Much like Eternal Darkness, the game that I refer to as the best survival horror game, Resident Evil 4, has been in development for years. Delayed time and again, it is finally out. Resident Evil 4 hopes to take the series in a frightfully new direction. However, does the new formula work?
For starters, Resident Evil 4 is only the second Resident Evil game to be in full 3D (Code Veronica being the first). The 3D environments give your player more freedom. No longer will you have to worry about camera angles. You can set where the camera is placed, to a certain extent; it will always rest just behind our main character. The c-stick acts as an independent analog stick, in that it can move the camera at your discretion.
Gone are the stiff controls, replaced with a more smooth, behind-the-back view. You will aim with R, fire with A, using a laser to better target. Accessing your inventory is done with the tap of Y, while the map is Z. Think of the map as somewhere along the lines of Metroid Prime. In other words, it is the ultimate guide in the game, providing you with details such as locked doors, save points, and merchant locations. The inventory, as stated, is accessed with Y. You can rearrange items, flip them, drop them, combine them, even sell them to the merchant. No longer will you have to fangle with the magic inventory boxes.
As far as graphics go, these are the best we have seen this console generation, possibly with the exception of Metroid Prime. You have weather effects such as fog, rain, lightning, sunlight, etc. Leon, while not the most manly hero we know of (his physique is rather feminine), he looks and moves triumphantly. The difference between RE4 and past games is character movement is smooth. Despite the occasional detection issues and lack of enemy appearance differential, this game has one of the most solid engines on the market.
Speaking of the character you play as, Leon Kennedy returns from Resident Evil 2. In many ways, the story is the sole bridge between this and the old Resident Evils. Raccoon City is wiped off of the map, Umbrella has fallen from grace, and secretly, the president's daughter has been abducted by someone from inside. As Kennedy, on behalf of the United States government, you will travel to a quaint European village. From the language they speak, we can pinpoint it as being in Spain.
It might sound astonishing but RE4 replaces zombies with zombie-like villagers who carry pitchforks, torches, crop trimmers, and throw dynamite. Expecting them to sliver towards you? You wish; these suckers will charge, throw items, bite, and grab. Not to mention, you will need to avoid the booby traps they set, be it tripwires or bear traps. Capcom has progressed a long way since the release of Resident Evil 0.
There is so much ground to cover. Next, let's talk about the cut-scenes. Capcom has improved upon those already impressive cut-scenes of past games with interactive controls. In order to avoid a slash, you will need to respond by pressing a button combination on the screen (such as L&R). Run from the Indiana Jones-like boulder by rapidly pressing A.
The action button does not stop in cut-scenes. Stun a villager with a shot to the face or leg, run up to him/her, and press A to kick them. If villagers are directly behind him/her, he/she will act as a torpedo. Want to climb a ladder? Then do it, and knock it down once you are at your destination. Be prepared to get smoked out with Molotov cocktails though. Stuck in a building with no escape? Not exactly stuck, actually; just jump out the window for a quick escape. If the president's daughter is trailing behind, she too can jump out that window.
Boss fights: nothing new to the Resident Evil series here. In the past we've fought giant snakes, sharks, and deformed monsters. It seems this community has a giant fish problem in their pond. You will be speeding around on a boat, until a cut-scene is triggered, in which you'll spear the beast to death. I won't spoil any other boss fights, but expect a giant pulled directly from Lord of the Rings. Be prepared to release your ammo on him.
Yet another new addition to the franchise is the merchant. From killing villagers, browsing through cupboards, etc., you will manage to acquire items, be it bullets, herbs, or gold. All items, including guns, can be sold (and purchased) from the merchant. This adds an almost RPG element to the game, since your weapons can be leveled up from the purchase of upgrades. This includes fire power, reload speed, etc.
I am a fan of Resident Evil. I have owned all games, at one point or another except for Resident Evil 3 or the spin-offs. Up until this point, Resident Evil 2 was my favorite in the series due to its cutting-edge visuals and gameplay. Now that Leon returns, he once again stars in the best Resident Evil to date. Resident Evil 4 is an absolute must play for fans of the series or survival horror games.