the microwave. These super freaks are not only hard to kill but unlike the zombies of the past games these guys think. They’ll comes in groups, some will run, others will duck when you shoot at them, many will have weapons and some will throw those weapons at you (including explosives). While I was originally diappointed that there wasn’t going to be any zombies I’m glad they made this change because fighting a horde of these freaky villagers is intense. The new camera and aiming system makes the battle more fun and stategic as well since you can now damage body parts. Have a group of villagers running at you? Shoot them in the knees. A guy getting ready to through a stick of dynamite at you? Blow it up in his hands and watch the carnage. Speaking of carnage, one thing that is back in the game is the ability to blow off a head off of someones shoulders, though watch out, sometime the headless body will still attack you. Believe me this game has earned it’s M rating.

The biggest difference in the game however is how it is more like an action game like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden than an standard Resident Evil game. Like in those games you’ll face hordes of enemies and from their bodies gain ammo and health as well as items that can be used to upgrade your weapons later on. Instead of being stuck in a mansion or on an island you’ll be wandering through this village, and while there are linear paths there are also some open areas that you are encouraged to explore through. The game even is broken up in chapters like an action game. So far I’ve not encountered one ‘look for an armor key for the shield door’ part. In fact one of the things my friends and I have been complaining about since the first game was why we couldn’t just shoot the lock of the door or kick it in. I say a lock in Resident Evil 4, shot at it just for fun and it broke off! Ha!

Even with all of the changes the game still retains the atmosphere of the Resident Evil series and many of the familiar parts of the series are still in the game, like Green Herbs, the First Aid Spray and saving at the Typewriters (thankfully to don’t have to find ribbon this time). The story may not have the usual zombies or Umbrella Corp in it(at least not yet) but because of that the story is actually more interesting. There’s a mystery behind the village and what is happening and the game slowly reveals what is going on.

A review will be up shortly once we have spent more time with the game.