Resident Evil 4
(c) Capcom

..Platform:GameCube, PlayStation 2 port planned
..Developer:Capcom Production Studio 4
..Directed by:Shinji Mikami
..Publisher:Capcom, distributed by Nintendo in Europe
..BBFC Rating:15
..ESRB Rating:Mature
..Genre:Survival Horror

The latest (At the time of writing) Resident Evil game from Capcom. Don't let the name fool you - this is actually the sixth game in the main series storyline (excluding the Survivor games, Gaiden for the Game Boy Color, and the Resident Evil Outbreak titles.), taking place around 2004. It sees the return of several characters from the series' past, most notably Leon S. Kennedy and Ada Wong, both from Resident Evil 2 for the Playstation(But which, like the first three resident evil games, got ported to basically every platform going, including Dreamcast, PC and GameCube.)
Leon, following his escape from the zombie-infested Raccoon City way back in 1998, has been recruited into a covert organization headed up by the U.S government.

< SLIGHT SPOILER > You can actually see an inkling of this in the unlockable Epilogue for Leon from Resident Evil 3, though at the time it was hard to decipher what was actually going on. Now we know! < /SPOILER >

Leon's first job in his new position, is to track down the President's daughter - Ashley Graham - who's been kidnapped by persons unknown. He's had reliable reports that she's located in a European rural area (which seems, from the currency the locals use, to be somewhere in Spain). When he gets there, though, the locals are anything but friendly - they wander around in some kind of trance-like state and try to systematically extinguish his vital signs in a range of interesting ways.

Your garden variety zombies these ain't, though. These guys actually have AI - they'll use weapons, throw things at you, snipe at you from a distance and use scenery like ladders to get at your position. They also have a vocabulary beyond the usual grunts and moans, which actually includes some kind of language or other (Some of them appear to be making cat noises, but that's neither here nor there).

The new and revamped cannon fodder aren't the only things that've been changed from the now-familiar Resident Evil formula, though. The playable character - Leon for the most part - is now capable of a wide variety of extra moves, including melee combat beyond the usual ineffectual knife slashing, jumping over walls, diving out of windows with Hollywood cinematic style and actually kicking down doors.

What's that you say? Kicking down DOORS? In a Resident Evil game?! Why, yes! This time round, the ever-so-iconic first-person door opening sequences present in basically every Resident Evil game so far have been removed, and replaced with ordinary in-game animations. Along with this positive revolution for a Resident Evil game, the entire of the Resident Evil 4 environment is rendered in full 3D, rather than the old prerendered 2D backgrounds with 3D characters overlaid on top. This does, of course, mean the background graphics have had a bit of a downgrade from the dizzy heights of Resident Evil 0 and the Resident Evil Remake for GameCube - but Capcom, fortunately, have managed to program one of the best-looking 3D game engines of the current generation, making the transition that much less jarring.

Resident Evil Code: Veronica was also in 3D, but totally failed to take advantage of it by sticking with the fixed-position camera angles that really, were no longer required. Resident Evil 4 does away with these completely, giving the game a camera that follows closely behind the protagonist, third person shooter style. Aiming is now no longer an auto-aim based affair (Assuming you had auto aim turned on in the previous games, that is...) and has been replaced with a decidedly Metal Gear Solid 2 style aiming system. There's never any crosshairs or aiming reticules (except with sniper rifles), but almost every gun has a laser sight attached to it - which is then used to line up your shots when the Aim button is held down. This allows for an entirely more skill-based approach for combat - the enemies now take differing amounts of damage and react differently to being shot in different places. A shot to the head increases the chance of a head-explodingly devastating headshot, for example, and at the very least stuns the enemy severely. A shot to the calf knocks them to their knees - and you can actually shoot their weapons out of their hands! (Especially entertaining if they're holding dynamite...)
On the subject of drastic changes to combat, there's now more than enough ammo around for you to gun down anything and anyone. This makes a gigantic change to the age-old Resident Evil characteristic of severely limited ammunition.

There's so much ammo, in fact, that some of it actually gets dropped by downed enemies. The same thing goes for health items, which are a lot more abundant.
But that's not all they drop. No, the enemies actually drop money, in the form of pesetas. Actually, they're in the form of little glowing treasure chests, but the game calls them pesetas. This money can then be spent on weapon upgrades, or entirely new weapons altogether, that you can buy from a Merchant (More on him later, for those that can be bothered to read that far).

All of these new additions are pulled off superbly by Capcom. The new actions, like jumping from windows, jumping walls etc, are all pulled off with a single press of the A button. The same thing goes for the new melee combat - stunning an enemy by shooting/slashing them in the face or the legs will result in an indicator appearing telling you that melee combat is available - hitting the button in time causes you to pull off some seriously cool moves, like roundhouse kicks or even a suplex or two.

The storyline, as usual with Resident Evil games, is brilliant and actually manages to tie in with the older games in the series while simultaneously diverging enough to allow for new gameplay situations. The main game is seriously meaty, taking about 15 hours or more, and is followed up by a veritable feast of extras like a Survival Mode of sorts and an entirely new mini-mission mode starring Ada. Yeah, this'll keep fans of the Resident Evil series - and probably a lot of third person shooter types - playing for quite some time.

Sidenotes... The Merchants, as I mentioned earlier, are strange guys in long purple robes and wearing gigantic backpacks that run around the game selling you weapons and upgrades. For some reason they never get attacked by any of the enemies in the game (though you can kill them yourself), despite the fact that they openly sell you weapons, health items, and upgrade your weapons for you. Some of them have even set up shooting ranges in the enemy's own strongholds, and let you practice in them!
They all look identical, but unless they can teleport there must be at least two, because at one point you walk out of a room holding one Merchant and into another which already has one waiting for you. No explanation for their existence is ever given, but eh... I'm actually kinda fond of them.