Gaming Evolution Gaming Evolution Gaming Evolution Gaming Evolution Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
Genre: Survival Horror
Players: 1
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: January 11, 2005
Written By: Daniel Sims

I have only one, very important question...

March 8, 2005 - Ever since Capcom's remake of their own classic original Resident Evil came out for Nintendo's GameCube in 2002, I've been enjoying this series, as well as the Survival Horror genre more than ever before. But ever since then I've always known in the back of my mind that this game was coming down the pipe sooner or later. Even as I burned through REmake and Zero at record pace I was always thinking of this one, even if I didn't have much of a clue as to how much it would change things.

For the last couple of years I've watched and scanned nearly every piece of information that has been available on this game. I have watched as the game has been retooled and retooled again and again, forcing us to wait just a little bit longer. I was amazed when I saw what Capcom had presented as the final vision of what the game would be and I was not surprised when this game quickly became one of the most anticipated games on Nintendo's platform.

Well, the wait is over and the game is finally here. It has brought many changes to the franchise as well as the genre, but are these changes for the better?

Has Capcom truly reinvented and rejuvenated the seven-year-old Resident Evil franchise? The Review...

One of the most compelling things about Resident Evil has been the relatively realistic storyline. Where other similar games have involved zombies, spirits, the undead, and curses and all that mystical stuff, the Resident Evil has taken a more modernized take on the whole horror thing. Instead of anything mystical or spiritual, the cause for all the undead has always been scientific. Things like viruses, biological weapons, and large super corporations. This has made RE feel like something that could happen in our everyday lives, as well as helped it to stand apart from other games and has made it very successful. However, Resident Evil 4 actually begins to tread the lines between scientific and mystical, involving a storyline about cults. However, although it may seem like something more along the lines of traditional horror at first, the story still keeps itself deep in the realistic, scientific theme that has been in the previous games.

The storyline stars Leon S. Kennedy, the hero from Resident Evil 2, and takes place six years after that game, in the autumn of 2004. Since the end of RE2, he has joined a government group under the direct command of the US president. For his first job, he has been assigned to find and rescue the president's daughter, who has been kidnapped and reportedly sighted in rural Europe. Leon is eventually led to a small village in Spain where he encounters and is attacked by villagers who, although are not zombies, are still out to kill him. Are they human? Or are they something else?

This franchise has always been known for creating a very spooky, creepy environment that at the same time looks surprisingly modern and realistic. It's creepy, but still recognizable as a place you might always see or go to. Resident Evil has also always exhibited a variety of different environments to go through and survive. From mansions, to trains, to caves, to streets, and of course, laboratories, RE has always brought players through a variety of both fantastic and real-world environments. This latest installment takes all of this a step further with a change in perspective.

I the past games, everything was displayed through a very cinematic angle, which served to sort of emphasize the kind of world Resident Evil was. All of the creepy cinematic angles oftentimes brought exactly the kind of feeling that Capcom wanted whatever it might have been. RE was one of the first games to use this technique and it proved successful. However, Resident Evil 4 brings a big change, probably the biggest in the game.

Instead of the cinematic, fixed camera angles of the past games, the entirety of Resident Evil 4 is displayed from over the character's shoulder. The new over-the-shoulder view allows you to see the unique environments in real time. Although this is not the first Resident Evil game to use fully 3D environments, it is the first to present a more personal perspective that brings you right into the action and brings you closer to the games creepy and strangely real environments. In the past games I was definitely able to feel the environments, even if they were mostly still, pre-rendered environments. In the more recent games such as the remake and Zero, there was even vibrant motion in the environments that brought them to life despite the fact that they were still and pre-rendered. However, the more up close and personal environments of Resident Evil 4 take everything from the past games and amplifies it. Where you might watch your character walk through a beautiful but somewhat still, pre-rendered environment in any of the other Resident Evil games, in Resident Evil 4 you'd almost feel like you yourself were carefully walking through dark and eerily beautiful world.

How about the environments themselves? They are all certainly as well, if not better designed than players come to expect from the previous games. You are also getting the same kind of variety here. In any Resident Evil game you'd be likely to start in a mansion and somehow end up going from there to anywhere from dark caverns to cold laboratories. This tradition is continued in this installment.

The first environment in Resident Evil 4 is a village in rural Spain. As you walk up to the very first house you can already get a sense of just how creepy Capcom designed it all to be. The first part of this game is all in broad daylight, something new for Resident Evil. Instead of so much black and dark red tones, the village of RE4 has a lot of brown tones that serve to exhibit the feel of and old village. Old tattered walls, creaky wooden floors, the sunlight coming through the windows, and even corpses burning on the stake, all presented to the player in real time, serve to make this area of Resident Evil 4 especially realistic and compelling.

From here the game takes you to places such as a castle, an island, and the laboratory within. The amount of detail and design quality put into the village does not stop with these new areas. All throughout the castle chapters you can see how Capcom put real care into the medieval design of the castle's walls, decoration, candles, and it's many decadent chambers. All of this, plus the constant moaning and chanting of the cultists residing in the castle made it creepier than the mansions normally seen in the previous RE games. I was immensely impressed with what they did with the creaky old castle, the military style environment, and the cold, abandoned laboratory full of god-knows-what kind of creations.

From the creaky old cottages of the villages to the dark halls of the castle, to the modern and clean but no less creepy lab, I loved it all as Capcom brought them into a whole new perspective that allowed me to see just how spooky they could be up close and personal.

Not only are the environments of Resident Evil 4 truly amazing, but so are the people and creatures that populate them. One of my favorite things about this game is how Capcom was able to continually surprise me with enemies that were always far more shocking than the last!

The enemies in this game start out normally enough with just regular humans that are out to kill you. Different people like villagers, farmers, and monks and all that good stuff. But whenever you least expect it, someone new and freaky to the point where it's just wrong shows up. Of course there's the famous chainsaw maniac with the bean sack over his head. But let me tell you that he is nowhere near the tip of the ice burg when it comes to enemies in this game. Every single time I encountered an enemy that I thought was the freakiest thing I had ever seen, I would walk into the very next room and see something that eclipsed it in a way that simply left me staring at my TV with wide open eyes and jaw on the floor.

I won't spoil anything to you, but by the time you finish the first disk, you'll miss the chainsaw man. Definitely some of the best designed enemies in any game I've played this generation.

Let's not forget about the cutscenes, another aspect of the Resident Evil presentation that puts it up there. In the past, they were all CG movies that looked excellent for their time. More recently, Capcom has been able to push out CG movies in Zero, Outbreak, and Onimusha that almost look to challenge Square's movies in quality, but that's in the past for RE.

As Capcom has continually announced, virtually everything in Resident Evil 4 is done in the game's excellent real time engine. Normally I'd be afraid because of the loss of Capcom's excellent CG work, but Resident Evil 4's excellent new real time engine pushes out movies of quality on par with many of today's best games. Camerawork, body animation, and facial animation in this game are at a level of quality that I rarely see in real time engines, outdoing virtually everything else on GameCube.

And of course all these movies have to have some kind of scriptwriting. In the past, the dialogue in Resident Evil games has been notoriously cheesy to the point of being constantly parodied. Later on, it became decent and tolerable. In this game, it's never really bad at all and I actually found it to be quite funny at times. Through this I also noticed how much Capcom tried to make the game appeal to western audiences with references and phrases that you'd probably only find in America. I found this a very nice touch that I enjoyed throughout the game.

Incredible. The graphics engine of this game is simply incredible. I swear every 5 minutes I'm playing this game I find myself stopping to say to myself how freaking amazing these graphics are.

Past Resident Evil games have had some of the most impressive graphics of their respective platforms using very well conceived pre rendered backgrounds. Capcom used these with the utmost quality right up to the more recent games in the past couple of years. Although Resident Evil 4 is not the first game in the series to use fully 3D backgrounds, the games change in perspective does served to further emphasize how much faith Capcom has decided to put into their new real-time game engine.

It seems like Capcom chose just the right time and platform on which show this faith in their new engine because none of the graphical quality of the game is lost in this new installment. The real-time visuals in this game are no less impressive than those of any previous RE game and push the limits of the GameCube like never before, rivaling even the latest PC games such as DOOM 3 and Half Life 2.

As described above, this game has excellent art direction. And this art direction is brought out beautifully by a very competent graphics engine that is able render it's very smallest details and bring out its character throughout a variety of highly atmospheric environments and detailed characters. Individual planks of wood are rendered and built together to make whole structures, flames rage on looking the closet to real I've seen in nearly any game, rain falls to the ground in a most realistic fashion, characters are rendered right down to flowing hair and individual folds in clothing that moved dynamically. This is the kind of detail Capcom put into the game. Whether it was a creaky old rural village, a lake in the middle of beautiful rainfall, a decadent old castle, or a dark and cold laboratory I always felt like I was being pulled into the game completely.

What makes the visuals in this game so incredible is probably the amount of detail Capcom put into each area and the excellent art direction pointed out above. It is almost impossible not to notice how many of the very smallest elements of the game's world are rendered with so much care and all put together to make a beautiful and complete world. When you look at each individual thing, the textures and polygon counts may leave something to be desired when compared with the other high-end games of today. The textures, although made with much artistic detail, may not look quite like the best thing you've ever seen and smaller things may all be done rather simply, but what makes it all look so good is when this is all put together (along with the incredible execution of water, rain, and fog effects) to create some of the most crisp, detailed graphics of this console generation.

This game is truly the best showcase for the GameCube's graphic capabilities yet.

If anything at all, this has to be one of the most intense games I've ever played. Capcom has always been known for making exceptionally difficult games, but the intensity in this game goes beyond anything else I've seen in this series or on this platform.

The gameplay of the past RE games has been known to be somewhat slow and very cerebral. There were many puzzles and other obstacles that would require a lot of backtracking and a lot of critical thought. This is one thing that many people may have been critical of in the past because a lot of people didn't like the logic of most of the puzzles. I myself never really had any problem with the traditional Resident Evil gameplay. However, I am still very happy with what Capcom has been able to do with this game.

In past games most of the survival part of survival horror was placed in item management, and occasionally getting past dangerous enemies. There is still item management in this game but it has been made much easier and more freedom has been put into it. Most of the survival in this game lies in simply surviving the onslaught of enemies that constantly come after you. Capcom has completely changed the rhythm of this game from something where you'd shoot zombie after zombie before they can walk towards you to something where you must constantly fight off dozens upon dozens of some of the most relentless enemies ever.

What changes the rhythm so much is the new enemy AI. For starters, instead of being able to pause and go into the inventory screen and reload your weapons whenever you needed to, you are now only able to reload in-game, which certainly raises tension in battles considering how small an alteration this is. The zombies of the past games would simply walk towards you slowly and occasionally surround you. Now, the people trying to kill you in RE4 will run at you, surround you, throw blades and shoot arrows at you, throw dynamite at you, and even set traps. You try to hide yourself in a house and barricade the doors and they will break right through it, bring up ladders all over the second floor, and in one case, even try to burn it down with you inside it! When a battle begins in this game, Capcom will not give you a single second to exhale.

However, this does not mean you can't also do more in this game. The control scheme of the past RE games remains pretty much intact, but because of the change in the camera angle (that you have near full control over), it feels so much more natural for those who felt alienated by the old system. I personally never had trouble with the classic RE controls, but I still like these a lot better. Many of you may be a bit disappointed with the absence of a strafing feature, but even without this small addition to the game, the player remains generally in control of Leon throughout the game and it remains a very suspenseful experience.

There is one pretty big addition to the control scheme of this game: The inclusion of a context-sensitive button. With the A button you can do very many things such as jump through a window, perform a suplex, kick a door open (or open it quietly, your choice), or even kick down (or raise up) a ladder. The addition of the context sensitive button opens up gameplay possibilities like never before.

The new camera makes aiming many times easier than in the previous games. Before you would just simply shoot an enemy regardless of where it might hit. In RE4, the ability to actually aim your weapon also gives rise to location specific damage. For the first time in the series, enemies have different reactions depending on where you shoot them, which also puts more strategy into the action of the game (one of my favorite ways of dispatching Ganados is by first shooting them in the legs, which drops them on the floor and incapacitates them, then proceeding to finish them off). In fact, accuracy and sharp shooting is a rather sizable part of the game. Just remember, in this game, it is unwise to always go for headshots.

Another aspect of the game that serves to integrate the presentation and the Gameplay is the inclusion of Shenmue-style QTEs (Quick-Timer-Events). These are cut scenes that include points where a button (or combination of buttons) will appear on screen and you will have to quickly press those buttons. These have actually appeared in many arcade games for years, mainly in the old brawlers. It was Shenmue that did them best and brought them into the limelight, as well as gave them the name QTEs. Usually (and in Shenmue's case) how well you do will affect your path. In Resident Evil 4, if you don't make most or all of the button presses, you'll just die and have to do it over again, which is a little bit of a letdown compared to the game that did them the best but the way they are put together in RE4 is excellent. There will be times where you'll have to rapidly jam the A or B button to run away wile dodging with other buttons in the middle of it. You might have to jam two buttons at the same time to dodge oncoming objects or jam down the B button to rapidly slash at something. You will even have to do QTE dodges while you are playing, which is something totally new. There's even a whole QTE battle in this game that is one of the most entertaining things I've ever gone through.

If there is one thing that may have put some people off when hearing about this game, it was probably the fact that you will have to protect someone throughout very much of your time playing. Yes, a lot of this game is pretty much one big escort mission, but it's probably the least annoying one I've ever gone through. The person you must protect, Ashley Graham, actually has a pretty smart AI. If you aim your weapon, she will stand behind you so as not to get hit. If you aim it directly at her, she will duck. You can tell her to hide, you can call her, you can tell her to wait, and she never ever gets stuck behind any walls, doors, or anything else. She even earns her keep by helping you with obstacles from time to time. However, you can't peek up her skirt, so don't try.

The formerly limited inventory system has been expanded to add a much bigger sense of freedom. First of all, it's a lot larger and you can buy size upgrades. As if this wasn't enough, items now take up space in relation to their size, which adds another level of realism in inventory management. You have the ability to shift, turn, and flip objects in your inventory in order to make more room available. All very nice.

One new aspect about the gameplay in this game that I always found kind of odd was the weapon shop system. You obtain new weapons in this game primarily by buying them from a weapons salesman who appears and various places throughout the game. You can buy weapons or upgrade the ones you've got by increasing their power, ammo capacity, firing speed, and reload speed. At first I didn't think it would fit very realistically with the whole RE theme but I think it goes into the game very nicely and adds in a little more complexity as well as more action and arcade elements. I also enjoy the salesman's voice.

From the very beginning of the game players will realize that this installment puts a much larger focus on intense action than the previous games in the series. This means fewer puzzles and the ones that are in the game are quite simple compared to the older ones. Where in the past games they might involve a lot of backtracking, item gathering, and pattern memorization, the ones in RE4 are rarely anything more complex than weighing down switches, figuring out simple patterns, shooting the right spot, or having the right item. While a lot of people might believe that the puzzles of the past games made little sense, I never had a problem with them and would actually have preferred the more complex puzzles of the old games along with the new action of this game. It really depends on your opinion of the previous games.

With a new camera angle, more intense action, impressive new AI, and generally simpler gameplay, the gameplay of Resident Evil 4 is sure to attract new fans who may have felt alienated by the controls of the old RE games.

Now I wasn't able to play this game on any kind of stereo or surround sound system, but nonetheless I was still able to recognize the game's excellent audio quality. The character voices are all decent and probably some of the best in the series. None of them ever got annoying, which is only recently becoming a trend in RE games. Whenever I'm walking around I am always cautious when I hear the voices of enemies coming closer. They all have distinct sounds to clue you in and at least one of them will really freak you out.

Music has never really been a big component of the Resident Evil games but that never really hurts the game at all. There may be some areas where some creepy music might play to add to the atmosphere. The music will also change when you encounter enemies based on what area you are in and what enemy you have encountered.

The Audio in this game serves to compliment the experience just right.

At over 20 hours, Resident Evil 4 is by far the largest and longest game in the series, more than doubling (and possibly tripling) the length of any previous game. As if this alone weren't enough, there is very much incentive to play through the game a second and third time. On top of this, there are at least two or three addictive but difficult mini-games included along with a harder difficulty level and unlockable weapons & costumes. All of this put together should keep players busy for longer than on any other game in the series.

Closing Thoughts:
Resident Evil 4 is a game almost 4 years in the making and it looks like it was worth every extra minute they took. It is one of the best action games I have ever played, it is arguably the best survival horror game ever made, and it is a shining example of how developers should try to rejuvenate their old franchises from decline. Resident Evil 4 is the best game on the GameCube and will probably continue to be until the new Zelda game is released.

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