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The following review was originally posted on Mario Kart Wii.com on December 6, 2012. I got bored, so I'm posting it here. I'll post more if I get even more bored.
I've always wondered why the '4' is on the left.
In 1996, Shinji Mikami defined the survival horror genre with Resident Evil, and in doing so, he had shaken the entire industry with one of the greatest games of its time. Providing a chilling atmosphere, intricately designed puzzles, and some of the scariest moments ever seen in a video game, the game was a massive success, becoming Capcom's most successful game at the time. 3 games had followed; Resident Evil 2 let you explore the crumbling Raccoon City as rookie cop Leon Scott Kennedy. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis put you in the same time and place as RE2, but in another part of the city, and with the fearsome Nemesis on your tail. Resident Evil: Code Veronica had... uh... okay, this one wasn't very memorable, but, point is, Resident Evil was the undisputed king of horror.
At least, that's what the general public thought.
To Capcom, Resident Evil was dying quite fast. The games, after the first one, didn't really innovate the series as much as they hoped. The world was slowly becoming accustomed to the fast, more intelligent zombie that would always attack in hordes (If you've seen 28 Days Later or played Left 4 Dead, you'll know what I'm talking about), and to top it all off, everyone still hated the tank style controls. Capcom knew that in order to stay relevant (and scary), they'd need to take a new direction.
And so Resident Evil 4 took 6 years to make. In those 6 years, Capcom made several versions of the game, all with completely different settings, themes, and a particular style of horror. It wasn't until 2005 that the game was finally released, and it was all certainly worth it, for this was the highest rated and greatest selling entry in the series. With such success, it was only a matter of time until Capcom decided to break its exclusivity deal with Nintendo in order to release it on other platforms, even though Shinji Mikami stated that he'd cut off his head if it went multi platform.
Luckily, his head is still intact, and probably as way to make it up to all the Nintendo fans, Resident Evil 4 was re-released once again on the Wii in 2007, and made it the best damn version of the game. Featuring all the good stuff from the GameCube and PS2 versions with none of the bad, and one of the best control schemes ever made, Mikami-san was redeemed, and Nintendo fans loved him again. However... is it still the masterpiece it once was? Keep reading and find out...
How the hell did this NOT get banned in Australia?
Our story begins with Leon S. Kennedy. Having survived the Raccoon City Incident, he was promoted from police officer to secret agent, now working for the US federal government. After extensive military training, coupled with his survival techniques he gained from Raccoon City, Leon was now a bonafide badass. In fact, he had become such a badass that he was assigned to personally protect the newly-elected President Graham's family. Unfortunately, when he was having his lunch break munching on some Jill Sandwiches, Ashley Graham, the President's daughter, was kidnapped (Why do all games I review nowadays involve kidnapping shenanigans?) by a mysterious cult based in Spain.
Shortly after his arrival, Leon finds out that the cult in question is the "Los Illuminados" (Spanish, meaning "The Illuminated"), a religious cult led by a man named Osmund Saddler. This cult used a mysterious parasitic organism known as "Plaga" to take control of the local townsfolk, basically turning them into zombie like things. Their plan? Infect Ashley with the Plaga, send her back to the United States, and then infect the rest of the White House, effectively giving Saddler total control of America. However, things take a turn for the worse, as Leon also becomes infected with the Plaga, and all help and communication from the outside world is soon lost. It's a race against time for Leon and Ashley to escape the hell-hole, and remove the parasites from them before it's too late.
Meanwhile, Ada Wong, a female super spy on par with James Bond and Leon's super buddy during the Raccoon City Incident, has been sent by her superiors to the exact same part of Spain (at the exact same time as Leon, no less) to retrieve a sample of the Las Plagas parasite, most likely to use in their own take over the world scheme, since her superior is none other than Albert Wesker, one of Umbrella's former top scientists and now the Resident Evil universe's answer to Bowser, Ganondorf, and countless other various super villians that always fail.
Did you get all that? No? Well you're playing Resident Evil. What'd you expect?
'What? Is there something on my face?'
Being released originally on the Nintendo GameCube and ported to numerous consoles since then, you'd think that this timeless classic would get better looking as the time went by, since every console it's been released on (except the PS2 version... god damn, that looked atrocious) afterwards was significantly more powerful. Sadly, Capcom, being the lazy jerks they are today, have never once improved the graphics one bit, and the same can also be said for the Wii version. Although, the Wii isn't much more powerful then the GameCube, so for this port, that can be forgiven.
However, when it was originally released, this was the prettiest game of all time, and it still holds pretty well today. Such graphical detail had never been seen at the time. Case in point? The character models. Leon himself looks simply fantastic, with an immense polygon count, an impressive texture resolution, and very smooth, very realistic animation. Leon isn't the only sexy beast, as all the enemies are also just as good looking. When the Ganado aren't doing derpy poses when they're approaching you, they're running, jumping and climbing their way to you, just as smoothly and seamlessly as Leon. Although their models (in fact, just about every model that isn't a major character) aren't as detailed as Leon, they still look fantastic... until you realize that the amount of enemy models are surprisingly small. The Ganado only have a hand full of variations until you start seeing double, and most of the enemies in the game don't even have additional models. It's a small sacrifice to have such detailed enemy designs, but an annoying one, none the less.
Another strong point is the environment. The places you visit are all very interesting to look at, and they all provide their own unique, scary atmosphere. The Village section at the start of the game gives you that classic horror feeling of isolation, and when it turns night with a hefty thunderstorm... oh ho ho, boy, that's some scary $#@!. The Castle brings you back to Resident Evil days of old, with its creepy architecture and numerous fiendish traps. And the Island is ripped straight from science fiction horror, with dozens of experiments, both successful and failed, littered around its indoor areas. Although the textures don't quite hold up today, it's the overall design that still makes these locales scary to this day. In fact, the general design of all the graphical elements is probably why the graphics still hold up well to this day, despite never having any improvements since 2005.
One of Leon's favourite games is Duck Hunt.
As much as Capcom would like to believe that Resident Evil was memorable for its horror elements, everyone will remember it because of the horrid voice acting. Besides, who could forget such classic lines like 'You were almost a Jill Sandwich!' or 'YOU CAN'T KILL ME!'? Luckily, they managed to hire some competent actors this time around, making the voice overs this time around memorable for all the right reasons. Paul Mercier as Leon does a fantastic job, coming off as rugged, yet smooth everyday action hero, although no where near as obnoxious and a little less corny (I say 'a little less', because this is Resident Evil were talking about). The rest of the cast does a good job, but Leon really steals the show. A special mention goes to Carolyn Lawrence as Ashley Graham, who sounds very annoying, making you want to shoot her in the face, but you can't, cause that means an instant Game Over.
If the creepy designs of the environment weren't atmospheric enough on their own, then hold on to your butts, as the music will probably make you piss your pants. Granted, the game is silent most of the time, with few moments when you're just casually walking around having music, but this is most likely a way to up the tension. Still, Resident Evil 4 is a firm believer in quality over quantity when it comes to its atmospheric tracks, as these songs still haven't lost their luster 7 years on. One of the earliest (and by far, one of the greatest) songs you hear is 'A Strange Pasture'. Playing when you first arrive at the Village, this creepy tune does a superb job at illustrating how unwelcoming the Village is towards Leon, and its general tone is reminiscent of the Spencer Mansion in the first game... that is, at least what I thought until I started hearing 'Evil Malaise', which is basically 'A Strange Pasture' on frickin' steroids. But none can beat the pure genius of 'Serenity'. Played near a save point, it signifies solitude, solace, and beauty. But, it never neglects to remind you that, beyond this safe room, lies a perilous journey you may not complete in one piece. There are a bunch of other great tracks that serve the atmosphere well, but that would take too long. >:3
The action-oriented themes aren't as good, but that's like saying Twilight Princess isn't as good as Ocarina of Time: The gap is extremely small. In terms of battle themes, there's an insane amount of them. With 6 songs dedicated to the Ganado and numerous themes for bosses or the tougher enemies (the Regenerador and it's theme needs no introduction), there's plenty of variety, especially with the Ganado songs, each one having a distinct feel. The first one, with it's creepy, echoey instruments, is similar to 'A Strange Pasture' in how it symbolizes the hostility towards Leon in the equally creepy Village. The second one, with its intense drum beat and screechy sounds, perfectly captures the new, action horror turn Resident Evil has taken; no longer is it about running away from just one zombie, hoping to escape, but fighting your way through dozens at a time, praying you didn't get injured too much, so you'll be prepared for the restless hordes ahead. The third one, while initially sounding very similar to the first theme, turns up the terror dial when you start to hear the slow, low pitched cello, and what sounds like the moaning of the undead. The fourth one, with an even creepier moaning noise, combined with psychedelic, echoey instruments, and insane chants and laughter from the Ganado that this particular song accompanies, makes it one of the scariest songs I've ever heard. As for the the fifth and sixth? ...They both suck. Unless you like cliché spy movie music.
Escorting Ashley slows you down even more then an arrow to the knee.
And now for what truly makes this game... how it plays. For the first time in the series, rather then having fixed camera angles, the game had situated the camera constantly behind Leon, a common sight in today's games, but was rarely seen back then. Although a change in camera angles doesn't sound like much, for Resident Evil, this changed how the entire game was played. The tank controls are still around, but now that the camera is no longer changing angles dramatically every five damn seconds, it is now much easier to control and aim your weapons. Speaking of which, when you do so, the camera zooms in behind Leon's right shoulder, giving you a nice, clear view to shoot things. Aiming is... a little weird, to say the least. Pointing the gun is done with the Wii Remote. That makes sense. But the camera itself is moved with the analog stick. It takes a while to get used to, but soon enough, you realize just how well this works, because you no longer have to worry about unintentionally jerking the camera around with your Wii Remote, meaning increased accuracy and precision then simply using a traditional controller.
And you'll need a lot of precision, cause the enemies move surprisingly fast. But if that's a problem, just shoot 'em in the leg! In fact, almost all enemies react differently to being shot in specific places, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll just be talking about -you guessed it- the Ganados. If you shoot 'em in the leg when they're standing still or walking, they'll fall to their knees, where you can follow up with a powerful melee attack, or another shot, sending them to the ground. The same thing happens when you shoot them when they're running. Shooting their arms will make them drop their weapons, and trust me, on the higher difficulties, you'll be aiming for the arms a lot. It really helps. Finally, shooting them in the head stuns them for a few seconds, which you can follow up with a melee attack... or, if your lucky, their head will explode, killing them instantly. So, do what all those zombie movies have been telling you all these years, and aim for the face!
Another first for the series is money! Yaaaaay! Money! Being Spain, all the money you find lying around is pesetas. Also, you find treasure! Yaaaaay! You better horde all the pesetas and treasure you can, because eventually, you'll come across 'The Merchant', a hooded figure who has several twin brothers, since he can be killed in one place and be seen in another. Talk to The Merchant, and he'll sell you first aid sprays, guns, upgrades for said guns, and he'll even buy any supplies or treasure you don't want. Also, he sounds creepy as hell, which is what makes him so memorable.
Resident Evil 4 may have paved the way for modern third person shooters everywhere, and while the world is grateful for that, it also brought upon something unneeded, something pointless... something... hellish, ripped straight from the fires of hell in order to resurface itself time and again in numerous games. I am of course, talking about gaming's incarnation of sin itself... Quick Time Events. These products of the Devil force you to mash buttons with lightning fast reflexes and swing your Wii Remote faster then the speed of sound. The consequences for failure of these vary. If it happens during a cutscene, you will die instantly. Some bosses have an insta-kill attack that must be dodged with a Quick Time Event. Most enemies have you perform Quick Time Events in order to escape their deadliest attacks, or, in some cases, a Quick Time Event must be done just to attack them. These QTEs are the stuff of nightmares, and most of your deaths will happen due to these abominations... was that all what you expected me to say? Well, think of all that stuff I said as if it were directed to every game that looked at this, thought it was a good idea, and ended up completely ruining their games because their QTEs are so horrid. Resident Evil 4, to this day, and in my mind, is the only game that made good use of QTEs. Sure, the cutscene QTEs are pretty cheap and will probably kill you the first time, but every other one is executed and placed perfectly. Not to mention, swinging the Wii Remote is much easier then pressing a button.
What's another thing you really hate about games? What was that? NPCs you have to escort and are vital to the mission? Everyone hates those! So Capcom must've been smokin' lots of weed if they decided to put one in that follows you throughout the entire game. Luckily, as it had proven before with Quick Time Events, Capcom can take one of the worst concepts of the gaming world imaginable, and somehow make it work. Commanding Ashley is simple. Just press a button and she'll wait right where she is. Press it again, and she'll follow you. You can also tell her to hide in specific places, making her practically invincible, since none of the Ganados are smart enough to look in a dumpster with terror piss leaking out. There are some moments where Ashley doesn't follow you around, and moments like these are nice, just mainly for the change of pace it brings.
After you finish the game, you'll probably be reaching for your Wii's power button, satisfied at the game for what it was, and you'll most likely never play it again, because it just wouldn't be the same the second time around. Well, don't do that, because once you finish the game for the first time, the real fun begins. You unlock lots of stuff, all of which we shall take a look at. The biggest addition is Separate Ways, which follows Ada Wong's exploits throughout the main story. This means new boss fights, new areas, a few new guns, and... uh... a grappling hook that you can hardly ever use? It plays exactly the same as the main game, aside from not having to escort anyone, so there's not much to talk about. As you complete this mini-game, more and more of Ada's Report becomes available, which basically gives you a bit of back story about the series from Ada's perspective. Assignment: Ada focuses on Ada as well, showing her collect some Plaga samples before the game's climax. This is non-canon, though, and the Plaga samples are always in the same place. It's passable, though definitely the worst of the bonuses. The thing on everyone's minds though, is most likely the long running mini-game, The Mercenaries. The goal of this game is to kill everything that gets in your way.
You'll have to kill everything quickly and efficiently in order to rack up combos in order to get a hell lotta points. You'll have to manage your small inventory space in the heat of battle. You'll have to find ammo, herbs, and clocks to extend your time limit. You have multiple characters to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The Mercenaries may look simple on the surface, but dig deeper, and you'll find a mini-game almost massive and complex enough to be its own game. Other completion bonuses range from extra guns to extra outfits, all of which are great fun to use, and make replaying the main game a worthwhile experience.
After all, who wouldn't want to dress Leon up as a gangster with an infinite ammo Tommy Gun, while Ashley is given a suit of armour that makes her completely indestructible?
When all things are considered... the great graphics that still hold up due to design, a masterful soundtrack and top notch voice acting, revolutionary gameplay, so much additional content you can shake a dismembered arm at, and one of the best control schemes ever devised thanks to the Wii Remote and Nunchuck... Resident Evil 4's Wii port is the perfect video game. It is a pillar of light amongst the darkness, the point that every developer strives for, and it will go down in history as one of the greatest games of all time.
Too bad Shinji Mikami left Capcom, and thus its success will never be repeated. ;(
Lasting appeal: 9.5/10
So, erm... wanna leave a comment and a like or something...? You don't have to or anything, I don't care... not gonna be all Barbra Streisand about it...