In previous RE games you only had a set amount of inventory space, and you had to dump other items in lockers scattered around the game. I imagine that the idea behind this was to add in a strategy angle where you had to carefully balance what you carried with you and what you left in the locker. Unfortunately, what the locker method actually added to the game was annoyance and frustration, so I for one am very glad to see the back of it.
Although there are no zombies in RE4, there are a lot of villagers who appear to be possessed – they look remarkably like zombies, but with greater swiftness and agility. You eventually find out that the villagers are being controlled by some kind of parasitic life form, and it’s clear from the visuals that the developers have spent plenty of time watching John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Graphically, Resident Evil 4 breaks new ground on the GameCube, and it’s probably one of the best looking console games I’ve ever played. The attention to detail on the character models is amazing, while the landscapes, buildings and internal environments are all beautifully rendered. Sound is also very well taken care of, with a Dolby Pro Logic II soundtrack adding more atmosphere to an already immersive game.
Another truly infuriating feature of the older RE games was the need to find ink ribbons for the typewriters in order to save your progress. So, not only did you have to find a save point, but you had to have a spare ink ribbon once you’d found one. Thankfully this has also been addressed in RE4, and although the typewriters remain, the ink ribbons have thankfully gone the way of, well, ink ribbons I guess.
Resident Evil 4 is a very big game and just like Code Veronica, it ships on two discs. To make the transition from disc one to disc two took about twice the time it took me to complete Halo 2. But just like Halo 2, you want to keep playing RE4, just to see how the story pans out, or which familiar face is going to pop up next.
Once you find Ashely, you have to keep her safe as well as yourself - if Ashley gets killed or taken, then it's game over. You can use your first aid sprays and healing herbs on Ashley to keep her healthy though, but every one you use is one less for yourself. Ashley does come in handy at times though, since there are certain puzzles and tasks that require both of you, and when you venture deep enough into the game you'll even find yourself controlling Ashley instead of Leon.