Resident Evil 4, originally a Nintendo Gamecube exclusive, made the jump to the Playstation 2 this October. While graphically inferior to its Gamecube brethren, RE4 on the PS2 offers the same intense, fun gameplay, plus some nice additions that push the game over the edge. Though RE4 is not a traditional survival horror game, its over-the-shoulder aiming and hordes of enemies, make it a superior action game, changing the Resident Evil series forever.
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Leon S. Kennedy, a former police officer from Raccoon City (RE2), is on his first mission as an American secret agent. Leon has to find the President's daughter who was just recently kidnapped. In a setting unique to the Resident Evil series, Leon is pitted against crazed villagers in a strange European forest. As the game goes on, Leon goes up against the entire village, a castle, and a religious cult bent on world domination, all in order to return the President's daughter to safety. The villagers are joined by ravenous wolves, acid-spewing insects, regenerating humanoid creatures, and more as they try to get in Leon's way. Needless to say, Leon is going to need some assistance in order to put up a fight.
Luckily for Leon, and for you, Resident Evil 4 has a silky smooth aiming system that not only revolutionizes Resident Evil, but also pushes this game to heights rarely seen. Replacing the frustrating fixed-camera third person gameplay is a unique over-the-shoulder aiming system that fits in perfectly with the intense action of RE4. This angle, while neither first-person, nor third-person, gives the player a wide view of the surrounding environment. This unique camera style combines with free flowing movement that leaves the player in complete control of the game. While this view gives the player a commanding view of his surroundings, it limits the shock factor, and hurts the horror aspect of the game, reducing RE4 to an action horror game. Also limiting this game from being classified as survival horror is the lack of puzzles. The puzzles that exist are few and far between, lack difficulty, and are mostly irrelevant to the rest of the story. While a change from the clunky controls of previous RE games and a lack of difficult puzzles destroy the chances of RE4 being a survival horror game, the new controls create an action game for the ages.
To feed the action orientated controls are hordes and hordes of enemies and enough ammo to supply a small army. The array of guns include four handguns, three shotguns, two rifles, two magnums, a sub-machine gun, two explosive weapons, and four bonus weapons. Due to the limit on what Leon can carry in his carrying case, players must take into account the area of the weapon before purchasing from the random weapon merchant who appears often in the game. While this would seem like an effective way to implement more strategy in the game, the case size is so large, the players can carry every type of weapon. These weapons will be used quite often, since the enemies will come at Leon every waking minute. Joining the aforementioned enemies is the occasional boss battle. These huge battles are both graphically beautiful and intense. Leon will have to fight a giant fish, a troll, a blind man with claws (He reminded me of Wolverine from X-Men), a giant plant hybrid, and more. Once finished, the game can be restarted, but with the weapons the player ended with. This intense fighting grabs the players attention and does not let go. When fighting is combined with the ability to replay the game with the previous weapons, RE4 becomes a game with limitless replay value.
This intense fighting combines with some of the best graphics to ever grace the PS2. While not as graphically sharp as the Gamecube version, the PS2 version is nothing to scuff at. With stunning environments, a nice smooth frame rate, and character renders as smooth as ice, RE4 is visually entertaining. Leon is very sharp looking and every minute detail of his figure is covered from his hair to his shoes. The environments are brilliantly rendered and really help to set the tone of the game. From the creepy little forest village to the castle in the rain, the environments help to set the mode. The graphics aren't perfect though. The creature renders are all sharp from a far, but as the player gets closer, the pictures become more rigid and blocky. In the GC version the environments go out endlessly, but the PS2 version ends the environments short with a blurry line across the entire area. The frame rate, while still extraordinarily smooth, slows and becomes choppy as the enemies start to pile up on the screen. Nonetheless, the graphics are still amongst the top of PS2 games.
In the horror genre, the sound effects and music can make or break a game. If the soundtrack can make the gamer nervous about moving on in the game, the soundtrack has done its job. In RE4, the soundtrack really doesn't give a complete horror feel, but seems to split the music between horror and action. It is not uncommon for the music to go from creepy and scary to inspiring and heart-pumping. The sound effects seem to be muffled throughout the entire game. In the GC version, the sounds of chainsaws starting and creatures jumping were enough to scare most gamers. In the PS2 version, those sounds are muffled and lose that precious umph that made the GC version so special.
Outside of the main game, there is a minigame called "The Mercenaries" and a short little adventure that also features Ada Wong. "The Mercenaries" is a fun, little mini-game that is a race against the clock to see how many enemies the player can destroy. With a choice of five characters, (Ada Wong, Leon S. Kennedy, Albert Wesker, Jack Krauser, and HUNK) that player can have fun destroying enemies with a set series of weapons and hand to hand combat on one of the four stages, one being unique to the mini-game. This mini-game is literally a game with in itself and adds hours of fun replay value. "Assignment Ada" is a short one to two hour mission in which Ada Wong must get five samples to a designated spot. This adventure puts on a nice spin on the RE4 gameplay, but its length really limits its use. It is too long to play over and over again, but too short to really add any significant value to the game.
Unique to the PS2 is a five hour adventure called "Separate Ways" which follows Ada Wong as she tells her side of the RE4 story, as well as some future plans. This game puts the player in Ada Wong's shoes as she tries to satisfy her own goals. "Separate Ways" mirrors the main game and its story. It is fun to see what Ada was doing, while Leon was fighting his way through wave after wave of enemy. But don't think that this mission is a bore. If anything, it features quicker action than the main game. With less puzzles, Ada will basically fight more enemies that Leon does. She will go through many familar grounds, but also some that are unqiue to her story. Separate Ways is basically a mini RE4. It is fun to play over and over again, because its length is perfect for a quick, but more substantial play than "Mercenaries".
There is a premium and a normal edition of the game. The premium features a DVD on how Capcom developed RE4, a laser print graphic of Ada Wong, and a little booklet on the previous RE games, all in a sleek metal game case.
RE4 is a game that doesn't come around very often. With enthralling gameplay, beautiful environments, and hours upon hours of replay value, RE4 is a game that should not be passed up. If you feel that you lack a significant backbone, do not fret. RE4 is less of a survival horror game, but more of an action adventure game. The PS2 adds even more gameplay to the juggernaut on the GC; however, the graphics are slightly inferior. With some of the best graphics and gameplay to ever grace the PS2, RE4 SHOULD NOT be passed up.
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