What Was Born A Classic Remains A Classic.
It's been about two years since the release of the original Gamecube version of RE4, and I was, without a doubt, late to the show. See, I'm not big on the whole terror / horror thing. As a matter of fact, I'm not big on violence, but I have my moods; I was just waiting for the right one before giving this game a whirl. After cutting my teeth on God of War and Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, I was ready for "the Big One." 2005 was the year of Resident Evil 4, and I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to see what all the hoopla was about. I had just completed Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (a Nintendo DS port of the original RE title from the PSX), and the series had instantly captured my imagination. So, when it came time to pick a version – either the GCN or PS2 version – I opted for the one that offered the most story content.
Well, the other evening I completed the main quest, if you will. Leon saves the President's daughter, and they ride off into the sunset.
You knew that already, right? Good.
I won't go into any more of the story, though, because most folks should already be well familiar with it and, for those few who've yet to play it, well, I won't ruin any more of it for you. Suffice it to say, however, it's a really good story. I'd say the story, itself, rivals that of the first Resident Evil game, and the dialogue definitely puts all past games in the series to shame. The game's brimming with interesting characters, and the file progression is very entertaining, leading the player to a wonderful climax that offers ultimate closure (with respect solely to this game, not, of course, the entire series).
The gameplay matches the story elements almost perfectly, and this is the obvious reasoning behind why most critics went on and on and on…about RE4. The character movement is mostly the same as past games in the series, but creating a camera system that remains behind the back of the character at all times makes all the difference in the world. It plays much like a top-shelf FPS, minus the constrained and claustrophobic feeling accompanied by most of those games. The main feature of the character-control scheme, however, is the free-aiming. Your character will not be restricted to a tri-level, auto-aiming system this time around. By pressing the R1 (L1 for his knife) button, Leon (your character) will bring his weapon to bear, and players then use the left control stick to aim the weapon in any direction desired. Upon first playing the game, it will, most likely, feel quite awkward, but that feeling only adds to the somewhat helpless theme the game creates for the player. Though the physics isn't quite realistic, the feeling it conveys most certainly is. As a matter of fact, you'll immediately feel like you're in Leon's shoes. Another great feature of the gameplay is the enemy AI. No more will you be facing lumbering zombies who lurch slowly forward as you pound them with shotgun shells. The AI in RE4 will zig and zag out of range, cover their faces to repel fire, as they run forward in an attempt to hack the living **** out of you. They also throw axes, shoot crossbow arrows, and launch cannon fire from afar. Bosses are cleverly derived, requiring a lot of "thinking on your feet." Most of the later bosses will require (those players who don't strictly follow a walkthrough) at least a couple of passes before figuring out what is needed in order to expose their weaknesses.
The level design is quite varied and extremely atmospheric. Those who claim they were not scared by RE4 are either full of **** or never played the game. The rest were scared, but you can't admit that when girls are present -- not if you have any hope of eventually getting laid. But it's truly amazing that so much variety and detail fit onto just one disc. As IGN stated in their review of the PS2 version of the game, RE4 truly is "a next-gen game now." It easily rivals many titles you can now play on your 360 or PS3.
Which bring us to the graphics…
Stunning! True, the GCN version slightly beats out the PS2 version in detail and lighting (and load times), but, with respect to the console it's featured on, RE4 is definitely one of a handful of graphic highlights on the system. Incredible character designs, motion capturing, and clever and creative imaginings with respect to the overall look of the game. Visually, it is the pinnacle of the series.
The sound, too, cannot be understated. There is little doubt that a huge part of this game's fear factor resides in the terrorizing sound effects and themes that permeate the game. In conjunction with the gameplay, you're always made aware of the presence of danger – when the house starts a-rockin', ganados come-a-knockin'! Once an area is clear of enemies, the game will, usually, bring you into a temporary stasis, as far as the sound and music are concerned. There's a great variety and, more importantly, the sound does its job perfectly of putting you right there in this terrifying world of Resident Evil.
My completion time of the main game came in at 22 hours and 38 minutes. I'm currently playing through the PS2-exclusive (though soon to be released with the Wii version, as well) Separate Way (about an additional four to five hours of gameplay, in which you play as the fem fatale, Ada Wong. She has her own unique moves and weapons and brings additional light to the mystery of the story. There's also the Assignment Ada mission (about an hour-long segment of gameplay), as well as the Mercenaries mode, a sort of mini game romp that includes other various unlockables. Right now, the PS2 version is $20, and --damn -- that's a lot of game for your dollar.
I've always been one of those folks who waits `til things go out of style before plunking down my cash. My reason? For one, it's usually cheaper that way, but I think it also allows me to better see for myself the true quality of a product. I'm delighted to report that Resident Evil 4 for the PS2 is all it's cracked up to be. If you're 17-years old or older and in the mood for a terrifying and terribly fun adventure, then look no further than this game. Don't rush off to see what the next-gen consoles are offering, because there's still plenty of life in this generation.