Resident Evil 4 (2005)
for GameCube
Developed by Capcom
Published by Capcom

The continuity of the Resident Evil games is a bit muddled, and the trend continues with Resident Evil 4, which is really something like the 6th game in the series. It is more of a sequel to Resident Evil 2, which starred Leon Kennedy as the rookie cop caught in the middle of Raccoon City's T-virus zombie outbreak. Now it's six years later, and Leon has worked his way up to be guarding the president's daughter. Before he can start, she is kidnapped, and subsequently spotted in a European village. So Resident Evil travels overseas and places you somewhere akin to Spain, but not really.

The latest sequel signals the next evolution of the franchise, with many changes implemented, some taking advantage of the GameCube's powerful power. Instead of the fixed-camera perspective of the previous games, you can now more or less roam and look wherever you desire. I can take or leave that, as what the game loses in spooky camera angles, it makes up for in spooky atmosphere. You can still get blindsided by enemies, so no need to worry. For the majority of the game, you will be in command of two people, so you need to make sure you don't mistakenly kill your companion. The graphics got a noticeable overhaul, leaving the game one of the most photorealistic to date.

The quest starts out brilliantly. This time you don't run afoul of zombies, but villagers who seem to be under some kind of influence. The gore is fast and furious right from the start, with a chainsaw-wielding maniac with a potato sack on his head chasing you around in a frenzy. It's not just one or two guys you are running from here, but an entire village, creating a sense of inevitable doom prevalent in all the best zombie movies.

But that is one of the game's critical failures. It just happens too much. Almost every zone has you at war with dozens and dozens of zombies (they're not really zombies, but let's just call a spade a spade, eh?), and it's less a test of your own ability to overcome your anxiety, but instead your skills at surviving gauntlet after gauntlet of zombies. It really gets out of hand in the middle parts of the game. The ammunition flows like water, and you just have to see if you can blow away all your enemies before they get you. The circumstances of each fight get more and more absurd as you progress, best exemplified by an art gallery outfitted with an anti-aircraft gun and evil priests with rocket launchers. Gothic horror it ain't.

The beginning of the game is definitely more about the atmosphere than the combat, with a lot of genuinely creepy moments, highlighted by a boss battle with a giant lake monster, reminiscent of any "there's something in the water" movies you've seen. As the ammo and supplies pile up and you progress through the castle, where the majority of the game takes place, you become more of a Rambo character than any created by George Romero. A confusing new addition is a strange British merchant who seems to follow you wherever you go, selling guns and artillery of all sorts.

Further detracting from the horror experience is the awful, awful, awful dialog between Leon and his enemies. He spews out almost every tough-guy line from every action film, and usually in a non-sequitur fashion in attempted repartee with his foes. The voice acting itself is actually pretty good, but the substance of it is just putrid. It's also funny to note two distinct Lord of the Rings rip-offs, one being the cave troll, the other being a character who looks identical to Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn.

The story gets mildly interesting as you plumb the depths of the castle and beyond, and the main antagonist is evil and German. There aren't many twists or turns to speak of, despite several moments when you might expect it. I guess the straightforwardness is refreshing, but there are also a few times when you think the game is about to be over, only to discover you have much farther to go.

A staple of the Resident Evil games has been the puzzle-solving, but this time it is nonexistent. Literally, the most difficult puzzle is the kind with the sliding tiles. Most of the time you are in a room, and you need to go to each end of the room to find two halves of the key to get out. That's it. It seems such mindbenders were thrown in as an afterthought. In fact, the entire game seems created to drive some sort of multiplayer combat experience. I'm not sure if there even is multiplayer, but it sure feels that way.

It's not like the Resident Evil series was ever that great to begin with. Code Veronica was clearly the high water mark, but still, the games are often more frustrating than anything, and only truly satisfying when you finally finish them. Resident Evil 4 stays right in step, despite making several additions and subtractions; the net result is a bona fide Resident Evil game.

Review by Bock Lee Temjin