Resident Evil 4 (Biohazard 4)

Capcom's renovation of the Resident Evil franchise couldn't be much better than this.


The Lowdown

Pros: Jaw dropping graphics, with superb gameplay innovations makes Resident Evil 4 a top notch title.

Cons: Some of those cheap scares that made the Resident Evil series famous are lost. 

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Resident Evil 4 has been plagued with delay after delay. The game was announced over two years ago, when the first screen shots of the title showed a gloomy mansion. After an entire gameplay overhaul, Resident Evil 4 is released. The wait was well worth it because Resident Evil 4 is simply the best game in the series.

Set after the events in Raccoon City, Resident Evil 4 puts you in the role of Leon Kennedy. He was that unlucky officer who faced a swarm of virus infected people running rampant in Raccoon City on his first day of work. He survived the whole ordeal and has been transferred to a special agency in the US government. His first mission is to rescue the president's daughter, Ashley Graham. She's reported to be seen in a remote village in Europe. Of course, Leon head's on the next plane to Europe, but he gets an unsettling welcome.

The town in Resident Evil 4 isn't full of zombies, strange inhabitants yes, but not zombies. As soon as Leon runs into one of them, the bloody eyed townsfolk grabs a hatchet and strikes Leon with it. Something is defiantly wrong with these people. What is going on in this village, is one of the mysteries in this game. These mysterious villagers are much smarter than even the most dreaded crimson zombie. When you're trying to concentrate your aim, they'll bob from side to side to dodge bullets. If  you think kicking ladders down and hiding in a corner will save you, think again. A single villager will pick up a ladder and they will gang up on you if you hide. The level of AI in the game is impressive.

The number of attacking civilians is much greater than any other Resident Evil title. Because of this the game's ammo system and item system has been redesigned. To keep with the flow of action Leon can acquire bullets with ease. You still can't spray bullets on screen like a first person shooter, but you can use your pistol at leisure. You can use your equipped gun by holding R down and use your combat knife by holding down L. When you pull your gun out you'll see a red laser that can be used to aim. Shooting an enemy in different locations affects how they react. For instance shooting an enemy in the hand could cause them to drop their weapon, while shooting their legs will make them fall to the ground. Besides the standard pistol Leon will be able to purchase new guns like a shotgun, semi automatic TMP and the elusive rocket launcher. That's right Leon can purchase items. By picking up pestas Leon will be able to negotiate with a mysterious cloaked merchant. The hooded figure can also upgrade Leon's firearms to make them carry more bullets, shoot faster or increase the firepower. Like all Resident Evil titles you're limited to how much stuff you can carry. Instead of having generic item boxes Leon has a case with a Diablo-like item grid to place items in it. Obviously larger guns take up more space then packs of bullets or herbs. It's up to the player to intelligently arrange the items to maximize the amount of stuff Leon can carry.

The changes in the Resident Evil formula are designed to make it more like an action game than a slow paced adventure title. The pace is really refreshing and makes the game feel more intense. Even when exploring there is a level of tension. Cleverly laid out booby traps like trip wires are placed to keep gamers on their toes. The best part about the game is that Capcom manages to change what you're doing so often that you won't ever be bored. Besides walking around the village you'll be driving a motorboat and battling a giant sea creature. After that you'll outrun a huge boulder and then shoot a rocket through a huge ogre called "el gigante". As a player you just don't get a break and that's a good thing. Once you master playing Leon you'll have Ashley following you around and have to worry about her safety. The only thing we could wish for are more scares. Resident Evil 4 doesn't pull that many cheap scares where things jump out at you. Instead the game has an ominous creepy feel to it, similar to the Silent Hill series. Every once in awhile a snake will jump out of a crate or you'll run into a bear trap, but enemies don't try to shock scare you the way they would in older Resident Evil titles.

Besides all of the gameplay improvements Resident Evil 4 gets a serious graphical overhaul. The whole game engine runs so smoothly, while looking so great. Many times the game seamlessly switches from a FMV back to gameplay without much difference. All of the characters in the game, especially Leon are so detailed. Little things like the realistic looking fire and the clever use of lighting make Resident Evil 4 one of the best looking games on the game cube. Another major shit is removing the 2D pre-rendered backgrounds that made the series famous. They're replaced with full 3D environments. The full out 3D world looks amazing, even if it's a bit colorless. The perspective in the game is also unique. Leon is always at the back of the screen and the camera takes an over the shoulder approach. The shift in camera allows you to see a wider range of what is going on compared to a first person mode. Since the camera is well fixed players won't need to focus on moving it and just focus on the incoming action.

Resident Evil 4 is contained on 2 discs and with over 15 hours of gameplay you'll be getting your money's worth. Once you complete Resident Evil 4 you're offered a number of new gameplay modes to keep you playing again. One of them is a new difficulty level and another one allows you to play as a completely new character. If you're a fan of the series, you'll be pleasantly surprised who it is. The whole experience of Resident Evil 4 from start to finish is constant entertainment. Even if you've never picked up a Resident Evil game before or aren't a fan of them try this out. Resident Evil 4 stands among the top games in the Gamecube library and it will be one of the best games in 2005.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0/4

This Resident Evil title doesn't have as many puzzles that require a deep knowledge of Japanese to get through. Plus the action is self explanatory.

US Bound?

Resident Evil 4 was released in the US on January 11, 2005.

Overall

Out of all the excellent Gamecube titles out there Resident Evil 4 is one of the few games to live up and surpass all of the hype around it. If you have a Gamecube pick this game up right away!