A masterpiece and a revolution for the series
The graphics in the PS2 version look absolutely wonderful. Leon, the protagonist from Resident Evil 2 looks great with an updated look and great animations. Leon moves so realistically, his kicks look great, he moves great, his facial expressions look very believable as well. The wide array of supporting characters and weapons are all rendered in perfect detail aswell, facial expressions and designs are great all across the board. The enemies move in both realistic, yet disturbing ways, all of their movements seem so deliberate, it's quite chilling when the first Grando you see lurches towards you slowly. There are no frame rate issues and everything has a creepy feel to it. Oddly enough however the only part where RE4 falls short for the PS2 is that the extra costumes to not appear in the cut scenes (since they had to be pre-rendered), this is a bit of a let down and as a result I don't tend to bother much with the alternate costumes.
Resident Evil 4 sounds great. Voice acting is wonderful, especially Leon, who sounds even better than in RE4. Ada's usual voice actress returns and gives a great performance aswell. Guns sound realistic and powerful, as do grenades and it makes you feel good to mow down your enemies with them. The enemies themselves sound great from painful howls when they are hurt to angry shouts in Spainish when they spot you, they even talk amongst themselves a little when they haven't noticed you yet. Sound of course plays a key role in the horror aspect, the Monks are one of the most chilling enemies in this game, their chanting can really get into your mind and creep you out. Ambient sounds are excellent, you really get the feeling of being alone in a strange environment when you move about the village and castle.
The big aspect of this game is it's revolutionary new gameplay, it really sets it apart from the rest of the Resident Evil series and yet it seems so familiar at the same time. Leon feels much stronger than before with his new option to roundhouse kick or suplex stunned enemies and it's really useful how you can draw the knife in a tight spot quickly, instead of having to go into your inventory to equip it, it really gives the knife a great amount of use for once in an RE game. The aiming system feels great and really only takes a second to get used to, with it you can go for critical hits to an opponent's head and use up ammo killing them, or you can shoot the enemies in their legs to allow you to make a run for it, you can also shoot their arms to disarm them. The quick turn from RE 3 is back as usual and it's really useful, even though Leon can turn quite a bit quicker than he used to. One familier aspect is gone though, the item crates have disappeared, instead you use Leon's attache case to organise your items, this allows you to carry a more realistic number of things and in more realistic quantities (in the old games a key took up the same amount of room as a rocket launcher), special items such as keys and treasures also don't take up any room at all anymore so you aren't required to drop something important like your gun just so you can proceed. Another big part of the game is the Merchant, who will buy your treasures and sell you shiny new gunz in return, he can also tune up your weapons for a price, this gives you a great sense of customisation and just serves to immerse you even further in the game by letting you fight in your own way, depending on your guns and how you tune them up.
The extras in Resident Evil 4 are really a great part of the overall experience. On the PS2 version at least you are able to unlock 2 new sets of costumes for Leon and Ashley, the Mercenaries mini game, Assignment Ada and Separate Ways. All of these either tie into the great story of RE4 or just help add to the gameplay and sense of fun. The extra weapons you can unlock are also a lot of fun, you can get the Chicago Typewriter, Handcannon, Infinite Rocket Launcher and Plagas removal laser, they're all amusing but do greatly decrease the difficulty, this is okay however because if you've managed to get them you've probably already played through the game properly at least a couple of times. The new game + feature is huge amounts of fun aswell, nothing beats going back to areas you had trouble with and just mowing enemies down with your improved arsenal (my personal favorite is murdering Regenerators with the Chicago Typewriter).
The atmosphere in Resident Evil 4 counts for a lot since this is supposed to be a 'horror' title. It's not really that scary at first, which is good because it helps ease you into the game, there are a good few jump moments in the first part though. It mostly gets in your head in the later part of the game, the monks in the castle, invisible bugs and worst of all the Regenerators, nightmarish creations that really look like they belong in a Silent Hill game that lurch towards you breathing heavily and are very hard to kill. I would say that it's not as scary as other RE titles however, it doesn't even come close to the living nightmare of the Resident Evil Remake, but it still has plenty of chilling moments (as a side note I do have a friend who finds it hard to play but scary stuff really isn't his thing at all, most people will be fine).
Overall this is a game that you just have to get, even if you aren't a fan of the series (I hated this series and now I can't get enough of it, completed every RE game after I played this one). If you're a fan of games you owe it to yourself to go and buy this game now, it's so cheap now that you just can't go wrong... you're still reading this? Go and buy it now, right now! And if you own it already go and play it right now, you know you want to!