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Resident Evil 4
Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Gore, and Intense Violence
For: Nintendo GameCube (NOTE: A PlayStation 2 version is due out in late 2005)

Virtually no name is more synonymous with the genre of survival horror than Resident Evil. And it?s safe to say that few, if any, Resident Evil titles have received more hype than Resident Evil 4. If you?re wondering how good this game ultimately is, here?s the answer in a nutshell: Resident Evil 4 is one of the most beautiful, most cinematic game experiences in any game on any current console. Period. It is also as gory and violent as any Resident Evil game and also has enough disturbing moments to thoroughly validate the M-rating attached to it.

GAMING EXPERIENCE: Game Play:

The storyline in Resident Evil 4 is a semi-sequel of sorts to Resident Evil 2. Leon Kennedy, one of the characters from RE2, is the principal actor in RE4, playing the role of a special agent assigned to rescue the President?s daughter, Ashley Graham. Leon begins his search at an unspecified village in Europe, and is quickly ensnared in a pernicious conspiracy. For the most part RE4 is a self-contained storyline that has nothing to do with RE2?s Raccoon City incident, although a few notable players from RE2 will reprise their roles here. Resident Evil 4 is played through a third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective, with the camera always behind Leon. Game play in RE4 consists primarily of moving around environments shooting enemies and exploring the various buildings and other landmarks in the area. The game is by and large linear, but there are some areas that are massive and allow for some nonlinear exploration. There are also a few puzzles, most of them easy to figure out. And game play doesn?t stop when the cutscenes roll. A cardinal rule in Resident Evil 4 is this: never, ever put your controller down. In a Dragon?s Lair-style fashion, several of the game?s cutscenes will require you to make specific button moves to avert disaster. Right in the middle of a seemingly innocuous cutscene, you?ll find yourself being prompted to rapidly tap the A button (to sprint, for example) or pressing the two buttons simultaneously (often to dodge). And if you think that?s tense, actual game combat itself can be nerve-wracking. This is a game that thrives in its role as a survival horror game, with enemies that bear down on you with paced, unnerving efficiency. Like those enemies, the game itself is marvelously paced, with so much tension that the few puzzles you do encounter are welcome respites from the constant, unsettling barrage of irate villagers and monsters. There are a few role-playing conventions in Resident Evil 4 that give the game a certain depth beyond the straight-up action game. For one, you?ll find herbs along the way to boost your health maximum. Second, you will run into a mysterious trader throughout the quest who will offer you weapons and accessories, as well as the capacity to upgrade the strength, speed, and capacity of your current weapons. You have limited funds, so you?ll have to make some agonizing choices as to which direction to build or upgrade your inventory. You also have limited inventory space with weapons and accessories that vary in size, so you?ll have to make careful and sometimes-difficult decisions in regard to what you will carry.

Graphics:

Built from the ground up on the GameCube hardware, Resident Evil 4 is arguably the best looking game on any console in this generation, PS2, Xbox or otherwise. Some of the character models, particularly Leon and Ashley, are so detailed they rival those of a CG movie. The backgrounds also look great and reflect a diverse array of locales. Best of all, the game runs at a steady framerate with no slowdown, even during the battles with some of the game?s massive ? and massively-detailed ? boss characters. The graphics also reflect solid physics; enemies shot in the knee will buckle under the wound, while those struck in the head will recoil in pain. In fact, the only real complaint with the graphics ? and it is a minor gripe ? is the occasional enemy arm or leg that leaks through a closed door. The cutscenes, rendered in the game?s engine, look fantastic. Lip-synching looks great and Leon moves, kicks, and dives with complete realism. Those familiar with Konami?s Metal Gear Solid series will appreciate the fine cinematography and choreography done in Resident Evil 4, with multiple camera angles adding flair and tension to the game?s cutscenes.

Sound:

The soundtrack does an excellent job of creating both a mood and evoking emotion at key points. Whenever your character is spotted by an enemy, the music changes dramatically. This proves particularly effective as a tension-builder if you cannot see the enemy in question; more than once, the music change had me frantically looking around for potential foes. Conversely, there is a sense of relief when the music subsides and the wind returns, signaling momentary safety. Naturally, most of the songs are eerie in their mood, but there are also a couple of tracks that take on a different theme, including a powerful brass piece that accompanies one of the more audacious scenes. The voicework in Resident Evil features some outstanding performances. Leon, Ashley, and the main cast reflect good cast selection and top-notch, impassioned voice acting. There are a few hammy roles in the game ? notably that of the evil Salazaar ? but the tension of the game is such that even the cheesier deliveries can deliver some creepiness. And not only are the main characters well-voiced, but the background voices, particularly those of the deranged villagers, is remarkably believable. The same goes for the religious zealots in the game, who can often be heard immersed in unsettling chants. Oftentimes you?ll be able to hear voices, grunts, or chants from a distance, an unsettling warning of approaching foes. The sound effects are also true to the task. Weapons sound great, from the metallic wisp of a scythe to the boom of a shotgun. The footsteps of both you and your foes can be heard in the crunch of the grass or the hollow knocks of a wooden floor. The subtle attention to detail aurally really ties a bow on the immersive nature of the game experience.

Control:

Historically, Resident Evil games have notoriously-clunky controls. Resident Evil 4 is a significant improvement over its predecessors, although they take a little getting used to. Unlike previous Resident Evil incarnations, RE4 uses a free-roaming aiming system activated by holding down the R trigger and aiming with the control stick. The A button is primarily context-sensitive, and can be used to fire (in conjunction with the R trigger), perform kicks and even suplexes, open doors, pick up items, climb, catch, manipulate objects, and perform a host of other tasks. The game does challenge you with a few limitations. One, you must stop moving in order to fire your weapons or perform any attack in the game; those accustomed to the run-and-gun philosophy of first person shooters are in for a bit of a curve. Additionally, there is no strafing in the game, so not only are you stuck in place when firing, but sliding out from behind a wall is out of the question, too. Even with these restrictions, though, I found the controls comfortable and intuitive after a few hours working with them, and found it to be surprisingly versatile.

Longevity:

Shipped on two Cube discs, Resident Evil 4 is about average in terms of length for a survival horror game, with the first run through taking between twenty and twenty-five hours. (As I am a stickler for thoroughness, the game took me about twenty-four hours.) The game offers some nice surprises for those who beat it, too, including some unlockable weapons and some pretty cool mini-games. Overall, one can get a lot of gaming time out of this title.

APPROPRIATENESS ISSUES: Violence:

- People killing people in self-defense (-4 pts) - Blood sprays on the wall and everywhere else (-2.5 pts) - Gruesome details (Ex. acid burning off skin, heart being cut out of body, human sacrifices) (-2.5 pts) If you?re reading this review, chances are you probably already know the game is a veritable gorefest. Most any wound inflicted in the game results in a spattering of blood, and oftentimes the wounds will linger. Leon will gun down several hundred enemies during the course of the game, and in turn will be crushed, cleaved, ingested (yes, ingested), or gunned down several times himself. Several locations look like veritable morgues, with bloody bodies in piles or in some sort of unsettling post-execution position. While the dead on display are not as rampant as, say, Diablo, there is still a lot of death to be seen here, leaving little doubt about the ?survival horror? classification of this game.

Language:

- Swear Words found in a PG-13-rated movie are used in the game (-4 pts) - Sexual Jokes are made once or twice. (-2 pts) Although the box itself does not indicate it, there are a few stronger profanities in RE4, and there are several mild profanities scattered throughout the game. There isn?t a lot of language in the game, but the language that is there is a little stronger than what you see in most video games. Additionally, There are one or two suggestive comments by certain characters toward Ashley, the President?s daughter.

Occult Themes:

- Game takes place in an environment with minor occult references. (-3 pts) - There is no supernatural activity in the game. (-0 pts) A religious cult with monastic trappings is at the center of this game?s plot, and although this cult is never associated with Christianity, it is apparent that the developers borrowed some Christian conventions in designing the group. The cult?s followers can often be heard from afar muttering Gregorian-like chants, and these religious zealots will infrequently employ some of the jargon of Christianity, including references to sin and atonement. No less disturbing is the sadistic bent of the cult?s members, who are sometimes involved in bloody rituals within the confines of medieval-style chapels. That being said, the primary angle of this game is scientific rather than paranormal, and there is nary a zombie, ghoul, or other supernatural creature to be found.

Sexuality:

- Characters clothing is sexy or accentuates their sexuality (Ex. tight clothing or low cleavage) (-1.5 pts) - No Sexual Content (-0 pts) A female character in the game, Ada, is a little on the underdressed side and makes a couple of suggestive poses.

Moral/Ethical Issues:

- No authority issues involved with this game. (-0 pts) - Game requires that decisions be made that go against traditional values. (-2.5 pts) Resident Evil 4 doesn?t present any dialogue trees and offers limited moral options for the main character. To be sure, Leon is an honorable and determined protagonist. His charge to save the President?s daughter, likewise, is a prime example of self-sacrifice and courage in the face of evil. At the same time, the bare fact that Leon is forced to kill hundreds of humans, with no other alternative course of action, lends itself to a few ethical questions. Notwithstanding the fact that RE4 is a survival horror game ? a genre which, by definition, revolves around a kill-or-be-killed theme ? the lack of any ?stun? moves (such as those in Deus Ex) or dialogue trees (such as those as in KOTOR) to avoid bloodshed is nevertheless a notable omission.

Closing Comments:

From a secular standpoint, this is the magnum opus of survival horror games. Fans of Nintendo, in particular, will no doubt be flush with joy over the critical success of a game that will be a GameCube exclusive for most of 2005, and it is not out of the realm of reason that many such fans will remember this as the best game ever on the Cube. That is an easy case to make ? the production values on this game are as good as they come. This is Metal Gear Solid meets Resident Evil with a bit of Metroid Prime thrown in, and the results are predictably spectacular. From a Christian perspective, there are elements to this game that are unavoidably troublesome. As a 27 year-old Christian man, I struggled some as to whether or not to purchase a game with this level of gratuitous gore and violence, to say nothing of the disturbing creatures and images that permeate the game. Circumstances, however, allowed me to borrow the game from someone else and play it through. Even now I have seriously mixed emotions about whether or not I would be willing to buy this game for my own library. Resident Evil 4 is definitely a game that is better-suited for an adult audience? and even some older Christian gamers may also find this game to be more than they?re comfortable with. Those who are uncertain about whether or not to get it might want to rent it first. (REVIEWER\'S NOTE: the original game score has been modified slightly to reflect the updated CCGR appropriateness scoring guidelines.)

Final Ratings:
Game Play: 10/10 Graphics: 10 /10 Sound: 10/10 Control: 9/10 Longevity: 9/10 GAMING TOTAL: 48/50
Violence: 1/10 Language: 4/10 Occult Themes: 7/10 Sexuality: 8.5/10 Moral/Ethical Issues: 7.5/10 APPROPRIATENESS TOTAL: 28/50

Overall Score: 76%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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