Resident Evil 4 E3 2004 Hands-On Impressions

We play an updated version of the demo, see a new trailer, and get a pile of juicy new story details from the impending survival horror revival.

A new trailer for Resident Evil 4 shown at Capcom's pre-E3 press conference has shed some new light on the storyline of the upcoming overhaul of Capcom's wildly popular survival horror franchise. According to the narration from the game's protagonist, Leon S. Kennedy, the game is set six years after Raccoon City was destroyed by a missile attack. This voice-over accompanied scenes of the city being obliterated like it would've been in a nuclear strike (think the city destruction scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day). Apparently, the US government wasn't too happy about the Umbrella Corporation's little viral outbreak, and after erasing the city from the face of the earth the G-men dismantled every last component of the evil company.

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In the six years since, Kennedy has undergone Special Forces training, and now he has been tasked with protecting the president's family. After Ashley, the president's daughter, vanishes, Leon must travel to Europe to look for her. By now, the bizarre nature of the people he finds when he arrives has been well publicized. Capcom still wouldn't reveal to us exactly what's wrong with the villagers Leon will be fighting, but it was confirmed that there's definitely something "off" with them (as if we couldn't tell that for ourselves).

At some point in the game Leon will find and rescue Ashley, and you'll, of course, be responsible for keeping her alive from this point onward. We saw scenes in the trailer where she ducked so Leon could fire at oncoming enemies. Capcom told us that you'll have to consider Ashley's physical capabilities in addition to Leon's. For instance, Leon may be able to drop to the ground from a great height, but the same fall would cause some problems for Ashley, so you'll have to find an alternative solution to this issue.

Toward the end of the trailer, we saw some scenes from what is presumably the latter part of the game when Leon and Ashley visit a large, gothic-looking castle populated by cultlike figures garbed in cloaks and hoods. There were also some bloodied, disfigured monstrosities here that were more than happy to take a bite out of Leon when they got the chance. We saw a sequence here where Leon fired a cannon at the castle and completely decimated the building, which created an impressive display of falling debris. Since Capcom has only revealed parts of RE4 set in wooded areas so far, this new setting at least shows that the game will take you to even more dark and brooding areas than what we've seen so far.

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The brief playable demo we tried was effectively the same as the one we played back in March, although this new revision sported a finer degree of polish (there were new artificial intelligence chickens, for instance!). Capcom has definitely achieved its goal of overhauling the Resident Evil series with this installment, because RE4 feels like a whole new game. The behind-the-back camera angle and new manual aiming mechanics give RE4 a much more action-oriented feel, which fits in nicely with the very cinematic stylings of the game.

We're very impressed by what we've seen of Resident Evil 4 so far, and we can't wait to try out more of this sinister and atmospheric game. The game is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of the year, and we'll bring you more information as it becomes available.

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