If you weren't already aware, Resident Evil 4 has been available for the GameCube for some time now. It is, without doubt, one of the finest games ever made and its existence alone made purchasing a GameCube worthwhile. Despite the fact that 99% of people who've played it agree, for many people, this PlayStation 2 release will be the first they've seen of it. While this is a sad fact, it's good to know that Capcom's classic will reach a wider audience this time around.
What makes Resident Evil 4 such a great game is its amazing atmosphere. From the moment you start, walking alone into a quiet village, nothing seems right. Straight away you feel like you're entering a part of the world that has been cut off from visitors for good reason, but you don't know for sure what lies ahead. As Leon Kennedy you must find the President's daughter, Ashley, and return her safely. It's just typical that she's fallen in with the wrong crowd.
Resident Evil 4 really feels like a modern action adventure title, and breaks away from its typical survival horror roots. There are still scares, but now it's more about you against the odds, taking on more enemies than ever before. And what enemies they are, boasting some of the best design I've ever seen. Forget about your bog-standard zombies, these guys are so much more. I won't ruin the surprise by going into too much detail, but expect to wowed at regular intervals.
The game is a big departure from previous games in the series in terms of controls as well. Resident Evil 4 does away with the fixed camera angles and clunky controls from years gone by, adopting a new third-person over-the-shoulder viewpoint and a more modern dual analogue stick control system. You still don't have the level of control found in an FPS, but the new system works very well, limiting your control for good reason. You can't strafe so there's no quick way to scope out a room, and you can't move and shoot, making you vulnerable to multiple enemies. It all makes the game more intense and keeps the essence of Resident Evil alive.
'... environments you'll work your way through vary immensely...'
It's an epic adventure, too, compared to previous games in the series at least. The environments you'll work your way through vary immensely and each has been thought out and created with such care. There's some backtracking at points, but it's never a chore and the game seems to fly by, with its 12-hour playtime passing in a few extreme, unstoppable gaming sessions. Few games have the ability to draw you in and keep you there like Resident Evil 4. Whether it's a stunning set-piece or a much needed rest in the company of a bizarre travelling salesman, the game always knows what you need.
Seeing as this is a port, it's worth talking about how the PlayStation 2 has handled one of the GameCube's most stunning games. To put it simply, it doesn't look as good, but that's not to say it doesn't look great. If you've never played the GameCube version I seriously doubt you'll care, as what you'll see will still blow you away, particularly if you only own a PlayStation 2. Some detail has been lost in textures, environment detail and polygon count, but not drastically so. The frame rate falters a little here and there, but never enough to hurt the experience, and on the whole PlayStation 2 owners will be amazed at what the game throws at them.
It's got a great pace too, never throwing too much at you (although it might seem like it) and it's always fair. Save points are frequent and can be used as many times as you like (there's not a ribbon shortage this time, just magical inkless typewriters) and should you die a while after your last save, checkpoints prevent you from losing too much progress. Action sequences are nicely interspersed with general exploration and puzzle sections, and Quick Time Events provide some stunning interactive cutscenes. You'll think you've seen it all, only to be faced with such an awesome boss battle that you simply must play on to see what else the game dishes out. It's truly an immense game.
PlayStation 2 owners do get a few benefits for waiting this long, too, with proper anamorphic widescreen support (no nasty double stretching when played on a widescreen TV) and exclusive Ada bonus missions. Ada appeared in Resident Evil 2 and her appearance in Resident Evil 4 made many fans very happy. On top of the unlockable Ada mission that GameCube owners could play, PlayStation 2 owners get to play with Ada for an additional six hours (or thereabouts) in 'Separate Ways', a brand new side quest that takes place along side Leon's main adventure. This gives players a greater idea on what Ada's reasons for being there are, and helps flesh out the overall story.
You also get a new weapon in the main game, a new weapon for Ada, and all the extra unlockable stuff from the GameCube version. It's a real bumper package - not that the original version needed anything more to make it worthwhile. In fact, aside from the visual cutbacks (and they really don't hurt the game much) this PlayStation 2 version has it all: Extended content, smooth controls, proper widescreen support and superb audio. You could argue that there's not enough here to warrant buying the game again, but if you fancy another run through (and it's just as good the second - or third - time) the PlayStation 2 version gives you a fair bit of new content to play through as well.
Resident Evil 4 should have set the world alight when it was originally released on the GameCube earlier in the year, but barring a disaster the masses should finally see what the fuss is about with this PlayStation 2 port. Purists will cling onto their GameCube copies, proclaiming that no one should buy anything other than the sacred original, but the fact that the average bloke browsing games in his local store will now have a chance of taking this home (rather than not noticing it at the back under a shelf of kiddy GBA titles) makes me very happy. This is one of the greatest games ever made and should be experienced by as many people as possible.