A good movie sequel is better than the original. The first one was good, why shouldn’t the second one be better? Beyond the sequel, though, things begin to look grim. The Phantom Menace. The Matrix Revolutions. Rocky 5. In video games, though, things tend to get better. Technology improves; writers are able to do more with the games. One need only look at the Madden series for proof.
Resident Evil 4, just released for the Playstation 2, defies all logic. Abandoning a previously successful storyline, camera system, and movement scheme, nothing in this game works or makes sense.
The Umbrella Corporation, responsible for the viral outbreak in the previous games, has been destroyed. The president’s daughter has been kidnapped, and taken to Europe. You, Leon Kennedy (star of Resident Evil 2), must rescue her from Los Illuminados, a group of zombie-like (not zombie) creatures. Though the plot makes a complete jump from Resident Evil 3 and Code: Veronica (I was struggling to find connections), there are enough references that a new gamer will be completely lost.
The camera system in the game will go down as one of the worst in history. Not quite first-person, not-quite third person, the over-the-shoulder view is confusing and cumbersome. Its offset from the angle the player is walking at, so getting the character to go just where you want is difficult.
The camera does allow for the weapon aiming to be improved from previous games. All guns (except those with telescopic sights) have laser scopes, and can be pointed anywhere. One interesting feature this allows for is reactive fighting. If you shoot an enemy in the leg, he’ll fall. If you shoot him in the arm, he’ll drop his weapon.
The movement scheme is incomprehensible. Since the game is neither a first-person- nor third-person-shooter, neither standard movement system can be used. However, the one that was chosen, which combines, turning, tilting, and moving all on one control stick, is too imprecise and frustrating to be of any use to anyone.
There were many minor improvements from previous games. Your inventory is now managed based on a grid system, with every item taking up a certain number of blocks. Ammunition is more plentiful now, hidden around levels and dropped by enemies. A merchant, present in each level, allows the player to purchase new weapons and upgrades for old ones.
There just isn’t anything special about the game to overcome its many problems. Graphics are run-of-the-mill. The series that once ruled the survival horror genre isn’t very scary. The plot is confusing and not very intriguing.
At a certain point, writers, coders, executives- someone needs to step up and say, “You know what? This series has reached its limit.” It’s time to put Resident Evil to rest.