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15 Reviews

Resident Evil 4

Caution: may contain religious nuts

Resident Evil 4 is a good game lurking behind a bad conversion. In fact, saying it's "bad" is like saying Nietzsche was "a bit of a worrier" - it's as if Capcom gave someone a fiver to make their game work on the PC, and left it at that.

The bare-minimum effort put into bringing it over from consoles causes problems from the start. There's no mouse support either in-game or out, forcing you into a crippled keyboard layout that's not explained either in the options or the readme. If you want to alter the keys or (recommended) customise a joypad you must exit the game, making setup wearying - and even working out how to quit out is hard, because all is exactly as it was on the PS2, where you don't need to end the program.

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Worse, the button icons that flash up while you're playing are clearly still for the PS2 controller, just with R1, L2 etc replaced with the numbers 1-8. Not Shift, Control or anything remotely meaningful or useful. This would simply be another annoying detail if it didn't reduce the game's numerous quick-reaction sequences to a farce of fumbling deaths. When villagers push huge rocks down chutes at you, a sea monster charges your boat or a giant swipes at you, two random buttons flash briefly on screen. Hit them within a second or so and you dodge.

Chances are, though, seeing six and three on the silhouette of a controller you don't have will mean nothing, and you'll die instead. It turns boss battles and fun momentary scares into a random button-mashing annoyance. Still. At its heart Resi Evil 4 remains a console game, so hammering the wrong buttons as well as the right ones is usually not punished.

But still! The real reason for all this whinging is disappointment, and I'm disappointed this conversion has been so carelessly tossed at us because Resi 4 is fun. Though it may not technically stand up to even the most generic third-person PC shooter, it's got something they haven't - it's not generic. It's Resident Evil. As such you get an entertainingly cheesy storyline, amusing voice acting and such an atmosphere of Camp Horror the Americans want to open a detention centre there. They'll deny it, of course.

It no longer concerns the exhausted Raccoon City, either. Set in region of Eastern Europe where they farm brown for export as teachers' trousers, the zombies are replaced with freaky bumpkins in thrall to a religious cult. Of course, there's more to it than that, including a virus, increasingly worrisome monsters and an Umbrella bad guy favourite, but rather than riffing on old, anti-consumerism zombie flicks, its subtext is far more modern.

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Religious extremists seek to enslave the world by reducing everyone to either a) mindless but murderous automatons or b) dead, and they start by provoking the US.
In Resi 4 they do it by kidnapping the president's daughter, which is where you, as Leon, come in. Sent into a brown hell of pitchforks and slightly Transylvanian weirdness to rescue her, Leon is a lot more sprightly than when last seen in Resi 2. He can kick people's heads off, jump gaps, dive through windows, vault fences and drop undamaged from heights.

The moves are all context-sensitive, but nevertheless make a considerable difference to the otherwise still treacly behaviour - as does a proper third-person camera with a deliberately restrictive over-the-shoulder view. Many of the multi-enemy battles become an excitingly tense chase through hillbilly houses, out onto the roofs and up and down ladders, which you can also kick over to thwart climbers, if only briefly - they'll put them back up. There's even a hugely prolonged onslaught on a house that is classic Night of the Living Dead.

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