Horror Games: Resident Evil 4

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Let’s just take a moment to appreciate some horror video games that have been out for a while and made huge impacts on this genre… Specifically, Resident Evil 4. I might be biased in this review… Since Resident Evil 4 is my absolute favorite horror game ever (well, next to Fatal Frame 2), however, I am not alone in my love for this particularly version of the Resident Evil series. If you haven’t played Resident Evil 4 and your a horror fan… What have you been doing? Go play it, now!?  Resident Evil 4… Just saying that makes me want to quote it like the opening start screen… It sent shivers down my spine every time I loaded the game even.

About: Resident Evil 4 first came out on GameCube in 2005. It has since been released on PS2, Ps3, Wii, IOS, Xbox 360… And PC. Like its predecessors, Resident Evil 4 is all about zombies. Well, sort of. This time the game puts Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil 2 and places him in a Spanish speaking village somewhere in Europe searching for Ashley Graham, the President’s daughter, who was recently kidnapped by a cult. His mission is to rescue her and bring her home safely. However, there is something strange going on in the village. All the citizens have been affected by a parasite that has caused them to behave erratically. As Leon’s search intensifies he uncovers more about the mystery cult and their links to the parasite. The game has been well received and has won many awards over time. It has also been praised heavily for its graphics.

Hey there, Stranger! What are you buyin’? Hopefully not, spoilers!

I’ll buy those at a high price…

The Plot/Characters: The plot… Wow, this one sucked me in so much. No matter how utterly horrified I was and scared out of my mind whilst having a chainsaw wielding maniac after my neck… I still was so intrigued by the plot and the build up to the mystery that I kept pressing on no matter how many times I reached a Game Over screen. Leon S. Kennedy’s rescue mission leads him towards a mysterious cult named Los Illuminados that has plans to invade the US Government by means of a parasite called Las Plagas that slowly takes over and controls the hosts brain. Yes, that’s right… These zombies you are fighting? Technically they are metaphorical zombies. However, by the time the parasite settles in completely to a hosts brain… Well, it’s too late. Leon travels further into a village and then into more locations attempting to track down the kidnapped Ashley Graham. Once united, the two work together to attempt to escape. However, at each turn the Las Plagas work to cut them off. Worse yet, Leon has become infected himself by the cult’s chief, Bitores Mendez. The leader, Osmund Saddler, also reveals that Ashley was infected in order to wreak havoc back home.

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There is a lot of depth to the plot besides everything else that I just mentioned and many layers to it that slowly reveal themselves as you explore, obtain notes and hit cutscenes in the game. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the game’s story but it also doesn’t rub it in your face. It slowly unfolds, like a good novel, rather than rushing to tell you all its juicy secrets right away.

In fact, you won’t even get the full picture on your first playthrough. You’ll at least have to play through the side-story where you play as Ada Wong to get more details. That’s the other thing… There are really two stories going on at the same time. When you start the game as Ada, you realize that your mission is going on at the same time as when Leon first enters the village and is pursued by the Las Plagas and that you actually cause an event to happen to assist him. Before, all you thought was that you caught a lucky break!

But the thing that really kept me glued to the screen? That award really goes to Leon S. Kennedy. He’s a tough as nails Secret Agent in Resident Evil 4 and that comes as no shock after his first day as a police officer in Raccoon City (during the zombie outbreak… What a way to jump start your career!?).  He’s intelligent, a little bit sarcastic and witty and he genuinely is a good person. He goes out of his way to rescue Ashley even when all odds are stacked immensely against him. Besides that though, Leon is a well-rounded character. He’s got his flaws… And the major one is Ada Wong. He’s so infatuated with her that often times he overlooks things or lets his guard down. Ashley Graham is my second favorite character… And typically, I don’t say this about characters that you are meant to rescue. Typically damsels in distress are just that… And often times, annoying. While you will get tired of Ashley constantly crying out “LEON!”, her actual personality is interesting. She’s sarcastic, snarky and helpful. She does her best to assist Leon in anyway that she could. In fact, you need her for many of the puzzles throughout the game. And of course, there are interesting side characters in the game such as Ada Wong and even a friend you meet named Luis that helps you fight the Las Plagas at some points. The fact that they have their own motivations for being in the village though adds a lot to the stories depth. Even the “zombies” are have some intelligence as well and actually PLOT against you.

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And then there is the Merchant… What is even up with this guy? Why is he stalking you and selling you stuff? What’s his deal!? His eyes look like he has been infected but… Why then is he helping you? (Also, little known fact that if you accidentally shoot him and kill him, he stays dead… So you’d be pretty screwed.)

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I could go on and on. Basically, Resident Evil 4 is one of those games that I can recall the plot and characters in such vivid detail. More than a game, its an experience. It even would have translated incredibly well to the big screen (though Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 still were good movies to me… I know, I’m in the minority probably!)

The Scares: Resident Evil 4 is not afraid to give you scares but the scares are more varied than any other horror game that I’ve played aside from Fatal Frame 2. This is probably another reason why it still stands to this day as my favorite horror game. From the very beginning, the game throws scares at you. Your first encounter with a civilian you are questioning turns into a fight for your life when he comes at you with a weapon, making you shoot him dead. Before you can even get a breath, your buddies you road in with are attacked outside and you hear the crashing sounds. Leon rushes to the window only to be surrounded by more attackers outside hammering on doors, windows and breaking in. That’s what makes Resident Evil 4 so utterly terrifying. The attackers, the Las Plagas, are coordinated. They are able to communicate with each other even though they are being controlled. They will call out to each other, signal when one has spotted you and cause an entire swarm to come rushing at you. Las Plagas use all sorts of weaponry to try to kill Leon as well. Everything from chainsaws to dynamite to even sending a giant ogre-like monster after you.

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But its not just all Las Plagas. Like the Ogre, there are other monsters that Leon encounters, including a Lake Monster that the cult has something to do with… And that Lake Monster is freakin’ horrifying.

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But by far, the worst monsters in the game and the ones that gave me nightmares were these guys…

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Able to shoot spikes out toward you and only able to be killed by shooting off the parasites using infrared, these creatures were the pinnacle of terrifying to me. I could go on and on about the scares in this game but it certainly did a great job. Probably the best part about the scares was the fact that sometimes you couldn’t see what was coming for you and only hear…

Gameplay: Resident Evil 4 has an over the shoulder gameplay to it. For some reason to me this makes the game experience so much better. Instead of seeing through the eyes of the character or having the entire character visible from awkward angles, the game gets you close to the character but not too close. It makes lining up shots easier and also at the same time makes it harder to see exactly what is behind you, leaving you open for random scares from attacking Las Plagas from the side. You are actually able to defend yourself in this survival horror which sometimes does take away the fright factor? However, this is not the case for Resident Evil 4. You will often find yourself having to use your wits to escape being ganged up on or brutally murdered easily by a monster. Ammo is also scarce but not too scarce that it is frustrating. You always have a knife, but the knife makes it so you have to be close up to an enemy to use it making gameplay strategic if you want to conserve ammunition. You do receive different guns throughout the game such as Shotguns, Rifles and even a Rocket Launcher. However, most of the time you have to use the right ammo for the right thing or you’ll find yourself in a sticky situation later down the road.

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There are also plenty of times when you are not just shooting monsters. In fact, some monsters can’t be taken out by your gun, including the Lake Monster. Another great thing about the gameplay in RE4 is that you have variety in the action sequences. In one battle you get to use harpoons and in another you have to set up explosives in order to take the creature out because your weapon won’t kill it. There are quick time events, keeping you on your toes and your blood pumping as well as segments where you are on a timer. You even get boulders sent your way and have to run by button mashing as fast as you can. You’ll also have times you have to rescue Ashley from being kidnapped and you have to protect her constantly when she joins your party (the only… Annoying side of the gameplay, really.) That and puzzles interspersed break up the gameplay to really piece together a very diversified game.

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The gameplay IS action packed… However, at no point does it forget that it’s trying to scare you unlike SOME games (yeah, you… I’m looking at you Resident Evil 6. Why. Why…?). It takes the time to build suspense and give you action while at the same time making you think. You can’t just blindly shoot at enemies and expect to get through the game with Leon’s head still on his shoulders.

The Score: Ambiance. Atmosphere. These are all things that turn a pretty ok game into a great game. Well, Resident Evil 4 is already a great game but it certainly becomes fantastic when you add the great OST to it. The Resident Evil 4 OST is often times creepy, layered and varied. Different areas will have their own sinister feel and your level of panic will flare up when the music kicks up a notch when enemies appear. I often felt relieved and comfortable only when at a Save point next to a typewriter but even then you were sometimes only inches away from the music turning back to being freaky… Yes, freaky. Resident Evil 4 is one of those games that when I hear the OST, I immediately get shivers down my spine.

Overall: Typically in my reviews, I let you decide how to rank it after and just give my overall thoughts and opinions. However, if I had to actually give Resident Evil 4 a rating I would instantly give it 6/5 stars. To me, it will always stand up as one of the best video games I have ever played and certainly the best horror game (though Fatal Frame 2 either ties or is a close second). It was my stress relief for a long time. I would turn on my PS2 and just play the first part in the village for a few hours, taking out Las Plagas for the fun of it and getting extremely good at flipping onto rooftops as Ada Wong. There are plenty of reasons why I like certain games but often times they get one or two things right and other aspects are a tad lacking and I overlook them. Resident Evil 4 is one of the few I’ve played that I can confidently say nailed it 110%.

Have you played Resident Evil 4? If so, what did you think?

 

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First Impressions: Legends of Tomorrow

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About: Legends of Tomorrow is a superhero TV series that recently began airing on the CW. Legends takes place in the DC universe in the same universe as the popular shows The Flash and Arrow, complete with crossover episodes that are planned (Green Arrow had a cameo in the Pilot as well). The Pilot episode premiered on January 21st, 2016 and the second episode of the series aired January 28th (tonight at the time of this posting).

The Plot: Legends focuses on a group of super powered individuals that are contacted by a time-traveler named Rip Hunter. He explains that the future is in jeopardy and that he is working on assembling a team known as “Legends” in the future to stop a man named Vandal Savage, an immortal, from reigning the world. The group he wants to assemble consists of eight people. Jefferson and Professor Stein combine to make one super powered crime-fighter known as Firestorm; Ray Palmer is Atom Man, able to shrink to the size of an atom with the use of a power-suit; Sara Lance is White Canary, recently brought back from the dead on Arrow; Kendra and Carter are HawkGirl and HawkMan respectively, immortals who reincarnate after death; and the last two of the gang are Mick Rory (Heat Wave) and Leonard Snart (Captain Cold) who are actually thieves. The Pilot episode focuses mostly on revealing the characters and the group traveling back to the year 1975 to find a lead on where to find Vandal in the past.

The Characters: Already it’s very obvious that the show is focused on its characters. It takes the time to reveal each one and set them up with pasts and individual character traits. Rip Hunter ends up earning the main spotlight in the Pilot, after his motivations for stopping Vandal become more clear toward the end of the episode. There is a sort of campy feeling throughout the episode which comes with the dialogue but the rest of the episode fits this and also fits in well with other CW Network shows that have a similar “feel”. Oddly enough, Arthur Darvill (Rip Hunter) also played a companion on Doctor Who, which I would describe as having a similar vibe to it. For the most part I enjoyed all of the portrayals of the characters… However, a few of the actors don’t seem completely comfortable in their parts or seem to be overacting in some manner or another. Particularly Ciara Renee who… Just didn’t seem all that comfortable in her role and had some awkward facial expressions at many times that didn’t match up well… At least, in my opinion. Of course, that could also just be her character. It’s difficult to tell with having only watched the first episode.

The Visuals: It’s a CW show and the graphics definitely reflect this. They aren’t stellar and its pretty obvious sometimes when the cgi is used. However, for the most part everything flows really well and quick cuts and action scenes make it less obvious. Real sets are used as well, including the time-travel vessels. The costumes that all the superheros wear are well designed.

First Impressions: Legends of Tomorrow feels very much like a comic book or an animated superhero series being brought straight to the television screen with all those elements pretty much intact. The over-the-top portions just add to that sense of nostalgia. It’s a good show with a great premise and a lot of potential. Some stilted acting and awkward dialogue dampened the Pilot a tad and made some of the set-ups of the characters feel a bit forced… However, the actors are just getting started and hopefully will settle into their roles more (though HawkGirl has been in other shows before so… this might be wishful thinking). The premise of the show gives it a lot of opportunity for interesting episodes and, if executed right, this show could take off. First Impressions? Give this show a shot; especially if you are a classic superhero fan. I know I’ll be watching the second episode soon.

Horror Movies: Goosebumps

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About: Goosebumps is a Horror Comedy Movie starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine himself. The basic premise is that all of R.L. Stine’s monsters that he has written are so realistic that they have actually come alive from off the pages of his books. He keeps the manuscripts locked up in order to protect against the monsters escaping. Zack and friend (named Champ… Yes, that’s short for Champion), newly moved in to the neighborhood and after a series of events, release said monsters from the manuscripts, including the notoriously evil dummy, Slappy. The film had positive reviews for the most part, earning a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes. There is also a cameo with R.L. Stine himself at the end playing a Mr. Black.

Reader beware! You’re in for a scare…

And spoilers.

The Plot/Characters: Goosebumps the movie’s plot centers around Zack Cooper, a new student who recently transferred from New York to Madison, Delaware. Stereo-typically, he is upset at leaving home. He meets a girl next door named Hannah who calls out to him while he is unpacking only to be warned immediately after speaking with her by her dad to stay away. The father, Mr. Shivers, catches them out together later and flips out, bringing his daughter home and warning them once more. Afterward, Zack thinks he sees Mr. Shivers striking his daughter and calls the cops. They show up only for Shivers to deny that Hannah is even there. After investigating further and roping a new and rather socially awkward friend named Champ into the situation, they break in to the home to search for Hannah but discover a ton of R.L. Stine manuscripts inside. After opening one with a key, they come to find out that they have just done the unthinkable and unleashed the Abominable Snowman. In the confusion, another book titled The Night of the Living Dummy also ends up opened, releasing Slappy who proceeds to unleash all of the rest of the monsters from the books. Together, Zack, Hannah, Champ and Mr. Shivers (revealed to truly be R.L. Stine) must race to put the monsters back in the books where they belong.

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Pretty simple, right? The plot also comes complete with a few twists and turns, as any good Goosebumps book tended to do. The final one includes a monster who was not sucked back into the books though, to me, this is a major plot hole as the way that everything happened with R.L. Stine returning the monsters to the books, ALL monsters should have been sucked back inside.

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The characters for the most part are super stereotypes, which I didn’t exactly not expect from the film, but was made plain as day obvious. Jack is the new student, Champ the annoying socially awkward dweeb and Hannah the interesting girl-next-door. Now, where things are more interesting is Jack Black himself… R.L. Stine. He’s a more fleshed out character. He has a history that has made him distrust others, shy away from them and become passionate about his books. He even goes through some character development and opens up to Zack about his past and about Hannah. The major issue I have with the character development is that the script calls it out before it happens citing it as a requirement for the book R.L. Stine writes in the movie. Though, I suppose this does add to the humor elements of the movie. The fact that the other characters ARE such stereotypes also lends itself to humor. However, all surrounding characters are pretty much just added in to keep the jokes rolling.

The Scares?: Besides listening to others scream in this movie, honestly, there were no points where most people would be scared. At least, adults. This movie might be scary for children who have read Goosebumps to see the creatures from their nightmares leaping off the page? But other than that, no real scares. All of the creatures are not really a mystery either, eliminating surprise completely.

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I actually was giggling at the Lawn Gnomes tying up R.L. Stine and trying to roast him in the oven. This is in stark contrast to many Goosebumps tv specials that still creep me out till this day… like, The Mask. I doubt kids will be getting many nightmares from this movie.

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Humor: If there is one thing that this movie is really good at, it’s the humor. Zack is a sarcastic teen with a quick mouth on him, which leads to some funny dialogue throughout the movie but typically the humor is less in the actual words and more in the situations. The movie pokes fun at itself and seems to realize the audience that knows the source material. One of my favorite moments was when R.L. Stine’s identity is first revealed and Champ attempts to take a selfie with him for his instagram only for Stine to toss his phone out the window. The way the events go down just tickled me a lot. Of course, Jack Black is a good actor to play in a comedy movie like this. His reactions to many situations are what actually caused me to laugh versus some of the movies attempts to get me to laugh via puns, etc. The humor though is all kid-friendly and sometimes a bit over the top, which led to me not appreciated it as much, such as the rookie police officer trying to taser people immediately upon sight, etc. Overall, the comedy was hit and miss with me.

The Score: There was definitely background music or a score to add atmosphere to the movie. However, I did not pay attention at all to it which means it did not stand out enough to be memorable to me.

Overall: I have a lot of mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, this movie is a ride of nostalgia if you ever read or were a fan of R.L. Stine’s iconic series, Goosebumps. The movie does a good job in paying tribute to a lot of source material all at once as well. On the other, the film at its core, to me, doesn’t seem to have much substance outside of your childhood memories of horror. Well, that and a lot of witty humor and banter make this movie more of a comedy than a horror for sure. Honestly, it’s more like watching a live action Scooby-Doo movie. I’ve seen movies like ZombieLand that managed to frighten me and be humorous at the same time as well, so I’m sure there coudl have been a happier medium somewhere along the line. Basically, to me Goosebumps was decent but not much to write home about.

Have you seen Goosebumps? If so, what did YOU think? Leave a comment below and also  let me know if there are any specific horror movies you’d like to see me review next.