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August 01, 2005

Review: Resident Evil 4 (GC) VS Resident Evil 4 (PS2) -- Evil knows no limits...

VGP Score


9.5(GC)|9.6(PS2)



The room is dark, dimly lit by a chest mounted flashlight, and everything around you is dripping with blood. The foul stench of rotted flesh permeates through the walls, and the loco locals are even worse off. Around every corner a trap is set, a creature lurks and evil waits for that prime moment; the moment when your inner fear is at it's peak, and leaps at you from it's resident holdings. Resident Evil 4 takes off in a radically new direction that succeeds on every level. It's both the best looking and one of the best playing games of this entire year, if not the last 4 years. It's debut was on the Gamecube, and it received unparalleled worship and praise, but rightfully so. You take control of Leon some years after the events of Racoon City. Umbrella has been dismembered, and the remnants of their corrupt corporation still linger in the new enemies unleashed upon you. The Presidents daughter has been kidnapped, and you've been charged with the mission of finding and rescuing her. She is your top priority. Any and all obstacles are to be eliminated by any means necessary. Along the way, you'll uncover the diabolical plans of a twisted religious cult to infiltrate the top brass of the United States using mutant insects known as Las Plagas. Returning friends and foes await, as new enemies and new allies take up arms in an ongoing battle that leads up to a climax worthy of the title "Resident Evil".

It goes without saying that the Resident Evil series was slipping. Resident Evil wowed everybody with it's slick 3D visuals matted onto some fairly ornate 2D backgrounds, and Resident Evil 2 continued that tradition with fabulously pre-rendered cut-scenes (one of the first games to feature them with cinematic flare). The story evolved into a plot of deceit and corruption, and Resident Evil 2 had audiences captivated. Arguably the best Resident Evil before this game, it featured almost too much replay value for a single gamer to handle, and was one of the first games to offer 4 different scenarios for one central plot axis. The game rocked to put it bluntly. Not so subtly, Capcom announced the third title which acted as the epilogue for what we now call the "Umbrella Saga". For all intents and purposes, it was a fitting end. The game was okay, since it was essentially a port of the Resident Evil 2 graphics engine, and felt more like an expansion pack to Resident Evil 2 more than anything. An onslaught of spin-off titles, online enabled games, and some nifty first person shooter games were created in the image of this excellent series. Needless to say, without any real substantial evolution, the series began to stagnate. Resident Evil was becoming the Mega Man of 10 years ago (and to a lesser extent, still today). Nothing other than a true successor to Resident Evil 3, one which defied all boundaries was going to save the series. Capcom delivered.

Preface: Normally I don't section off a review into blocky chunks, but the comparitive nature of this review is going to require it, to make it easier to read and judge the difference between the two.

Graphics

GameCube: There's no contest here. Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube is quite a beautiful thing. You're looking at the best looking game of current generation games, across all platforms, including most PC titles. Capcom has outdone themselves to the n'th degree here. This kind of thing just shouldn't be possible on the GameCube, it defies all the laws of hardware output as we know it. Fire is rendered in realtime using actual fluid dynamics, cloth billows in the wind under a clearly defined set of real world physics, and the polygon counts are through the roof. This is the kind of game you look at and point fingers: "pre-rendered". Absolutely not in this case. Everything, from start to finish is real-time rendering, and at no framerate cost. Unbelievably astounding. Graphical overlay portrays heat and steam like real-world things, and the particle effects for exploding grendades and the ichorous purging of molten magma will put every concept of real-time rendering on current-generation consoles into question. Doors break away a la geomod (re: Red Faction II), and crack at the seems when shot at or pounded by rusty chainsaw. Mucous and slime cover every inch of the infestuous beings chasing after you, and it's all so very sweet. It's almost a surreal experience watching Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube in execution. This is the only true game that can be called "next-gen now", as it breaks the barriers we perceived the GameCube to have. No Xbox game has ever done what this game has done, and to the same effect, even the Ps2 twin brother can't hold a candle to this beauty. Capcom gets an A+ on their report card here.

Playstation 2: There isn't much to say here that hasn't been said about the GameCube version. In the case of the Playstation 2 however, the hardware just isn't up to snuff. The polygon counts have been reduced dramatically, textures muddy with some minor aliasing, and the overall effects involved just aren't all here. Don't get me wrong, the game is still beatuiful, if not one of the best looking games on the Playstation 2, but the polish just isn't here. It compeltely lacks that "next-gen now" quality that makes the GameCube version so much better visually. To add insult to injury, none of the cut-scenes in the Playstation 2 build are real-time. They're all pre-rendered. The proof of this, is in the fact that during the cut-scenes, if you've unlocked an alternate costume or have a piece of body armour equipped, Leon won't be wearing either. He'll be redressed in his default black fitted tee, which isn't horrendous, its just the alternative is much better. Frame-rate holds up though, and the overall effect is still there. It isn't a significant downgrade, but they both also aren't brother and sister either.

Gameplay

GameCube: The behind the back camera view here has it's ups and downs. On the plus side, it allows for pin-point accuracy when you aim your weapon, and keeps a front facing view of all of the surroundings, which avoids entirely the artifact of fixed (read: bad) camera angles of Resident Evil past. The downside however is that you won't always see enemies coming at you. Not a terrible problem once you memorize where enemies are, and make good use of the quick-turn, but it can make for some pretty cheap deaths here and there. Overall, a problem that will frustrate you at first, but once you've learned the lay of the land, it's not something that will continually annoy. The advantage mentioned before however makes for some interesting combat though. Pin point accuracy means you can shoot out any part of the body you need to. If you're being ambushed, punch a hole through some enemies by blasting their legs. Get to a safe spot and continue the clash. The addition of scope based weapons also adds to it a certain Metal Gear Solid feel, that the game really takes advantage of. Context sensitive actions force the player to utilize some strategy however. Ammo in this game is not candy. You aren't allowed to fool around with it. You have to make due with what you have in your arsenal, and at times it might only be a knife and some herbs. Besides the point though, if you shoot or blind an enemy, context sensitive attacks activate, allowing Leon to kick and suplex enemies, which will do major damage and mar the size of any group of foes. Further, all of this is done with some slick controls.

Playstation 2: Ten months ago, I would have told you the game couldn't feel more natural than with the GC controller. I couldn't have been more wrong. Where the game felt natural on the GameCube's funky love handle, it feels made for the Playstation 2. The symmetry makes it feel far more intrinsic, and the larger second analogue stick makes camera movement far easier. Both control well, and the GameCube's controller is no slouch, it just performs better on the Playstation 2.

Don't be fooled though, a well placed shot can easily be countered by a few side-steps and reticle dodges of the enemy. The AI is - while not complex by any means - adequate for the control scheme and perspective the game gives you. Enemies will side-step the moment you're about to pull the trigger on a shot locked plumb to their forehead. They will duck, they will run at you, and they will throw shit til kingdom come. These guys are out for blood, and no amount of weaponry is going to stop them from running head-on into a silver bullet. The villagers (aka Ganados) take up sickle, axe, mace, sheild, pitchfork and sticks of TNT just to see you suffer, and they will succeed on several occasions. This game is ruthless. It's a non-stop gore fest from start to finish. Just when you thought you were home free, a suprise attack is sprung and anything from primative ganado to swarthy mutant will make chase. And while these home grown scares - native to Resident Evil - are all in tact, the game's focus is drastically shifted to the action side of things. You will jump, and you will scream, but far less this time around. The idea here is that you're the hunted, not the other way around. The enemies will have you on the run, and it's never felt better in any game before this.

The boss fights on the other hand are a mixed bag. Some are rather generic, being a super-duper-ultra enemy that just requires more bullets to take down, rather than different strategy. Which is fine. It's not like you're led to expect much else. Other bosses involve the typical method of revealing it's weakspot and attack that instead. On the other hand, there are boss fights that make you want to cry at just how wonderfully molded they are. Without spoiling much, the boss fight against the newly introduced villain Krauser will take you for a spin. It's a boss you fight in two stages. The first being an interactive cut-scene, where the screen prompts you take action and retaliate, otherwise be thwarted and killed in situ. To get all of the necessary information out of him, you'll have to counter all of his attack via these teleprompted button presses, in the mean time being treated to a fantastically rugged action sequence that projects better than most movies. The second part involves the same type of thing (if you so chose) and involves some varied and unique gunplay set in a deserted ruin, where not only is there some stealth involved, but some great exploration and pseudo-platforming. This is the grade A beef of Resident Evil boss fights.

Puzzle solving makes a more than obvious return, with the classic fetch quests, which have you combine and sequence items so that you can create keys and switches to unlock doors to new areas. Mostly that's about it for the recumbent aspects of Resident Evil 4. The rest is primarily run and gun, and ostensibly it's art in motion. If there's a single downside to the refined gameplay here, it's that in situations where certain ammunitions are required, the game does not always give them to you. If you need rifle ammo to snipe out certain parts of an enemy body via thermal imaging, if you don't have any in stock, you may just be out of luck, and resort to blindly blasting at the body with a shotgun. Fortunately, those problems are secluded to a few acts in the last chapter, but they're still there and will be annoying if you're not chinsey with ammo.

Extras and Replay

GameCube:: There's no question that a hefty number of unlockable items and game modes can be found in Resident Evil 4, like alternate costumes and game modes...however the bulk of them lie in the Playstation 2 counter-part.

Playstation 2: After you complete the game once on your own accord, you unlock a Mercanaries mode, a returning feature for those of you who played Resident Evil 3. This mode sports a wide array of maps where you chose from a roster of characters (some old, some new) to run and gun through, each with their own context sensitive special ability. Leon carries his kick over, but someone like the unlockable Hunk (from RE2 fame) can get his groove on by snapping the necks of villagers, and Krauser has both a double round-house and T-Virus mutation which allows for some quick decapitations. Getting better and better rankings in this mode will also unlock some killer weapons which can be upgraded along side the rest of your arsenal on successive playthroughs. Uber weapons like the infinite rocket launcher and chicago typewriter, make playing through RE4 again and again, easier and faster.

On top of this a side mission dubbed "Assignment Ada" is unlocked, where you take control of Ada once again and play to obtain all of the plagas samples that are only alluded to and breifly shown in the main game. It completes a bit of Ada's backstory for RE4, and takes place in the same locations that Leon treks through in the normal single player experience.

These, while fine and dandy, are nothing compared to what the Playstation 2 version gets as some exclusive extras. On top of the two costumes you unlock from playing through RE4 on normal on the GameCube, Leon and Ashley get their own unique costumes. The mobster tux with accompanying scarf are what Leon gets, and a suit of armour which Ashley can be fitted with so that enemies can't carry her away, and makes her impervious to bullets and enemy fire. It makes the game laughably easy, but they're fun to use, if only momentarily. On top of the already delicious Assignment Ada sidequest, Playstation 2 owners get undoubtedly the best videogame extra in recent memory. It's a full fledged single player experience with Ada known as Separate Ways that put you in the shoes of Ada throughout the on goings of Leon's single player experience, and explains here part in the overall scheme of things. Complete with her own set of unique cut-scenes and dialogue, not to mention some exclusive weapons, Separate Ways is good enough to be a standalone game (a damn good one too if combined with Mercenaries and Assignment Ada). This puppy right here is what bumps up the overall interest and value of the game. There's a completely different side of RE4 from the prespective of Ada, and she even gets to visit a location not even Leon is privaleged enough to go to. The plus side here too, is that all of these extras and the single player experience are held on one single disc, and not less on two like the GameCube version. It's called bang for your buck, and RE4 on the Ps2 will put smiles on wallets everywhere.

Overall

Unquestionably, if you're looking for a solid single player exprience with visuals never seen before, then your obvious choice is the GameCube version. However, even for GameCube version veterans, theres more than enough reasons here to rebuy the game and play through what I believe is the best reason to own RE4. If it's the overall value, and longevity in your game, then the Playstation 2 version is for you. There's no doubt here, if it's outside the realm of graphics and fancy visuals, the Playstation 2 version succeeds more than the GameCube version in most everyway. Not to say that it's a grand leap from the GameCube to Playstation 2, but the difference is noticable and the nose gained in the race is probably only going to affect those who haven't already played the game. The overall winner here is the Playstation 2 version, but make no mistake, both games are fantastic and easily among the top competitors for game of the year. You won't be disappointed no matter which way you swing, or which field you play on.

7 Comments:

Blogger coke said...

"There's no doubt here, if it's outside the realm of graphics and fancy visuals, the Playstation 2 version succeeds more than the GameCube version in almost every way."

Wow, I really don't know what to say about this comment. The only thing the Gamecube surpasses the Playstation 2 version is the graphics. The only thing the PS2 version surpasses the Gamecube version is in the extras.
To say that the Playstation 2 version "succeeds more than the Gamecube version in almost every way" is a gross oversimplification. Look at the review you produced. Under gameplay, which most consider the most important part of a game, is identical in both games. The Playstation version does not succeed there.

All that being said, I do agree with your review scores. They should be that high, as this is a great game on any system. But to me, both have their Pros. Gamecube has better graphics and came out half a year before. Playstation has a boatload of extras.

Scores: 9.6 for both in my opinion.
"

November 14, 2005 3:55 PM

 
Blogger Adam said...

Under gameplay, which most consider the most important part of a game, is identical in both games. The Playstation version does not succeed there.

Firstly, I made specific mention that the Playstation 2 version does control better. The controller just works more than the Gamecube. I'm sure you may have a different preference, but overall that is my impression. That gives the Ps2 version a slight advantage. Slight, but it exists.

Thanks for commenting, I hope that addresses your concern.

November 14, 2005 7:05 PM

 
Blogger Erik said...

Huh? I thought you weren't going to review the PS2 version? What changed your mind? I also notice that you gave the GCN version a higher score than in your GameFAQs review, which is nice I guess.(I'm not trying to be annoying or anything, I don't even like RE games, its just that I distinctly remember you saying that you wouldn't review the PS2 version)

November 19, 2005 11:45 AM

 
Blogger Adam said...

Nothing changed my mind, I just submitted the review prematurely. In any case, I do not submit reviews for GameFAQs anymore, so any and all reviews posted there are null and void. (You'll notice the review for RE4 was pulled, in lieu of change of heart. I felt the review was too focused on the negatives, and not properly weighting the positives.)

I also don't ever recall saying I wouldn't review the Ps2 version. In fact, I can say that I've never actually said that.

November 19, 2005 4:05 PM

 
Blogger Erik said...

Well, I remember when you said that. A random drone said something along the lines of "I bet you'll give the PS2 version a better score, tool!" To which you responded "It is still the same basic game and does not need a second review. The score would stay the same anyway." This is paraphrased of course, but trust me, my memory is superb.

November 19, 2005 6:51 PM

 
Blogger Adam said...

Your memory may be superb, but you've translated what you remember incorrectly. You're referring to a comment I made when the game first came out in January for the GC. This is before it was announced that the Ps2 version was going to have extras, above and beyond the GC's offering, especially the new single player campaign Separate Ways, which is like getting two entire games for the price of one. Needless to say, it warrants another review...I however did not say "I'm not not going to review it".

November 19, 2005 7:15 PM

 
Blogger anonymous said...

Adam's a troll, lol. He gave GCN RE4 a 6/10 on GameFAQs. The mods tore him a new asshole several times. XD

February 02, 2006 10:09 AM

 

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