TOKYO--Resident Evil 4 has been unleashed upon the Japanese gaming populace--or at least, 15 minutes of the upcoming survival horror juggernaut have. Under its Japanese name Biohazard 4, a demo version of the game is making the rounds at the Tokyo Game Show, and we of course had to play through it a couple more times to absorb even more of the sinister atmosphere and updated gameplay that's going into this landmark sequel.
Honestly, the demo we played here in Japan is essentially the same one we've previewed a couple of times before, so you can refer to previous impressions for the big picture on what the demo was like. This time around, we focused on the little details, in an effort to see just how much care Capcom is putting into this important GameCube exclusive.
Graphically, it's been obvious even since early media was released that Resident Evil 4 goes well beyond what you'd typically expect to see on the GameCube. Now that we've had some extra time to roam around the woods featured in the demo and peer at the little touches, we're even more impressed by the world being brought to life in the game. For instance, we encountered a macabre collection of skulls underneath a staircase in one of the demo's small shacks, and upon closer inspection (using special agent Leon Kennedy's binoculars), we noticed a host of maggots writhing disgustingly inside the eye sockets of the skulls.
We also found the gameworld to be more interactive than we previously thought, as we could destroy some boxes with Leon's knife to uncover new items, such as the good old green herb. Several interactive areas of the level became apparent to us as we roamed around--for instance, hitting the action button in front of a pile of firewood caused Leon to vault quickly over it, which would obviously be useful for evading pursuing enemies.
Our updated look at the RE4 demo also provided insight into just how complex the shooting action will be. Though the brief segment never gave us access to anything more powerful than the standard pistol, we found a surprising amount of depth in the action. For one, headshots caused the strangely zombielike villagers' heads to explode, but only when we'd already softened them up with a couple of torso shots first (no free kills here). In one of those you-had-to-be-there moments, we were fighting a group of villagers when one of the women hurled a sickle at us just as we were firing a shot in her general direction. As luck would have it, we managed to shoot the blade out of the air, which was a feat that won't be easily reproduced but nonetheless added a lot to the simple cool factor of the combat.
As impressed as we've been by the 15 or so minutes of Resident Evil 4 we've gotten to play, we must implore Capcom: We like what you've given us, we just want more. The game's early 2005 release window is quickly hurtling toward us, so we imagine we'll be seeing more on Resident Evil 4 in the near future.
For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of Tokyo Game Show 2004.