PS2 Review: Resident Evil 4

Already an almost guaranteed lock for game of the year, Resident Evil 4 has found its way onto the Playstation 2. Aside from a small graphical drop, this is the same game it was on the Gamecube, now with extra features. With that little boost, it's not hard to consider this a video game that truly earns the praise of "perfection."

By throwing out everything that made the series popular and starting from scratch, Resident Evil 4 becomes a masterpiece of action/adventure gaming. It's a title that causes reviews to look like marketing material, praising every aspect, and yet it's the truth. It's not hard to pinpoint what makes this a new classic, especially with the intense action that never becomes tiring.

Guns offer a power never before felt in this series, and blasting a murderous horde of villagers taken over by a mysterious parasite is an incredible rush. Part of that is the ingenious new camera view, set just over the shoulder. The closer to the action the player is, the higher the tension grows. Aside from a few missteps due to poorly placed bear traps, it's never a problem.

The fantasy setting lets the designers go overboard, crafting truly sickening beings and monsters, and that's all within the first few hours. By the finale about 15 hours later, you've encountered more innovative monstrosities than anything Hollywood has dreamed up. They all produce unforgettable struggles and usually with multiple ways to destroy them.

Those looking for the puzzle aspects of previous games will likely be the only ones disappointed, though engrossed once they experience how well crafted this game is. It's linear the entire way through, but it never feels like it. There's little backtracking, all credit to the time spent ensuring the game is all in one piece and flows naturally.

Even one of the most dreaded aspects of video games, escort missions, is enjoyable. The president's daughter, Ashley, plays a significant role here and is the reason for Leon's mission. Rarely does she make a mistake, and you almost wish there were more moments where the two could team together to perform a task.

On the PS2, you'll only need to deal with the usual aliasing problems and barely lower polygon counts. The frame rate stays steady in every encounter. To compensate for the slight dip in graphical quality, you'll be able to take on the role of Ada once you've played through the game once in a new feature called Separate Ways.

Different from Assignment Ada (also included here) on the Gamecube, Separate Ways chronicles the mysterious character's journey almost step for step alongside Leon. It's a side story to the main game that answers numerous questions on a four to five hour trek. Most of the game takes place in locales from the core game, though the fourth mission (out of five) is all new. It's a great feature as players learn how aided Leon was in his quest by the agile Ada.

The only other exclusive is a Plagas removal gun, and you'll need to beat the game twice just to have a chance at it. Rather ridiculously, you'll need to conquer it the second time on the hardest difficulty. Only then is it unlocked, and after beating Resident Evil 4 twice (especially on its most ruthless difficulty), it's not worth the effort to play through it again just to use one new weapon.

You can't possibly take away from a game because of one weak extra though. It's hard enough to believe Resident Evil 4 is running this smoothly on the PS2, and that alone will let an entirely new set of people experience one of the best video games this industry has ever seen. You're only doing a disservice to yourself if you haven't played through it yet.

(***** out of *****)

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