And the article that went with it:
In 1997, Resident Evil shocked the video game world. It single-handedly introduced gamers to a new type of gaming thrill, labeled "survival horror" by its creator, Shinji Mikami. It's use of cinematic camera angles, shocking suprises, and panic-inducing zombies set a standard that video game creators have been chasing ever since. Resident Evil 4 is set to change the industry yet again.
Long in development, Resident Evil 4 was first shown in the U.S. at E3 2003. At that time, the game looked to play almost exactly like its predecessors. And, thruth be told, it did all the way up until about six months ago, when Mikami stepped down as the head of Capcom's fabled Production Studio 4. In an effort to get back to what he does best, the legendary game creator took over as the director of Resident Evil 4. The new system is suprisingly like the original, but also so unique and fresh that you can't help but love the innovation that Mikami has brough to this sequeal. For one, the game can now be played in either first-person perspective or from one of the two other, better (At least in out opinion) views which are basically slight variations on a close third-person camera. But don't think for a second that Resident Evil 4 handles like any other third-person game you have played. For example, it must be viewed in widescreen mode. if your TV doesn't support the 16:9 aspect ratio, the game will feature black bars along the top and bottom to make sure you experience the game to its fullest on a 4:3 monitor. HDTV users will be happy to know the game supports 480 progressive scan, and will fill the entire screen when played on a widescreen TV.
The window size is crucial to how the game system works. When in third-person, Leon fills the far left side of the screen, which we thought would make aiming nearly impossible until we acutally got our hands on the title. The game really feels like you are playing a first-person shooter, without Leon on the screen. The controls themselves are virtually the same as the classic Resident Evil configuration players are used to. All the movement is handled by the left joystick, you hold the right trigger to aim, A to fire, down and B to make a quick turnaround, and the menu screen is almost completely identical to previous iterations. However, gamers will be happy to hear that both health and ammo are now represented onscreen. Even though the controls feel eerily familiar, they are far less clumsy with the camera fixed to the gamer's perspective. In fact, we were surprised to find that Resident Evil plays like an almost entirely different game.
HANDS ON - Once again, Resident Evil 4 follows the story of Leon, and takes place in 2004, six years after the events of Resident Evil 2. While Mikami promised us that there would be some past characters making a surprise visit in this game, many of the familiar elements of the RE universe have changed. Gone is the Umbrella Corporation, and with it, the zombies that have long been that hallmark of the series. The story opens with Leon being hired by the president to protect his daughter. But before he can get on the job she is kidnapped which leads Leon on a strange trip to a South American village where all the villagers hunt him down in an eerie trance. Are these people infected by a parasite? Is it an alien invasion? Is it terrorists? Mikami promised us that Resident Evil isn't going sci-fi, but he was unwilling to unveil why these humans are after you.
At this point in our visit we actually got some hands on time with the game. Like in previous titles you use herbs and sprays to replenise health, but you quickly realize that the world is a completely different place. For one, you are outside and the level is not only incredibly gorgeous (In fact, this game is easily the best-looking GameCube title we have ever seen) but completely wide open. There are no door animations to sit through. No computer generated pre-rendered cutsences. Everything is done in-engine, and the areas only feature a few very brief loads. As we head down the road towards the village, we come across bear traps and laser trip wires that the players must avoid, and finally get out first chance to blast an enemy or two.
Aiming is simple, and we happily discover that an accurate headshot gives the player a satisfying "exploding melon" animation. That's not the only hit zone the game has to offer, either. The enemies display a wide array of animations. Shoot a walking villager in the foot and he wobbles, hit a running villager in the foot and he collapses to the ground. All the major appendages react realistically to an assault from the front and back, left or right. Another technique we picked up on is that if you shoot a villager and then quickly close the gap between you and the prey, the action button will pop up and let you deliver a hard kick to the the chest. Upon reaching the village, you can hear the people (if they still can be considered that).
Speaking in spanish. From here, you use the action button to hide behind a nearby tree and use binoculars to zoom in on the goings-on. The game quickly goes to a real-time cutscene, but as you may have guessed since you have binoculars at your displosal, you are able to zoom in and out on the action at will. Mikami also revealed to us that a sniper rifle would be available later in the game. This is where all hell breaks loose. We head into the village and they are on us like flies on crap. A sea of freaks descents on us. It is easily the most enemies we have ever seen on-screen in a Resident Evil game, and each character is highly detailed with spectacular texture work. They really look like villagers. Not only that, they are armed with sickles, axes, pitchforks and all sorts of sharp utensils. But these aren't static zombies waiting to be whacked. The villagers start throwing the weapons at you. And, if you time it right, you can shoot them right out of the air with a satisfying ping of metal as they fly off in another direction.
As we run into a nearby buliding, we discover that we can use the action button again to move a table in front of the door to stem the tide of evil villagers. Leaving the hacking and bashing at the door, we head upstairs and with a tap of the action button dive through the window and out to safety. Or so we think. A chainsaw rips to life (In crystal clear dolby digital pro logic II surround sound) just behind us, and we quickly turn around to find ourselves face to face with a Texas Chainsaw Massacre wannabe complete with a bloody chainsaw and a burlap sack for a mask. This is just a taste of the onslaught we face for the next five minutes. We shoot villagers off of roofs. We use the action button to push over a ladder full of deadly enemies. Heck, we even throw a grenade at a cow in the barn just to blow it to bits. the controls are intuitive, the combat intense, and even with the loss of exaggerated camera angles for dramatic effect, we still felt a blood-crudging sense of fear the entire time we played. It's a very claustrophobic experince. The enemies are always around you. And if they get close, they grab hold and leave you bashing buttons to get free.
In a later level, the entire area is dark. You can pick out some of the villagers as they hold torches, but you don't really know what is going on around you until lightning illuminates the sky. It's incredibly spooky. In fact, by using the closer camera angle, you know less about what is going on around you than you did with the previous fixed camera views. any concerns we had that the series would lose its hallmark horror with the new perspective were quickly thrown out the window after playing it, but Mikami reassured us anyway:
"Up until now, all the games in the Resident Evil series have been about surprise. An enemy has jumped out; you aim at it, shoot it, and kill it. What I'm going for with this game is a more 'humanistic' fear, which comes from the enemies not being 100% zombies, they actually have human characteristics. And because they are smart, they will try to trick you and trap you. As you proceed through the game, about halfway through the enemies start to become very, very smart. And what happens is you'll shoot one, and instead of continuing to approach you like an idiot, it will realize you have a gun and are shooting at it. It will run away. So you may chase after it, and if you do, you will see that is has intentionally brought you into an area where there are five or six of them lined up with bowguns aimed to ambush you. Them being able to trick you and trap you brings in a whole new kind of fear. Also, since the enemies look more like humans, it makes it more realistic. The closer it is to reality, the closer it is to being truly scary".