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Resident Evil 4 review

Bigger, better, darker, harder - survival horror will never be the same again. NGC reports

Third party games on Nintendo consoles rarely come much bigger than this. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Zelda as our most eagerly anticipated game of 2005, we've given over more pages of the magazine to Resident Evil 4 than any other game.

Capcom have promised so much. By their own admission, survival horror has become more than a little stagnant over the past few years.

Sure, recent instalments in all the major series (like Silent Hill) look nice enough, but pre-rendered backgrounds, clunky control and unimaginative puzzles aren't doing the genre any favours any more.

Time for a rethink then. Time for someone to take the lead and deliver an entirely new experience. To start moving that crusty old benchmark up a notch or three.

And who better to do it than Capcom. After all, they've reinvented the genre before. There's no reason why they can't do it again...

It's just so satisfying - that's the only way we can describe it. Equip your rifle, take aim, line the sights over an enemy's face and squeeze the trigger.

A split-second later, oblivious to your presence, his head explodes in a shower of brain to a gruesome sounding squelch. His decapitated body shambles forward a few paces before crumpling to his knees - the blood still pumping from his neck on to the floor below.

Satisfying yes, but there's more - the kind of little detail that epitomises Resident Evil 4.

Leon click-clunks his bolt-action rifle and slips another bullet into the chamber. It sounds robust, pleasingly metallic, and is a process that, while taking just a second longer than you'd like, makes you fully appreciate your kill. It just feels so right.

It makes you feel powerful. Makes you feel like a cold, ruthless killing machine. Which is a bloody good job - because that's exactly what you are. What you have to be if you're going to survive everything Resi 4 throws at you.

From the first encounter with the villagers in the game's woodland opening, to the final stages of your quest, Resi Evil 4 is relentless.

Like a punishing behemoth of a rollercoaster, it all starts with a palpable tension - a nervousness as you approach the unknown - before plunging you into the depths of panic as you're forced to deal with each encroaching terror.

It's a pretty accurate analogy, truth be known - not just in terms of the game's fearsome peaks, troughs, twists and turns but also in its structure.

It's a very linear game, make no mistake. You're constantly forced down the game's rigid paths from point to point. If we wanted to be overly critical, we could easily strip the game down to its bare components.

Arenas of combat - be they against a single boss or army of enemies - are interlinked with corridors, which in turn are interrupted at intervals by basic puzzles.

Corridors provide the journey to each location (as well as much needed health and ammo pick-ups), the arenas throw up the tense ammo-hungry battles for survival and the puzzles offer the calmer moments of concentration.

This really doesn't do the overall experience any justice though - Resi 4 is far, far more than the sum of its parts.

While we've always been advocates of the age-old mantra, 'gameplay over graphics' it's safe to say that the exceptional quality of Capcom's presentation is one of the driving forces behind the game. It's one of the most cinematic games we've played in recent years.

Game-engine cut-scenes frame gameplay seamlessly. The use of sound is exceptionally strong throughout (with only minor examples of hammy, over-acting threatening the overall quality of the dialogue) and the incidental music is never intrusive and is always on hand to get your adrenaline pumping at the required moments of action or tension.

But it's really in terms of the visuals that the game truly flies - offering, arguably the finest looking game on any console. The detail on character models is second to none.

More Info

DescriptionA great game made good. Resident Evil 4's excellence gets slightly undone by a sloppy PC translation.
PlatformPC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, GameCube
US censor ratingMature
Alternative namesRE 4, Resident Evil IV, Resident Evil IV
Release date15 May 2007 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)