The world is quiet as Leon moves cautiously down the stairs and emerges on the other side of the village. Immediately, he hears the snap and growl of a chainsaw accompanied by guttural cries in Spanish. Leon launches an incendiary grenade at the group, the chainsaw-wielding villager drops and writhes on the ground, covered in flames. The other two gruesome, zombie-like villagers were smart enough to remain far from the explosion of the grenade.
Leon moves quickly and pumps two shotgun shells into the burning body. This isn’t enough. The other two villagers, one brandishing a pitchfork, the other bare-fisted, haul full-force towards Leon. He turns his attention, aims, and pops two 9mm shells into the one’s leg, dropping it instantly, and moves in for the kill. The other one bobs and circles around. Leon equips the shotgun and point blank, blows its head clean off, a gratifying pop and fizz fills the air as the body walks briefly and then falls and dissolves. Leon knifes the other villager as it tries to rise.
He hears the chainsaw again, it had been there the whole time, but he was focusing too much on the other villagers. He does a quick turn and it’s too late. The chainsaw digs into his neck and, as the camera zooms out, it chews his head clean off. The screen goes black...
Welcome to Resident Evil 4.
If there were one word to describe why Resident Evil 4 should take precedence over any other game right now, it would be "atmosphere." This game oozes it. It drips from every beautifully envisioned sign, or shanty, or windmill. It is visible in the crows that circle overhead and in the silence that is so abruptly unnerving that it forces you to become a part of the game.
If Resident Evil brought survival horror to the masses, then this outing redefines it. It evolves the genre to such a degree that going back isn’t even an option. And man does it get creepy. Very little grandiose scores, just Leon and all the weapons he can carry, wandering through hell-on-earth trying to save the President’s daughter from an insane cult bent on killing you as hard and fast as possible.
This is not the Resident Evil I grew up playing. It takes weapon customizability to a new level (reminiscent of the upgrading you can do in Parasite Eve). Movement is clean, item management and weapon use are efficient and simple, and enemies are smarter and move like world-class sprinters! They bob and weave, and they sneak up on you if you get sloppy.
Resident Evil 4 is action survival horror. No longer will you have to deal with running out of ammo (this perhaps goes against the whole foundation of the genre, but believe me, there will be plenty you have to survive even with a lot of ammo!). No longer will awkward and clumsy controls greet you every time you want to kill a not-zombie as someone (I think on a message board) so eloquently coined Leon’s new enemies.
Leon is pulled back closer to the screen, giving the player almost a first-person viewpoint. He moves smoothly, but is still slow enough to build the proper tension and cause trouble when surrounded by villagers. Weapon use is retooled as well. Right trigger brings up an equipped gun, left trigger brings up the knife, and "A" button attacks—simple and effective. Leon still has quick turn and running, both of which you’ll make heavy use of.