Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube) PAL boxResident Evil 4 (PS2) PAL boxResident Evil 4 (PS2) PAL Limited Edition boxResident Evil 4 (Wii) PAL box

Zombies make people jump. Their sole purpose in movies and games is go give audiences an adrenaline rush. Adrenaline is probably the safest thing to get addicted to, since it normally doesn’t cost much to satisfy and there are no side effects. In the film industry, we have the Night of the Dead series, courtesy of George A Romero. In the video game industry, that would be the Resident Evil series, courtesy of Capcom. But hard times have fallen on the gaming counterpart, due to boredom of the poor controls and clichéd fixed angles. So naturally, they went to the drawing board. What came out of that meeting is the concept for the new breed of evil. But is it as tame as a playful kitten with some string or as vicious as a hungry tiger with a human leg?

Resident Evil 4 has the right idea from the get go. The series is no longer dwelling on the Redfield family or based in the zombie infested location of Racoon City. It isn’t even set in America, or a city. Since surviving the incident at Racoon City, Leon S Kennedy has become a secret agent for the government. His latest assignment is a rescue mission based in Europe. According to intelligence, the President’s daughter is being held hostage by some peculiar looking types in a small village in Spain. Upon arriving at his destination, it suddenly becomes clear that the villagers are in cohorts with each other. They’re also not exactly human. In typical Resident Evil style, the dialogue borders along the abysmal some of the time. At least they took a little bit of care into the formulation of the plot this time around, featuring a conspiracy involving a hooded man and the huge chieftain of the local community.

When you begin your adventure into the unsanitary ghost town of shambling Spaniards, it becomes abundantly clear that this is beyond any survival horror you’ve experienced before. The viewpoint is just over the shoulder of Leon on his right. This gives Resident Evil 4 three advantages over the rest of the series. Firstly, the control scheme can be adapted around the new angles. It so happens that for once, everything feels as fluid as it should do. Previously if you got surrounded, it was because of the controls pulling a fast one on you. But here, frustration of bad controls has suddenly become fear. You’re surrounded and it isn’t because of awkward movement. Secondly, there are no more fixed images. I remember in the first game that whenever the camera changes from one position to another suddenly, it was because something’s about to come through a window. Here there is no such warning and there is a heightened sense of paranoia because of it, even if you’re not constantly checking on your heath due to a health bar being introduced. Thirdly, this paranoia doesn’t just reflect on a lack of prediction. Your viewpoint covers your right side fairly well, but anything on your left is a blind spot. You’ll be constantly flicking the camera to the left a smidgen just to check that nothing is about to eat Leon’s right cheek.

In addition to the updated controls, certain face button action prompts appear in certain conditions. It is now possibly to jump through a window of a hut, jump from high ledges and kick down doors. I love the knowledge that if zombapocalypse rears its ugly shambling way, that kicking a door and drop kicking the undead won’t necessarily end up with chunks missing from my flesh. There are also instances where quick-time-events rise from the grave of video game clichés to make cut-scenes a little more interesting. There is one instance where unless you press a combination of buttons, an axe-wielding maniac will chop you in half and then skulk on his merry way back to his farming.

Initially, they will scare the bejebus out of you. But once you're packing heat, things become gory!

Luckily, Leon isn’t always caught out on the lavatory with toilet paper stuck to his shoe. He brought along a pistol and some ammunition. The pistol is fired with laser guiding so that you can aim without need of an artificial reticule plastered on. Shooting is fine, though turning whilst aiming is a little slow. It is also far easier to shoot the bad guys in the head this time round as you are no longer aiming for the ceiling and praying that it hits. Along the way, you’ll meet a shady salesman who never bothers to learn names. He’ll sell you, with a good wink, a variety of different firearms. These include upgraded versions of your pistol, and Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, Sub-machine guns and Rocket Launchers. The different weapons pack different types of punches.

It is obvious though that Shotguns are Resident Evil 4’s way of saying “Sorry to scare you earlier, here’s something to make it easier”. With constant upgrading, it is possible to clear the field of bad guys with a couple of shots. It’s arguable then that this is perhaps one of the easier experiences you could have with the undead. Sniping is also fun, especially with the scope, one of the many added extras you can obtain from the shaded cockney weasel. Ammunition however borders from the slightly too much to the desperately few depending on where you are. It is usually wise to go around with the pistol and only use the other weapons in dire need. Thankfully if all goes to pot, he does have a knife. Perhaps the only thing Capcom decided to bring along to this new horror is the inventory system. Items you collect, ranging from healing aids to weapons and ammo are stored in limited space. Run out of space and you are left with a surplus that is discarded. Never to be seen again.

The game isn’t long, but that’s probably for the best since after a certain point in the game you’ll be doing some babysitting. The good news is that the person you’re escorting does roughly what she’s told and has a limited amount of use for puzzle solving. The bad news is that person doesn’t know how to use a gun and you need to protect her. It is a little bit of a problem when she likes to get into the way. One minute everything is fine, the next she’s screaming because she’s being captured or killed. It is one thing having a damsel in distress, but even the valiant white knight must have gotten tired of saving the girl time and time again. Perhaps he wanted to do something productive, like drink himself into a coma.

 How to put a shark off food; give it toothache in the form of harpoons...

But where would Resident Evil be without its zombies? Well, Spain really. It may come as a surprise to you that these shambling, farm tool wielding psychopaths are still technically human. They are known as “Ganados” which incidentally is Spanish for cattle, a fact I find ironic since the process of ridding them seems like a slaughter. Ganados differ from zombies in that they’ve been implanted with an odd parasite that sprouts tendrils on occasion out of their orifices. This goes for animals and grotesques too, as even man’s best friend is cursed with slashing membranes on its back. Obviously they don’t come into effect every time, but it does mean more bullets when they do rear their ugly forms. Sometimes the sheer numbers may attempt to overwhelm you. Some will even resort to…tactics?! Thinking on the spot? Lighting a stick of dynamite to take you down? Shocking but true, these ones will take some brains to dispose of, not just bullets. You will on the odd occasion encounter members of the shambling cult running into their own explosive traps, but usually there’s a small amount of provocation: like shooting one and dancing on the spot like a buffoon. Which is a fine tactic, just don’t walk into one whilst luring them out.

Boss encounters are rare, but immensely enjoyable. Most involve some kind of QTE, which oddly fits as well as it did in the God of War series. Others involve some kind of unusual quirk. There was one where the entire fight was on water and you needed to throw harpoons at a fish whilst avoiding rocks or its mouth. Being knocked off would mean damage and a mad basing of one of the face buttons to ensure you’re not the bait on a hook. The only problem with these fights is when you have no ammunition. If you don’t have access to much in the way of firepower, you’re generally dead on the spot. Sure there may be some lying around, but it usually isn’t enough to take down said boss. But when you do have the firepower, some quick instinct and tactical edge, the bosses can be fun. Even the set pieces are fun to an extent in that you can fortify yourself in a position and take pot shots like the redneck hillbillies in the introduction to the original Dawn of the Dead.

It comes with no surprise then that although a little short, Resident Evil 4 is a solid, updated vision of the survival horror genre. The heightened paranoia is once more achieved musky look, sensitive audio and a new angle on the action. It does sport a little too small a difficulty curve, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do it with style. Pumping lead into a horde of angry Spanish villages has never been this much fun. The people who are infected call themselves “Los Iluminados”, which literally translated means “The Illuminated Ones”. Far from being glow in the dark and easy to find, it is most likely that they will scare you on occasions, their hounds will scare you on occasions and indeed their hideous gargantuan inbred children will scare you in general. I assume that they’re inbred, they’ve got disfigured faces.

Please note that version played was the Playstation 2. The Gamecube version has fewer extras due to it being the original version.

Please also note that while the Wii version of this title has the same added features of the Playstation 2 version, that the controls are different. Since I don’t have access to the Wii version, I can’t comment on the ease of playing the game for said version.