If you asked us two years ago, we’d say that Capcom was out of its mind when it signed an exclusivity deal with Nintendo for its Resident Evil
franchise. At the time, the console was the least popular of the big three and without a doubt, the least powerful. However, in all those years something amazing happened, almost as if Capcom was unable to unlock the hidden potential of the GameCube that had been missing up to that point. That masterpiece was Resident Evil
. Suddenly Capcom didn’t look so stupid and the GameCube didn’t look so inferior to its competitors. Now with Resident Evil 4
the boys at Capcom have revolutionized the way we look at the survival horror genre and video gaming in general.
You’re Leon S. Kennedy, the protagonist from Resident Evil 2
. After the debacle at Raccoon City Leon joined a Special Forces group where he carried out a number of missions for the United States Government. At the onset of the game, it is learned that the President’s daughter has been kidnapped on her way home from college. In an effort to keep her disappearance under the radar, Leon is called in to a remote village to investigate her disappearance and bring her back home safely. Don’t expect any welcoming committees though, soon after his arrival the villagers start going crazy and appear to hate their newfound stranger. It seems that the villager’s disdain for Leon and his quest to find the missing daughter are interlinked and he’ll have the face the great evil in order to accomplish his mission. Along the way he’ll run into a couple of old friends, a midget with a Napoleon complex and an insane cultist hell-bent on taking over the world. It all sounds very clichéd but the manner in which the story is presented, including the cult’s plan for world domination, is unique and different from what we’ve seen before.
Leon’s adventure will start out in a rural village but by the end of it, he’ll have traversed a gothic castle, a lava chamber, an industrial complex, a hedge maze, a cemetery and a fortified island. Each location in the game looks unique and generally sparkles thanks to some amazing architecture and level design. Even when you’re backtracking you won’t feel cheated because the designers added some extras (such as a beautiful rain effect) in order to spruce up your trip. The locations are memorable as well, including the amazing lava chamber which simply has to be seen to be believed.
One of the most often asked questions pertaining to this game was “where are the zombies?” to which the response was always “there are none.” The mindless idiots that we so loved to kill in the past have been replaced with a number of more intelligent beings. Zombies are creepy and all but there’s something particularly unsettling about a middle-aged house wife running at me full speed with a cleaver in her hand. It’s almost scarier when I think about the fact that I’m being hunted by a smarter and more intelligent being that is able to think and operate on the same level that I do. As the game progresses you’ll discover the ill effects that the cult has on its denizens, leading to some pretty grotesque creatures. Suffice to say that enemy diversity isn’t really issue with this game.
RE4 is played from an over-the-shoulder perspective that displays essentially what the protagonist sees. This is highly disorienting at first and the initial impression we had was that the system was clunky and ineffective. After about 15 minutes our tone had changed, we were convinced that this was not only the proper way to convey the action, but it was the only way. Part of the fright and chills that come from this genre of gaming revolves around the fact that the player can never quite get a full grasp of that which lies ahead. There are plenty of blind spots to be had but that’s part of the fun. It’s frighteningly delightful to tackle on a group of zombies only to have another group flank you from the side and scare the living daylights out of you.
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