Sunday, September 12, 2010

VGR Resident Evil 4

Okay guys (and gals)...
This is it...
Episode 4.
This is the review people will probably disagree with me on...

Resident Evil 4 is a very well received game, everybody loves it, it even did receive some awards!
It "reinvented" the franchise, but is it true to its roots?
This game marked the big jump for this popular Capcom series in term of RE's plot, gameplay and feel.

I, for one, like to give any game its fair chances, and I'm not completly against changes and the evolution of a gaming series. As long as it follows the series' spirits and don't spit on the face of older fans who helped build the franchise's reputation and were there since the beginning...

Prepare for a very long, in-depth, review!

Also: Don't miss out my previous Resident Evil reviews! You can find them by using the VGR button link above! See my take on the earlier parts of the series~

VGR: Resident Evil 4
From Capcom
Played on Wii
Also available on Gamecube, PS2 and PC

Type Survival Horror
Year 2005/07

Leon is SPAIN!!

Capcom started working on Resident Evil 4 long before the project of RE Zero started out...

Resident Evil, like RE2 (I'm gonna quote this one a lot, so have a look at its review beforehand ;) 'kay?) is a game that evolved a lot during its production and almost ended up like a completly different game at various points.
It started production during the Dreamcast era of the RE games, a team of Capcom even went to Europe for inspiration and research (or "disguised vacation??...), but since after Code Veronica the days ahead of the Dream' were numbered the project kind of died there...
Then it was reborn on the PS2. The game was beginning to take form this time. It featured Leon returning to the series after his original Resident Evil 2 appearance, the story was taking place somewhere in Europe, this time not featuring cities and facilities but castles and forrests... Then an exclusivity contract was made with Nintendo and all "main" Resident Evil games had to come out on the Gamecube... To keep all this work, this project changed radically. It became a more action-oriented game, the zombies evolved into demons, gameplay changed a lot and it finally came out as Devil May Cry.

Resident Evil 4 started all over once again as a Gamecube title this time.
But now the goal was completly different.
Capcom made a deal with Nintendo. They were supposed to make 5 exclusive titles, and as a throwback to the original 8 bits Capcom/Nintendo days, they would be aimed specially to hardcore gamers, more difficult, quite long and old school arcad-ysh.
Thus was born the Capcom 5 project. 
Resident Evil 4 would be part of this series, so would 4 original games; P.N.03 (a 3rd person action game), Killer7 (a very stylized FPS), Dead Phoenix (a Panzer Dragoon-like shooter) and Viewtiful Joe (a 3D old school sidescroller). All had very original concepts and directions. 
Dead Phoenix would sadly be canceled...but at least the 5th Capcom 5 would see the day (in my eyes) as a 2nd Viewtiful Joe game!

(it is funny to note that all these games were ported later on the PS2, except PN03...well they're still old school NES-like difficult and all..but it's kinda sad for the Nintendo/Capcom-throwback...) 
(bis: Also I plan to review some other of these Capcom 5 titles at some point!)

Killing peasants in Europe: The Video Game.

Alright, enough with the introduction and background, now to the review~

So Resident Evil 4 is at the same time a reinvention of the Resident Evil formula, an evolution in the series from a plot perspective and one of the Capcom 5 games, a game aimed at an older crowd who likes challenges... How did it turn out?

You're gonna hear that a lot...

You play as Leon Kennedy, who wasn't seen around since RE2.
He was now a secret agent, having survived the events of Raccoon City.

The story starts off quickly, the president's daughter, Ashley, as kidnapped by a very mysterious cult. Leon tracked them down to (and I quote) "somewhere, a location in Europe(...)" where everybody speaks spanish. This doesn't leave us with many possibilities, not like South America. Leon goes to Spain.
There, as soon as he arrived, his team lost contact with him, agents get killed and the local folks, acting pretty weird, attacks blindly Leon...

Are they zombies?!

Nope, no zombies to be found in this game, at least not your regular zombies.
You see this plague turn people into obendient "slaves", but they're not your usual flesh-eating corpses...
They capture you and try to hold Ashley prisoner, but it's not your brains they want..

The game still uses the dual character system that has been sort of present since RE1.
This time you'll play as Leon through your adventure and Ashley will tag along at different points, but unlike Rebecca/Billy in RE0, she won't defend herself and you'll have to protect her. And like Sherri in RE2, which had Leon as well, you'll even play a little portion from her perspective.


So, Resident Evil 4 doesn't have a plot directly related to the previous games (like, say, RE0, RE1, RE2, RECV in this order) but the rest's not very different from past it?

Well, no.
This episode already feels disconnected to the series because of its settings and enemies..and it is also the game were the big changes are made in the gameplay..
The game now uses a 3rd person perspective instead of the classic "cinematic presentation" of past episodes.
It still plays mostly the same, you stand stopped on your feet to shoot, you can quick turn (Action+backwards, like usual), you can combine objects (herbs, weapons..), you can interact with objects and places (see paintings, activate devices, trigger stuff...) and most of the classic RE gameplay..but from an over the shoulder point of view this time!

This really helps see the surroundings better, be involved "in the story" a lot more...
And it's easier to aim and shoot enemies too.
I'll be honest with you guys..
I tried to hate it..from the go, I tried to dislike how different this Resident Evil seemed to be, all the changes.. but in the end, honestly, I liked it. It grew up on me. And I can understand why everybody likes this game...

But this made me realize how the real problem disctracted me from loving this one as much as Code Veronica or Zero...

What are you buying?!?

Resident Evil 4 is aiming at a more mature audience. It takes itself very seriously this time.
The whole game looks more realistic than any other before... The foes are more violent (2 or 3 guys in the game will come at you with a chainsaw, running..they can kill you in one hit, decapitate'll hear and fear them coming...), the atmosphere is more stressful, Leon and Ashley look more interesting and complexes than past characters, the acting's great and the music perfectly creepy...

Then it uses silly less realistic mecanics than other past Resident Evil games...
Forget the "magic teleporting boxes" from the original games... This time you'll find money, objects and stuff from the enemies you'll kill... Oh and they disappear now too.
And you can finally buy stuff in a Resident Evil now. You don't have to be careful about your weapons.. you can just buy some at your "magical teleporting merchant" (you can kill the guy...he'll just reappear in a later point of the game).
You tought the twins in Code Veronica or the leeches master in Zero was crazy? The plot is crazier this time too. The game can take itself as seriously as it wants, but the Napoleon-like local dictator and his army of monks will always make me smile~
Oh, and I thought (as described in past games) the Red and Green herbs properties were a speciality of Raccoon City (developed by Natives many moons ago)...But they can be found just fine in Spain too.

On the good side, Leon was transformed from his rookie cop persona into a super-invicible-extreme-badass hero. He can jump from roofs, bell tower, through windows, explode zombie heads (oops, I meant peasant heads) with his feet, punch large groups of people to death, survive explosions and blow up a whole organisation just fine...
He's almost a perfect 90s comic book hero now! :P

Meet the hidden side of Resident Evil the end of her gun!

At least the game's fun to play!
But maybe..too much fun...
For, you see, it isn't quite challenging, specially for being one of the Capcom 5 games!
The enemies are killed easily and don't do much damage, you'll always restart not far from where you'll die (with all the checkpoints and whatnot!) and the puzzles...
A very important aspect of the franchise in my opinion, that was very neglected in RE4...
I only saw, like, 2 real puzzles in this game.. (one in a cemetary and another one in a labyrinth). And they're solved pretty quickly...
After the more difficult entries, like RECV and RE0, this one fell a bit on the easy side...
Never I was stopped, blocked or had to let the game aside for a while... and I only play on the hard difficulties.
It's a very easy game. You will always progress and never stagnate (but it can be a good point for more nervous modern gamers).

Worry not, cause it has a pretty long campaign.
The story is long, the levels are many and huge..yes, it is still an exploration/open-like game but a bit more straighforward than the previous installments. And divised not in "levels" per see, but more like "chapters" that will open more areas and advance the plot.

And there is a lot of replay value.
You can collect figurines of the characters in mini-game bonus shooting contests.
You can try different difficulties.
There's also other modes like the usual Mercenary arcad-ysh mode.
And the Wii port as well as the PS2 port added more content...
You'll be able to play the side story of Ada Wong, another Resident Evil 2 returning character. And much like the A and B scenario in RE2, you'll go through the same places and see the events happening simultaneously, and using your save, you'll experience these events as you made them turn out to be like. She also has a little own arcad-ysh mode taking place around the events of the game (using recycled places from the main game).

Overall, it's quite a different game from any of the other Resident Evil games.

The gameplay is a nice change, not an improvement or step backwards. But another take on what the past games used to be like.

The graphics look great, even if a bit dull sometimes... Let's just say the story doesn't take place on a very shiny day. At least, everything's well detailed and the protagonists and antagonists look quite realistic and alive

The game is not bad. But I do have my problems with it...
It changed lots of stuff in the feel of the game and is also a separate unrelated story...
My main problem is that it tries too much at the same time and fails at some basic elements...
The game isn't scary anymore.. Monsters and creatures as many as they can be or huge as some are, they don't pose much problem... You never run out of ammo, never have problems of health... And if you die at a boss, you can just buy a bazooka (which kills all enemies, peasants or bosses in ONE HIT. ONE HIT!!) for the next try...
The puzzles are almost non-existant... The challenge, which for this Capcom Five series was the main goal, is barely there...
I personally zip through the game in a breeze... it took me a lot of time (like 70 hours-ysh) because there's lots to see, and many things to do, but not because it was difficult. Kinda like watching our current mainstream blockbusters. Sure it takes you long (2-3 hours nowadays...-sigh-) but it's not like you'll have to think a lot about it, use some of your grey matter like a good book.

Resident Evil 4 offers nice ideas, new stuff..but feels kind of detached from the whole series... sadly it's the direction Capcom chose to take the franchise from now on.
One great thing about the game is the feeling you'll have of it.
Sure, peasants running at you with forks and such screaming stuff in spanish may be funny..but the grey-ysh tone of the game, the calm moments, the stressful quick time events here and there and great soundtrack & voice acting give this game a very disturbing feel.
Not very Resident Evil-like (running for your lives, being scared the hell out of your shoes, gory/violent bosses and monsters, the voices and steps of the monsters coming at you from out of the screen...) but good though~

It seems a better evolution of the series should have been something closer to the Ubisoft game Cold Fear.
(keep an eye out on this blog for this one...)
Closer to past RE games, using the same tone, gameplay and feel with adding a few modern touches here and there.

The Wii version seems to be the best port (in terms of graphics, content and controls, well improved specially for the motion controllers). The original Gamecube one has the less bonuses (but nice graphics) and the PS2 is has nice add-ons but clumsy visuals...

I give it:

 2 / 3 Quacks!


  1. I believe this game also popularised QTE in every other game afterwards, which to many have been frustrating.

    Only got this game for GC (twas my little bro's game) and it's yet another game I haven't bothered trying to play. Hmmm... But I agree with ya when I see why this seems to be a very popular game. In fact, I might've first heard of the series due to this game. Not entirely sure.

    Did know about DMC having originally been a RE game, but didn't think it was meant to be this one. But it makes sense when it came to having Dante originally being a cop.

    Leon might be a badass in this game (and yeah, what's with all the jumping thru windows thing?), but can he punch giant boulders like Chris Redfield?!

  2. I sort of remember our modern QTE gameplays being incroporated in games, making their big mainstream appearance (well, since ol' FMV games), first in Shenmue and then probably the recent Tomb Raider games and such.. Before RE4. (+ RE3 had some scenes where you had to decide a move, make an action quickly sometimes..)

    I have several problems with RE4...
    I recognise it helped build a mainstream audience for the RE series... It sold a lot more.. but a what price?!
    It's a great game, but not a really good Resident Evil.. I'd take Veronica or Zero over this one anyday!
    The gameplay's not the problem really, it's more the story, type of enemies and general atmosphere... It's closer to a thriller than an horror movie! (not talking about "violence" or "gore" but general tone)

    They have some similarities (DMC and RE4, since both share some early concepts), like the european landscapes and such~
    (there's probably a point when "Leon fighting zombies" turned into "Leon fighting demons" then "Dante fighting demons"..I'm just sad zombies aren't part of this final RE4 anymore.. :/)

    Chris badassery in RE5 can't and don't even match Leon's level of over-the-top kickassery in here! He does all what Chris does in 5 and then some~
    Destroying gates, doors, batiments?! Driving away in a boat amongst explosions?! Jumping from huge ass structures?! EXPLODING spanish peasants with his bare hands?! Heck YEAH!!

    Maybe I would have prefered this game a lil' bit more and give it 2.5 or 3 (in my ratings) if it had been simply called something like:
    "Resident Evil's Present: Leon's Journey - Terror in Spain!!"
    well, something like that... more spinoff-ysh.
    You get the idea.
    Under the name RESIDENT EVIL 4, it has to live up to past game's legacy. (the reason I can't judge harshly any Sonic "Adventure", Sonic "Heroes" or Storybook game as I would a "Sonic 4"...)