First of all, the control system is totally different. Long gone are the fixed cameras and 'spin-on-the-circle' movement, replaced by a far more effective third-person behind-the-back camera. It feels a bit like a FPS, but with Leon's body at the centre of the screen. At first the controls feel strange because of this. All your movement is done on the left stick, with the right offering a limited snap-back view of your surroundings. Turning quickly is therefore difficult, although you can spin 180 degrees by pulling back and pressing B. If anything it initially feels a little clumsy, but there's a very good reason why Resident Evil 4's control method is genius. We'll get to that in a minute.
Shooting lumps out of your attackers is achieved by pressing the right shoulder button to enter the aiming stance. The camera zooms in over your shoulder and a red laser-sight shows where you're aiming. Pressing A shoots. There's no FPS-style running and gunning here. You stand your ground and unload, or bitch out and run. Again, this feels a little clumsy at first, and (again) there's a very good reason why this is genius. We'll get to it, honest.
GO FOR THE HEAD!
But first we need to tell you how awesome it feels to blast the festering crap out of redneck types. As you hold the right shoulder button the left stick becomes your aim. Targeting different regions of your opponent's body elicits different effects, so hitting them in the chest will slow them down or spin them, while a close-up shot to the face will blow their heads clean off in a magnificently crunchy shower of brain shrapnel.
But there's a catch. While you no longer have to go into your inventory to reload your weapon, reloading is a time-consuming affair. We've lost count of the number of times we've had hordes of enemies bearing down on us and we've heard that horrible, terrifying 'clunk' as the chamber empties and Leon goes into his laborious reload animation. Awesome.
That first encounter we described feels horribly panicked and rushed as you fumble for your weapon and take your first tentative shots. The great thing is that this feeling never ebbs away, no matter how many enemies you've plugged or what powerful weapon you're packing.
And there are plenty to pack. As you progress through Resident Evil 4 you'll find new weapons (including grenades of all varieties) throughout the environment (pleasingly, a shotgun is available within the first ten minutes) or available to buy from the mysterious Merchant. This bloke's always around when you need a new piece, and for the right price he can upgrade the power, speed and capacity of your existing weapons. He doesn't sell ammo, though, so you'll have to keep an eye on your stocks - but happily this is the first Resident Evil that wants you to have enough ammo. Not too much. Just enough to take out as many bad guys as you need to, without making you feel too comfortable.
Shotguns feel meaty and spread the pain pleasingly, while the rifle allows sniped headshots that shower undead head mush everywhere. The SMG offers ultra-fast rates of fire but is fairly ineffective, while the rocket launcher is stupidly powerful but only comes with one shot. Then there's the Magnum: hits harder than a freight train, but ammo is in short supply. All in all the selection of weapons is hugely satisfying and always feels meaty enough to do the job.
There are other ways to attack your enemies that come in handy. If you stun an enemy with a bullet to the face you can kick him with a swift tap of the A button, resulting in another glorious nugget explosion if he was close to death. You have a knife too, which comes in handier for busting open ammo-holding crates and barrels but can also be used for bloodletting.