While Resident Evil wasn't the first entry in the survival horror genre, the Resident Evil games have come to define survival horror, and to define different possibilities in gaming through the survival horror genre. After all of the games-Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, Code: Veronica, 0, Outbreak, Outbreak File 2, Survivor, remakes and re-releases, and the other less popular games in the series-two mainstream movies, comic book and novel versions, Resident Evil maintains a dominant presence in gaming and in the non-gamer perception of gaming. Fortunately Resident Evil has earned this presence, as each Resident Evil game offers quality gaming, and Resident Evil 4 on the PS2 is no exception. GameCube Comparisons
While the GameCube version came out ten months earlier, this version is worth the wait for those without a GameCube. For those who've already played the GameCube version, the PS2's Resident Evil 4 offers additions that are worth the replay.
While there could have been concerns about Resident Evil 4's port from the more powerful GameCube, the PS2 version is still superb. Due to differences in processing power, the PS2's Resident Evil 4 is not as quick, clean, or clear in a side-by-side comparison to the GameCube's Resident Evil 4. However, even as the slightly less-perfect copy, the PS2's version of Resident Evil 4 still easily wins a place for being one of the best PS2 games to date.
The PS2's added material-added weapons, new costumes, and "Separate Ways" five chapters of additional game play with Ada Wong-nicely rounds out the Resident Evil 4, which is already an excellent game. What's most impressive for the PS2 version is not the added material, but the primary material. With a game this solid, it's the core that makes the game. The added material adds value to replay, but the play and replay values are already extremely high thanks to the solid and innovative design.
Importantly, the PS2's version includes additional playtime with Ada Wong. Given Resident Evil's feminist* approach towards gaming--in offering women playable characters and women monsters (see "Women Monsters and Monstrous Women"
by Bonnie Ruberg)--the absence of a woman character for the majority of the GameCube's Resident Evil 4 version was a lack that some gamers felt needed to be filled. Inside the game, Resident Evil 4 even notes this tendency when Leon sees a woman pitch-forked into a wall and says "this place doesn't discriminate." Resident Evil Overall
At their core, each Resident Evil game combines quality graphics, sound, innovative controls (even if they're innovative for refusing to change), and solid character designs. The Resident Evil formula wins over seasoned gamers and new gamers (like girl gamers). Resident Evil 4 simply continues and excels at this design scheme by changing the formula for game play.
Resident Evil 4's back story continues the Resident Evil mythos with players playing as Leon Kennedy, in Europe. Leon is a familiar face for Resident Evil fans. He started his first day of work in Raccoon City during the zombie attack in Resident Evil 2. Like his enemies, Leon has an updated look in this game and he's now a government operative instead of a police officer. At the start of the game, the U.S. government has defeated the evil Umbrella Corporation and it seems as though the world is healing its wounds from the zombie outbreaks. However, the President's daughter Ashley has gone missing and Leon has been sent to Spain to search for her.
Despite the similarities between the earlier games and Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 4 diverges radically. First, Resident Evil 4 does away with relative movement-a bane for many game players and a favorite for many others because of its painful complexity. Supplanting that control scheme, Resident Evil 4 uses a faster-paced camera following the player view and control set. Rather than emulating other games, however, Resident Evil 4 makes its control scheme more dynamic by adding special context sensitive controls for certain events and even for events during cut-scenes, something Indigo Prophecy perfects for its basic control formula. Resident Evil 4 even has special moves that can be used to attack enemies when they get close enough.
Second, Resident Evil 4 allows players to access enough ammunition to actually kill the majority of enemies. This is a radical change from earlier Resident Evil games where players had to run constantly to avoid being killed with the overall lack of ammunition. By allowing players to fight more often than flee, players are faced with even greater changes because the method of fighting also evolves.
Third, the method of fighting evolves because players go from running from slow or fast moving zombies to running from fast-moving and quick-thinking humanoids. The new enemies mean that players have to utilize the changes in the game environment-picking up ladders, knocking ladders down, moving furniture to block doors, jumping out of windows, jumping off rooftops, shooting explosive items near enemies or leading enemies into traps-all to stay ahead of the smart swarming mobs. Resident Evil 4 also manages to combat the issues of secondary non-fighting characters. Where games like Silent Hill 2 require players to protect secondary characters who cannot defend themselves-often resulting in infuriating game play-Resident Evil 4 allows Leon to tell Ashley to hide and places spaces where she can hide throughout the different game areas. This fuses of the hiding-method from Clock Tower 3 with traditional game play for an overall better game play system.
Fourth, within this chaotic-fast game play, Resident Evil 4 makes inventory more manageable by allowing players to drop items and to purchase needed items. The system for this, which consists of buying items from a merchant, is an element that is not fully contextualized within the game world. However, the Resident Evil games-like classic EC horror comics and George Romero's famous Dead Trilogy-have always blended articulate storylines with a sprinkle of humor or kitsch in order to make each game self-referential. While the merchant himself is an easy and cheap method for allowing players to purchase items, the overall quality of the game shows the contrast between these aspects. In doing so, it highlights the manner in which most games include a variety of cheap and easy aspects.Other Elements: Audio and Visual Quality
In addition to the richly developed game play, Resident Evil 4 is also supported by excellent in-depth audio-including the war cries of enemies in Spanish and ambient sounds for the different areas-and excellent graphics. Resident Evil 4 contains some rather awful dialogue, but it's par for the course in Resident Evil games and in the majority of games in general. The voice acting is quite good in general and the combination of quality voice acting and horrible dialogue makes for a few bizarre segments. The dialogue is a minor portion of the game and does not diminish the overall quality of the game. In fact, the subtext of much of the dialogue-which calls the enemy a terrorist in the same way that earlier Resident Evil games depicted bio-terrorism and evil corporations-provides an interesting socio-political side to the game. Given Resident Evil's history, these nods outside the game world are well placed. Conclusion
In all, Resident Evil 4 is a revolutionary game on any system. It recreates survival horror into something closer to action-horror, changing the system of cut-scenes into playable cut-scenes in the same way that Indigo Prophecy operates; it changes zombies into mob-monsters; and it expands the already elaborate Resident Evil world. Gamers need to play Resident Evil 4 to see exactly why and how it's so important. Resident Evil 4 on the PS2 just makes Resident Evil 4 accessible to more players, and that's something gamers need.
In recent years, zombies have evolved from stupid, slow-moving creatures to monsters in their own right. Similarly, Resident Evil has changed its zombies into something else entirely-monstrous mobs with minds-while simultaneously changing its game genre into something other that survival horror, but something that clearly evolved from survival horror. For monster-fans, gamers, and even for political commentary, Resident Evil 4 delivers on the promises of gaming on any platform-to offer innovative, interesting, and culturally relevant gaming experiences.
*Feminism has gotten bad press in recent years, but its main drive is equality: equal pay for equal work, maternity and paternity leave, equal terms for all people regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and so on. In all, feminism asks for a level playing field, which is a concept all gamers should understand. In particular, the Resident Evil games normally allow for a man and woman character, both are equally powerful, and both have idealized but not hypersexualized bodies. So, each character is equal in performance and in presentation (other games often offer women and men characters, but there's generally an imbalance in presenting the man as idealized and the woman as idealized and hypersexualized). Because of its fair presentation, Resident Evil has gotten many girls into gaming, or gotten them to continue in gaming, and that's definitely a feminist move.